A stylish OWL who curates your supplements

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A stylish OWL who curates your supplements

By Steve Mister - 04/27/2018
Words seem to go in and out of style — just like fashion. Today, many retailers, both brick and mortar and online, talk about “curating their shelf” or “curating their product assortment.” Five years ago, no one used the word “curate” — except maybe to describe an assistant priest who was charged with the care of the souls in a parish (“a curate”). Everyone is concerned with care of products on the shelf, so selection and presentation of merchandise matters. Retailers demonstrate their expertise by delivering what consumers want.

The dietary supplement aisle of many chain drug, health food, grocery, and warehouse stores is no exception. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, the supplement market is growing at a very healthy 6% rate with annual sales in 2017 of $41.1 billion. Still, many consumers (and retailers, too) maintain a healthy skepticism about the benefits and quality of dietary supplements and wonder how to determine which ones are worth their cost. The retailers’ ability to curate their supplement offerings has never been more sought-after. At the same time, consumers expect more transparency from the merchants and product marketers they deal with. Curating the retail dietary supplement assortment is not just stylish — it’s a necessity.

One year ago this month, the Supplement OWL launched, providing a new solution to help retailers select the products they offer. The Supplement OWL (Online Wellness Library), the dietary supplement product registry, is an industry-wide, self-regulatory initiative designed to help regulators, retailers and other industry stakeholders get a better understanding of the supplement marketplace. The Supplement OWL allows users to identify products, their labels, ingredients, dosages, precautions and the companies who market them. For retailers, it’s a new tool to curate their assortment; a label’s presence in the Supplement OWL is a clear indicator that the product allows consumers to be informed about what’s inside. Retailers should ask themselves if they really want to offer customers a product that won’t hold itself accountable by being in a public registry of the market.

Since the launch last April, more than 10,000 labels have been uploaded to the Supplement OWL (and more are being added each month). The registry is quickly becoming the go-to resource for the most up-to-date, real-time and accurate information on dietary supplement products. With a major portion of the industry’s inventory available for review, retailers in particular have a lot to gain from this valuable tool. For retailers with store brands, entering your labels into the Supplement OWL ensures your products are represented and visible to regulators and consumers as a legitimate part of the industry — just like their premium “compare to” counterparts. As the Supplement OWL gains traction, product labels that are not in the registry may raise questions from users as to why these products are missing.

Before placing a product on store shelves, retailers also want to be sure it is safe, legal and meets their standards and requirements. In addition to the Supplement OWL’s public side, the registry also provides a forum for retailers to review exactly what goes into a product, as well as any certifications or third-party seals it may hold. As the registry continues to develop, it will become a one-stop venue for retailers to verify that independent testing has verified the identity, purity, and quality of supplements in their assortment. Soon, checking the Supplement OWL will become an essential step in curating what products are offered online or in the store.

Even though words and fashions may fall out of style, the Supplement OWL is here to stay. Meeting the demands for transparency and accountability is not just fashionable — it’s essential for gaining consumer trusts. These trends are not likely to wane any time soon. As the Supplement OWL celebrates its first anniversary, retailers looking to curate their offerings should be celebrating as well.



Steve Mister is the president and CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry. Under his leadership, CRN has sharpened its strategic focus to advance the industry and launched initiatives that center on increasing industry responsibility and consumer education. During Mister’s 12-year tenure, CRN has been instrumental in enacting the adverse event reporting law for dietary supplements, the Designer Anabolic Steroid Control Act and defeating several efforts in Congress that would have over-regulated dietary supplements, limiting consumer access. Mister led the association to launch the Supplement OWL, an industry-run online registry of dietary supplements and their labels. He is a member of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Association Committee of 100 and active in ASAE.