Guidelines for the Buying and Selling of Protein Supplements

By Steve Gardener, aka Mobster
September 2013

Following on from 2012's 'Protein Scandal', we compiled the article Is Your Protein Powder Labelled Correctly. However, there occasionally is still seemingly misconstrued selling of products even though we're over a year further on. Be aware that every commonly used protein can have a place in a product, and the following article offers suggestions to both those needing help purchasing the right products and those thinking of selling and advertising a new brand of protein products. Please refer to existing MuscleTalk articles on specific protein sources such as whey, soy and so on for detailed information. If, after reading this and the other articles, you're still in doubt, ask on the MuscleTalk forums.

Buying Protein Supplements
Compare like with like. If a product contains, simply speaking, a lower amount of protein it's usually cheaper. So a 53% protein product will usually cost less than an 80% or greater product.

Read the label: On the ingredients list, products which are not inside brackets will always show the greater amount first. However, if the ingredients are listened inside brackets, they can be in any order. For example if you saw on a label:

  • Whey protein concentrate, soy protein, pea protein should mean as it reads: whey protein concentrate in the highest amount, followed by soy and pea last.
  • Protein blend (whey protein concentrate, soy protein, pea protein) could mean soya, then pea then whey; there's no way of telling.

A blend of several ingredients, specifically high grade ones, cost more than a simple product. However, the cost can be lowered by using cheaper lower grade ingredients. So check and double check: if a product that appears to contain five different proteins costs the same or less than one containing just one protein source; simply put, the numbers don't add up.

If you see the phrase delactosed whey and Google it, you'll see it comes back with a 27% protein. Ergo is it worth having delactosed whey as a primary ingredient? I know what I think!

Starting Up and Selling a New Protein Brand
A word or three of advice: if you are in the fortunate position to be able to scrape together enough money to produce your own line of products, be that a low volume contract manufactured line or a huge in-house operation please be informed! Trust me when I say that members of forums like MuscleTalk are and very much so! They will spot what they consider moody products and those with 'iffy' ingredients at fifty paces and any money spent getting yourself ready and then promoting said item will be wasted. Your brand could be ruined from your first advertisement.

There is nothing illicit or illegal in a contract manufacturer producing a product to a price. How you, the brand, sell it, is where the issues creep in. I know I can quite easily find a 30% whey product (30g protein per 100g of powder) which is loads cheaper than an 80% or so product. If you re-label it, it is you who is committing an offence, not the manufacturer.

If, for example, your product includes delactosed whey (27% protein) and then adds a basic soy protein (higher protein value but not necessarily ideal) it's not the big deal 'blended protein' it appears to be. Those with an eye will ask 'why that and not a WPC80 and a soy isolate?'

Do not compare your product to a high quality blend when using lower quality ingredients. Isolates are more expensive than concentrates (read why here) and buyers know this. Cold processed and ceramic filtered costs are less than ion-exchanged. Adding a part digested protein (hydrolysed) costs more than not. Exotic flavours cost more than bog standard ones.

When I say be informed I mean you need to know what's what. Do not be a business man with spare capital going into a market you know nothing about. Bodybuilders, big buyers of protein, may have a public persona of being not that bright, but at worst they know everything they should on nutrition or can find someone who does. You may even sell well in the short term but once they realize it's not what it seems to be they'll go elsewhere very quickly. The viral nature of the internet and forums can and does work very fast and the impact can be felt very quickly.

Thus one does not simply take an off the shelf product, stick it in a nice tub with a silver lid and a lovely four colour label and hope for the best. One looks at the products you'll compete with and learns why they do well and what's in them, down to every last details. Understand you'll have, at best, a week before weaknesses in your product are spotted. Do not call your product, for example 'Whey XXX' and then have customers read that whey is not even the main ingredient!

A Message to Both Buyers and Sellers
Be aware: it's very difficult for the owners of any information website, such as MuscleTalk, to spend hours going through the product list on their advertisers. They'd need to check product labels item by item and ensure that the owners and operators of that brand 'know their onions' (or proteins and products) inside and out; and it's certainly not possible for the owners to know if the product even meets the label claims. However, equally, no one should look to the day that both the EU and/or HMG legislation forces make unwelcome changes to the UK supplement industry. We have the advantage here at MuscleTalk that many members and moderators do indeed know what they're talking about and so will spot a wrongun very quickly. When in doubt ask! You can even pay members, such as myself, for our time and advice (worth asking, LOL!).