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NSF Certification and Third Party Testing for Supplement Brands

Supplement Manufacturing 101: NSF Certification and Third Party Testing

Is NSF certification and third party testing required to sell supplements? 

You might be surprised the answer is no. While the FDA regulates the supplement industry, their focus is on basic safety and labeling. This leaves manufacturers responsible for guaranteeing their products are accurately labeled and free from contamination.

Unfortunately, mislabeled or contaminated supplements pose a threat to consumer well being. Third-party certifications, like NSF, combat this and build trust in a crowded market. And, with Amazon's new policy mandating third-party testing, certifications have become essential for ecommerce. 

Going beyond the basic requirements is a strategic move that can lead to higher margins and market differentiation. This guide explains NSF certification and other third-party testing, outlining how to get your dietary supplements certified.

NSF Certification and Third Party Testing: What It Means and Why It Matters

NSF certification is the gold standard for supplement brands. 

NSF stands for National Sanitation Foundation. Founded in 1944, this non-profit organization focuses on public health and safety standards. It initially focused on food and water safety, but today NSF is a global leader in testing, inspection, and certification for various industries, including dietary supplements.

NSF stands out because it is the only independent, third-party organization that conducts dietary supplement testing. Rather than relying solely on data provided by manufacturers or evaluating just a single product sample for approval, NSF carries out its own testing in accredited labs. 

NSF also performs annual audits to retest supplements.

Why NSF Certification is Important for Supplement Brands

The dietary supplement market's explosive growth makes the need for certification greater. Buyers have a lot more options when it comes to the supplements they purchase. They are more discerning, too. 

Health conscious consumers — a target market for supplement brands — are suspicious of filler ingredients and additives. They are inclined to spend more of their money on certified supplements rather than unverified alternatives. 

NSF certification gives buyers peace of mind that makes their purchase decision easier in a crowded market. NSF certification can increase supplements sales. The certification also opens doors for supplement companies to sell in larger markets that require third-party testing, including major online retailers like Amazon.


How Supplements Pass NSF Certification 

NSF certifies products against NSF/ANSI 173, the only American National Standard that establishes requirements for the ingredients in dietary and nutritional supplements, according to NSF’s website

There are three main components of the NSF dietary supplements certification program:

  • Label claim review to certify that what’s on the label is in the bottle

  • Toxicology review to certify product formulation (they don’t test for efficacy)

  • Contaminant review to ensure the product contains no undeclared ingredients or unacceptable levels of contaminants

How Supplements Pass NSF Certification 

The Process of Gaining NSF Certification

Getting NSF certification is a thorough and strict process that checks every part of a supplement's production for safety and quality. Here’s the steps a supplement brand would take to get certified: 

  1. Application and Information Submission: Manufacturers must first apply to NSF and submit detailed information about their product, including formulations, ingredients, and manufacturing processes.

  2. Product Evaluation: NSF conducts an extensive evaluation of the product to ensure it meets all stated claims and standards. This includes verifying that the ingredients listed on the label are present in the specified amounts and are free from harmful levels of contaminants.

  3. Facility Inspection: NSF inspectors visit the manufacturing facilities to ensure they comply with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMPs) as established by the FDA. This inspection also verifies that the facilities have the necessary procedures and controls in place to produce consistent and safe supplements.

  4. Testing and Monitoring: Regular product testing is conducted to ensure ongoing compliance with the standards. NSF also performs unannounced plant inspections and product testing to ensure that the products continuously meet the stringent NSF standards.

  5. Certification and Annual Reevaluation: Once a product meets all the requirements, it is certified and can carry the NSF mark. The certified products undergo annual reevaluation, including periodic testing and facility inspections, to maintain their certification status.

man choosing certified organic products

Supplement Third-Party Testing Beyond NSF

NSF is the gold standard, but it’s not the only third party verification that can benefit your brand. Customers will pay more for other certifications, especially for ones that say “organic” or “vegan.” How much more? 

According to the University of Minnesota, Americans pay up to 116% of the market price for an organic product. According to the Vegan Society, 80.7% of vegans in the UK and US are likely or highly likely to pay more for visible vegan certification. 

Here is an overview of popular and profitable third party supplement certifications aside from NFS: 

Comparing Different Third Party Testing Supplement Certifications:

  • NSF Certification: Checks that your supplement is safe and the label is correct. It's mainly about safety and quality.

  • ISO Certification: ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization. This certification looks at your entire company’s operations to make sure everything works well and meets customer needs. It's about ensuring your business operates efficiently and consistently on a global scale.

  • Organic Certification: If you’re saying your product is organic, this certification proves it. It confirms that your ingredients are grown without harmful chemicals.

  • Non-GMO Verification: This tells customers that your supplement doesn't have any genetically modified ingredients. It's all about keeping things natural.

  • Halal and Kosher Certifications: These make sure your products fit with Muslim or Jewish dietary laws. It’s about respecting religious practices.

  • Vegan Certification: Shows that your supplements don't have any animal products. Great for customers who are vegan and care about animal rights.

What Certification is Right for Your Supplement? image by AI

What Certification is Right for Your Supplement? 

When thinking about which certification is right for your supplement, consider who your customers are—whether they're athletes, vegans, or organic enthusiasts—as this will guide your choice. 

Keep in mind the costs, as getting certified isn't cheap. There are application fees, testing costs, inspection fees, and annual fees to keep the certification active. You may also need to spend on consulting and training to meet certain standards, and these costs can add up. 

Starting with the most relevant certification for your target market can help manage these costs better. 

As your supplement brand grows, you can then expand to other certifications that will make your product appealing to a broader audience. An experienced supplement manufacturing partner, like Bevnutra, can guide you through this complicated certification process. 

Supplement Certification Partner 

Ready to stand out in the crowded supplement market? Certifications like NSF show that you’re serious about quality and safety. Reach out to us to learn how you can start the process and leverage your certification for better brand recognition and sales.

Frequently Asked Questions about NSF Certification

How much does NSF certification cost?

NSF certification costs can vary widely depending on the type of product and the complexity of the testing required. Generally, you might expect initial fees, including application, testing, and inspection, to range from a few thousand dollars to much more. There are also annual fees for maintaining the certification.

Is NSF certification worth it?

For many supplement companies, yes. It adds credibility and can open doors to more markets, including major retailers like Amazon that require NSF certifications. It reassures your customers about the safety and quality of your products, which can lead to increased sales. Certification also means greater opportunity to sell supplements to professional athletes, who are mandated to certified supplements. 

What does NSF stand for in testing?

NSF stands for National Sanitation Foundation. It's a key player in public health and safety that tests and certifies products to ensure they meet strict standards for safety and quality.

How long does it take to get NSF certification?

The time it takes to obtain NSF certification can vary, but it generally takes a few months. The process involves thorough testing and inspections of both the product and production facilities. It requires preparation and compliance with NSF standards, which can take time to implement if your current practices need adjustments.


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