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Why aren't we sold on the Supplement Facts panel?

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Let’s face it: The Supplement Facts panel can be confusing. Here’s how you can help consumers decipher this label and pick the right supplement for their needs.

Do you or your customers read product labels when shopping? Phil Lempert, the so-called Supermarket Guru, polled a consumer panel—many of which are his Facebook fans—to find out if people scrutinize the Nutrition Facts panels and ingredients lists on foods and beverages. Nearly 70 percent do.

But what these customers look for depends on the product type. For beverages, consumers are most concerned with sugars, calories and ingredients. When it comes to desserts, calories count most. In the dairy case, customers zero in on fat. And when shopping for frozen entrees and meals, the biggest factors are ingredients and sodium content.

Lempert extrapolates from his findings that having a uniform labeling system for foods and beverages may not satisfy customers.

Hopping a few aisles over, I wonder if supplements shoppers are similar. Do the vast majority read the Supplement Facts panels? Do they look for different things depending on the type of supplement?

I'm not sure. But I suspect that many consumers can't really make sense of back-of-product labels on supplements. Why? They're confusing. For example, my daily multivitamin lists 35 vitamins, minerals and botanicals. And I'm not sure into what category two of the ingredients fall because I've never heard of them—and I write about this stuff nearly every day. And don't get me started on Daily Values, which can lag behind research as has been the case with vitamin D.

I imagine a customer's eyes simply glaze over.

How to simplify? That's where you come in. Through product selection and in-store customer service, you can help consumers decipher and pick products for their needs. Like with foods and drinks—or perhaps more so—my hunch is that what customers seek varies based on product type.

But this is a tricky area, and you have to operate within the scope of the law. Under theDietary Supplement Health and Education Act, retail staff members can't dispense medical advice, diagnose conditions, share testimonials or discuss drug-supplement interactions. What can you do? Download and use the Council for Responsible Nutrition's “Roadmap for Retailers: Safely Navigating What You Say About Dietary Supplements,”and the Natural Products Association's “Retailer’s Staff Education Toolkit." These educational packages should be essential go-to resources for you and your staff.

Or you can work on revamping the Supplement Facts panel to make it easier for customers to decode without a translator. Now there's an idea worth looking at.

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Martin Garrod (not verified)
on May 25, 2011

Your blog has opened my eyes. I didn't realise any adults would prefer to take multivitamins rather than eat a healthy, mixed, balanced diet. I would rather eat fish than take supplements with fish oil in them, eat fruit and veg rather than take tablets with vitamins and minerals in them and so on. Personally, I think people should cook real meals and eat healthy foods before they start worrying about understanding the supplements panel on a product they should not be eating in the first place.

Note: If "email field is required" why does it say (optional)?

on May 25, 2011

Are you referring to the email field in the comments section? It is optional. If you are posting anonymously, the only field you have to fill out is the comment field. "Anonymous" will be appended to your comment, and it will have to be approved before it appears on the site. If you are a registered site user and logged in, your username will appear with your comment. If you are a registered site user and not logged in, if you enter your username in the comment section, the system will prompt you to log in.

Martin Garrod (not verified)
on May 26, 2011

"Are you referring to the email field in the comments section?"

Yes.

"It is optional."

No it isn't. If you don't complete it your message does not get posted and you get an error message saying, "Email Field is required"

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