Clean: for consumers and producers

Clean (adj.): free from foreign or extraneous matter: characterised by a fresh, wholesome quality

The definition of clean, currently a popular buzzword in our industry, is straightforward and both consumers and manufacturers demand it of the products they are purchasing. However, they do not perceive it in the same manner because the products they are purchasing are different. For consumers, clean is used to describe the supplement facts of their dietary supplement or nutrition facts of their food and beverages; the industry refers to this as clean label. For manufacturers, clean is used to describe the ingredients they place in the finished product or, in other words, unadulterated material.

Clean label encompasses minimally processed ingredients, as well as natural alternatives to colour, excipients and preservatives

Ultimately, it comes down to the transparency of the product; consumers wish to know exactly what they’re consuming, which means simplification. Finished product manufacturers must acclimate themselves to this concept to succeed in the future marketplace. They must reconsider the use of copious amounts of ingredients and chemically sounding ingredients to appeal to the growing wave of consumers looking for healthier alternatives and transparency in their supplements, foods and beverages.

George Pontiakos
President and CEO, BI Nutraceuticals

For manufacturers to provide the type of “clean” that consumers demand, they must first ensure they receive the type of “clean” they demand from their suppliers — unadulterated material. Without clean ingredients, clean label becomes irrelevant. A simple ingredient list is even worse when an ingredient that makes up so much of the formula is tainted with a different species or heavy metals. With increased consumer interest in product quality and a growing raw material and ingredient supply, the topic of adulteration is becoming increasingly significant. Again, it comes down to product transparency. Just like consumers, manufacturers want to know exactly what they’re receiving.

However, transparency is far more difficult to measure for manufacturers because of the complex chain of custody in our industry. Transparency means aligning oneself with reliable ingredient suppliers, with advanced production and testing technologies, close vendor relationships, extensive documentation and industry knowledge, and legitimate certifications that prove their high quality standards. These requirements entail a great deal of resources and separate the reputable suppliers from the rest.

Certifications reveal the companies that value high quality sourcing and processing

For manufacturers, the first sign of a superior ingredient supplier is their production and testing technologies. By familiarising oneself with the equipment and services a company offers, manufacturers can get an idea of how much capital and human investment a supplier has built into their infrastructure and how much they value quality. Another method to initially assess the quality of a supplier is through the certifications they have earned. Certifications reveal the companies that value high quality sourcing and processing because a lot of due diligence, preparation and procedure modifications are required.

Another method to determine the quality of a supplier is to learn about the depth of their vendor qualification and surveillance programme; this will take some discussion between the manufacturer and the supplier. Sourcing is the most complex function in this industry — partnering with a company with excellent relationships with their vendor base is essential for top-quality material. This ensures access to raw materials at the source, exclusive supplier agreements and high quality crop priority, and full co-operation with forecasting and planning from vendors to reduce complexities in the supply chain. A strong and diverse vendor network also allows a supplier to secure crop when supply issues occur.

Documentation is another line of defence in which a manufacturer can distinguish between a quality supplier and one that is not

Once you partner with a supplier, documentation is another line of defence in which a manufacturer can distinguish between a quality supplier and one that is not. Providing accurate documentation does not require the capital investment that production and testing technologies, certifications and a solid vendor qualification and surveillance programme do, it simply requires industry knowledge and dependable raw material sources. If documentation becomes an issue, it should be an automatic red flag to the manufacturer that the supplier does not possess the acumen and vendor base this industry requires for consistent quality product.

These steps encourage clean, transparent product at every step — from vendor to ingredient supplier to finished product manufacturer and finally to consumers. With this industry’s complex chain of custody and the increasing demand for “clean” products from both consumers and manufacturers, significant labour, monetary and resource commitments are now required of ingredient suppliers. As our marketplace further evolves — “clean” — whether it means clean label or unadulterated ingredients will be highly sought after by consumers and regarded for the success of finished product manufacturers, and it all begins with the ingredient supplier.