Year in Review: It Is Time for Testing Transparency

12/17/14


Elan addresses the outdated notion of keeping testing lab identity a secret:

First published on Natural Products Insider.

All industries have secrets, things everybody knows but don’t discuss. I’ve decided we need to talk about one in particular: third-party testing labs.

Testing is at the heart of product quality, and testing labs are like gatekeepers to quality, yet many don’t know anything about them because they are kept secret.  It’s my mission as the CEO of Alkemist Labs, as an active member in just about every trade association in this industry, and, most importantly, a frequent user of natural products, to urge the industry to up its game.

Testing is a secretive and confusing business. I think it’s because testing lab quality runs the gamut from great to god-awful–-and we all know it. Some testing labs have a narrow focus and specialize in very limited service offerings; others are enormous conglomerates of labs that offer every test to every industry on the planet. Some labs have diversified and sell their own products by capitalizing on their competitive advantage from testing other companies’ products. Other labs provide results the customer expects or even requests with no questions asked. 

Fortunately, there are a handful that have demonstrated their commitment to timely and accurate testing, are heavily involved in method development, and actively combat adulteration.

Apparently the reason some manufacturers don’t reveal the identity of the third party labs they use is because they are worried that if their lab gets too busy it will delay their own results. That’s what I have been told, at least, and it seems silly. We have tooled up, adding equipment and high-level team members, to be ready for another growth spurt and I imagine my competitors should be able to say the same. I hope that the reason for secrecy in third-party testing lab identities can now be laid to rest.

Maybe this lab secrecy, once we get past hiding the use of bad ones, is simply based on limited real-estate in marketing materials. There is only so much room on a label, and today’s marketers seem to think the consumer wants every new branded novel ingredient in their product. Fairy-dusting will not produce return customers; we all know that. Hot new variations on ingredients proliferate the market place these days. And while I am not against them in any way, I do feel they have the tendency to act as that shiny ball. A hyped up product without a foundation of superior quality control is far less valuable and sustainable than one that may not have the shiny balls but rests on a foundation of superior and transparent quality control. The bottom line is that quality control is an important and underutilized value proposition.

I think it’s time to reach for that ‘R on your I’ and market the quality control efforts the good guys are putting in. It can be a competitive advantage that will bring your brand to the top, as your low road taking competitor can’t brag about using the best labs out there because they don’t….

As we work to make the industry stronger and bolster the sustainability of all our businesses, companies’ proactively revealing how they are guaranteeing quality dietary supplements requires ever-increasing transparency and detail.  

With consumers having access to everything they want to know on their smart phones while trying to decide which brand to buy, it’s time to bring transparency to this aspect of quality assurance. We believe that being proud of your testing lab says a lot about your commitment to quality—and your respect for your customers.

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