The nature of natural
There is no legal definition of natural as it pertains to consumer goods. In fact, manufacturers can claim their products are natural even if that’s questionable by your standards. Products with genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) or highly processed high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may be labeled as natural, so even product labeling isn’t always enough.
NOW® was founded on the belief that using natural products is one of the best things you can do for your health. NOW® founder and chemist, Elwood Richard, was motivated by the data he’d seen on natural products.
“Natural” doesn’t always mean safe
Some supplements can affect your internal chemistry dramatically often in positive ways, but depending on your health status and unique biochemistry this can also bring negative results. Bottom line, the same supplement may not work the same way for everyone.
Fortunately, most reputable supplement companies include helpful warning labels on their products that will help you identify potential problems. It’s important to do your research, and if you have specific health concerns, speak with your healthcare provider.
What’s a concerned consumer to do?
With no exact definition of natural when it comes to consumer products, taking a long, hard look at the manufacturer of a so-called natural product is often a good place to start. Read product labels carefully to see how that company defines what it considers natural. For example, there may be limited qualifiers such as “no artificial sweeteners” or “all natural flavors and colors.” Others may list food sources or features such as “non-genetically engineered.” Individual company standards will apply until a formal federal definition is determined.
Dedicated to natural from the start
We firmly believe that natural products, as we define them, are safer and more effective than products made with ingredients not found in nature, and we’ve always believed this. Natural has been the cornerstone of our company since our beginning in 1968.
Admittedly, there are a few challenges when making natural products:
- Natural ingredients are variable – Natural products and natural ingredients can vary, sometimes significantly, in color and texture as well as in quality measures.
- Natural ingredients can be hard to source - Because of weather, seasonality, environmental concerns, and increasingly complex global supply chains, it’s not always easy to get the right ingredient exactly when we need it. And our insistence on superior quality means we won’t accept inferior ingredients as temporary replacements when a usual ingredient is in short supply.
- Natural ingredients require extra care - They can spoil or go stale more quickly due to the absence of additives and preservatives and the presence of components such as oils that may not be present in synthetic or highly refined alternatives. Many of these ingredients require specific temperature ranges and humidity levels to maintain strength and quality. Some require special packaging to protect them from light, heat, and moisture.
How we keep it natural
When assessing ingredients for compliance with our definition of natural we utilize the following criteria:
- Supplier requirements – Our suppliers are made aware of our purchase terms and product specifications from the start, and we take the necessary steps to ensure these requirements are adhered to. For example, we monitor and restrict the use of irradiated materials and require detailed flow charts to analyze production methods.
- Testing – With a state-of-the-art laboratory complex and some of the most advanced analytical instrumentation currently available, we’re able to detect a vast array of adulterants including synthetic hormones and steroids, solvents, synthetic forms of botanicals, and many other compounds and substances.
- Audits - We audit our key suppliers to ensure their manufacturing and processing procedures are effective and efficient, and that they adhere to best practices when it comes to natural ingredients, such as good manufacturing practices (GMPs). Since raw material suppliers are not currently required to follow GMPs as product manufacturers are, these audits also ensure that our suppliers are rigorously following GMPs, which helps us ensure consistently high standards.
- Nature-identical ingredients - Where it makes sense, we use nature-identical ingredients that exactly match the natural ingredient’s chemistry, or other ingredients that the body can easily convert into a natural form. But we draw the line at ones that won’t be recognized and utilized by the body, like dl-alpha-tocopherol, a synthetic vitamin E in our supplements.