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Our Transparency Commitment
Transparency is defined as being “honest,” “open,” and “free from pretense or deceit.” For companies, this means providing accessibility to information concerning business practices and creating opportunities to develop and sustain trusting relationships with customers.
There is no doubt that transparency, when used appropriately, can be an effective and ethical relationship-building tool. However, many companies are taking advantage of growing consumer interest in and support for transparency and using it as a public relations exercise to reshape consumer opinion. Within the nutraceutical industry, in particular, transparency has lost some of its shine because it has been and continues to be used indiscriminately as a marketing gimmick.
It is not uncommon for supplements companies, particularly those that champion transparency and jostle for top honors as the industry’s “transparency” leaders, to engage in practices that have the unintended consequence of diluting and diminishing its value. Among others, these practices include listing “magnesium stearate” as “vegetable lubricant,” using vague, potentially misleading jargon to describe products, and citing somewhat dubious reasons to justify not sharing objective evidence of product quality. Such selective, self-serving disclosures not only go against the spirit and intent of transparency as consumers expect it, but they do little to increase confidence or build trust.
Consumers deserve more than what companies are willing to share with them. They deserve to know who we are, what we believe in and stand for, where we’ve been, and where we are headed. They deserve openness and honesty about not only what we do well, but also where we need to improve. They deserve "authentic" transparency in ways that can cut through skepticism, remove doubt, and strength trust.
At NutriGold, we believe that authentic transparency is caring about customers enough to tell them the truth and trusting them enough to know that they will understand and respect us for it. It is respecting consumers’ right to see who we really are and hold us accountable for the things we say and do. It is the willingness to admit mistakes and acknowledge failures even if there is an inherent risk that such disclosures will make us vulnerable. In fact, we want customers to feel comfortable seeking our counsel when making a purchasing decision because they know us and trust that we will prioritize and protect their interests above all else. We want them to know that we are in this business for them. And that everything we do, including practicing authentic transparency, is powered by integrity and guided by a genuine desire to improve and nourish their health and the health of loved ones.
Our uncompromising commitment to authentic transparency is reflected in the accurate and ethical disclosures about active and inactive ingredients on product labels, clear descriptions of terms used to highlight product features and quality attributes, education initiatives to empower consumers to make informed purchasing decisions, and the willingness to share product Certificates of Analysis, which summarize results of all the third-party testing we perform to validate product claims, upon request. As the saying by Mother Teresa goes, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”
Transparency in Labeling
When it comes to supplements, the problem for consumers is not that there are too many or too few choices. The problem is that consumers cannot make an informed choice because they don’t have access to the necessary information, like knowing where the ingredients came from, what’s actually in the product, or what the claims on the label really mean. While the FDA provides guidelines for what information must be made available on the label (e.g. brand name, product name, bottle count, ingredients list, etc.) and goes so far as to even offer prescriptions for font sizes and line spacing, it does not go far enough to regulate the marketing claims on labels that actually influence purchasing decisions.
Let’s take the case of multivitamins. There are literally hundreds of multivitamin products available to choose from and no two are exactly alike. While some are just synthetic vitamins, others are synthetic vitamins cultured in yeast. While some are whole food vitamins from actual foods, others are synthetic or cultured vitamins blended with foods, but labeled and marketed as “whole” foods. And that’s not even taking into account the hundreds of possible combinations made possible by the inclusion of “value-added” ingredients like probiotics, enzymes, superfoods, and specialty ingredients.
In theory, consumers could make an informed decision by comparing across different multivitamin products on the quality of their ingredients, including their source and composition. However, the requirement to provide that information is enforced inconsistently across synthetic and whole food vitamins, which makes comparisons difficult. For example, while the FDA requires companies to list the source or starting material if the vitamin is from [whole] foods, the same does not apply to vitamins that are synthesized using chemicals in a lab. Comparisons across brands and products is further complicated by variations in the information required to be declared on product labels.
The failure to disclose, voluntarily or otherwise, the source of synthetic nutrients on multivitamin labels is, however, only part of the problem. The other part is the lack of consensus and clarity on the terms used on product labels to actually market them—whole food, real food, raw food, food-created, food state, cultured, fermented, active food, and raw code, among others. While some companies use the term “whole food” to describe nutrients concentrated from actual foods, others use it to describe synthetic vitamins fermented in yeast. Still others use the term to describe synthetic vitamins blended with food powders.
This glaring lack of transparency in labeling isn’t just limited to multivitamins; the problem extends to other nutraceutical products as well. Herbal products are marketed as whole powders, full-spectrum powders, standardized extracts, extract ratios, full-spectrum standardized extracts, or high potency extract, and fish oil products are marketed as ultra, ultimate, premium, and pharmaceutical grade. Using these claims to market products would be fine as long as companies and consumers are aligned with respect to what they mean, but that is, sadly, not the case at all.
Despite awareness of the fundamental disconnect between companies’ use of these highly subjective terms and consumers’ understanding of them, there has been little effort within the industry to address or resolve the disconnect. Industry trade organizations, industry media, and consumer watchdogs like the FDA or FTC all appear to be content to simply watch from the sidelines as as companies compete with each other to come up with disingenuous ways to confuse the consumer into making purchasing decisions that are based on incorrect, incomplete, or, in extreme cases, blatantly false information.
It’s simple—consumers have a right to know what’s in the products intended to support good health. It should not be up to the FDA or individual companies with vested interests to decide what information is relevant or important to consumers when making a purchasing decision. It shouldn’t matter whether or not the FDA thinks such declarations are necessary. Transparency in labeling is not just about regulatory compliance, it’s about doing what’s in the consumers’ best interests. It is about informed choice. About ethics. About integrity. And prioritizing people over profits.
At NutriGold, we understand that trying to make a purchasing decision, especially one that impacts health, can be overwhelming under the best of circumstances. The last thing any of us needs is to have to expend time we don’t have and energy we can’t spare trying to figure out what’s what. So, we have put together definitions of the specific terms we use to describe our ingredients and products. We want to be clear about what we mean when we use words like full-spectrum or whole food to describe our products. And we want our customers to be clear as well. It’s all part of our commitment to authentic transparency and and our efforts to educate consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.
Thanks to an incredibly complex, global supply chain and the creative minds that come up with disingenuous ways to market the products we consume, it has become next to impossible to figure out what exactly is in the foods and supplements we take to support our health and wellness goals. Take the case of a beloved comfort food—pasta. It is reasonable to assume that if you buy pasta from a grocery store, you’ll be eating, well, pasta. But, that’s actually not the case.
Instead, the box of ravioli may contain a potentially harmful, and hard-to-pronounce, additive called azodicarbonamide, an additive that is used to bleach wheat. Wheat naturally whitens on its own over time, but the process takes too long. So, many brands choose to hurry it along with dangerous chemicals. Bon appétit!
Companies that use additives like these are quick to assure consumers that they are safe in low doses. But who is to decide how low is low enough? If you develop an illness 20 years down the road, who’s to say it wasn’t because of the azodicar-expialidocious? The effects of many of the ingredients and processing aids that currently dominate our food supply-chain are either not known or not fully understood. But they continue to be used because there is no clear, unequivocal evidence that they can harm human health.
The supplement industry is no exception. A 2013 research at the University of Guelph in Ontario found that, of the 12 brands tested, 7 companies’ products contained unlabeled ingredients and products from the 3 brands didn’t contain the labeled ingredient at all. While the decision to sacrifice consumer safety for manufacturing expediency reflects poorly on product quality, the decision to not list these additives reflects poorly on the company’s commitment to authentic transparency.
Dietary supplement manufacturers have a number of tools at their disposal to boost manufacturing efficiency and productivity, often at the expense of consumers. At NutriGold, even though we have the option to prioritize profitability over people, we consciously choose not to exercise that option. Why? It all comes down to one word: integrity. NutriGold was founded to protect people from the very practices that put them at risk.
If NutriGold were founded simply as a supplements company, we’d be a very different company. But that’s not what NutriGold is about. We are a consumer-centric, wellness company. We believe in whole food nutrition, earth-friendly practices, and consumer education and empowerment. We want consumers to rely on organic, nutrient-dense foods as their primary source of nourishment when possible, and use supplements only as needed to meet nutrient gaps. We’re not in business for ourselves. We’re in business for you. What kind of company works like that? A company founded for people, not for profit.
Third-party Test Reports and Certificates of Analysis
Purchasing decisions related to dietary supplements take into account a number of factors including what’s in it, what’s not, how it is packaged, and whether it is affordable or provides value for the price. But, other the claims that are on the label, some of which can be unclear, how can consumers be sure that what’s on the label is actually in the bottle? And where can they get evidence in support of those label claims?
Regardless of whether companies perform in-house testing or contract the testing out to third-party labs, every lot of product that is manufactured usually has an associated Certificate of Analysis (C of A). A Certificate of Analysis is a document that provides assurance that a product authorized for distribution meets its specifications for identity, purity, strength, and composition. Labs use the term, Certificate of Analysis, to describe reports of results they perform on products on behalf of companies. Companies use the term to describe the document that provides a summary of all of the testing that is performed on the product to ensure compliance with predetermined quality specifications.
At NutriGold, we work with multiple labs to evaluate the quality of our raw materials and finished products. So, for any given product, we may have test results from as many as 4 or 5 different labs, depending on what needs to be tested, what methods have to be used, and which lab is most qualified to perform the testing. We take the results of testing from different labs and prepare a Certificate of Analysis that summarizes all of the results on a single quality assurance document. It is this document that we make available to consumers upon request as reassurance that the product contains what is claimed on the label.
We believe that consumers have the right to hold companies accountable for label claims, and that companies, in return, are professionally, morally, and ethically obligated to make this information available and accessible upon request. Contrary to the claims propagated by many brands, neither the FDA nor any other regulatory body restricts companies from sharing certificates of analysis with consumers. And consumers would do well to be skeptical of any brand that refuses to make a product C of A available to consumers, no matter the reason.
As part of our commitment to accountability and authentic transparency, we have provided the Certificates of Analysis for our products, which include detailed information on what we test for, which methods were used to test them, and the actual lot-specific results.
Protecting our planet’s resources by mindfully sourcing non-GMO ingredients, supporting organic farming, and using earth-friendly packaging.