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Packaging takeaways

Packaging takeaways

Consumers demand almost as much from the packages that hold their foods and supplements as they do from the products themselves. Packages must clearly communicate product attributes, must not harm the environment and must stand out among the sea of competitors on store shelves or in online searches.

Sustainable packaging can sway a consumer toward a product, or put them off, which has encouraged brands to use innovative packaging that uses less material and/or uses material that can be recycled or is made from recycled components. One such innovation in this area is packaging that can be composted in backyard gardens. However, “clean packaging” doesn’t have a universal definition, so brands must listen to their consumers and respond to their demands.

Brands must use these sustainable packages, but not at the expense of the safety or the quality of the products. Air-tight and micro-perforated packaging can separate contaminants from products, and thus maintain contaminate-free and unoxidized products. Packages should also be free of chemicals that could leak into the foods, causing spoiling or unpleasant olfactory effects. Product transport also needs to be considered as many shipping routes require goods to be stored in heat or cold for several weeks.

A sustainable, safe package won’t do consumers good if they aren’t attracted to the messages or design, so marketers must also use this real estate to best position their products. Along with product attributes, brand story and legal requirements, brands can highlight the packaging components to help build trust and transparency with customers. Millennials especially want a social media-ready aesthetic, so beauty and an “unboxing” appeal will bring more consumer interest.

Product claims cannot expand beyond the bounds of what is legal. Supplement and food packages cannot make disease claims, and health claims require FDA approval. Structure/function claims don’t require government pre-approval, but brands must notify FDA 30 days after marketing the dietary supplement with the claim.

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Demand for natural sweeteners continues to rise

Demand for natural sweeteners continues to rise

More consumers are embracing health and wellness and seeking out better-for-you products, resulting in tremendous innovation in the food, beverage and supplement industries that deliver novel products to feed and fuel the mind, body and soul.

This new paradigm in consumerism also includes a desire for products formulated with ingredients consumers can pronounce, as well as products with shortened ingredient lists. Nowhere is this more apparent the food and beverage industry, where increased numbers of consumers are demanding transparency about how ingredients are sourced and how products are manufactured.

According to the 2018 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation, most Americans think about the healthfulness of the foods and beverages they consume. When asked to choose between two versions of the same product—an older one with artificial ingredients and a newer version without—69 percent chose the product with no artificial ingredients, while 32 percent opted for the one containing artificial ingredients.

When asked to identify the healthier of two products with the same Nutrition Facts Panel, 40 percent perceived one labeled “non-GMO” (genetically modified organism) as healthier versus 15 percent for one with genetically engineered ingredients, and 33 percent believed a product with a shorter ingredient list was healthier than one with more ingredients (15 percent). What’s more, 62 percent of consumers said they would pay up to 10 percent more for a product without artificial ingredients, while 42 percent said they would pay 50 percent more.

IFIC data also revealed consumption of and opinions regarding sugars have shifted over the years, with 33 percent of Americans pointing to sugar as the most likely calorie source responsible for weight gain. The findings aren’t surprising given sugar content in foods and beverages has been a politicized issue because of its association with several chronic illnesses, chief of which include obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

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CBD in packaged food and beverages

CBD in packaged food and beverages

Alcoholic drinks are by far the most embedded industry in the cannabis sector. At least three leading corporate players have a stake in cannabis producers, the most notable being U.S.-based Constellation Brands and its 38 percent share in leading Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth. With the spirits and beer categories already headed in a low- or non-alcoholic direction, a future where tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) replaces alcohol is on the horizon. Cannabis beverages, with specific THC dosing and controlled onset-of-effects, will become more common in places that have legalized recreational use, ultimately providing the equivalent effect of a glass of wine or beer. These would be calorie-free, non-alcoholic or alcoholic recreational beverages with an intoxicating buzz.

Health and wellness trends are driving the global soft drinks industry, fueled by sugar reduction. The functional health and wellness trend is thus a natural bedfellow for cannabidiol (CBD)-infused products. In soft drinks, CBD launches have become prevalent over the last two to three years, particularly in bottled water, juices, ready-to-drink (RTD) tea, RTD coffee and energy drinks, as well as THC inclusions where recreational use of cannabis is legal.

Tea is currently the most popular application for CBD products in hot drinks, particularly green tea and herbal tea, related as they are to health and wellness. As low- and non-alcoholic beverages grow in popularity, and sugary soft drinks continue to decline, a consumer trend confluence occurs between alcoholic drinks and soft drinks. These blurring lines are creating a fertile ground for adult recreational soft drinks, where cannabis (more specifically THC in the long term) fits in as a social lubricant with a health and wellness halo.

Within packaged food, Euromonitor International expects sales of CBD products to double over the next two years, as consumer awareness grows. CBD and THC are the superpower holistic food ingredients of the future—think turmeric (anti-inflammatory) crossed with coconut oil (essential fatty acids). CBD/THC falls within the naturally functional and mindful consumption trends, tapping into the vegan, plant-based and free-from movements. Given hemp is grown sustainably, it is also spurred by the ethical living megatrend and back-to-basics move. THC-combined CBD products are chiefly prevalent in sweet categories, such as confectionery (chocolate and sugar), protein bars and ice cream, with potential for savory snacks, pasta and soups, among others.

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FDA Commissioner Gottlieb resigns

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FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., has resigned and will leave his post next month after almost two years at the helm. The move was a surprise, given he tweeted just two months ago that rumors of his departure were not true and he was determined to lead the agency through challenging regulatory issues.

The public health agency has taken aim at the opioid crisis, teen vaping and, most recently, dietary supplement regulation.

“I want to be very clear – I’m not leaving,” he tweeted, on Jan. 3, 2019. “We’ve got a lot important policy we’ll advance this year. I look forward to sharing my 2019 strategic roadmap soon.”

However, Gottlieb tweeted this afternoon, “I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to help lead this wonderful agency, for the support of my colleagues, for the public health goals we advanced together, and the strong support of @SecAzar and @realDonaldTrump – This has been a wonderful journey and parting is very hard.”

Gottlieb only said he was leaving, effective one month from today, to spend more time with family, whom reside in Connecticut, while Gottlieb works at FDA in the Washington D.C. area. According to the Washington Post, which broke the story, White House officials assured the move was not initiated by President Trump.

In a statement released online, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar praised Gottlieb as a “public health leader, aggressive advocate for American patients, and passionate promoter of innovation.” Azar said he would personally miss working with Gottlieb on policy. “The public health of our country is better off for the work Scott and the entire FDA team have done over the last two years.”

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Curcumin: Still on the climb

Curcumin Still on the climb

According to SPINS, 2017 sales of turmeric were more than US$4.8 million in U.S. conventional multioutlet stores—a 31 percent year-over-year increase compared to 2016. Additionally, the global curcumin market is expected to reach $110.5 million by 2024, a 137 percent increase from 2016, based on Global Market Insights data. Curcumin continues to climb, though several factors have the potential to impact the success of curcumin products. Consider these key market dynamics affecting the curcumin market.

Popularity & potential. Curcumin is enjoying a nod of approval from consumers seeking its health benefits, namely its anti-inflammatory effects. Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) reported mainstream consumer interest in using nutritional supplements to treat inflammation is on the rise; 30 percent of U.S. consumers were very interested in a supplement to manage or prevent inflammation in the body in 2017 vs. 19 percent in 2009. The anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin translate to several areas of health, with research supporting beneficial effects in cognition, mood and sports nutrition, furthering the reach of this powerful compound.

Ensuring efficacy & quality. Curcumin is challenged with poor bioavailability, which has led ingredient manufacturers and product developers to create solutions that ensure effective curcumin products. Though there are proprietary ingredients and formulation solutions—such as adding piperine to curcumin products—to address curcumin’s bioavailability issues, concern remains surrounding the efficacy of curcumin products. Some researchers, for example, question whether the supporting compounds in turmeric are necessary for curcumin bioavailability. Another challenge for curcumin is the threat of adulteration. The Botanical Adulteration Program reported curcumin has been adulterated with other Curcuma species, starches and dyes. More recently, the addition of undeclared synthetic curcumin or mixtures of synthetic curcuminoids to turmeric extracts has been reported.

Beyond supplements. Turmeric, from which the curcumin compound derives, is an increasingly popular ingredient in foods and beverages. However, food and beverage brands must use caution, as turmeric (and therefore curcumin) has only been approved by FDA as a food colorant and is not recognized for its medicinal properties. Therefore, turmeric should be listed as a coloring agent and not a functional ingredient, which seems like a bit of a grey area considering the many functional products using turmeric on the market.

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Alpha lipoic acid for healthy aging

Alpha lipoic acid for healthy aging

In a time where antioxidants are essential, consumers are looking for the right ingredient to combat free radicals. Known as thioctic acid, alpha lipoic acid is generated through small amounts in the mitochondria—otherwise known as “the powerhouse of the cell.” One study found that “As an antioxidant, [alpha lipoic acid] directly terminates free radicals, chelates transition metal ions (e.g., iron and copper), increases cytosolic glutathione and vitamin C levels, and prevents toxicities associated with their loss.”1 Also known to help with the aging process, another study found ALA helps lower oxidative stress associated with aging.2

In addition, according to Clinical Nutrition, ALA plays a key part in boosting energy production, as it helps the physiological responses to stress.3 As aging occurs, the body is not capable of maintaining the same level of cellular energy production. The Clinical Nutrition study evaluated the efficacy of carnitine, a mitochondrial metabolite, and lipoic acid. The research indicated that an age-dependent decrement in the levels of the TCA cycle enzymes and electron transport chain complexes, in which supplementation of carnitine (300 mg/kg bw/d) and lipoic acid (100 mg/kg bw/d) for 30 days brought the activities close to normal levels. This suggested that alpha lipoic acid helped reverse the age-related decline.

An additional study found that added with L-carnitine, alpha lipoic acid reduced oxidative stress and improved mitochondrial function.4 In the double blind, crossover study, researchers examined the effects of alpha lipoic acid with acetyle L-carnitine treatment on vasodilator function and blood pressure in 36 subjects for eight weeks compared to placebo. The results indicated that active treatment increased brachial artery diameter by 2.3 percent and reduced systolic blood pressure for the entire group. Moreover, there was a dramatic effect in the subgroup with blood pressure above the median, and in the subgroup with the metabolic syndrome. This strongly indicated alpha lipoic acid’s effect on blood pressure and endothelia function in the brachial artery.

As an important part of cellular production, alpha lipoic acid plays a profound impact on oxidative stress. Indeed, the right ingredient to combat free radicals could be Alpha lipoic acid—and helpful ingredient to provide consumers a long and healthy life.

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FDA official sheds light on dietary supplement working group

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In December, FDA announced the formation of a working group to improve oversight of the dietary supplement industry. The industry immediately wondered about the working group’s participants and objectives, including whether it would make substantive changes affecting dietary supplements without outside input.

In an interview, an FDA official explained the internal working group is focused on improving the agency’s internal processes and procedures, and he emphasized FDA would continue to solicit input from stakeholders on substantive policy changes.

The working group is “a simple self-reflection and acknowledgement that we have an obligation as an agency to make the best use of the resources and the authorities that we have,” said Steven Tave, director of FDA’s Office of Dietary Supplement Programs.

Since passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), the “market has evolved,” and FDA must ensure it has “evolved appropriately,” Tave added in a phone interview.

He suggested it is time to examine practices and procedures that his agency established long ago. For example, Tave noted, depending on a variety of factors, a product that contains an ingredient FDA has determined doesn’t belong in dietary supplements could fall under the jurisdiction of two different entities at FDA: the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, or the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

“When you have these products that label themselves as dietary supplements but actually contain unlawful drug ingredients … [under the law] that takes them out of the definition of dietary supplement and takes them out of the definition of food,” Tave explained. “Within FDA operationally, that makes them drug products, so what’s happening is we’re splitting up authority internally over the commodity.”

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USDA announces time frame for adopting hemp regulations

Montana now leads country in hemp acreage

USDA on Wednesday announced its plans to promulgate regulations in fall 2019 regarding the commercial production of industrial hemp in the United States.

Under the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018—otherwise known as the 2018 Farm Bill—states and Indian tribes have the option to primarily regulate the production of hemp. That’s provided USDA approves their plans. But states and Indian tribes don’t need to submit plans until the agency adopts its regulations, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in a notice to industry.

USDA will hold onto a submission if a state happens to submit a plan before the regulations are promulged. The notice proclaimed: “USDA is committed to completing its review of plans within 60 days once regulations are effective.”

At least one state acted immediately in response to the 2018 Farm Bill. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture submitted its regulatory plan for hemp production the same day President Donald Trump signed the bill.

“Kentucky is emerging as an epicenter for the American rapidly-growing hemp industry,” Ryan Quarles, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, wrote in a letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

For the 2019 planting season, states, tribes and institutions of higher education can continue operating under the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA said.

The 2014 Farm Bill authorized institutions of higher education and state agricultural departments to grow or cultivate industrial hemp under certain conditions. The scope of that bill—including whether it authorized commercial production and sale of hemp and hemp-based products—was long debated.

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Supply Chains & The Trust Transparency Paradigm

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Transparency has become a reality, not an aspiration, in today’s marketplace. Understandably, customers and consumers in the dietary supplement industry have learned to expect more from companies, and are becoming progressively more demanding.

Ingredient manufacturers are becoming the cultural pivot point for change, and supply chains have been the focus of improvement. Expectations about transparency are eclipsing the rate of change though, as demand for more information increases. While companies seek openness from their supply chain, what they ultimately want is the trust of their consumers. To that end, we present here the paradigm of trust transparency—the intersection point of trust and transparency—which is a proactive and top-of-mind strategic approach to creating a process and value system that aligns organizations and their internal and external partners to develop tangible, quantifiable ROI.

There are many obstacles to overcoming perceived deficiencies in supply chain transparency including:

  • Inertia & Status Quo
  • Culture
  • Competitive Environment
  • Technology/Geography

Inertia & Status Quo
Today’s supply chain is still opaque, but slowly moving toward more transparency and clarity. It’s easy to maintain information privately that hasn’t traditionally been shared. Historically, we’ve been taught that we don’t get in trouble for what we don’t say. Today though, what is not said can be as damaging as what is. Consumers and society are shifting attitudes to require a responsible dialogue of truthful representation at an increasing level of accuracy. It is essential to recognize the shift in expectation and understand the need for both good and bad information to be shared.

Culture
Our supply chains traverse a variety of cultures that offer varying levels of transparency. To excuse misinformation or incomplete information as a product of culture, or translation of words or ideas, is not acceptable in today’s market. It’s our responsibility to educate about the importance of transparency and not enable, excuse, or accommodate a culture that is not open to disclosure. Rather, we should make it a point to reward transparency initiatives.

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Green Power for Future Generations

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The world’s population is increasing rapidly. All people need to eat and there is no denying that protein supplies an essential part of a healthy daily diet. However, protein sources can exert an enormous impact on the environment and the world. Scientists around the globe are investigating plant-based alternatives to animal proteins. These alternatives can play a vital role not only in supplying essential nutrients but also doing it in a more environmentally friendly, sustainable way compared to animal proteins.

By the Numbers
While the current global population stands at 7.7 billion, some predictions estimate the number will grow to 9.8 billion by the year 2050. Correspondingly, food production needs to increase. This population growth means higher demand for animal protein; in fact, demand for animal protein might double. While animal proteins supply a full complement of essential amino acids required for human health, they also leave behind a huge environmental footprint. Some concerns, specifically related to increased animal protein, include the required amount of land, water, and feed necessary for its production, as well as emissions of greenhouse gases and potential issues with animal welfare.

The issues with animal-based protein extend beyond the land into the oceans. Researchers at the University of Western Australia and the University of British Columbia, who analyze global fishing trends, found that industrial fishing fleets have dramatically expanded their fishing areas, traveling double the distance to fishing grounds compared to 1950, yet catch rates are a third of what they were 65 years ago per kilometer traveled (Science Advances, 2018).

Plant proteins are certain to play a key role in meeting the protein needs of future generations and the growing population. The need for plant protein alternatives is critical and matching plant sources in the right combination can achieve adequate essential amino acid profiles. Currently, major industrial protein ingredients from plant sources include soy, wheat, rice, corn, peas, canola, and potato. Plant protein utilization can reduce demand for animal protein sources, thereby reducing environmental impact.

One study conducted in 2014 that compared the environmental cost of two plant-based proteins—one from beans and the other from almonds—to the cost of three animal-based proteins found that to produce 1 kg of protein from beans required “approximately 18 times less land, 10 times less water, nine times less fuel, 12 times less fertilizer, and 10 times less pesticide in comparison to producing 1 kg of protein from beef.” Beef also generated five to six times more waste compared to the other animal proteins, namely chickens and eggs (Public Health Nutrition, 2014).

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