Creating a better industry
Trust Transparency Center is supporting supplement category stewardship for a
Transparency drives trust and trust drives transparency. They are interwoven and you can’t have one without the other.”
Len Monheit, CEO of the Trust Transparency Center (TTC)
ITC is intended to build a pie for the stakeholder that is significantly bigger than what currently exists, responsibly managed for sustainable growth.”
Len Monheit, CEO of the Trust Transparency Center (TTC)
Trust Transparency Center
It could be said that the dietary supplements industry is at a pivotal moment in its history, with a growing degree of consumer interest in its products, a complex global supply chain, and companies that are performing wildly varying levels of scientific testing and ingredient validation. These factors have left the industry vulnerable to poor ethics and behaviors by some players, potential economic adulteration of highly sought-after ingredients and ultimately, the threat of lost consumer trust in product quality.
It comes down to trust and transparency, and the industry has to a better job of both, according to Len Monheit, CEO of the Trust Transparency Center (TTC), whose mission is to drive enterprise value through organizational culture improvement. The group aims to do this by helping individual organizations as well as specific supplement categories to drive growth and thrive using proven strategies around trust and transparency. “Transparency drives trust and trust drives transparency. They are interwoven and you can’t have one without the other,” Monheit explained.
But solving these issues takes significant commitment throughout an organization to do things the right way, which is no easy task in an industry where the motivation to cut costs can be high. To address this TTC has developed initiatives and resources designed to help companies operating within specific ingredient categories develop better transparency, scientific alignment and growth strategies and initiatives. The group provides insights and guidance to nutritional product stakeholders in areas such as business management and go-to-market strategy, finance and M&A, strategic services, organizational culture development and trust transparency coaching.
A responsible industry and good business
Monheit views the overall effort as a form of category stewardship which he defines as the way a responsible industry behaves, supporting transparency, sustainability and high-quality, science-based products. The idea of stewardship must be dialed down to specific ingredient categories, he noted, because each has its own challenges and issues. “The bar in each category is different,” Monheit said, “and so are the players, the culture and corporate behavior. So each category is unique and nuanced.”
The organization’s single-ingredient stewardship programs establish a third-party baseline for ingredient quality, identity and appropriate category definitions and standards. As part of this, TTC has established and oversees single-ingredient trade associations, such as the CoQ10 Association and the Global Curcumin Association, among others, all of which provide outreach in their respective categories as well as community and resources to help companies within the segment address specific problems, vulnerabilities, and to learn things they don’t know. For example, TTC developed a Code of Ethics and Business Practices for the Global Curcumin Association to consolidate a voice for the category and work to protect it from those who might willfully or unknowingly exploit the ingredients through poor quality or adulterated products.
TTC also developed a simplified dietary supplement supply chain map and has compiled numerous studies and reports collecting insights and other data across a breadth of categories. These resources provide unique learnings and perspective for each category’s growth potential within the global marketplace.
The firm’s most recent effort is the launch of a new platform, called the Ingredient Transparency Center (ITC), a next evolution of its single-ingredient stewardship and incubator program, which will allow the group to expand the ingredient categories “under watch” and extend transparency and identification of global best practices to additional segments. ITC will focus on ingredients with high exploitation and abuse potential and already has a stake and commitment in such segments as astaxanthin, collagen, glucosamine and vitamin K2. “We recognized that we needed a slightly different model that is even more scalable, leverages the different issues in emerging categories and works on areas where consensus is possible, at the same time avoiding some of the more contentious ‘political issues,’” noted Monheit.
ITC will benefit from the expertise TTC has built in categories like astaxanthin, curcumin, CoQ10 and vitamin K2, to quickly undertake an effective plan in emerging segments such as collagen and mushrooms. The two platforms are similar and very closely related, Monheit explained. “Both platforms work plans specific to each category. For example, in the Global Prebiotics Association it is about category exploitation, ease and simplicity of messaging and communication with all the stakeholders.”
But ITC is different in that it will not necessarily be encumbered by some of the organizational limitations of having a formal association. “It will be much more flexible, much more agile, and able to devote resources directly into the category and stewarding category growth,” Monheit explained. “That’s the big difference, but they are very closely related and will leverage the experience and understanding of working with a stakeholder community that we’ve had in categories such as prebiotics.”
The ITC platform is appropriate for ingredient companies with branded intellectual property, investment in science and clinical research, for brands that have a significant stake in a specific ingredient category or health condition, as well as for service companies, such as CROs and analytical labs, and it will offer varying levels of commitment. Ultimately, Moheit added, “ITC is intended to build a pie for the stakeholder that is significantly bigger than what currently exists, responsibly managed for sustainable growth.”
TTC is also taking the concept of category stewardship to an industry-wide level, in partnership with other industry stakeholders involved in New Hope Network’s Inside the Bottle program. Together they have established the Integrity in Supplements Initiative, a self-policing program in which companies can hold each other accountable up and down the supply chain, checking that raw material suppliers and contract manufacturers are testing appropriately and making appropriate label claims. The program has defined 12 areas of commitment for companies to adhere to, noted Traci Kantowski, Communications Director for TTC. They include quality, traceability, compliance, partnership, sustainability, transparency, supply chain standards, customer standards, reporting, disclosure, engagement and stewardship.
The program is free and open to all industry companies. Not all 12 commitments apply to every company, Kantowski acknowledged, but those who join must describe what they will commit to and an advisory committee will review those commitments so that companies can’t greenwash. “The goal is a better industry for all,” Kantowski said. “What can we do besides just talk about the problems? This is a solution to provide tools, options and resources to create a better industry.”
Trust Transparency Center is a proud partner of Inside the Bottle—an Informa Health and Nutrition initiative dedicated to supporting quality and transparency in the supplement industry.