A Global Affair – tales of twisted supply chains

February 28, 2018

With news breaking that European authorities have determined that over two thirds of websites (779 of 1100 websites) are offering non-authorized products, or that the products carry unsubstantiated claims, the issue of e-tail gatekeeping now has global context. Member State authorities from 25 countries examined these sites and then executed follow up enforcement activities in 440 instances. The global nature of the supplement supply chain ensures that this activity in Europe indeed had North American ramifications. According to one industry source, the PayPal platform temporarily froze all global activity for at least one ingredient not permitted in Europe, but allowable in the United States.

Over the past three months, those of you following us know that we at Trust Transparency Consulting have been closely watching the online environment, and at one point even had someone from the product safety group at Amazon weighing in on our more critical observations. As we’ve continued our discussions with our global community, the following items become evident:

  • There are two possible formal supply chain touchpoints that many of these e-tail brands go through in order to reach the market – contract manufacturers, and the e-tailers themselves.
  • There is no simple handbook for the industry on best practices to help those that are keen to do the things the right way at the national level, let alone globally.

Let’s tackle the supply chain touchpoint issue first. Contract manufacturers frequently operate as turnkey service providers, often guiding the entire sourcing and product development processes. While many are thorough, responsible and compliant, others are not. For newcomers to the industry, it’s almost impossible to discern just how good a contract manufacturer is. True, you can look for certifications and association membership, but if you don’t know what to look for, you certainly won’t find whatever it is. And for those contract manufacturers that do not at least tell their clients about the totality of the brand compliance and quality responsibilities, these brands think they have little to no accountability – and behave that way. What would it look like for responsible contract manufacturers to provide a checklist (and maybe even introductions) that helps assure their clients are able to stay in business over the long term?

The other possible touchpoint is the online aggregator or e-tailer themselves. Obviously, those companies that quickly get a product made and sell it on their own website don’t have this touchpoint, but for those that do, and work through an Amazon or ‘equivalent’, it’s increasingly obvious that a risk-based checklist (and maybe even some vendor training) should apply at both company and product level. This though certainly changes both business model and potential profit margins.

Switching to the aspect of a ‘best practices guide,’ an industry rule book of sorts, there are many groups out there including certifiers, service providers and associations that offer pieces of the puzzle—if you know where to look. This is problematic. The analogy is developing a food product in your kitchen, scaling it up in your garage, and going to the local farmer’s market to sell it, knowing little to nothing about labelling, allergens and even possible salmonella contamination. Industry event education provides some of these tools, as do local incubators and accelerators, but the equivalent for the supplements world barely exists. And when you consider supplements as a global industry, the potential problems are even worse.

So, now the issue is global in scope, regulators are starting to look more closely, in Europe and across North America, and we can expect more disruptions to operations similar to that the ingredient frozen by PayPal.

Part of this issue would be resolved by a suite of services which are needed by emerging companies in the supplements universe. Another portion of this issue would be best managed by the online product aggregators. The final aspect is managed by acknowledging that earliest possible engagement with the industry trade associations needs to be an order of business. We at TTC advocate for all three components and see these as fundamental to a broader mission at industry self-policing.

To close, I am struck by how appropriate are the words offered by Unilever CEO Paul Polman at this year’s World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, talking about the companies palm oil supply decisions, “A lot of people think that if you outsource your value chain, you can outsource your responsibilities. I don’t think so.”

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Lori Diez

Lori Diez combines compassion and excellence to lead organizations to their next level. A small-town Texas childhood taught her the value of hard work and relationships, which she uses to foster teamwork that brings results that have transformed cultures and programs to their highest potential. Her successful career in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sales leadership and event hosting has prepared her to deliver results as the COO of TrustTransparency, where she uses her industry knowledge to ensure that the company’s operations run smoothly as they support nutraceutical companies in their mission to help others. Lori’s passion for charity reflects her belief that individuals working together can change the world, no matter how small their contribution to the effort. This year, she looks forward to continuing over a decade of service at the Houston Livestock Show And Rodeo, where she will be the Chairman of the Livestock Committee.

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Glynnda Steinford

Glynnda Steinford, Trust Transparency Consulting’s Director of Customer Relations, brings over four decades of healthcare experience to her vital role in client engagement and relationship building. Her diverse background spans from administering medical groups to impactful stints in pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sales, all underlined by her degree in Healthcare Administration.

At the heart of Glynnda’s work is her talent for nurturing long-term connections, a skill she leverages to enhance client experiences and partnerships within the consultancy. Beyond her professional commitments, she enjoys life’s simple pleasures, whether it’s her love for cats and cooking or her ventures into golf, always prioritizing cherished moments with family and friends. Her personal interests echo the dedication and warmth she extends in her professional network, making her an invaluable asset to the team.

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Caiti Dowden stands as a crucial pillar at Trust Transparency Consulting, bringing invaluable insight and expertise to her role as Senior Executive Assistant’ since her start in 2018. With an academic background from Sam Houston University and a career shift from education to the nutraceutical sphere in 2010, Caiti has cultivated a sharp acumen for dissecting industry trends and bolstering strategic decision-making.

Her transition from Data Analyst reflects her growth and deep understanding of the business landscape. Caiti’s commitment goes beyond professional excellence; she thrives on balance, drawing from her rich life outside of work to enhance her organizational contributions. Whether it’s family time, volunteering, or rooting for Houston’s sports teams, she believes in embracing experiences to fuel her professional creativity and insight.

In her current role, Caiti’s dedication to dynamic business analysis and operational support proves her to be an irreplaceable asset to our team, embodying the synergy of personal enrichment and professional success.

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Pam Hilpert, Chief of Staff at Trust Transparency Consulting, has been instrumental in the firm since its inception, leveraging her 17 years of accounting experience, including a significant tenure in the nutrition sector. Her collaboration with Scott Steinford spans various successful ventures, emphasizing her integral role in the company’s financial and strategic initiatives.

An alumnus of Sam Houston State University, Pam holds degrees in both Business Administration and Accounting, as well as an MBA, adding academic heft to her practical industry insights. Beyond her professional prowess, Pam is passionate about family, enjoys live music, delves into quilting, and volunteers at her church, reflecting her well-rounded life.

Her multifaceted expertise and longstanding dedication make Pam a cornerstone of Trust Transparency Consulting’s operational strength and team unity.

Scott Steinford

Scott Steinford, a trailblazer in strategic leadership, boasts a certified M&A background, having navigated companies from their genesis to industry prominence. His brainchild, Trust Transparency Consulting, born in 2007, stands as a testament to his dedication to ethical business practices and strategic foresight, offering industry stakeholders invaluable guidance.

Beyond founding and steering companies, Scott has enriched the business landscape with his insightful keynotes and prolific written contributions, emphasizing his commitment to elevating industry standards. His executive tenure shines in roles as CEO or President of for-profits like ZMC-USA and Doctor’s Best, extending to significant contributions in non-profit sectors.

Notably, Scott’s influence is a driving force in the CoQ10 market, where his leadership has significantly bolstered the ingredient’s global presence. His roles in various capacities, including as a New Hope Ambassador, keep the community informed, providing in-depth industry reports and insights.

An active advocate within professional associations and an Editorial Advisor for leading industry publications, Scott’s expertise is both recognized and sought after. With academic roots in Pre-Law and a Master’s in Law, his journey transcends textbooks, embodying real-world business acumen and transformative leadership.

Scott Steinford merges visionary entrepreneurship with principled leadership, creating a legacy of innovation, growth, and unwavering commitment to industry excellence.