Nutrasource Blog

Seeing Clearly: Using Transparency to Regain Trust in the Supplement Industry

Posted by Katie Costa, B.Sc., Interim Marketing Manager on Mon, May 13, 2019

Transparency was nothing more than a buzzword a few years ago. It has since quickly evolved into a strategic marketing opportunity for companies seeking a competitive advantage.

Now, transparency is a requirement for supplement brands that want to win the hearts (and dollars) of modern consumers.

Read on to learn how transparency can be prioritized to satisfy both your business goals and your end customer.

In 2015, an investigation into U.S. herbal supplement ingredients revealed that nearly 4 out of 5 herbal products didn’t contain the ingredients stated on the label. Authenticity scandals have been peppering news headlines for years, with culprits including everything from omega-3s to herbals to sports nutrition. Ultimately, these poor practices have tarnished the entire natural wellness industry’s reputation.

To rebuild trust, companies must refine their practices across the entire product lifecycle and from deep within their corporate structure. This encompasses every stage, from ingredient sourcing and testing to marketing and business operations.

Understand the True Meaning of Transparency

So, what is transparency? At its core, transparency means “easy to see through.” However, companies should expand this definition and consider transparency as the full, accurate, and timely disclosure of information.

Consumers have more concerns than ever, including food poisoning, adulterated ingredients, lack of traceability, cross-contamination - the list goes on.

Transparency has become more than a marketing opportunity that can influence purchase behaviour and differentiate your brand. It is now a vital approach to achieving long-term success in an increasingly competitive arena.

Make a Commitment to the Entire Supply Chain

Transparency in one area will not be an effective band-aid solution as consumers are actively choosing companies that incorporate transparency into their entire business plans.

The supplement industry supply chain is not quite linear, and ingredients often pass through many hands before landing on a store shelf. Farmers and cultivators, harvesters, transporters, processors, manufacturers…you get the picture. Whole-chain transparency is a necessary step in regaining consumer trust, even if it means paying premiums to achieve it.

Actively choose suppliers and business partners that align with your brand values, including your journey to a fully transparent supply chain. As consumers continue to vote with their wallets, industry needs to vote with their budgets. The cheapest supplier is less likely to be open about their business practices, quality standards, and sourcing information, making communicating these areas that much more difficult.

Prioritize Product Testing More Than Ever Before

Testing is a huge driver for transparency. Brands are obligated (based region-specific regulations) to ensure the quality and safety of the ingredients they use. It’s no longer enough to state that products are “tested” to achieve full transparency. Companies should be prepared to disclose the purpose of testing, the analytical methods used, and the results.

Third-party certifications drive trust because they are executed by a neutral party. Typically these providers have testing standards and methods available on their websites and can explain what the results mean and what the implications are for the end consumer.

Use Transparency-Based Communications Strategies

Even if testing is done to a high standard, what use is transparency if consumers can’t access the information? Making transparency messaging and data easily accessible is critical to gaining consumer buy-in.

Communication strategies include executing social media campaigns about your supply chain or dedicating a menu tab on your website to company transparency standards.

Using prime label space is another way to communicate with consumers, intercepting them when it matters most – at point of purchase. To communicate transparency on product labels, consider the following:

  • Displaying recognizable third-party certifications
  • Disclosing ingredients and dosing in legible, easy-to-find locations
  • Including manufacturer name and location, even if using a contract manufacturer
  • Using credible and research-substantiated terms and claims
  • Directing them to the places where they can find more information on supply chain transparency

Take a Long-Term View of Transparency

The demand for transparency isn’t expected to diminish soon, and brands that fail to open up about their transparency plans—or ignore the movement altogether—will become obsolete in the minds of consumers.

Companies are encouraged to follow conversations and macrotrends about transparency to see what competitors are doing and what consumers expect. As consumer lifestyle trends evolve, your transparency plan should follow suit.

Above all, transparency is built on open, honest, available communication about the ingredients, supply chain, business operations and manufacturing practices of businesses.

The supplement industry has a long way to go to rebuild the trust of consumers, but pulling back the curtain on end-to-end operations is the first step in the right direction.


Download this case study to learn how one client leveraged Nutrasource's third-party certifications to enter new international markets, capture market share, and gain a competitive advantage on a global scale.  


 KatieC-headshotKatie Costa, BSc, is Interim Marketing Manager at Nutrasource, and has experience marketing wellness brands and services with tact in the digital space. Katie supports the marketing department with content marketing, lead generation, and event coordination. Connect with Katie on LinkedIn.


Topics: Product Testing & Certifications