Supplements and the Supplement Industry – An Introduction

If you are unfamiliar with supplements, trying to buy them can be confusing and overwhelming, because there are so many different brands and products, with new ones coming out all the time Private label supplements. There are currently so many products that it is practically impossible to keep track of everything. Even people who work in the supplement industry tend to specialize in certain areas, such as vitamins/minerals, sports supplements, herbs, etc.

Private Label - Robinson Pharma, Inc.

Supplements can also be confusing, because depending on who you talk to, you can get very different opinions. Many people have extreme or biased views of supplements, with people on one side saying everyone needs to take many different supplements and people on the other side saying all supplements are worthless. As with most issues, the truth is somewhere in between. There are certainly some great supplements available, but many products are essentially worthless, and others have some positive benefits, but are not worth the price you pay for them.

Perhaps the greatest amount of supplement confusion stems from the marketing tactics companies use to promote their products, especially in magazines. Many health and fitness magazines are owned by the same company as the products that are advertised in the magazine and even some of the articles are designed to promote their own brand of products. When I worked in supplement stores I frequently spoke with people about supplements and it was interesting that many people had biased views towards or against certain brands based on which magazines they read.

To make matters worse, supplement marketing often sites scientific research to add credibility to products, but this information is rarely presented in an honest and straightforward way. In many cases, the studies are poorly done, financed by the supplement company, have results that have been refuted by many other studies, or they have nothing to do with the product being sold. Unfortunately, the only way to find out if the studies and claims are legitimate is to find and read the original study, but this would be a daunting task even for people in the industry. Of course, supplement companies are well aware of that fact and they expect that people will not fact check their claims.

By quoting information from scientific studies, companies often try to make their products sound better than they actually are. The interesting thing is both reputable and disreputable companies use this tactic to help market their products. The difference between the good and bad companies is reputable companies put quality ingredients in their products and the labels contain accurate information. Disreputable supplement companies may have lower amounts of ingredients than the label claims or their supplements may not even contain some of the listed ingredients at all.

Companies frequently get away with making questionable claims or lying about how much of an ingredient is in a product, because the supplement industry is not government regulated. However, while the product itself is not regulated, there is some regulation about what information can appear on a label. For instance, companies are not allowed to make any claims about products preventing or curing diseases. Instead they have to make what are called “structure/function” claims.