Have you ever looked at a supplement label keen to check out the ingredients only to be faced with an exotic-sounding “blend” with loads of ingredients inside it?
Most of us upon first glance didn’t really care and just thought, hmm. But it’s more important than you might first think as these blends could be the difference between the supplement working for you or just being a dud (and waste of money!).
The FTC has strict rules in force for supplement labeling in the USA. A proprietary blend can bend around these rules whilst still being compliant and yet deceive customers.
Some, but certainly not all, companies that use proprietary formulas could be ripping you off. This is why I dislike proprietary blends in supplements, and why you should too.
The fact is the use of proprietary blends in supplements especially green superfoods is the norm. But I am going to disclose exactly why I REALLY DISLIKE proprietary blends, and why you should too!
What does “proprietary blend” mean?
The use of a proprietary blend in nutritional supplement labels is the combination of ingredients in a specific blend in a particular way that is typically unique to that company.
All the ingredients in the blend have to be listed but the individual weight of each ingredient doesn’t need to be.
This means that by using proprietary blends companies can disguise exactly what you are getting in the formula.
For the most complete definition this is what WebMD had to say;
A “proprietary blend” is a combination of ingredients used only by one supplement manufacturer. No other company makes the exact same combination of ingredients, and, in most cases, you don’t know from the label the exact amounts of each ingredient in that blend.WebMD
Are proprietary blends legal?
Unfortunately, the use of proprietary blends is completely legal.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US requires all supplement manufacturers to list all of the ingredients in a product and make a special reference in terms or proprietary blends;
You must identify proprietary blends by use of the term “Proprietary Blend” or an appropriately descriptive term or fanciful name. On the same line, you must list the total weight of all “other dietary ingredients” contained in the blend. Indented underneath the name of the blend, you must list the “other dietary ingredients” in the blend, either in a column or linear fashion, in descending order of predominance by weight. These ingredients should be followed by a symbol referring to the footnote “Daily Value Not Established.” Dietary ingredients having RDIs or DRVs must be listed separately and the individual weights declared. FDA – Proprietary blends
So, you can see that by law you supplement manufacturers don’t have to disclose ingredient amounts when wrapped into a proprietary blend.
In proprietary blends does the first ingredient contain the highest amount?
Yes, this is the only legal requirement.
The ingredients within a proprietary blend HAVE to be listed in “descending order of predominance by weight”.
This means the first ingredient in the blend will have the largest weight followed by the next until the last ingredient is in the smallest quantity within the proprietary blend.
Therefore the only thing we really know is the largest ingredient used, but we don’t know by how much.
Can you see the potential for being misled here?
Green powder Proprietary blends
When I was researching the best greens powders to take a few years ago I was shocked at the number of brands that used proprietary blends.
From the 60 plus brands I checked out, I personally tried 40 and from these only 4 or 5 brands fully disclosed their formulas.
On these products, it was common to see fancy proprietary blends called “alkaline detoxification blend” or “Greens superfood detox blend” displayed on the label.
It may sound very scientific and add to the allure of the brand, but in most cases, they are the result of the marketing department using trendy names to boost sales.
Examples of proprietary blends
I didn’t want to “out” well-known green superfood brands here (you can check out my green powder reviews for more in-depth information of these), but here are a select few green powder brands that use proprietary blends.
Actually, it was super easy because around 99% of these superfood brands out there use proprietary blends.
There are brands that disclose the exact weight of each ingredient in their formula. So, you get to see right there on the label what’s inside, this is called transparent labeling.
The practice of using hiding ingredient amounts in proprietary blends is not just the case in green superfood powders but in all types of supplements.
3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Proprietary Blends
1. Does it actually work?
The effectiveness of a supplement is dependent on its ingredients and likewise, the amounts included in the formula.
Too little and it won’t work as suggested, too much and this could have the same effect or worse cause unwanted side effects (see point two).
Proprietary blends make it impossible to decide for yourself if the brand could work for you. Instead, you have no choice but to rely on the company and that they have your best interests at heart.
Are you okay with that?
I know I am not; I like to know what’s inside a supplement I am taking and that I am not wasting my money on ineffective formulas, which are formulated for-profit and not effective.
2. Health risks
Allergies or reactions to certain ingredients may mean that you can only handle a certain dosage.
When you don’t know the dosages then checking with your medical professional about concerns over individual ingredients is impossible.
3. Are you overpaying for a cheap formula?
This is purely about whether you’re wasting money on a supplement that has done a great job of marketing their brand instead of formulating it.
I see this time and time again with brands that over promise and simply underdeliver.
Why do supplement companies use proprietary blends?
I was curious to discover if there are any good reasons for supplement companies to use proprietary blends. There are only three reasons that I believe they would be used.
1. Proprietary blends hides an ineffective formula
This is the BIGGEST issue for me the potential problem for having ingredients in a too low amount to do anything.
Some manufacturers will focus on the bottom line and not having to reveal the ingredient amount can very easily cut costs by including tiny amounts of important ingredients.
Of course, the opposite could be true too. Those ingredients could be over-dosed which could turn out to be dangerous. Although in my experience it’s more of an issue of under-dosing.
Some companies are proud of their formulas containing 50+ ingredients to convince buyers that it’s the best on the market and literally covers all your nutritional basis.
This in principle is fine but in reality, rarely works.
The reason being that supplying all the ingredients in the right clinical doses is impossible for small to medium serving sizes.
2. Using Proprietary blends to Protect their “winning” formula
The supplement industry is very competitive, and any slight advantage can mean a big difference to your bottom line.
Most companies say they are worried about disclosing all their ingredients in case copycat’s “rip-off” their formula and sell a competing brand.
This reason is rarely the case though, I mean how many brands copy the formula for those few companies that disclose their ingredients on the label.
I know I haven’t seen any yet in the greens powder market.
3. To increase the perceived value of the brand
Using a formula crammed full of fancy-sounding blends can add to the perceived value of the supplement. This makes justifying a higher-price point easier or simply helps boost conversions for the seller.
SuperGreen TONIK: Full Disclosure Labelling
I wanted customers to know exactly what’s inside the formula, so we disclose the exact weight of each ingredient on the label. This way you know exactly what you’re taking and why it’s a supplement that can work.
There is another reason for doing this too. It’s about full transparency and developing a relationship with customers based on trust.
So, whilst some brands that use proprietary formulas may be effective, you will know for sure that mine, or other brands that use transparent labeling, can work for you.
With SuperGreen TONIK you get NO HALF MEASURE, just full clinically effective amounts of the superfoods and adaptogenic herbs to make a difference to your health.
The full supplement facts for SuperGreen TONIK
The Bottom Line
The reasons for hiding ingredients in a proprietary blend simply don’t stack up. Supplement companies that reveal their formula show that they believe their product works and rely on this transparency to build loyalty.
They do not worry about copy-cats out for a quick buck.
They are looking to develop supplements that work, no hiding a sup-par formula because you can see exactly what’s inside, and in doing so builds customer base that trusts your brand.
This is why when developing my own greens powder supplement it was never in doubt that I would use full transparent labeling.
The key takeaway is that by choosing a supplement that uses full transparent labeling ensures you know EXACTLY what you’re taking and why. You can be sure you’re getting the proper dosages as the company cannot hide behind their “secret” formula.