Does the supplements industry need to embrace experts?

brendan murdock
category - digital
sector - health & wellness
type - opinion
The supplements industry has to make a collective choice about how its now establishes it credibility.

If you're like me, you can’t resist the promise of a handy health hack. I have an endless supply of supplements at my desk – from vitamin D and iron to a collagen tablet for that extra glow. But I am not alone. In fact up to two-thirds of UK adults take vitamins or supplements daily or occasionally, with the global dietary supplement industry set to be worth £205.68 bn ( ($278.02 bn, €233.95 bn) by 2024 (sources: Mintel; Grand Review Research). But is this cocktail of supplements actually doing us any good? With consumer scepticism around the effectiveness and safety of these products growing, the industry has to make a collective choice about how to establish credibility.

‘In any given month, countless new studies are released about vitamins, and at first glance, the information often seems conflicting,’ Katerina Schneider, founder of online supplements brand Ritual tells LS:N Global. ‘It’s tough to filter through to what is really being said, and there currently isn’t one clear resource that people can go to for reliable expert information.’

Unlike prescription drugs, whose claims and safety have to be proven before they can be sold, supplements are barely subjected to government scrutiny. In Europe, they are classified and regulated as food products, while in the US, they are classified as dietary supplement and can go to market without extensive testing. The issue of credibility is now being further compounded by the mass of celebrities, health bloggers and beauty businesses launching their own Instagram-friendly brands or providing endorsement to third parties. I think we need to start urgently questioning whether this is the right approach to take at a time when the industry is struggling to establish its integrity.

The examples are numerous. Take Tati Westbrook (aka @glamlifeguru), who has 1.2 million Instagram followers and 3.9 million YouTube subscribers and recently launched Halo Beauty, which claims to do everything from prevent premature hair greying to firming skin and reducing fine lines. Then there's the Kardashian-Jenner clan, who since 2015 have promoted brands such as Hairfinity and Sugarbear Hair gummies, that latter having now hit almost 2 million followers thanks to their endorsement. Even beauty giant Bobbi Brown has dipped its toe in the water with the recent launch Evolution_18, a range of edibles designed to promote beauty both internally and externally.

Published by:

15 May 2018

Author: Jessica Smith

Image: Care/of, US


It is easy to see why some might challenge the authenticity of these supplements brands and claim that they trade more on interest in the appearance rather than genuinely improving consumers' health. Tapping influencers that merely have a large following to spread the message is simply a clever marketing ploy, but does little to settle fears about the safety and effectiveness of the products being promoted. I would suggest an alternative tactic, one that relies more on expertise than cult of personality. In short, for such brands to be appealing, we need more doctors in the conversation.

Seeking to overcome this, Brendan Murdock, launched anatomē, a new retail space that aims to educate consumers by guiding them on which own-brand vitamins and nutrients would be suitable to them. With an army of in-house nutritionists and practitioners on the ground running, as well as very plain, informative packaging, consumers are able to understand their specific health needs without being sold merely on savvy marketing tactics. ‘With the plethora of health products on the market, it's hard for consumers to know what’s right for them. At anatomē, we seek to help inform consumers and connect with them more meaningfully,’ Brendan Murdock, founder of anatomē tells LS:N Global.

While this hands on approach is the ideal, it obviously won't be achievable for all. Nevertheless, supplement brands can't simply wait for regulation change in order to clarify the benefits and efficacy of their products – businesses wanting to be leaders in this space need to quit their addiction to influencers and reinvest in evidence-based marketing.

For more on the issues set to confront health and wellness brands in the next 18 months, book tickets to our upcoming Health and Wellness Futures Forum.

"Tapping influencers that merely have a large following to spread the message is simply a clever marketing ploy, but does little to settle fears about the safety and effectiveness of the products being promoted."

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