The business world around us is changing—fast. As millennials become more vocal about their wants and needs, and businesses begin to pull back the drapes for full transparency, it has become increasingly clear that collaboration will play be vital in the next era of business. Companies are realizing not only is the era of lip service behind us, but also that through collaboration there is an opportunity to drive real change.
While competition will always be an issue, Andy Heintzman, president of Investeco Capital, an environmental investment company and author of The New Entrepreneurs, noted positive outcomes from collaboration supersede any issues with competition. “I think there is a lot of room for collaboration. You’re not competing all the time with everyone. You have as much to gain from working together,” he said. “I think you can find areas where you have common interests.”
In the case of the dietary supplement industry, collaboration can lead to trust and can help consumers take control of their health. This is the result New Hope Network’s Inside the Bottle (ITB) program hopes to achieve, as it unites companies from across the supplement supply chain to advocate for a more transparent industry and work together to tell a cohesive story.
Inside the Bottle unites companies with shared values
“Without a focused, consistent message, one loses control of the narrative and consumer expectations,” explained Eric Pierce, vice president of business insights at New Hope Network. “The result is a collective narrative being shaped by a mix of positive and negative voices, good and bad actors and competing agendas.” One of the reasons that New Hope developed ITB was to bring the voices together to set the narrative. Helping the industry better itself as a whole is more important than ever, said Pierce, because not only is the supplement industry trying to regain control of the narrative, it’s doing so at a time when the entire CPG industry is in flux. “Where products are being sold is changing, the channels used to communicate are changing as are the values, beliefs and behaviors of consumers,” explained Pierce.
Together, the companies who participate in the ITB initiative focus on building trust in supplements, advocate for a more transparent industry and tell a cohesive story. Partners of the initiative include LifeSeasons, Natural Factors, organic ingredient supplier Orgenetics, Sabinsa, Soft Gel Technologies, Trust Transparency Center and Wakunaga of America Co., makers of Kyolic aged garlic extract and Zesty Paws. Each believe that before telling the industry story, companies must truly commit to quality, transparency and improving the health of their customers.
Orgenetics’ Saumil Maheshvari, senior vice president of business development, likens this collaboration to the car industry and the advent of the lifesaving three-point seat belt that Volvo designed. “Volvo discovered and patented a way that seat belts could work and save lives. Instead of Volvo keeping the patent to themselves, they opened it to the other car manufacturers, forgoing any related profits.” They collaborated with the rest of the industry and shared the idea and technology with others, he explained. This, he said, not only saved lives, but also increased consumer confidence in the industry.
Inside the Bottle is an opportunity for everyone within the industry to promote positive messaging in the areas that matter most, said Traci Kantowski, communications director at Trust Transparency Center. “ITB is the gold standard, highlighting what people are doing right so that new players can follow those guidelines, because there isn’t a standard playbook for entering this industry.” Kantowski noted that the supplement industry should reinforce its collective goal to support health and help consumers thrive, rather than focusing on competing with other industries. “To consumers, supplements are a tool to taking control of your health. Sometimes the industry is too focused on competing against pharma, but we are not drugs and don’t want to be regulated in that way, so we shouldn’t be marketing that way,” she said.
Empowerment across the supply chain
ITB can empower not only consumers but also the entire industry and retailers. “ITB celebrates good players and helps to highlight the people who are doing things right,” said Kantowski. "Retail downloads promoted throughout the year and educational materials, workshops and seminars all highlight the people that are doing things right. When you collaborate, it allows for people to talk: ‘These are the good guys and this is who I want to play in the sandbox with, and these are people we will walk away from because they are not committed to transparency.’”
Helping to identify good players can be as easy as encouraging consumers to look for products that have valid contact information on the bottle, a full supplement facts panel and a direct link to a company website. “That is just one example of the type of product messaging needed to help identify good players and offer disclosure, which can empower the consumer,” Kantowski said.
Noting the messages of empowerment, convenience and proactive health management the Pierce outlined, Kantowski added; “We need to put our own spin on things as brands, no matter what we are. There is core messaging about what our industry does that I think we can all rally behind. What are the core fundamental values that our industry has? Along the lines of consumer empowerment, we are one part of taking control of your health. Supplements aren’t the only answer, but we are a key answer and we are accessible and convenient to everyone, which is a great start for messaging.”