A Transparency Question – Should Synthetic Supplement Ingredients be Labelled?

January 12, 2021

Supplements containing synthetic ingredients or excipients have been around for a long time. Most people in the industry define synthetic supplements as supplements made from ingredients that were created in a lab. Others define synthetic supplements as any supplements that aren’t whole food supplements. Which is right? Arguably, they both are, but when thinking about the labeling quandary, it’s mostly related to supplements made from synthetic ingredients – i.e., those that either you won’t find them anywhere in nature or are petrochemical-based versions of those in nature.

Synthetic supplements aren’t inherently bad—in some cases, you can only get the supplement if it’s made synthetically. In fact, some ingredients may be more sustainable, or eco-friendly when produced through non-natural processes. Trust Transparency Center, as its name implies, believes that ingredients should be labeled synthetic as a standard and best business practice.

In 2018, TTC surveyed 1,002 consumers to ask them if they thought synthetic ingredients and supplements should be labeled. The answer at that time was overwhelmingly yes – 83 percent of respondents said synthetic supplements should always be labeled.

We recently reissued the survey—this time to consumers in both the US and the UK and the results were markedly different. As the chart below shows, among all US and UK respondents, 62% said to always label synthetic supplements, down from 21% from the 83% who responded that way in 2018.

Overall 2020 Synthetic Survey Results

There were some interesting differences when we compared responses across gender in the US and UK. US women said to always label synthetic much more than US men, or expressed that they weren’t sure. Nearly 20% of UK men felt there was no need to ever label synthetics.

Synthetic Survey Male vs Female Responses
Should manufacturers be required to identify/label “synthetic” ingredients used in a dietary supplement (vitamins, minerals, herbs, protein powder, fish oil, etc.)?
Male vs. Female

Breaking it down by age, those aged 55 to 64 were the most opinionated – over 70% felt that synthetic supplements should always be identified and fewer than 50% of those in the 25 to 34 year old age group were concerned about labeling.

Synthetic Survey 2020 Age Group
Should manufacturers be required to identify/label “synthetic” ingredients used in a dietary supplement (vitamins, minerals, herbs, protein powder, fish oil, etc.)?
Responses by Age Group

So why the big change from 2018?

Well, obviously there are quite a few consuming issues occurring globally right now. There are also media articles like this Healthline article that make a case that nearly all supplements are synthetic so if this is truly reflective of consumers being under that mindset, it won’t matter.

I also turned to TTC Founder Scott Steinford and CEO Len Monheit for their thoughts:

Len shared:

The overall result, while a little surprising, I’d explain by saying that there are driving concerns that have lowered prioritization of transparency regarding synthetic ingredients and supplements. Other surveys have described availability, reliability and trust as increasing as consumers make brand decisions. I think too that this industry has so much more education to do about where products come from and how they are actually produced, and we need to get much more ahead of that for when priorities change again. This is going to be more important as we try to retain the new consumers who are now exploring our category. They’ll become even more discerning, which is good, and we have to be ready for that conversation. In the meantime, we need to keep pushing transparency as a trust-building tool.

Scott shared:

In most cases the distinction between natural and synthetic is easily discerned. If an ingredient molecule is identical to what is produced in nature, the ingredient can more easily be considered “natural”. If, on the other hand, the ingredient molecule is, in any way different, the question of natural versus synthetic becomes more subjective. While our most recent survey did not indicate the same level of desire to have the synthetic distinction called out, in both surveys, and others like it, a majority seeking identification of synthetic prevails. TTC has not fielded a question of “How important is it to you, on a scale of 1-10, to know if the ingredient you are buying is synthetic or natural?” We have had many conversations surrounding this question over the years and it is clear, to me at least, the people who do have an opinion of identification, are much more adamant on the subject than those who do not. Also, it appears the way the question is answered is more often a result of how informed the responder is to the subject. The more research conducted by the responder into the topic results in a greater propensity to answer a higher desire to provide more complete transparency. In general, consumers want more transparency than less. If there is a clear distinction between natural and synthetic, such as with vitamin E, there should be, and is, a requirement to identify the difference. Most other ingredients, even if it is a clear determination between synthetic and natural, do not have this requirement. We are not without the precedent of the requirement to identify synthetic, but we are still short of the definition of synthetic. As an industry, we should work to better define synthetic versus natural.

Once the pandemic ends and we return to a more standard priority environment (or not), we’ll reissue this survey and see if results change.

Readers, what are your thoughts?


Author: richard151

Unlock the Power of Transparency: Schedule a Meeting Now

Ready to Illuminate Your Path?
Partner with Trust Transparency Today.

Get inTouch

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.

Conference Handouts

Conference Handouts

CoQ10 Statin Associated Myaglia Meta Study Barry Tan 0618 Case Study

CoQ10 Statin Associated Myaglia Meta Study Barry Tan 0618 (1)

Statin Q10 Effect Case Study

Statin Q10 Effect Case Study

Schedule Consultation with Trust Transparency

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.

Caiti Dowden

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.

Pam Hilpert

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.