Proprietary Blends vs Full Transparency: Who Wins?

by Matt Weik

I’m going to get a lot of love and hate from both sides of the spectrum revolving around this issue. There will be people who demand full transparency such as the consumer and brands who want to be upfront and honest with what they put in the product and then, on the other hand, you will have the people who don’t want to give up their special sauce (formula) for competitors to copy and sell against them. So, in the end, who truly wins from a proprietary blends and full transparency battle to the death? I’m not even sure we have a clear winner.

*Disclaimer: This article is my own opinion on the subject and represents my personal thoughts and feelings. I have been on both the consumer side as well as the manufacturer side, so I feel I have a good perspective.

The Champion: Proprietary Blends

For decades supplement companies have been protecting their profiles and formulations by utilizing proprietary blends. I am both for and against the use of such – let me explain since it sounds like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth.

The reason I am FOR proprietary blends is the fact that I don’t want to see a bunch of “me too” products out on the market that contain the same ingredients, the same dosages, etc. I want brands to protect their formulations from brands who can’t come up with an original thought from their entire staff. Some brands don’t even hire real formulators, their whole business model is to steal formulas from other brands and release the same product only at a lower cost. Honestly, that pissed me off. If a brand spends good money to educate consumers on a new ingredient or formulation and then everyone else can steal it and create the product, well, they just saved those brands a ton of money by not needing to pay to educate their own – the content is ultimately repurposed for their brand too. I think brands should have the right to protect their formula from shady businesses. But, how do we even know what’s in the product? Which leads me to my next point of view.

The reason I am AGAINST proprietary blends is that I want to know exactly what I’m putting in my body. I feel I should have the right to that information and to know. Now, there will be people who say to just not buy the product if you aren’t comfortable with it. Sure, I agree and that’s a valid point. But that could also cause the brand using a proprietary blend to lose money on consumers who want to know. In the end, it’s almost a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario – and one I certainly wouldn’t want to be in.

Who wins? Hell, if I know? It’s truly a personal answer for each individual on what you believe is right. For me, I battle with if brands should be able to use proprietary blends. If I had my own brand and I paid good money to have an awesome formulation put together, I’d be pissed if I had to explain exactly what’s in it and in what dosages just so that a competitor could do the same thing and try to knock me off. Then when I put the shoe on the other foot, I want to know what I’m putting in my body and if I’m getting an efficacious dose or something fairy dusted.

Which side are you on? Are you ok with proprietary blends or do you want to know the formula and what you are putting into your own body? This would make for an awesome dialogue down in the comments.

The Contender: Full Transparency

Those brands who want full disclosure and full transparency better be one of the stronger brands in the market if they want to start barking. If you are a smaller brand that isn’t as well known but you tout your brand as being “transparent” then you better be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. It could be a pissing match that will cause you to go out of business. As smaller brands push for transparency, the larger brands are starting to make some changes themselves.

The issue becomes when a stronger brand releases a transparent product that competes against a smaller brands product and completely steals every sale they’ve ever had. So, now who’s smart? The little dog with the big bark just got his food bowl taken away from him. Can you say “going out of business?”

Sure, everyone has the opportunity to knock everyone else’s products off. It becomes a battle of the biggest brands at that point when you introduce and enforce full transparency into the fold. Whichever brand has the most brand loyalty will probably win in the end.

You need to look at what this does from a differentiation standpoint from products. If everyone is using the same ingredients, where is the innovation? Brands would literally need to change up formulas just to have differentiation in the market and hit the consumers from a different angle. Not to mention be first to market to soak up as much market share as they can. But even then, in the coming months, you can guarantee others will copy. In my opinion that makes the industry boring.

Also, it’s not like new ingredients are constantly being put in products. It takes time and with time comes a million people copying products. If the contender pulls off the upset and the industry changes to a transparent model, I think we will see a very vanilla industry moving forward. What are your thoughts?
 

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