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So, what can we say?

Esther Mills-Roberts
Communications Manager, Health Food Manufacturers’ Association

Regulations versus product information

There's always a tension between regulatory requirements versus permitted health information that's going to help a product fly off the shelf. A tension like a coiled spring between the compliance department and the marketing team.

As the Mintel UK 2021 report on Vitamins and Supplements shows, 2020 saw an increase in consumer interest which boosted sales of VMS, with strong sales continuing through the first quarter of 2021. At the same time, there was a sharp upturn in the number of scientific studies advocating the use of food supplements for management of Covid-19, which resulted in some companies creeping towards making medicinal claims, in many cases blatantly doing so.

These things do not go unnoticed by companies who have worked hard over the years investing time and money into making sure that label and product information is released to the consumer responsibly and within regulatory constraints.

During these times, our industry saw a period of growth, with new brands capitalising on the consumer boom for all things healthy, in particular immune health, joints and energy. Over the past two years, the HFMA has been approached by start-ups for information and advice, and we have been encouraged by those seeking to get off to a good start. Very quickly, many have learned that doing things well isn't a quick fix, and it's been good to be able to journey alongside new members.

Of course, over the past two years, consumers have been taking note of their own physiology in new ways, approaching companies for detailed information about how products can help them. Differences in how their bodies were responding to Covid-19 and vaccinations brought into focus how companies could responsibly communicate product benefits. Questions such as 'Yes, I can see what's in there, but what does the product actually do for me?' created a challenge. One that only those skilled in knowing what to say within regulatory restraints could navigate.

It's difficult to stay within the bounds of what can and can't be said. All while ensuring that product information produced from sales and marketing and social media teams is acting responsibly and with due consideration.

For years, the HFMA's 'Clear Check' service has been helping companies to assess compliance and make the most of what is permitted within the regulations while bringing high-level information that can only be gleaned from many years of understanding the nuances of the regulatory framework. This approach recognises that questions relating to what can and can't be said extend much further than a prescriptive checklist, which can take you so far but not give current insight into what's happening in 'real time', and an awareness of how similar products have been viewed.

Post-Brexit, our industry has the most wonderful opportunity to pull together to advocate for the highest standards of product information.

Going right to the heart of why regulations exist, which is for consumer safety and information, it's reassuring to know that many companies are reaching out to us to ensure that they are acting responsibly and contributing to the industry as a whole. In return, they gain the benefit of expertise, insights from other HFMA members, and a network of people who believe in our industry's future health and wellbeing.

Tel: 0208 481 7100

Email: [email protected]

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