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Why You Should Steer Clear of All Proprietary Blends

Date 25th Feb 2021

Why You Should Steer Clear of All Proprietary Blends

Have you ever seen the phrase, "proprietary blend" on the label of your health supplement or protein powder? It’s one of those word combinations that is vague and seem impressive. It makes you think, “Hey, that means it’s exclusive and high-quality, right?"

This is simply another deceptive use of marketing jargon in the CBD industry and the dietary supplements space that's used to trick unassuming consumers into paying more for a product that seems better than the rest.

Today we'll give you a look into why you should avoid proprietary blends at all costs, why companies are out there doing this, and the risks involved to your health. 

Here's a look into the article:

  • What Is A Proprietary Blend?
  • Why Would A Manufacturer Create A Proprietary Blend?
  • The Proprietary Blend Loophole In Action
  • The Risks Involved For The Consumer
  • How Can I Avoid Ineffective Proprietary Blends?
  • The Takeaway: Just Pass On Proprietary Blend Products

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What is a Proprietary Blend?

The term proprietary blend is commonly used in the dietary supplement industry to label a blend of ingredients that are listed one by one. However, no precise amount of each ingredient is given on the label.

Proprietary blends may be listed as a “blend,” “complex,” “matrix,” or “proprietary formula."

The problem with these proprietary blends is that you can't be sure how much of each ingredient you're getting per serving. This means if you're having a bad interaction with a compound, it's difficult to say which one is causing it as you're not getting an accurate representation of each individual ingredient.

These blends are also a clever way for manufacturers to dilute the more expensive, active ingredients with fillers. The fillers aren't always harmful. However, they often don't contribute to the benefit of dietary supplements, rendering the product no better than snake oil.

Here's How It May Look With CBD Supplements

You could look at a brand's CBD capsules marketed to improve your overall fitness with a proprietary formula with key ingredients that manage your weight, improve energy levels, and decrease recovery time between workouts.

Sounds good, right?

Keep in mind that CBD companies shouldn't make outright health claims like this as it goes against FDA regulations. It's a red flag.

The ingredients are listed in descending order (from the most concentrated to the least concentrated) and find that CBD is near the bottom of the formula. Without knowing the right amounts of each ingredient, how can you be sure that you're paying a fair price for this product?

Generally, the most expensive ingredient in a CBD product formula is the CBD itself. If the brand is simply sprinkling the minimum amount of CBD to label it a CBD supplement, they're cheating you out of the real benefits of CBD itself.

This may be a clever tactic to hide the fact that the product contains ingredients that are more than likely just filling up the volume of the product without adding much benefit. 

Why Would A Manufacturer Create A Proprietary Blend?

Proprietary blends are appealing to supplement manufacturers for several reasons. The main reason, of course, is simply fueled by greed.

Unfortunately, there are companies out there that will do their best to maximize profits even at the expense of their consumer's health.

Here are some of the specific reasons why a company may hide its formula on the label:

1. The FDA Doesn't Require Specificities With 'Blends'

It's super easy to hide what's in your formula when the Food and Drug Administration doesn't require it listed in detail. It's a strange loophole that we'll get into more detail below.

In that sense, why should a company bother?

There are little to no restrictions put forth by the FBDA when it comes to specific quantities of ingredients when it's labeled as a blend. This is absurd, considering that supplements are health products and may affect the well-being of the consumer.

2. Companies Want To Protect Their Formula

Keeping the amounts of each ingredient listed is another way for companies to protect their formula without having to pay for licensing and patent costs.

When you don't have to list the quantities of each ingredient, you minimize the risk of competitor brands copying the custom-blended recipe.

3. It Sounds Fancy, So Companies May Charge More

The phrase "proprietary blend" is commonly mistaken by the average consumer to imply high-quality or exclusivity.

It sounds like the company did a massive amount of research to come up with the right quantities of each ingredient that would prove to be most effective. However, it's rarely the case.

The proprietary blend label is often tacked on to a product as a marketing ploy to add to its desirability. And for the unassuming consumer, it works. Companies may even charge more for it too.

4. Blends Are A Sneaky Way To Cut Production Costs

When they're not labeling the information about the amounts of each ingredient, it's easy for companies to hide the fact that their formula may be ineffective.

Active ingredients tend to cost more, but when brands don't have to list the amounts, they can essentially dilute the active compounds in a blend to increase the volume. Therefore, they're saving money on the more expensive ingredients while charging consumers for more money on filler ingredients. 

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The Proprietary Blend Loophole In Action

Unfortunately, all too often manufacturers see proprietary blends as a giant loophole that allows them to avoid listing percentages on their product ingredients.

In order to demonstrate how proprietary blend labeling allows manufacturers to take advantage of consumers, we'll take a closer look at turmeric curcumin — one of the best-selling health supplements today that is often sold as a proprietary blend.

As most health aficionados know, in order to make a turmeric product absorbable for the human body, black pepper, also known as Bioperine, must be added. So, to produce this supplement a manufacturer must purchase four ingredients:

1. Turmeric: $2/pound

2. Ginger:  $1.25/pound

3. Curcumin: $50/pound

4. Bioperine: $250/pound

As you can see, high-quality turmeric curcumin could end up being extremely expensive for a manufacturer. So what do they do? Cut corners.

They’ll use 99% turmeric and ginger, 0.005% curcumin, and 0.005% Bioperine; essentially saving themselves money at the detriment of a supplement that actually works.

Even worse, it goes completely unnoticed and impossible for customers to spot. 

The Risks Involved For The Consumer

Not all companies in the health and wellness space have their customers' best interests at heart.

Most of these propriety blended supplements aren't even close to containing clinically effective doses of active ingredients, rendering the supplement essentially useless. And we all know these products aren't cheap.

For those of you who are taking supplements to address specific health concerns, this is problematic as there's no way to accurately account for the doses of each ingredient.

On top of this, the company can change its formulation at any given point without the FDA requiring the company to disclose any changes to its customers.

It's unethical at best and can be extremely dangerous.

Overall, the lack of transparency in propriety blends is alarming.

How Can I Avoid Ineffective Proprietary Blends?

When it comes to these special, vague formulations, there's no benefit to the consumer while much to gain by the manufacturer for these deceptive practices.

The tricky thing about proprietary blended products is that you can't tell the good from the bad — and there's mostly bad out there. The best thing you can do is avoid a product labeled as "complex," "trade secrets," or "matrix."

Proprietary blend supplements crowd the market and take the attention away from products that actually work, giving customers only a small fraction of the potential benefits they could get from a quality-made supplement.

If there's a proprietary blend supplement that you're set on purchasing, be sure to reach out to the company or brand you intend to purchase from and to ask for more details and percentages. Though this step might take more time, it will save you money. 

The Takeaway: Just Pass On Proprietary Blend Products

In this day and age of information, there is no good reason for a health supplement brand to hide their quantities of each individual ingredient used in their products.

This is simply another marketing ploy used to deceive you and increase profits.

Most of the time, the company's secret magical formulas don't have any clinical studies to back health claims about their products, let alone include active ingredients in effective doses of the products.

In the best-case scenario when purchasing proprietary blends, you've only wasted your money on ineffective supplements. In the worst case, you may have adverse reactions to compounds, risking your health.

The take-home message is this: demand more from companies who claim to look after your health and well-being. When it comes to our health, transparency from companies should be a requirement. 

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Please reach out to us with all of your questions and we'll be happy to speak with you. 

Glory Finnegan
Glory Finnegan

Glory Rae Finnegan is a freelance content writer with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Psychology. Glory is passionate about human psychology, destigmatizing mental health, animal advocacy, and plant-based living.