Monday, March 07, 2011

ADULT WEIGHT MANAGEMENT interview, Vitamin Retailer magazine, February, 2011

Weight management products have long been an important category for natural product retailers, partially because it is such a problem for many people to control their weight but also since many people shop in these stores because they want to use natural products that are free of potentially risky pharmaceuticals. As a gateway category for transitional shoppers that may be new to health food stores, weight management products become an important gauge of a commitment to meeting these people’s needs and thus keeping them as customers willing to try other products. Of course, nutritionists will suggest a comprehensive diet and supplement plan, rather than relying on “magic bullet” single products.

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) regulations have gone into effect over the past several years, raising the bar on manufacturers’ quality control practices. At the same time, mandatory Adverse Event Reporting (AER) was also implemented. Both of these regulatory mechanisms should increase consumer confidence and belie the myth that the industry is “unregulated”.

I believe that the glut of stories about Americans being overweight tends to make people more aware of their own lack of exercise and dietary restraint, which contribute to their excess weight. Of course, health scares and medical crises also alert people to their mortality and tend to motivate healthy dietary and other lifestyle changes. Today’s youth-obsessed media makes people want to look young and fit even past middle age. Plastic surgery, being expensive and with some risks, is far from a perfect solution. There are no shortcuts to health, only natural aids to good health. The very visible failures of both diet drugs and illegal products pretending to be dietary supplements illustrate the depth of the market and the need for effective natural weight management products.

Consumers tend to look for something that was recommended to them, either by a person or an authority. The person could be a family member, co-worker, or an acquaintance. The authority could be someone cited in the media, on the Internet, or a trusted trainer or health professional. Top categories are controlling appetite (satiety), increasing metabolism (thermogenics), and blocking the absorption of certain food components such as carbohydrates or fats (nutrient blockers).

Natural foods and fibers are part of the solution to maintaining healthy weight and blood sugar. These foods would include whole grains as well as fibers from various sources. Some of these fibers are gluten-free and/or organic, such as Flax, Acacia, Inulin, and Psyllium. Fibers also help satiety, the feeling of being full.

Consumers today are more concerned about the quality and safety of diet support products, so are looking for assurances of adequate quality controls and testing. Some parts of this process include method validation and development, stability testing, identity testing, microbiological testing, heavy metal testing, specification development, overseeing production, procuring samples and preparing them for testing, and even raw material vendor audits.

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