What would you say are some of the key challenges currently facing the supplements market?

Samer Abou-Houssein: Unfortunately, there are still many challenges in terms of quality and safety. Substandard material continues to circulate in the market and adulteration remains a factor, as well as issues with origin and traceability. We routinely conduct analyses on materials and products obtained from the market, and unfortunately, we see too many occasions of adulterated chondroitin sulphate (CS) being used by various supplement manufacturers.

It is not uncommon for us to find products that have a much lower CS concentration – or are from a different species – than declared. Of course, we do not believe that this is necessarily due to malicious motives, but rather, perhaps, due to a lack of proper quality control on the receiver's end.

How do you think such challenges will be overcome in the next few years?

We have experienced a shift in the attitude of buyers and manufacturers, and the increasing focus on consumer health and safety is changing the market for the better. We believe the best way to overcome these challenges is not necessarily by more regulation, but by a better enforcement of rules, better control of goods and documentation at entry points, and industry self-regulation. The worst supplement makers, for instance, buy material that is suspiciously low in price, yet they do not conduct sufficient – if any – testing on the material when they receive it.

How is the changing regulatory environment affecting businesses?

From a financial standpoint, new regulations are expensive in terms of compliance, and we see this very clearly in the narrowing price gap between imported and domestic material. Manufacturing in a high-tech and automated factory like ours is, today, no more expensive than a labourintensive production.

Add to this the fact that the stricter regulatory environment requires more investments, more control and documentation, and you can understand why many of the traditionally low-quality/low-price suppliers are leaving the market.

Various scandals in the pharma and food supplement industries have definitely made manufacturers more aware of the potential long-term damage to business and reputation, making them, understandably, less inclined to take any risks that might result in the loss of consumer confidence.

What have been your key initiatives regarding traceability and safety, and why are they so important?

We manufacture according to a very comprehensive quality management system and consider traceability a vital component of our supply chain process. We spend considerable time and effort communicating to the market that quality cannot be ensured by product analysis alone – GMPs and the use of appropriate biological raw material are just as crucial.

In order to minimise any health risks, we use strictly controlled raw material that is regulated under the EU by product and food regulation. The focus on traceability allows us to be able to respond rapidly to any nonconformance or recalls, which is critical to protecting the health and well-being of consumers, and – in so doing – our business and brand image.

The worst supplement makers, for instance, buy material that is suspiciously low in price, yet they do not conduct sufficient – if any – testing on the material when they receive it.

How have customers and manufacturers responded to your products?

Being persistent in communicating the importance of sourcing safe and legal products has paid off, not only from a moral and legal point of view, but also from a financial one.

We understand that fierce competition and budget constraints may pressure or tempt anyone sourcing ingredients to choose heavily discounted products with poor documentation. However, the consequences are simply too severe for a business, and the risk to the health and well-being of the consumers is too high.