Imagine that you’re casually strolling the aisles of a local big box store. Unlike all the other times you’ve visited though, you notice hundreds of too-good-to-be-true marketing claims: beauty products promise to erase 20 years of wrinkles in 10 minutes; household cleaners claim to eliminate bacteria for years, with just one application; automotive goods will turn your Buick into a Ferrari.
Not only this, but you find that prices have increased sharply. The eyeshadow you bought last week is now $70, while your regular laundry detergent will set you back more than $100. Car battery? You might need to take out a second mortgage.
Can you imagine if this was reality? If companies of all stripes were basically allowed to make any claims they pleased, without being required to back them up? And they could then charge any price they wanted?
If you’re in the market for a nutritional supplement, you’re assured to encounter scams, lies, deceit, & downright treachery.
In a situation like this, how could you discern which products were legitimate, and which ones were bunk? What information could you use to choose only those that offered a solid value?
While this thankfully isn’t the case when we’re shopping for everyday products, the reality is that if you’re in the market for a nutritional supplement, you’re assured to encounter scams, lies, deceit, and downright treachery.
So, if you’re thinking about buying one, how can you stay safe (and sane!), ensure that you’re getting a safe, quality product; and deal only with companies that have their customers’ best interests in mind? That’s exactly what we’ll reveal in this article.
Why Write an Article About Supplements Companies?
Being honest, we don’t exactly hold the supplements industry in high regard. Why is that? Well, all the dirty details are largely outside the scope of this article, but the fact of the matter is a) this market segment is almost wholly unregulated by the government, and b) nearly all manufacturers exploit this lax oversight to the nth degree.
This is why the industry has a terrible—and well-deserved—reputation with customers and consumer advocacy organizations like HighYa. For an in-depth look at the topsy-turvy, inside-out world of supplements, be sure to read our Nutritional Supplements Buyer’s Guide.
Given this, we were pleasantly surprised by the recent emergence of AlternaScript, the company behind OptiMind and a soon-to-be-released probiotic named NuCulture. Originally, our knee-jerk reaction was to lump them in with all the other supplements manufacturers, but after talking with them on numerous occasions—and even meeting them in person—we’re convinced that they’re the real deal.
But this got us thinking: If our initial impulse was to dismiss AlternaScript, how can the average consumer decide which supplements companies are legit? To help us get some insider knowledge that can help you become a professional shopper, we interviewed AlternaScript’s CEO Lucas Siegel. Here’s what we learned:
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It Ain’t Easy Being Authentic
The first thing you should understand is that, according to Lucas, it’s much easier for a supplements company to make money using cheap ingredients, overhyped claims, overinflated prices, sneaky autoship programs, and terrible customer service, than it is using ethical business practices. After all, most of these companies aren’t interested in repeat customers or their online reputation.
It’s much easier for a supplements company to make money using cheap ingredients, overhyped claims, overinflated prices, sneaky autoship programs, & terrible customer service.
Approaching things differently, Lucas calls his mission a “complete uphill battle,” and that it’s an “unfair fight” when going up against these fraudsters. In fact, Lucas admits that he never fully understood how corrupt the supplements industry is before entering it, although it’s led him to develop unique strategies to thrive in an environment where no one else is playing fairly.
“To survive in an industry where many players are cheating, you have to be incredibly thoughtful,” he tells us. What did he do to accomplish this?
Customer Service Is Key
Again, we won’t go into much detail here, but suffice it to say that purposely poor customer service is the linchpin in most supplements companies’ business models. This way, when customers call to cancel trials or request refunds, their goal is to frustrate them to the point of throwing in the towel—while hanging on to customers’ hard-earned money.
Recognizing this fact, Lucas spent millions of dollars building an in-house fulfillment center, as well as a robust service department, all to ensure AlternaScript’s customers could quickly receive their orders and have their questions answered or problems solved.
How does all this relate to you? Perhaps more than any other tip we’ll cover here, one of the fastest and easiest ways to learn how much a supplements company values their customers—without making a purchase—is by calling their service department. Are they friendly? Do they respond well to questions? Are they able to provide more information than what’s on their website?
If not (or, if they don’t include a phone number at all), this could be your first red flag that the company’s simply taking the path of least resistance to earn their money, and isn’t interested in providing a positive customer experience.
Billing Shouldn’t Be Bullying
Another way that AlternaScript is looking to shake up the supplements industry is by offering truly free trials. Why is this such a big deal?
While poor customer service keeps customers locked in a frustrating battle with underhanded companies, free trials are what often get consumers in the door to begin with. It might be difficult to resist that $4.95 initial price, but these companies purposely don’t disclose that you’ll be billed some exorbitant price after a couple weeks, while being locked into unwanted recurring shipments.
Truly Free Trials Are a Rare Thing
Instead, Lucas says that he’s only interested in “giving people the tools they need to be the best” (more about this next), which means offering a truly free trial. Literally, customers pay nothing to get 10 capsules of OptiMind.
This doesn’t come cheap, though. Lucas tells us that he’s spent over $2,000,000 during the last 1.5 years giving away free stuff, and his goal is to give away more than $100 million over the next few years. He admits that “most CEOs think I’m nuts,” but his logic is this: Right now, his goal is to build his brand, not necessarily to make money.
After a lot of hard work though, he’s confident that consumers will recognize, “Hey, there’s someone in the supplements industry that’s legit” and AlternaScript’s reputation will spread. Because of this model, they’ve certainly caught our eye!
Is There Such a Thing as a Legit Autoship Program?
Yes, AlternaScript does enroll customers in an autoship program once their trial ends; but the problem isn’t necessarily the recurring shipments, it’s the difficulty that most customers experience canceling these programs with other companies. As we outlined in the previous section though, AlternaScript makes canceling super easy by reaching out to their customer service team via phone and email, or directly through the customer’s account.
Legitimate supplements companies won’t fool you into paying high prices after their trial ends.
The point is that legitimate supplements companies won’t fool you into paying high prices after their trial ends, nor will they strong arm you into continuously paying for a product you don’t want.
Before you buy, read the fine print and browse the terms and conditions to see if a supplements company utilizes any of these tactics. If they do, in our opinion, you should stay away.
Make Incredible Products
In addition to stellar customer service and upfront billing, Lucas notes that making “incredible products” is his third stepping stone for standing out in the supplements industry.
Here’s how he frames it: On one side of the coin, you have Big Pharma, which helps diseased populations and whose products are subject to rigorous governmental oversight. On the other, you have the supplements industry, which has largely built itself upon a foundation of “voodoo science” and unsubstantiated claims. As such, most customers are understandably distrustful.
With AlternaScript though, Lucas is on a mission to find a middle ground; to take a consumer-oriented health approach, but backed with the scientific substance and transparency that customers crave, so they can make more informed decisions. He wants to be “the health company that people can trust,” and he recognizes that the “only way to do this is to make incredible products.”
Follow Where the Evidence Leads
According to Lucas, one of the defining factors of an “incredible” supplement ingredient is clinical support. “If studies don’t exist, then it’s not worth the cost,” he states.
In our experience, a good supplements company will link to clinical support for their claims directly from their website, although it’s important to remember that not all clinical proof is created equal. Lucas also feels it’s important for a company to include a supplement label on their website, and for their dosages to match what’s found in the studies.
To this extent, Lucas tells us that he tries to use proprietary, third-party ingredients as much as possible, since they typically feature the correct dosages and necessary clinical backing. As an example of this, he says that OptiMind features a brand of bacopa known as Synapsa, which includes 55% bacosides (the clinically validated level of active ingredient). On the other hand, most other companies use a much less expensive form of bacopa with only 20% bacosides, which almost certainly won’t deliver the same level of results.
However, Lucas notes that a supplement’s ingredients will be listed in order of volume and dosage, so if you find a patented ingredient at the end, it’s probably just “sprinkled in,” and isn’t enough to substantiate the price.
Better Ingredients Cost More
Lucas emphasizes that if you’re a nutraceutical company and you’re not investing in scientifically substantiated ingredients, what’s the point? However, the reality is that using these ingredients costs more—in some instances a whole lot more.
As an example, he mentions that the Synpasa discussed above costs a whopping 700% more than the bacopa most competitors are using. Lucas tempers this advice by outlining that, while price isn’t always a deciding factor, it’s often the case that consumers will pay more for quality ingredients (remember this, because we’ll come back around to it soon).
In short, go with companies that care about science, although it’ll probably cost you more. If this is something you’re putting in your body, why wouldn’t you demand the best, most effective ingredients?
Wrapping Up: Lucas’ Top Tips for Weeding Through the Hype
In the end, AlternaScript CEO Lucas Siegel is on a mission to disrupt the industry and right a lot of the wrongs perpetrated by less-than-stellar supplements companies. He wants to “build a brand known for supplements that actually work,” make people healthy, and show consumers that there is an ethical way of doing business.
However, Lucas emphasizes that it’s important to understand all the little nuances when discerning between a legitimate company and one who’s only out to steal your money. Taking everything together—including what we’ve already discussed—here are his top tips for using nuance to avoid scammy supplements companies:
Can Their Claims Leap Buildings In a Single Bound?
As we’ve mentioned countless times in other articles and product reviews, Lucas mentions that if a company’s claims sound too good to be true, they probably are. While this isn’t groundbreaking information, it persists because it’s almost universally true.
If a supplement claims to help you lose 20 pounds in a week without diet or exercise you can all but guarantee that they’re anything but “miraculous.”
So, if a supplement claims to help you lose 20 pounds in a week without diet or exercise, or to regrow your hair tomorrow, you can all but guarantee that they’re anything but “miraculous.”
Seek Out Online Feedback
Lucas thinks that consumer advocacy websites like HighYa are great resources (and we agree!). Why? Because bad news spreads quickly, so if you’re thinking about purchasing a supplement, search for online third-party reviews before pressing the order button.
Amazon’s admittedly had some difficulty with fake reviews in the past, so Lucas recommends not putting too much stock in them. However, we think that as long as you know how to identify fake reviews, we’ve found that Amazon feedback can potentially provide some solid consumer insight.
Remember, though: If you’re ever in doubt, picking up the phone and calling customer service can be an easy way of experiencing the company firsthand, without paying a dime.
Free Trials Should Be… You Know.. Free
Lucas says that customers shouldn’t trust companies that “don’t put their money where their mouth is and don’t let you try their product for free.” After all, everyone has a different biology, so customers should be able to make sure a supplement works before having to buy it.
So, while there are hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of companies that offer trials, if you have to pay anything upfront, or you have to pay an ultra-high price as soon as it ends, he recommends that you’ll likely want to stay away.
Price Is a Factor, but It’s Not Everything
Speaking of nuances, Lucas passes along that, while quality ingredients do cost more and increase a supplement’s price tag, a supplement isn’t necessarily good just because it’s expensive. As we outlined at the beginning, some supplements can exceed $100, but provide little reason to believe that they’re the real deal.
To this extent, Lucas recommends being wary of supplements that are especially cheap or expensive. And even if a supplement seems to be priced appropriately, you should always take the time to make sure their ingredients are clinically validated (see above for exactly how to go about this).
What Does the Future Hold for AlternaScript (& You)?
Based on our many discussions with Lucas, we think AlternaScript it definitely on the right track, and is set to become a “lighthouse” among the choppy seas most consumers sail when dealing with the supplements industry. We’re thrilled to finally encounter a legitimate, quality-oriented company in this space, and we’re eager to share their story.
In the future, Lucas plans to further establish AlternaScript as a well-rounded brand by releasing additional products within the line. Their next product will be NuCulture, which—true to form—will only contain proprietary strains of clinically proven probiotics.
Not only this, but Lucas also wants to continue creating these supplements in such a way that the end consumer can try them for free, while remaining wholly transparent.
But whether you’re thinking about buying from AlternaScript or another supplements manufacturer, the good news is that you now have the information you need to seek out—and buy from—only legitimate companies that have your best interests in mind.
Based on your experience, is there anything you’ve found that can help others shop for supplements smarter? Add your voice to the conversation by leaving feedback below!