As the natural products industry evolves and matures, scientific research is taking an increasingly prominent role in not only product development but also marketing and branding.
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As the natural products industry evolves and matures, scientific research is taking an increasingly prominent role in not only product development but also marketing and branding. Consumers want to be sure their supplements are safe, and responsible brands are happy to oblige with the highest-level efficacy and safety trials-as well as the market research to support the product’s success on the shelf. For many brands, a skilled contract research firm holds this key. And in order to keep up with such sophisticated demands, researchers are finding their own businesses evolving and expanding.
“As the standards of evidence have increased for the dietary supplement and functional food industry globally, we have been able to assist our clients by staying informed of regulatory changes and helping them respond and adapt to them,” says William J. Rowe, president and chief executive officer of Nutrasource Diagnostics Inc. (NDI; Guelph, ON, Canada).
Specifically, the company is moving towards a more pharmaceutical-like model as it pertains to quality-management systems and operating procedures, investing substantially in infrastructure, systems, and scientific personnel in its in-house regulatory and clinical research department. “We truly are a one-stop shop for all of our clients’ product development and commercialization needs-health-claim strategy, regulatory compliance, on-site clinical trials, data management, product testing, bioanalysis, and marketing and positioning strategies,” Rowe explains. This, he says, spares customers from communicating with several vendors and subsequently jeopardizing timeline.
At BioFortis (Columbia, MD), responding to a sophisticated supplement market means an expansion in sensory research and cognitive-function capabilities as well as literature assessments such as evidence mapping, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. “We have also purchased new technologies and equipment such as our investment in a Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DXA),” says Jill Stocki, director of business development at BioFortis Innovation Services, “which allows for expanded research capabilities as well as on-site convenience to our study participants.”
Going forward, Bibiane Zakaria, director of sales and client services at KGK Synergize Inc. (London, ON, Canada), predicts the past few years’ momentum in the area of recruitment will continue to evolve-as the natural products industry grows, so too will the need to grow clinical populations. To prepare, KGK has expanded its presence in the United States with two new clinical sites in Orlando, FL, and Irvine, CA. As a result, clients benefit from faster recruitment timelines and an option of conducting studies in the United States, Canada, or both. Similarly, as part of the Merieux NutriSciences family, BioFortis clients also gain access to international research locations and studies.
According to Zakaria, the future holds “a convergence between food, health, and technology in product development.” This means new formats and ingredients as well as new packaging to appeal to a health-conscious consumer shopping every aisle of the grocery store. “In addition, niche health indications and market segments will continue to grow, and products will become even more specialized,” she adds. “Contract research will be instrumental in these future developments. Quality science is the way of the future.”