Choose Quality

In what amounts to the best news I have heard in a long time, the New York Attorney General strode into the arena of health supplements this week.

(Bloomberg) — Four major retailers were by told by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to halt sales of store-brand herbal supplements found to lack key ingredients listed on the label, fueling calls for more regulation of the $32 billion U.S. dietary supplement industry.

Schneiderman said he sent letters to GNC Holdings Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Walgreens and Target Corp., telling them to drop products purportedly containing herbs such as echinacea, ginseng and St. John’s wort. He said his probe, conducted by a researcher who analyzed the presence of plant DNA in the products, revealed that ingredients on the labels of some supplements couldn’t be verified, and that others contained undisclosed ingredients.

The case in point revolves around two criticisms, as I see it. The first problem is that some supplements sold at GNC, WalMart, Target and Walgreens make unsupportable claims about their benefits and efficacy. This is an old problem in this business, one that might now begin to be resolved.

The second matter that General Schneiderman will address is the fact that so many of the stated ingredients in the suspect supplements are junk:

In many instances, rather than finding evidence of species on the label, such as ginkgo biloba or ginseng, the testing turned up other ingredients such as rice, beans or a tropical houseplant, and sometimes no plant DNA at all, Schneiderman said. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart’s Spring Valley brand had the worst results, with only 4 percent of the tests yielding DNA matching the product label and 56 percent not yielding any plant material, according to Schneiderman.

Tropical houseplants? Srsly?

This makes me happy because it will allow me to highlight the quality of my company’s supplements, vitamins and other healthful products. When you have a science-based manufacturing firm competing  with junk, the truth will out…eventually. Perhaps eventually has arrived.

My company has a stated aim of providing innovation and high standards based on cutting-edge research. Having the cheap, cheerful and misleading awfulness called out like this is good for everyone.

Choose quality.

 

Link to Bloomberg article.

Chicken of the Sea

Sardines

If you want to drain some of the optimism from your day, observe the carts of your fellow shoppers at the supermarket. Is it any wonder we’re rocketing toward obesity? Is reliance upon our friends in the pharmaceutical industry really the way to fix the systemic ills of a poor diet?

Try this next time: consider buying food as close to its original state as possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables are clearly good choices, and if you want high quality protein, a can of sardines is both delicious and nutricious.

No, they don’t taste like corn chips or donuts. But you do have only one heart.

The Price of Cheap

Color = healthy.
Color = healthy.

 

Question: Is it better to buy one beach towel that lasts ten years, or ten beach towels, one per year, because they fall apart after a few washes?

I had the misfortune of dealing with WalMart today. I had found an item I needed – a specific cellphone accessory – and ordered it with the store pickup option. I wanted to avoid shipping costs, and, given that I drive past a WalMart every day, figured it would be easy enough to collect my item personally.

Suffice it to say that the item was not in the store when I turned up.

It’s not a big deal, and it was a failure of an individual, not WalMart’s system. But it got me to thinking about the value of this retail behemoth. The free-market argument goes along the lines of, well, WalMart allows folks the best possible price for the biggest possible range of merchandise. In that way, I could argue that America’s middle class is expanded by the stretching of their dollar. If you can have two televisions instead of one, you’re richer, right? Buying giant containers of apple juice and bags of chips for knock-down prices improves your overall standard of living, yes?

That’s fine as far as it goes. Cheap (non-nutricious) calories, cheap (poorly made) clothing, throw-away household items…this is the triumph of feeling like you have it all. And yet…

And yet walking around that store today, I was uneasy at the sight of all that crap. What happened to the idea of striving for quality rather then cheapness? Don’t get me wrong, I’m as thrifty as the next tight-wad. But WalMart doesn’t offer a decent compromise of quality for a reasonable price – it offers low price for whatever quality that gets you. Cheap as opposed to inexpensive.

Yes, this might appear to be an elitist argument. Who am I to look askance at someone buying gallon-sized containers of candy for a few dollars? I’m no-one. But I can’t help but feeling that WalMart customers are being short-changed. Someone convinced the public that a giant portion of poor quality food is better than a small portion of higher quality. Over years, the toll on our bodies of this enormous cult of consumption must take effect. If you feed yourself a diet of canned soup each night, will you be more or less healthy than the person who makes soup from scratch, even if it costs a few cents more?

Behind all this empty buying is the “I want it NOW” mentality. Delayed gratification is an archaic concept thesedays. Why wait (and save) to buy a dining table and chairs that will last a lifetime when you can have one delivered this evening? Of course, the cheap piece will collapse in a year or so, but hey, then I’ll go buy another one.

What I’m fumbling towards here is the notion that cheap isn’t cheap when you look beyond the bar code. Price is only part of the cost. Buying low cost might well carve a chunk out of some other part of your life that will take a lot more to fix later on.

Just a thought.

Affirmation

Sunset in Osprey, Florida
Sunset in Osprey, Florida

 

It must be because I’m so new at this sales business. This morning a (nameless but close) friend and customer told me how much she liked my company’s protein powder in her morning health drink. With that, she presented me with a cup of the cucumber and spinach juice to which she had added the protein powder. It was delicious. Frankly, I was surprised just how good it tasted.

My reaction was a new one, for me, a mix of pride and happiness. Pride because receiving an unsolicited accolade like that brings to sharp focus that people really do like – or even love – the products I sell. Happiness because it means my friends have gone beyond the idea of being customers as a favor to me, and found their own fit for my company’s products in their life.

It’s an important transition, and one that reinforces that I am selling good stuff, for the right reasons, and that people get it.

Happy.