Two major supplements studies broke last week in mainstream media, but it seems the hype has had little effect on supplements retailers and manufacturers. If consumers have formed a negative opinion toward supplements, the fallout remains to be seen.
"Our feeling with this whole thing is that the people that take supplements—they're not fazed by it. It's the people who are thinking about supplementation that may be discouraged and not come into a store," said John Kenny, MS in nutrition and product educator for the Seattle-based store Super Supplements.
NewHope360 reported on the studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) last week. The first study purported to find that supplements were harmful for older women.The JAMA study claimed that men who take vitamin E are at higher risk of developing prostate cancer. Nutrition experts and the supplements industry were quick to rally and point out flaws and biases in both studies.
Kenny appeared on the local Fox News channel last week to address one of the studies. Since the TV appearance, which appeared to skew largely in favor of the negative outlook on supplements (watch the clip), the supplements retailer reports that no concerns were raised by customers on the specific topic of multivitamin mineral consumption and mortality in elderly women.
Strategies to respond to negative research on supplements
While customers may not be reacting yet (if at all) to the studies, it's beneficial to take steps now to prepare for future industry shakeups. Bill Crawford, director of retail publishing programs for New Hope Natural Media, offers these tips:
- Stay abreast of all supplement studies, positive and negative.
- Have a designated media spokesperson for your company. Be sure everyone knows who that person is and how to reach them quickly.
- When interviewed, be calm and positive. Focus on the facts of the benefits of supplements.
When it comes responding to negative research or press regarding supplements, retailers and manufacturers should remember it's a little like taking an actual supplement: It's best to take them before becoming ill, and not after you realize there's a problem.
Super Supplements does this by investing in staff education. "We dedicate a lot of time in educating our staff on the importance of nutrient," said Kenny, noting employees attend about 15 courses related to groups of products carried in the stores and receive training on the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). "We put a high price on education because we really want to empower our customers to make the best possible choices."
When Fox News approached Super Supplements for an interview, Kenny looked to the Natural Products Association (NPA) for guidance. The NPA and other industry associations, such as the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), published rebuttals to the studies, which are essential for those companies and retailers on the front lines of consumer reaction.
Marilyn Ivins, customer service manager for supplements manufacturer Bluebonnet Nutrition, said the company also e-mailed its sales representatives with a synopsis of comments from the trade associations. While this prepared employees to answer questions, so far not one customer has called with a concern about the studies.