Supplement Kings: It Is Time For A Change!

Follow these four tips that will help not only the companies, but also the consumer.
As athletes and consumers, we have all had the unfortunate experience of purchasing a product that did not live up to its claims, and that gave us only disappointment and an empty wallet.

Oh, sure. The million-dollar advertisements made the product look like a million, but when time came for the product to deliver, often the protein bar tasted spoiled, the lifting straps broke, or the product failed to meet label claim.

Unfortunately, in today's fast paced economy of mass production, quality and attention to detail have gone out the window. With a lot of bodybuilding products on the market today, lousy quality seems to be the common denominator.

Only recently, many big names in the industry have come under fire for not giving the consumer what he or she is entitled to. Take Chef Jay, for example. Or Designer protein, Syntrax, Detour or Cytodyne Technologies.

Recently obtained lab assays have shown that the Chef Jay protein bars failed to indicate that the bars had more carbohydrates and less protein than indicated on the label. Designer Protein has a similar problem, as did Detour with its deluxe protein bars.

In fact, Detour wanted to avoid negative publicity so badly that they recently re-formulated their bar to meet label claim. After removing the excess simple sugars not listed on the label, somehow the caramel doesn't taste so good anymore.

Syntrax, a company that is usually known for quality products, has had to explain why its product Guggulbolic contained less gugglesterones than was listed on the label. Even Cytodyne, another respected company, has not escaped unscathed. Cytodyne was recently the target of a massive class action law suit for producing misleading advertising about the effectiveness of a fat-burning product. The scam was so bad that even their product spokesman were testifying for the prosecution.

Last, but certainly not least, we can't forget MuscleTech Research and Development. While MuscleTech has not done anything illegal, they don't exactly have a stellar reputation in the industry. They have been accused often of price gouging the consumer and of producing insulting advertising.

As a full-time writer in the industry, I go to work each morning and my first priority is to think about how I can provide value for the consumer and reader. Because here is the reality of it: Job security comes only from being honest, productive, and from delivering a product that satisfies. It does not matter what business you are in or what your product may be. If you don't produce, and communicate in an honest way that satisfies your customers, you become irrelevant and you starve. In business, the buck stops with you.

But the current state of the bodybuilding industry is nothing more than a reflection of our current political-economic cultural mindset.

By reading the paper daily, one can easily come to find that corporate scandal is almost common place. Look at Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen, Bre-X, Nortel Networks, Martha Stewart or Haliburton.

Each of these corporate entities saw the consumer not as a boss to whom it was accountable for its continuing existence, but as one more resource to be acquired, exploited and discarded, all the while it lined its pockets with what amounted to stolen money for goods promised but never delivered. It is no surprise, then, that this attitude has filtered down to nutritional companies who would rather deceive the consumer than do honourable business with him in mutual good faith.

The sad truth is that the consumer is getting a raw deal and it is hurting everyone except foreign companies who still make quality products and ship them to America in record numbers, because no one here wants to bother taking care of the consumer with integrity anymore.

I wonder how many American jobs were lost when the Germans decided to make a superior creatine product because we, as the hardest working nation in the world, couldn't be bothered to put ourselves out and do the best job anymore?

The supplement industry has seen more violence done to its customers than any other industry today. The reasons for this are obvious: Upstart companies move and change frequently, and the government is still trying to decide whether the Food and Drug Administration of the Consumer Protection Agency has jurisdiction over the dietary supplement market.

When the government finally gets around to deciding, often the companies in question and those who run them disappear into the night. So the consumer has no protection, no recourse, and gets no justice. The government is impotent, and the pirates and pillagers are going to town on dirty money.

To say that this behaviour is practiced by all companies in the industry would clearly be false, and would paint a false picture. But it no longer seems that there is pride in doing the best job possible, when one can get buy from meeting only the lowest standards. Why bother putting in the effort to be best when it will minimize profit margins, right?

Businesses, large or small, who operate with this kind of mentality will quickly find themselves on the way to bankruptcy court, and rightly so. A morally bankrupt organization that defrauds a consumer should not be allowed to exist and flourish.

Many years ago Waldenbooks was one of Americas leading book sellers. After it became satisfied with its position, things began to decline. When Charles Cumello was hired to turn the company around, he focused on the customer. After looking at the statistics, it was clear to him that many people were visiting his stores, and looking at books. But no one was BUYING. Foot traffic is great, but if it doesn't translate into sales, a business won't last long.

So Cumello decided to visit each store in the chain and devise a solution. What he found was incredible. Customers would come to look and browse, and would leave. All the while the store employees would ignore them, offering no assistance.

Cumello began to work the floor in several store. He began approaching customers and hyping books, one at a time. He did WHATEVER IT TOOK for the customer. Unlike the employees in the organization, he didn't think it beneath his dignity to work for the results he wanted. He didn't think the customer owed him the sale on a silver platter. After his demonstration, his employees began following suit. They had to, or else they would be fired.

With this renewed focus on customer service and added value, company revenues soared in the first four months and Waldenbooks regained much of its lost market share.

But these days, few companies have this kind of drive, pride or commitment. They want the results, and they want them now - but don't dare ask anyone to WORK for them. It's a classic symptom of the "I deserve" generation.

Many companies market products and do research to maximize profitability; they no longer make products with the intent to help customers, or improve the quality of life for the nation. It's really sad, but this mentality is seen throughout the bodybuilding industry also.

Athletes get exploited by magazine Kings, who in turn are slaves to the supplement companies advertising dollar. It's the trickle down effect and the victim ends up being the person with the least money and most frustration - the consumer. Among the plethora of small upstarts however, there are those companies that exist to make quality products.

To those small companies I would offer the following advice as guidance. For those companies who are screwing the consumer, this advice also applies - as an early corporate obituary should these tips be ignored. Following these four tips will help not only the companies, but also the consumer.

1. Dont Gouge Your Customer

A big part of running a successful business is economically protecting your customers. In fact, protecting your customers is the most critical task facing business today.

This means, naturally, not putting profits before people. If you gouge your customers for every last penny, how long will they be able to keep buying your product? Money is finite, and customers are not a resource or raw material to be exploited.

It is in the rational self-interest of a business to keep its prices low so that customers have the ability to continue buying. If customers don't buy, people lose jobs and all of a businesses long-term "strategic planning" becomes good only for the fireplace. By gouging a customer, a business extinguishes a long term revenue source, for short term gain. It's akin to poking out your eye with a stick rather than closing it, simply because you see something you don't want to look at.

But if a business if truly committed to its mission and vision, everyone will sacrifice to get the job done and deliver the message that the customer comes first before executive golf trips and luxury yachts.

2. The Customer Is The Boss

It is astounding that someone can graduate with an M.B.A. and can forget the fundamental rule of business: the customer with the money is the employer and boss. Yet this is what happens all too frequently.

Business is about identifying needs, and creating or selling products to service those needs. But needs come from people, not "markets" or "demographics." Needs come from human beings with hopes, dreams, feelings, and the desire to self-actualize and improve their quality of life.

Statistics and fancy market research is good and well, but at the end of the day its not the pie chart that will make or break you, it's the person who's eating pie at the dinner table. In the final analysis it's the person with a face, hair on their head and money in their pockets that will make your future.

Being sucked into the presupposition that your customers are a group and not individuals is to commit a fatal mistake. Just remember that the person with the final vote on the survival of your company is not you, is the customer, and he can pull the plug on your life support machine whenever he wants to, so it is wise to keep him happy.

3. Deliver Quality & Be Ruthless In Your Quest To Do It As Economically As Possible

A strange phenomenon has begun to take hold in the supplement industry. People have begun to believe that effort is synonymous with quality. They think that if they have tried hard enough, then it will follow that they are going to deliver a good value to the customer. Well, here is the bad news: Effort is meaningless. Here is why.

The customer does not see the effort put into a product or service. He or she sees only the RESULT, and will make an emotional judgement based on the product that he or she sees.

Ninety-nine percent of the time the judgement will be: A product is good, or its crap. There is seldom any middle ground. If there is, you can bet your last penny that the consumer will lean toward the crappy end of OK when evaluating your product. They evaluate the product, the packaging and the service that mediated the sale. And for $50 down, they deserve better than a sincere "we really tried."

The bottom line is that people want a quality product that works. They are not paying for your efforts, only your results. They don't see the effort that you put in, but they sure see what comes out at the end of the day.

This is why its important to realize that quality comes from character and commitment. It comes from a commitment to a cause greater than the wallet or ego. Quality products are a direct reflection on the character of a company and its commitment to enhancing the life of it its customers.

Each person must in your organization must be committed to the corporate philosophy and, must be willing to sacrifice for the boss - the customer - when times get tough. This is the only way to guarantee job security.

But customers don't want to pay more than they have to for quality, either. So be reasonable. Don't think that buying advertising in the magazines and barking the loudest to convince everyone that you are the biggest dog on the block will allow you to sell mediocre products at prices that would make Donald Trump blush.

And always remember this: Another supplement company, somewhere overseas with access to cheaper raw materials and lower labour costs is waiting to take your business from under your feet should you become seduced by greed. So the Siren may sing sweet songs of luxury, but it'll be the end of you if you're sucked into it.

4. As A Manufacturer You Have A Duty To The Health Of The Consumer

One would assume that to establish repeat customers and ensure customer satisfaction, a company would make safe products. In today's world, this is no longer a safe assumption.

The Chinese know all about making dangerous products, and often make sure to include cancerous substances in their supplements. American products have been found to contain impurities and illegal drugs from time to time also.

Many supplement manufacturers in the United States shirk their responsibility to make safe products by reasoning that the industry is unregulated. The prevailing attitude of the day seems to be "If no one is looking, who cares?" But aside from the economic reality that it is wise to establish a customer base, a moral duty exists as well.

When customers purchase products that will be put into their bodies, they do so on the assumption that a deal was made in good faith and that the products will be efficacious and health enhancing. This is why I am always amazed when I hear of dangerous products being passed off on the consumer.

If the swindlers and crooks wouldn't let their mothers use their unsafe products, why would they let their customers? A mother can give a businessman life, but only customers can sustain that life. A good rule to keep in mind is that if it's not safe for good ole' mom to consume, its probably not safe for your customers either.

Customers are willing to assume the best of a business, but all it takes it the experience of being burnt once and you've lost a customer for life. If this happens too many times you may find yourself shining shoes in the unemployment line.


Although much improved in recent years, commercialization is still the driving force behind the scams in the supplement industry. The swindlers, crooks and shysters will always be looking to take advantage of the customer. Industry-wide change will occur only when companies make a commitment to added value, honesty and quality the focus of their business practices.

When companies begin to make products for the sake of improving their customers lives instead of improving their bottom line, industry of all types will experience massive transformation.

The key to change is to see the customer as an individual, as the boss, and as the only man - the only shareholder - with a vote on the future of your career in the business world. An M.B.A. will not make a successful business - CHARACTER and INTEGRITY will. Each of us can help to correct the wrongs in the industry and weed out the crooks by mobilizing the economic power of the customer.

In an industry dominated by fractured egos and self-interest, we can all help ourselves by looking out for our neighbour, and sending the crooks to the unemployment line. After all, if its your neighbour being exploited today, when is it your turn?

Be sure to also check out:
Supplement Kings Part Two!


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Copyright © Clayton South, 2004 All rights reserved.

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