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Are We Pushing Too Hard for Supplement Innovation?

by Matt Weik

I was reading an article on an industry news website that talked about how supplement innovation is constantly growing, you just need to go in search for it and it got my wheels turning. Really? This got me thinking about the topic and the current state of the industry which prompted this article. Do we put too much pressure on supplement brands to innovate?

Are we looking for a genie in a bottle?

I’ve been in the industry for most of my career and I’m of the mindset that we need innovation to grow the supplement industry. Which is true. When I worked for a large supplement manufacturer, I kept harping on the need for something new – something innovative that no one else has. Each time I was told to stay in my lane and focus on my job. So, I stepped back in line with the rest of the crew and minded my own business. Mind you, the brand I’m speaking of was on the downward spiral and was slowly becoming obsolete on the shelves.

But, are we looking for something that we’ll never get? I’m not naïve to think that it doesn’t cost an insane amount of money to research new ingredients and then find the perfect formula to launch. Yet, I’m also not naïve enough to believe that every supplement company is actually doing their due diligence in terms of research at all. Back in the 90’s, there was a supplement company who seemed to come out with a new product every month and touted the product to be scientifically proven by universities – yet their R&D department filed for bankruptcy. So, how exactly does that work? I dunno.

Did the early days of the supplement craze ruin it for us? We were used to seeing new products on the market all of the time. Most of them never worked or gave results, but it was always interesting to see something new being marketed. And then that brings us to the marketing side of the business.

Forcing you to do your own research

In the article I was reading, it mentioned that innovation is happening all of the time, we just need to go in search of it. What? If I had something new and innovative that no one else had, I’d be marketing the heck out of it to bring eyeballs to it. If this is true that innovation is constant, why are we not seeing it on every supplement and industry website out there? Maybe because it’s not happening, or the brand is having an epic fail when it comes to the marketing side of it? Or maybe it has to do with the crackdown and lawsuits arising from the false marketing of a product? People aren’t willing to hype their own product if they know its fabricated.

Personally, I think it somewhat comes down to the fact that we are tapping out on the potential for existing ingredients and raw materials. I mean, how many different creatine products do we need to come out with just to show that monohydrate is still the best and cheapest version?

I wouldn’t want to be on an R&D team right now forced to come out with new products when the majority of the natural ingredients available are tapped out. Sure, new research is coming out all the time on different ingredients, but overall you need to look at the costs involved with efficacious dosages. The market might not be willing to pay what is needed for everyone to make money.

Brands are under tight budgets and when a ton of funding is put into researching a new ingredient or product and it fails to make it to market, that doesn’t leave a ton of wiggle room financially to go back to the drawing board – especially if the brand isn’t big enough or making enough money to warrant it.

Find what works for you

Gone are the days where new products drop with every breath we take. For that reason, I think it’s important for us to test and evaluate what’s already on the market. Products that work for me might not work for your and vice versa. So, we need to take hype and chatter with a grain of salt. I remember when people got excited when CEE was launched after monohydrate, and then people quickly became frustrated when they weren’t experiencing better results. That doesn’t mean the whole creatine market is junk. The same goes for all of the other categories in the industry.

Look at how many proteins are on the market these days… whey, beef, plant, egg, cricket, etc. Have you found one that gives you the results you are looking for? Have you only stuck with one specific type rather than tried several? If not, expand a little bit and try some others.

I know for me, personally, I need to experiment a little more with different products. I’m like a kid in a candy store when I go to my local supplement store. I ask what’s the newest and hottest product out and I quickly find after some time under my belt with the product it wasn’t worth the hype. Maybe the products that have been out for a while are tried and true and still on the shelf for a reason?

Or better yet, maybe we should start formulating our own products. Yea, I said it. If you find you respond to ingredient x, y, and z, maybe you look to purchase those ingredients in bulk and make your own for personal use? Honestly, I’m pretty close to starting to do this myself. It would be cost-effective and could be the next best option until someone does enough research and launches something worthwhile investing in. If/when I decide to go that route, I’ll be sure to follow back up with my thoughts and experiences. Until then, it’s time to branch out.

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