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What you need to know about buying and selling supplements

Article by: Nancy Tobler
May 28, 2018

Nutritional supplements are big business. According to Statista, Americans spent $36.1 billion dollars on retail nutritional supplements in the year 2017. But traditional retail isn’t the only way that consumers buy supplements—the direct selling industry provides many high quality and unique nutritional supplements. Are you thinking about buying or selling supplements? What do you (or your customers) need to know when buying? There are three key issues in the nutritional supplements area: (1) substantiation, (2) information, and (3) quality. Let’s take a look at each of these three, the ways they impact direct sellers, and the beneficial relationship between nutrition and direct selling.

Substantiation

What is product substantiation? In plain English, substantiation is scientific proof for the efficacy of a supplement. Substantiation matters. It provides the basis for the legitimacy of the nutritional supplement market. Studies show people get health benefits from a variety of herbs and vitamins. Many of these benefits were touted for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. But saying something was used in ancient medicinal practices is not enough. The modern consumer needs scientific fact to make safe, educated purchases.

If you’re considering buying nutritional supplements from an MLM, ask for documentation about their efficacy. Companies and independent sellers must back up any benefit claims with science. On the other hand, if you sell nutritional supplements, you must educate yourself on the substantiated benefits of your product. Any claims you make without substantiation could get you and your company into hot water with government regulatory organizations.

Essentially two government acts regulate the product claims of nutritional supplements. The 1983 FTC governed claims about dietary supplements. Many felt that nutritional supplements needed to be banned or severely restricted. So, in 1994, The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was passed. The act addresses two primary concerns: “to ensure that consumers would continue to have access to a wide variety of safe dietary supplements and to provide consumers with more information about the dietary supplements they purchase” (Annette Dickson, Testimony for March 24, 2004 Hearing on DSHEA).

Information

Many consumers are motivated to prevent disease and improve their health but they don’t know how. We need information when we make choices about which supplements to take.

Most of us are overwhelmed when we go into a health store. There are so many options. Each product has its own benefits and drawbacks. And although supplements come labeled with instructions and listed benefits, when we walk down a supplement aisle we experience decision fatigue. What do I take? When? Why? Can I take these together? How much should I take? There are so many things to consider, we give up on finding the answers.

Within the direct sales business model, we demystify the complex consumer choices. These products do so well in multilevel marketing because of the personal relationship with the seller. When you buy from a direct seller, the product comes to you in person. This creates an opportunity for education. Instead of staring blankly at a wall of pill bottles, you get to have a conversation with someone who knows their products and can cater their suggestions to your situation.

Direct selling companies have brought excellent health and wellness products to consumers. The MLM industry remains in the forefront by bringing good products to the market and teaching consumers about those products.

Ingredients

The third key issue for supplement consumers is the ingredients in the supplements themselves. We need to know what’s in that pill we’re about to swallow, how much is in it, and how pure the contents are. How many stories have you heard about nutritional supplements that don’t contain what the label says they do?

Much of direct sellers’ success in selling supplements stems from the fact that they provide quality control. If the quality of a direct sales product declines, the community can take issue with that. Outrage can spread quickly through an MLM organization and its effects are often devastating. A direct sales company needs the loyalty of its individual distributors and customers. That need can cause them to prioritize the honesty of their manufacturers to a degree that regular retailers might not.

Many direct selling companies follow strict guidelines for manufacturing and testing products for reliability and potency. One strong selling point for MLM supplements comes from knowing that they contain the advertised active substance in the correct amount.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we need to stay active in the area of nutrition and to stay focused on substantiation, information, and quality ingredients. In-person education and quality ingredients make the industry unique. Insistence on solid science and the prevention of unsubstantiated claims makes us honest. When it all comes together, we, as sellers and customers, thrive.

For more information on this topic, Mark Rawlins writes about other products that work well in MLM.

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MLM Scams and Legal News, MLM Product Strategy and Reviews, How to Start a Direct Sales Company, All Articles

Nancy Tobler

Nancy Tobler has a PhD in communication from the University of Utah. She specializes in research on how organizations change,...

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