Intelligence services coupled with scientific backing key to private label confidence: PharmaLinea president

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11 Sep 2018 --- Consumer awareness and demands of their nutritional products are increasing, putting pressure on B2C companies when it comes to choosing their private label suppliers and ranges. To alleviate this pressure, Slovenia-based PharmaLinea is seeing particular opportunities for ready-to-launch private label food supplements coupled specifically with intelligence-based services, which are usually lacking in the industry. NutritionInsight spoke with Blaž Gorjup, Chairman & Founder of PharmaLinea, about current consumer demands shaping the food supplement space, as well as the company’s approach to providing total solutions to its clients.

“Doubts on product quality, the reliability of delivery and about the success of product launches are ever-present and this comes as no surprise, given the state of the market. Difficulties like unstable supply chains, lack of production capacity, inconsistent quality and failure to meet deadlines often occur,” Gorjup tells NutritionInsight

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Blaž Gorjup, Chairman & Founder of PharmaLinea.

Especially responsible for the risk felt by brand owners is that contract manufacturing and private label companies traditionally limit their service to the production end of the process, leaving everything else – from market analysis, subsequent tailored product development, regulatory procedures, marketing and sales – to the client, he notes. 

“Being part of a close group of companies, whose members are active in several fields of the food supplement industry, our colleagues have direct access to the most prominent ingredient companies on a day-to-day basis, getting insights to the details otherwise never being passed through the chain in the industry,” Gorjup explains. 

Based on product launch cases and market experiences in different territories, these “intelligence focused” services should aim to provide all-around scientific, regulatory and marketing support. Although more suppliers are flagging the need for total solutions, Gorjup notes that these aspects of intelligence and service are new to the private label industry. They are, however, essential to developing a new product, entering a new partnership or a new territory. 

“Most importantly – it enables clients to focus completely on their expertise – the B2C business,” according to Gorjup.

Scientific substantiation and convenient formats
Increasingly proactive and educated consumers are the primary driver shaping the industry’s trends, Gorjup explains.

“Today’s information-savvy generations are interested in solid data on the effectiveness and safety of ingredients and often actively seek it out. Scientific substantiation is, therefore, a major advantage, if not a must. It is the main driving force behind our research and new product development,” he says, adding that sustainable sales cannot be expected without proof of efficacy, safety and stability.

Coupled with the demand for scientific backing, consumers are becoming more demanding and open-minded about the way nutritional products are presented. Long gone are the days that consumers prefered traditional dosage methods. 

“The desire for user-friendly, pleasant tasting products, along with convenient forms and packaging are some of the key trends. We see it manifested in great demand for our single-serve packaging and liquid forms in many markets, that have otherwise very little in common,” Gorjup notes.

Maintaining actives stability in more appealing forms then becomes the primary challenge. This challenge is, according to Gorjup, still largely overlooked in the industry, because awareness is not yet widespread among end customers. 

“Transparent data on the stability and efficacy of each active ingredient within a finished product will be rising consumer demand and it is where our product development team places great focus. As awareness of consumers grows, so will their demand for accountability of companies placing products on the market,” he adds.

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Credit: PharmaLinea.

Mindful consumers
At the beginning of this year, Innova Market Insights tipped “Mindful Choices” as the no. 1 trend shaping the food, beverage and supplement markets. Consumers are more conscious than ever about making responsible food choices that are not only healthy, but that also take into account sustainability as well as ethical considerations.

“With the rise of the mindful choices trend, the region-specific core values that impact people’s buying processes are gaining in importance and must be considered when developing new products,” Gorjup says.

“While the movement can be observed globally, consumer perception of food supplements differs market-to-market. This especially affects the private label business, where the traditional practice of developing general products for clients in any given market won’t suffice in the long run. Products must be developed based on specific client and market needs to fit mindful consumers and succeed in their environment,” Gorjup notes. “One of the matters where we see a big improvement in new product development, this is mostly work done by the challengers in the industry, is that more attention is given to consumers’ actual needs and pains, rather than pushing forward products while counting on pure market strength.”

Regarding these region-specific concerns, Innova Market Insights has this week noted that in the Asian market, seven out of ten Chinese consumers check front-of-pack claims and logos, according to the results of a new Innova Market Insights consumer survey. 

“Asian consumers are more aware than ever of the ingredients and claims appearing on labels, particularly those on front of pack,” reports Lu Ann Williams, Director of Innovation at Innova Market Insights. “This is predominantly driven by their strong concern for food safety following several food scandals in the region relating to undisclosed contamination. These tendencies point to a need for increased clarity and communication about the provenance and production methods of nutritional products across the board.”

“Ingredients with a long history of use, but without an apparent advantage, commodity sources that have been biased by adulterations, don’t fit today’s consumers as they did in the past,” Gorjup says. 

“Highest-standard, GCP-level clinical studies are where the nutraceutical industry is still lagging far behind related industries. The main opportunities are therefore in introducing new clinically supported ingredients on the one hand, or revolutionizing the delivery of classic ingredients on the other,” he continues.

Iron is a recent key example of a classic ingredient seeing a revolution in delivery standards, driven by new technologies and production processes.

“If in the past liquid iron supplements were characterized by a highly unpleasant taste and high level of side-effects, leading to problems in compliance, now alternative solutions, that resolve the issues altogether, are becoming available. All of this is due to advanced delivery forms of iron and improved production technologies,” he says.

Key role for technologies
When it comes to introducing a new ingredient to the market, many tech-and innovation-based companies are showing great potential. 

“Since some of these companies have yet to bridge the gap in access to broader markets, their value has not yet been properly recognized. With the opening of businesses and overcoming regulatory obstacles, we can expect an increase of ingredients with added value, such as higher bioavailability, improved solubility and taste or higher stability in complex forms,” Gorjup says.

“The important question that remains is – when will finished product manufacturers rise to the level of being able to assure that these ingredients are still effective when they reach the end user?” Gorjup concludes.

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