How can you find a high-quality dietary supplement ingredient supplier? With hundreds to choose from this can seem daunting, but not if you know the savvy questions to ask.
Smart inquiry matters because the FDA implemented cGMP (Current Good Manufacturing Practice) regulations for supplement manufacturers, but regulations aren’t enforced for suppliers, especially for suppliers not located in the U.S. It’s essential to know what’s in your products because the FDA requires manufacturers, packagers, labelers and distributors to assess the entire operation for safety and quality.
So interview your potential ingredient suppliers to make sure they’re cGMP compliant and that they meet your individualized needs. Taking time to do research now will save headaches later. Use our list of essential questions below to get the answers you need.
1) Do you grow your own ingredients?
If yes, ask about food safety standards. Also what are your supplier’s pest control, shelf-life and storage procedures? You don’t want dangerous pesticides or expired ingredients to potentially harm your consumers.
2) What is the origin of outsourced ingredients?
It’s important to find out if ingredients come from growers or wholesalers. How does your supplier ensure outsourced ingredients are pure and meet safely standards? Does the company have on-site inspectors?
Large established companies will have tested procedures that test ingredients and ensure safety because they don’t want to risk shut-downs, which may impact their profits. Smaller suppliers may not have the same level of safety sophistication. Ask for total supply chain transparency.
3) Are outsourced ingredients tested internally?
How does you supplier ensure ingredients are pure and safe? What testing methodologies and equipment are used? Does a company have written procedures to standardize testing? How are testing records kept?
4) Which documents and/or certifications can your supplier provide?
Does your supplier have Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) certification? GSFI was created to ensure confidence in safer foods. This certification includes compliance with SQF, BRC, IFS, FSSC, GLOBALG.A.P., BAP, and CanadaGAP. Companies that have dedicated time and effort to earn GFSI certification are a good choice for your company. Also ask about additional certifications and/or documents that may provide additional layers of trust.
5) Are ingredients artificial or natural ?
With increasing focus on transparency, manufacturers and consumers want to know specifics about ingredients. There can be a grey area in regard to exact definitions of artificial vs. natural. Natural ingredients are those produced by nature without human intervention. Artificial ingredients are made by humans using methods different than nature uses. Make sure you know how your supplier defines these terms.
6) Which fillers or extract solutions are used and what is their composition?
Food fillers are less-expensive additives used to bulk up the weight of a food, enrich foods or add nutritional value. Also fillers can preserve appearance and effectiveness. Fillers may help keep the cost down but you may wish to avoid some additives, such as artificial dyes. Make sure you know which fillers are used and their exact composition.
Extract solutions are used to separate desired substances when mixed with others. For instance, extract solutions are used for de-caffeinated tea. Ask which extract solutions are used, and which ingredients are used for extraction.
7) Which special ingredients are offered?
With consumers willing to pay more for special ingredients, more companies are seeking suppliers with these offerings. Can your supplier provide organic, natural, non-GMO, kosher and/or vegetarian ingredients?
Make sure your supplier’s definition of special ingredients meets your expectations. For instance, organic and natural are not the same. Organics do not allow GMO’s and antibiotics but these items are allowed for natural products. Ask how your supplier ensures special ingredients meet specifications.
8) What are the total costs?
A supplier may provide a quote but make sure to ask about other fees. You might have to pay a delivery fee, or other fees and you want to know about this up front. Also ask if payments are negotiable. Instead of 30-day payment terms you may be able to negotiate 60 or 90 days. Finally, consider negotiating discounts for up-front payments and high-volume orders.
There are many considerations to think about when choosing your ingredient supplier. Asking smart questions will help you find a great supplier that delivers safe ingredients hassle-free.
Kendeyl Johansen, a tech geek and award-winning journalist, creates multimedia health and wellbeing content.