With so many counterfeit nutritional supplements available, it has become more challenging for brands to gain consumers’ trust with legitimate supplements containing safe, quality ingredients. So, the question is this: do you know how to spot fake supplements?


Here are the essentials to give you an idea of the scope of the problem and how you can safeguard your brand from counterfeiters.


Overview of the food supplements market

According to Forbes Business Insights, the dietary supplement market alone was worth $48.22 billion in 2019, an impressive figure by any measure. But how much will the market grow in the near future? Forbes’ analysis projects the market to be worth $117.92 billion or more by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 9.8 percent from 2020 to 2027.


Clearly, there is a profound opportunity if brands can protect their products from counterfeits that will take advantage of your company’s success. Still, there’s a danger lurking amid such a lucrative business opportunity as the market for supplements, such as vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients grow.


Since it’s not feasible for food and beverage companies to report on the actual number of counterfeits in circulation, it’s also difficult to pinpoint a monetary figure on the cost of counterfeits. So, how did it get to this point? How are counterfeiters able to trick the general public so readily? The answers may relate to market fragmentation and a distributed international supply chain.


Market fragmentation

The market for supplements like diet pills and health-boosting powders is undoubtedly growing. Yet, it is fragmented and loosely regulated as well, which is actually a significant part of the problem. Companies can sell supplements to a broad market in the US without first gaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration. By law, these products need to clearly state that the claims have not been evaluated, but many don’t. And that is the issue at hand in the US.


A distributed global supply chain for crucial supplement ingredients like acids, fats, and proteins may also play a significant part in market fragmentation. It is a relatively simple process to buy fraudulent supplement ingredients online and make fake products accordingly; the hard part is pulling off the scam for as long as possible without being caught.


Ultimately, you will pay the price when fake supplements bearing your labels spread throughout the market – and you begin to lose revenue substantially since consumers will erroneously correlate your company with poorly made nutritional products. Besides, the detrimental impact of counterfeiting isn’t equal across the world, and that’s what makes stopping it more difficult, even when companies know that they are taking losses.


Countries with the most prominent food supplements counterfeiting problems

Not so long ago, the top five countries with the most prevalent counterfeiting problems included places like:

  • United States of America
  • France
  • Italy
  • Switzerland
  • Germany

Those regions are most affected, so the next question is this: where do these fake health products come from in the first place?


Countries where counterfeit food supplements are produced

Ironically, the United States is the country where the highest number of fake supplements originate, which gives much-needed perspective on the nature of the problem. On the other hand, the places suspected of producing the most fraudulent supplement ingredients include countries, such as:

  • China
  • India
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore


Although the nature of counterfeiting makes it incredibly difficult to pin down numbers, the worst counterfeiters do not openly discuss their methods and techniques to evade the authorities, and they have a significant financial incentive to keep their modus operandi secret as well.


Generally, these countries produce the largest amount of supplement ingredients, so it follows that most counterfeiting originates there. For example, the vast majority of mass-produced vitamins come from manufacturing facilities in China.


Either way, the result is that fraudsters in the US and even the EU can purchase cheap, poorly made supplement ingredients online and buy them in bulk. The next step is to find a quality, legitimate product and mimic the labeling before selling it online to unsuspecting consumers who think they are buying natural health and nutrition supplements.


Counterfeit food supplements

Having said that, you might be curious about the type of counterfeit food supplements that are already in circulation. Indeed, the field is wide when it comes to identifying potential fake dietary supplements.


Types of supplements

The main culprits for fake supplements cover a wide range of products, including:

  • Pills, gels, and tablets
  • Powders
  • Pre-made beverages
  • Gummies
  • Snack bars


But the more significant problem is the sheer amount of poorly made, unsafe precursor ingredients manufactured in parts of the world with loose or non-existent public health and safety regulations.


Scam artists often cut corners during the manufacturing process, sell impure ingredients, use adulterated precursors, or blatantly misrepresent their products (e.g., vitamin-C sold as vitamin-D). What makes it even worse is that they have many avenues to fool consumers too.


Where are fake supplements sold to the general public?

While the internet has been a boon for e-commerce, it’s also introduced an avenue for scam artists to make fake supplements and sell them in massive volumes online. It could be anything from a phony affiliate marketing site or a direct “special offer” via spam.


Yet, the bigger problem for the supplements industry at large is that counterfeit items are making it onto store shelves, and unwitting consumers are buying them every day.


How to spot fake supplements and protect your brand from counterfeiters

When consumers believe that they are buying a genuine product but purchase a counterfeit instead, your brand takes the blame even though it’s technically not your fault. The problem is that consumers who buy the fraudulent items won’t know who to trust or whether your product is actually legitimate.


So, to significantly lower the risk, we can provide the technology and support services you need to identify counterfeit supplements with two of our most versatile solutions: AlpVision Fingerprint and Cryptoglyph.


AlpVision Fingerprint – Physical Products Protection

One way to thwart would-be scam artists is to develop systems to identify fraudulent items at the product level. AlpVision Fingerprint provides precisely this capability since the technology tracks all objects manufactured through standard fabrication techniques, such as molding, rolling, and stamping.


The software captures an image of the product throughout its lifecycle and compares each subsequent image to the previous photos. If the system detects any change, you’ll receive an alert through a software app.


Cryptoglyph – Packaging and Label Protection

AlpVision’s patented Cryptoglyph technology is an invisible, digital anti-counterfeiting solution that works well for packaging and labeling protection. The technology itself involves imprinting thousands of microscopic holes in the varnish layer or solid colors on the packaging, all unbeknownst to counterfeiters.


Among many other benefits, our Cryptoglyph technology can help you scale up safeguards as demand for nutritional supplements keeps rising, and production needs to keep pace.


Altogether, both safeguards – Cryptoglyph and AlpVision Fingerprint – protect brands from severe damage when counterfeiters cannot ply their trade successfully. The main challenge is choosing which solutions work best for your company’s needs, which is why you need a trusted, reliable partner like us to show you where opportunities exist.


Are you interested in learning more about how to identify fake supplements to protect your brand?


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