Breaking news! Nestle, aka the devil, has acquired Vital Proteins. Vital Proteins, if you don’t know already, is a collagen and bone broth supplement brand that met our standards for supplement quality.
With the news of Nestle now owning Vital Proteins, I thought it was time that we talked about them a bit more openly.
Today, I want to briefly discuss selling out, standards for supplements, and what we should do moving forward.
Vital Proteins and Dr. Neal
Vital Proteins is an example of the modern dilemma a supplement retailer has. A small company comes to market with quality and integrity at the forefront. They put their products in retail stores, and the retailers become a big part of why these products grow. We recommend them to the people we care for, our patients and customers trust us and confidently use the products.
They grow larger. They become less willing to share quality information. At the beginning, they were happy to give us quality data and analyses. About a year ago, the best I could get out of them via aggressive “asking” was a screen share of a single certificate of analysis for a single lot.
They then get real big. Their products become ubiquitous. The small retailer now loses customers to big box or discount stores after their customers make the initial purchase. Getting quality-related data is near impossible. We just have to HOPE they still represent what they did at the beginning.
I’ve thrown shade at Vital Proteins because of their lack of transparency as of late. I’ve called out brands that hide their Prop 65 labels from consumers across the country like Vital Proteins did. I decided months ago it was time to move away and secure a Collagen Peptides product that we have full transparency on, up to the raw material supplier level. I believe our product is superior, if not identical, to the quality Vital Proteins was at the initiation of our relationship.
In other words, I saw this acquisition of Vital Proteins by a huge brand coming a mile away. Acquisitions aren’t a problem necessarily. What complicates it is that they chose to partner with Nestle.
On Selling Out
I want to give honest congratulations to Vital Proteins. From a business perspective, they’ve really rocked it. Create a brand, build a tribe of loyal supporters with a good product, and attract suitors to eventually become acquired. That’s the modern path, it seems. We can’t deny how awesome all this is for the founders as entrepreneurs.
I’m no BS’er… I’d love to get bought out. Who wouldn’t love a big fat paycheck and a retirement at a young age? I do see a difference between getting bought out and selling out, and I feel the partnership with Nestle, while I’m sure profitable and a smart business move, is selling out.
Recently Garden of Life and Pure Encapsulations also were acquired by Nestle. I’m sure that there is a good chance the quality of the products will not change after the acquisition. As I’ve pointed out before, supplement quality isn’t about manufacturing quality alone. We need a new standard for how we deem a product “high quality.”
The Supplement Quality Standard
I believe that compliance with Good Manufacturing Practices, the federal laws that govern supplement manufacturing, is one part of a bigger quality picture.
I believe not only should products be made cleanly, but they should also work. They have to be therapeutically advantageous. The right doses and the right forms based on real science.
On top of this, supplement quality should be judged by the business ethics and morality of the brand itself.
The Supplement Quality Standard, my model for judging true supplement quality, consists of these three components:
- Manufacturing quality
While Vital Proteins may manufacture their products according to GMP and the dosage of collagen is appropriate for supplementation, the ethics of the brand must be called into question, being weighed equally with the other two.
They hid their Prop 65 labels to sell more units, instead of educating consumers on the process as we have. They are now Nestle, and that speaks for itself.
The Collagen Future
Many people now have to decide what to do about their collagen needs. Do they support Nestle via Vital Proteins, or do they take a stand against the global abusive practices that the brand has participated in?
As I’ve been saying for months now, the choice is pretty easy. Yes, I’m turning this into a commercial.
Our Collagen Peptides are nearly identical to the quality of Vital Proteins. I argue our product is higher quality, due to our transparency.
I’ve discussed collagen quality-related problems on the podcast and in past blogs. There are a number of things to consider. Here’s the lightning version:
- Animal source: Our collagen comes from Brazillian cows, where they are pasture-raised (about 2 acres per cow), hormone-free, and treated of the most humanely globally.
- Processing: Our collagen is minimally processed to maintain collagen peptide integrity
- Adulteration: No protein spiking occurs in the manufacturing process
- Contamination: Our collagen peptides have strict standards for heavy metal, pesticides and herbicides, and microbial content.
That being said, lead levels tend to be higher in bone broth and collagen products. There are various reasons for this, but it typically has to do with how lead concentrates in the animal tissues and the environmental exposure we are subject to.
It would require about 15 scoops of collagen a day to exceed aggressive domestic and international safety levels for lead. You should not be using more than 1-2 scoops a day, regardless.
If you’re new to the idea of collagen, see our articles about collagen listed here, and our product information page as well:
- Collagen Supplement Quality Concerns
- The Truth About Collagen, Gelatin, and Bone Broth
- Collagen Deep Dive Podcast
- Woodstock Vitamins Collagen Peptides
Collagen is Vital, But Not From Nestle
Collagen is my choice for the Vital Five category of proteins. It’s a nutrient missing from our diets as of late, and people don’t really like eating organ meats on the regular, so I feel like that’s not about to change any time soon.
When we consider supplement quality, we must not focus solely on manufacturing, but we must take into account the behaviors of the corporation who owns the supplement as well as the therapeutic capability of the products.
We’ve created the Supplement Quality Standard as a model moving us towards higher quality supplements.
Collagen Peptides exceeds the expectations one should have in a quality collagen supplement and we’ve been transparent about the pros and cons of the product from the start.
I’ve chosen to discontinue Vital Proteins, as I have done with many brands since opening ten years ago.
The reason is simple: they no longer meet our strict Supplement Quality Standards. Their products will probably continue to be manufactured properly, but Nestle’s ethics fall short of our expectations.
I imagine that people are frustrated that this could happen, again, to a brand they trust. It stinks all around. We want things to remain the same and use the products we’ve grown to trust.
In the natural products industry, it is too dynamic a picture in a weak regulatory landscape. We must be vigilant in the brands we select. Utilize the rigorous Supplement Quality Standard to help you hold accountable the brands you choose.
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth