31 Aug 2017 --- With consumer tastes and preferences for nutritional choices having shifted dramatically over the past decade, companies constantly face the challenge of providing products that are innovative and great-tasting, but also meet desired standards when it comes to aspects such as organic, sustainable cultivation methods and ingredient traceability.
Margaret Gomes, Director of Marketing at NP Nutra, speaks with NutritionInsight about the company’s strategy for bringing its clean nutraceutical ingredients to a wide audience and doing its bit to help the industry to ensure that traceability is a given.
NP Nutra is always interested in clean, organic ingredients, Gomes tells NutritionInsight. This is on trend, as according to data from the OTA (Organic Trade Association), sales of “organic” products increased from US$3.6 billion in 1997 to a staggering US$43.3 billion in 2015, up 11 percent from the previous year.
The company is also seeking to cater to growing consumer interest centered around the desire for transparency. “More consumers are inquiring where their food is coming from and are looking for organic standards they can trust,” the company states. “Ongoing research studies on the environmental, health and economic benefits of organic practices and products are driving this growth and demand.”
“We are committed to supplying only the finest quality nutraceuticals and botanical extracts produced at our manufacturing partner facilities in the US, Brazil, Chile, China, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Thailand and throughout the world,” Gomes says.
“Up-and-coming ingredients are those which respond to consumer demand for coping with stress (adaptogens), improve nutrient absorption (digestives), energy enhancement, cognitive health maintenance and healthy aging (antioxidants),” Gomes notes.
“Current ingredients on the rise include the adaptogens maca, ashwagandha, green tea, reishi and schisandra; digestives coconut, fennel, ginger, moringa, papaya and yacon; antioxidants acai, baobab, blueberry, goji and pomegranate; anti-inflammatories mangosteen, noni and turmeric,” she adds.
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Consumer trends guiding NP Nutra's product development The company is now selling its products to a user base that is constantly becoming more knowledgeable about the latest developments in nutritional products and health news. “Consumer tastes and preferences have shifted dramatically in the past decade,” observes Gomes. “Where aroma, taste and mouthfeel were previously the main factors driving food and beverage choices, consumers are much more selective and cautious. [Now they are] actively reading labels, avoiding added sugars and artificial ingredients. They are constantly looking for new and innovative, great-tasting, nutrient-dense, low-sugar, low-sodium, probiotic, high-protein, high-fiber foods and beverages.”
Older consumers are also becoming more important to NP Nutra: “Cognitive and anti-aging health are two of the up and coming areas for new product development. NP Nutra’s NutraBrain, our own Cognitive blend, is specially formulated from a selection of Ayurvedic ingredients including Mucuna pruriens, Bacopa monnieri and Licorice, to help promote cognitive function. Other new product areas include digestive/probiotics, energy enhancement and hormone balance blends, specifically for women.”
Not to be forgotten are consumers’ desires for different delivery methods. The choice is not nearly as narrow as it once was, and there are now several options that were not available before.
“New opportunities are not limited to the discovery of new ingredients but focus on innovative delivery formats which have evolved from the traditional pills and powders to liquid blends that dispense with nutrients, chews, gels and even tincture sprays,” Gomes says.
Speaking about the challenges regarding ingredient testing methods, Gomes notes that finding true sources of non-GMO and organic ingredients can be a challenge.
“Too often we have come across certified organic ingredients which contain pesticide residues or test positive for GMOs. NP Nutra’s sourcing department perform our due diligence to ensure that all our certified organic ingredients are free of pesticide residues and GMOs, and of the best quality,” Gomes notes.
However, Gomes views challenges in ingredient testing methods more as an opportunity to set the company apart from others in the industry.
“NP Nutra works closely with its manufacturing partners around the world to educate them about the need for genuine organic and sustainable cultivation methods. Just obtaining a certificate is not enough. Because our growers know that we perform third party lab tests for each lot, they are very careful to produce crops with high nutrient content and low heavy metal results. Every lot that NP Nutra offers to the marketplace can be traced back to the farmer's tract of land where it was harvested.”
From Gomes’ point of view, NP Nutra is taking a lot of action to improve the issues surrounding the quality of ingredients and respond to problems regarding adulteration.
“From a company standpoint, NP Nutra has developed a collaboration with all parties including the farmers, producers and manufacturers. Once our R&D team sources ingredients, we personally verify traceability through regular audits and only approve suppliers as qualified manufacturing partners after they have passed our Vendor Qualification program.”
Gomes outlines the actions the company has taken on quality control: “Over 90% of our raw materials are processed at GFSI [Global Food Safety Initiative] and ISO [International Organization for Standardization] certified state-of-the-art manufacturing partner facilities located in different parts of the world. To ensure our products meet the highest standards of quality and sustainability, NP Nutra has implemented a fully integrated quality control system. Our Preventive Control Plan consists of four cohesive programs, namely: Process Preventive Control; Allergen Preventive Control; Sanitation Preventive Control; and Supply-Chain Preventive Control.”
According to the 2016 Food and Health Survey, 41 percent of consumers listed sustainability as a factor influencing their purchasing decisions, compared to 35 percent in 2015, and about three-quarters of respondents to the survey believe it is important that the products they consume are produced in a sustainable way.
“In addition, NP Nutra’s Quality Control System includes complete policies, procedures and pre-requisite programs which guarantee safety and compliance to all regulations,” Gomes adds. “Frequent third-party validation is used to verify a consistent conformance to our quality standards. Stringent in-house quality control and frequent third-party validation guarantee safety and compliance to regulations and consistent conformance to quality. Each production lot is tested for Organoleptic, Pesticides (USP), heavy metals (ICP-MS) and Microbials (AOAC/USP).”
Gomes is equally clear on what the industry as a whole could do to deal with these challenges.
“We believe that joint collaboration between all parties – including the nutraceuticals industry, government, academia and trade associations – would be a helpful tool to address ingredient quality/adulteration,” says Gomes.
Looking to the future NP Nutra’s future plans are guided by what customers are looking for and a promise to stay ahead of the pack, according to Gomes.
“NP Nutra is always looking to surpass the expectations of its customers,” asserts Gomes. “Our Signature Ingredient line currently includes 15 premium ingredients and proprietary blends, including AcaiVida, BettaBerries Antioxidant Blend, CocOganic and XandraPure, among others.”
“Our continued mission and commitment to our customers is to: remain at the forefront of researching new innovative ingredients and blends; strengthen relationships with our manufacturing partners; expand our ingredient portfolio; and further develop our quality assurance standards and verification programs to ensure quality, trust and traceability,” she concludes.
By Lucy Gunn and Paul Creasy