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Stirred, not shaken: editor turns consumer in a guilt-induced home product test.

After 2 weeks of back-to-back trade shows, I finally returned to the office with sore feet, a bale of business cards and a wealth of new contacts, article ideas and plans for future issues. This time, however, in addition to the reams of products releases, news stories and now-inevitable CD-ROMs, there was something else weighing down my luggage--actual product samples. During one of the social evenings at Vitafoods, I was enjoying a much-appreciated refreshing beverage and was deep in conversation with a visiting American exhibitor--who had bravely ventured overseas despite the swine-flu induced threat of being stranded in Switzerland. As we discussed various aspects of the nutraceutical sector, he asked me: "Kevin, as an editor in this industry and being well informed about the benefits, applications and overall value of these products, how many do you, yourself, actually take?" The awkwardness and silence were palpable.


I have ... tried ... some, I offered. In fact, I took some glucosamine and chondroitin once for a sports injury and used some astaxanthin as a pre-exercise booster. But, on a daily basis, I don't suppose I use many at all. I tried to extricate myself from the situation by explaining that I'm not a great pill popper or user of lotions, unctions and potions. I eat reasonably well and try to keep fit, I said, but as logic escaped me and a rational argument eluded me, my protestations dwindled off into the background noise and my erstwhile debating partner seemed to recognize someone else he knew in the thronging masses. So, for the next 2 days, I resolved to collect as many finished product samples as I could amass and take a look at this industry from the end-user's point of view. I am a consumer with purchasing power. What better way to assess and discover which of the multitude of well-being enhancers on offer would suit me best and make me feel better?

Proof in the Pudding

Back at home, I semi-randomly selected a medium-sized stick pack. It was well presented, appealing to the eye and informed me that I was about to discover the pleasure of a dietetic smoothie. What I liked about the offering was that it claimed to be a high protein, low calorie drink that was antioxidant-rich. Easy to understand and not bogged down with pseudo-scientific nonsense. I was also pleased to note that I was not about to consume any artificial colours, preservatives or GMO ingredients. I was intrigued to note that there was no mention of exactly how many calories I was going to be swallowing, and the statement that "stick packs are convenient to carry" seemed a trifle redundant, but the promise of a fruity, good-for-me smoothie had me marching off to the kitchen.

And then it started to go wrong. Glancing at the instructions for use, the first three words were "In a shaker." In a what? Another thing that I don't do on a daily basis is make elaborate cocktails ... so I don't have a "shaker." I don't have a blender, either, and even if I did, I doubt whether I'd be very keen to get it out, set it up and go through the whole use and clean cycle for a single drink. But, soldiering on, I thought to myself, how difficult can it be to dissolve this undisclosed volume of powder in 150 mL of water? Wanting to follow the instructions as best I could, I did seek out a measuring jug and drew the correct amount of liquid. In went the powder and I gainfully attacked the solution with a spoon. I'm not sure how long I thrashed at the powder before dispensing with the spoon and resorting to a fork, but even then, it put up a pretty good fight. Ten minutes later, I was left with a still-not-completely homogenous smoothie and a lack of patience. A truce was called and I decided to just swallow the brew, lumps and all. As an organoleptic experience, it wasn't bad. Overall, it had the expected consistency of a smoothie and didn't taste medicinal. It was well aerated (!) and, although palatable, I'm not sure I could discern the three individual claimed fruits that reportedly make up 10% of the formulation. There was no wow factor ... although the undissolved lumps had quite an intense burst of flavour!

The question that I posed myself was: was it worth it? In the absence of a shaker, it was difficult to dissolve and was not an entirely satisfactory experience. And the packs may be portable, but you'd still need the shaker and some way to measure out 150 mL of water to make the smoothie "on the go." An office poll revealed that 25% of my colleagues have and use shakers (half of which added: only for alcohol), so I'm obviously not alone; but, in this case, the overall health benefits were overwhelmed by the hassle of preparation. So, I have a couple of options: I can go out and buy a shaker or I can find an alternative "home" for the remaining stick packs and opt for a different dosage form. And if I'm thinking of putting them in the bin, I wonder what the average, less well-informed, time-poor, choice-rich consumer in a recession might do?
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:from the editor
Author:Robinson, Kevin
Publication:Nutraceutical Business & Technology
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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