Gaining trust through traceability, transparency and testing

Published: 3-Apr-2018

Consumers are becoming more sophisticated and their demands are now more complex than ever before

The nutrition landscape is changing quickly. Innova Market Insights summarised this situation perfectly when it named “Mindful Choices” as the number one trend in its 2018 Top 10 Trends report.

According to Innova, consumers not only expect the products they buy to deliver health for their bodies, but they’re also demanding ethical and sustainability credentials that provide them with peace of mind. They want nutrition products to do them good, and they don’t want to feel guilty about it.

How do dietary supplement companies respond to this demand? It is a challenge, because manufacturers source many different components for their products.

In the case of botanical ingredients sourced from nature, supply chains can be distant and complicated. So how can a manufacturer provide the reassurance that mindful consumers expect? An important part of the solution is to select their suppliers carefully and work closely with them.

Delivering the four Ts

A reputable botanical ingredient supplier should be fully engaged and have a plan to deliver the four Ts: traceability, transparency, testing and — finally — trust.

Traceability is a question of knowing where the raw material for an ingredient originated and being able to track its journey. As set out in America’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), it is about ensuring the safety of the food supply chain and reducing the risk of contamination, such as adulteration in the case of botanicals.

Transparency means that a supplier can demonstrate purity and regulatory compliance. Are levels of contaminants such as heavy metals and pesticides within the limits of customer and market standards and, of course, legal requirements?

What about microbiological quality? To respond to the Mindful Choices trend, there is now a great opportunity for suppliers to set new standards by telling the story about how and where their products are made.

The third T, one that’s important for obtaining a high quality and pure botanical extract, is testing. For any reputable botanical ingredient supplier, the testing process starts long before the ingredient gets anywhere near being ordered, purchased or perhaps even grown. There is an extensive suite of tests that can be done on botanical ingredients.

The results offer essential information about botanical raw materials and their extracts, as follows:

  • Identification: confirms the precise botanical species and checks that the botanical has not been substituted for another one. It combines the power of new technology such as DNA testing and the expertise of botanists, such as through macroscopic and microscopic analysis.
  • Purity: verifies that there has been no adulteration from undesired sources.
  • Potency: confirms that the extract retains a complete range of active properties.
  • Spiking: ensures that there has been no extra fortification, such as the addition of actives that don’t occur naturally.
  • Contamination: confirms that no banned pesticides are used during cultivation and that authorised pesticides are applied responsibly. Also verifies that levels of heavy metals are not above acceptable limits.

In addition, suppliers should implement quality assurance procedures, while also ensuring conformity with local and national legislation and compliance with certification standards.

The fourth and final T is trust. In the age of social media and heightened regulatory scrutiny, the dietary supplement industry will only gain consumer trust by demonstrating to them — not just telling them — that it can deliver on the aforementioned three Ts.

Trust is not something that is earned once and retained forever.

It is a consequence of a sustained effort by different players in the supply chain to demonstrate their ongoing adherence to the other three Ts.

With so much to consider, the cost of the ingredient cannot be the only selection criterion if you want the peace of mind and confidence that a dietary supplement can deliver on its promise: helping consumers to achieve their health goals.


To support companies in the procurement of natural ingredients that will appeal to mindful consumers, Naturex has developed a customer-centric concept called Source-Convert-Deliver. This programme highlights the company’s strong technical know-how in the key areas that matter most in today’s nutrition industry. It showcases their three pillars of expertise, as follows:

  • Sustainable sourcing of ingredients with traceability and transparency through the Sustainability Pathfinder programme. The Pathfinder programme aims to provide a rich source of ideas and inspiration to combine economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility.
  • Conversion of raw materials into high value botanical ingredients that are accompanied by ID Packs that provide comprehensive identity verification, using a range of techniques from crude material macroscopic verification to TLC and DNA testing.
  • Delivery of innovative and science-based natural solutions to foster consumer nutrition and health.

Source-Convert-Deliver is a unique concept that focuses on the areas that matter the most to today’s nutraceutical companies and highlights what Naturex does best. Where do our raw materials come from? How are they processed?

Does the finished ingredient contain the right actives in the right quantities? In which delivery system can we include the ingredients? The Source-Convert-Deliver approach demonstrates how Naturex is working on its supply chain from the field to the finished products.

Our Panax ginseng root extract is a great example of Source-Convert-Deliver in action. It is produced from ginseng grown in northeast China using sustainable and responsible farming practices. Weeding and harvesting are conducted by hand, as are the washing, drying and sorting of the roots.

Naturex representatives make multiple field visits every year to ensure standards are being maintained. After harvesting, trees are planted and the farmland is given back to nature, which offsets the environmental impact of ginseng growing.

The roots are then transported to our state-of-the-art factory in Milan where our ginseng extract is produced under strict quality control conditions, and then supplied to customers with full application support.

Naturex’s green tea extract is another ingredient that showcases the benefits of Source-Convert-Deliver.

We have developed the Green Tea Pathfinder project to provide a framework to implement this 360° approach.

The green tea used for our extract is grown on a single 235-hectare plantation in Sichuan province in the mountains of southwestern China, in full accordance with good agricultural and collection practices (GACP) and to standards that are organic-like.

These factors foster richer biodiversity, securing the production of the raw material for years to come. The green tea extract is produced less than 60 miles from the field to keep the tea ultrafresh and to simplify supply chain custody.

Naturex has partnered with a local Chinese company to manufacture the extract, optimising product quality and keeping costs at a comfortable level for customers. Our green tea ID Pack contains full details of the processes in place to ensure we only ever deliver the highest quality and purest green tea extracts to our customers.

Too important to ignore

Complete transparency in the supply chain is vital to guarantee the quality and purity of any botanical extract, and it is an issue that no reputable dietary supplement company can choose to ignore. High profile controversies involving herbal supplements — such as the investigation into the market by the New York Attorney General (NYAG) in 2015 — have threatened to shake consumer trust in the category.

Fortunately, sales of herbal supplements have remained robust. Nevertheless, in the wake of the NYAG investigation, it is clear that consumers need to be assured that the supplements they buy really do contain what is claimed on the label, and that they contain ingredients that have been grown, sourced and processed in a responsible and sustainable way.

Understandably, today’s mindful shoppers are looking to brands and retailers to provide that assurance. In turn, this means supplement companies must ensure they work only with ingredient suppliers they are confident they can truly rely on. Source-Convert-Deliver is the Naturex way of providing this assurance.

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