CHPA Chat - Introducing CHPA's New Leader in Dietary Supplements, Duffy MacKay

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Episode Summary

From the wild west to mainstream products, listen to how the dietary supplements industry continues to mature from the perspective of Duffy MacKay, CHPA's Senior Vice President of Dietary Supplements. Find out what's next for the industry in this episode of CHPA Chat!



Episode Transcript

Anita Brikman: From the wild west to mainstream products, listen to how the dietary supplements industry continues to mature from the perspective of CHPA's newest leader in this space. It's time for CHPA Chat. 

Speaker 2: Welcome to CHPA Chat, conversations in the consumer healthcare industry with Anita Brikman. 

Anita Brikman: Hello everyone, thanks for joining us. Today we are focused on dietary supplements. They are becoming a very big deal to a lot more people, to our manufacturers, and of course, to CHPA as well. And speaking of such, we have a new leader in the halls of the CHPA offices. He's our Senior Vice President of Dietary Supplements, Duffy MacKay. He started last October and has hit the ground running, directing dietary supplements strategy, and collaborating with stakeholders on ways to protect and grow this important consumer health category on behalf of CHPA membership. In addition to being a doctor of naturopathic medicine, Duffy is a highly respected industry leader with extensive experience in nutrition research, as well as dietary supplement regulation and policy. He's taking a break from his very important job of heading CHPA's cross functional dietary supplements team to speak with me on CHPA Chat.  

All right, Duffy, who are you? Our listeners want to know. 

Duffy MacKay: Well, Anita, thank you very much for that gracious introduction. As you have already mentioned, I am here to promote and advocate for dietary supplements at CHPA, and it's something I've done for quite a few years first as a physician with my patients trying to help them integrate these valuable tools into their wellness regimen and use things like multivitamins and fiber and fish oil as a way to stay well and have optimal health, which is of course, so important to us. And then I moved my career. I started to work with actual companies and working with them to formulate, doing scientific research, kind of behind the scenes, and that's where I really got exposed to the ever-emerging sort of policy side of supplements, where supplements sit in this interesting place between drugs, so both over the counter and prescription drugs, and food. 

Food is really the foundation of health. What we eat is what makes us healthy, but as we know, despite our best intentions, even the most educated dietician has trouble consuming all of the nutritional needs for optimal health. This has been documented several times, including in the dietary guidelines so the role of dietary supplements in helping people optimize health is so critical. And so in the evolution of my career from working with individuals to then working with companies, I got an opportunity to get into this Washington DC based policy arena, which is so critical because it sets the framework for what we're allowed to do in the future, and we have all sorts of issues that have emerged. Something as simple as CBD, and it raises all these questions of what's an appropriate dietary supplement, and I think that it needs educated people with a lot of exposure to all different sectors to help make these decisions. 

Anita Brikman: And you actually joined us from a CBD company. You were previously in the association world, went to industry specifically working in CBD, and are now back in Washington, DC. What has that journey been like, and what do you take away from it? 

Duffy MacKay: Well, interesting if you go back in time, when I was about 10 years into the trade association world when CBD really came into the sphere, when it started to be part of the policy discussions. And I quickly recognized what a unique ingredient it was, not only was it coming out of being a controlled substance with the 2018 farm bill that became a legal agricultural commodity, but then enter FDA, and we had all these issues that many people had never really thought about before, things like the IND preclusion. And I know that's regulatory wonk stuff, but for those who follow the issue, it's a big deal and only a few of us really looked at that. 

But then we had this entire emerging industry that was being sort of hamstrung by the FDA policies, and it was really fascinating because you had the power of consumer interest. I mean, CBD being on the front page of every magazine for probably 12 months in a row. Star power like Martha Stewart coming into it. But what wasn't present in CBD was people knowledgeable of how to make safe, high quality, dietary supplements, and that's where I thought I fit in. I got into that industry but I recognized after two and a half years, it was a bit too soon because FDA is still trying to figure out how it can embrace these new ingredients. 

And so I was able to participate in trade associations from the member perspective, being a senior executive at a company, a member of four trade associations, really reliant on them to create a pathway for my organization to be successful and really an exciting place to be. And then I bumped into Scott Melville at an industry event. And I started talking to him about what his priorities were for CHPA. I was not aware of how much runway you guys have opened up for supplements and the fact that they were looking for leadership in that place. And that conversation at that event just got me thinking about what I like to do, where I feel like I can have an impact, and that's what had me call Scott back and say, "Here's my resume." 

Anita Brikman: Well, we're certainly glad you did, but when you said what you like to do and what's ahead, even when I first met with you, Duffy, you showed me your roadmap for what your strategy would be to continue where CHPA has already begun in this road to becoming a credible, leading association in shaping the policy and regulations around dietary supplements so consumers can feel absolutely confident in what they're choosing and using in the supplement space. So tell me a little bit about your roadmap of what's ahead. 

Duffy MacKay: Absolutely, and this is so important and so timely because we just learned that about 80% of them Americans are using dietary supplements, so this is a very mainstream product. Rewind 15 years, it was a smaller community to embrace their dietary supplements. It was the health food community. It was a fringe thing. But over the past 20 years since DSHEA has passed, it's really moved in the mainstream. And so now most households are looking at these products as part of their day to day health. 

And what do they expect? And this is where my strategic priorities come in. I learned it from talking to thousands of people that said, "Hey, you're the supplement guy. Let me tell you what I care about." And the first thing they care about, especially if you're giving vitamins minerals, herbs, fish, to your children, product safety. We have several initiatives at CHPA that have been going on for a long time, and what I said, "Let's put those all in one bucket about product safety, and let's make sure that we always have a workflow where we are advancing product safety so consumers have to never think about that if it has a label on it says dietary supplement with the supplement facts panel, it's been appropriately pre-screened to be safe." 

The next area I think is really important is product integrity, knowing that what is on the label is exactly what's inside the bottle. Nothing more, no environmental contaminants that you don't want to take part in, and that's product integrity. We address that through good manufacturing practices. We address that through sourcing and supply chain integrity, and the industry has work to do in those areas. We have to work with FDA because this is a shared goal to have really high quality products that you can trust that have exactly what they say. So product integrity will always be a priority of CHPA. 

And the last one is transparency. We want an industry that's transparent. We want people to know how we make our products. We want them to know that the ingredients are legal, and so there's a variety of things that we can do to improve that space. For example, one of them people are talking about is a product listing, working with FDA so that all companies would have to put in the information that says, "This is what I sell." Right now FDA does not have an idea of who is out there in the market and what ingredients they're selling until there's a safety issue. And we need to fix that because that's an unfair disadvantage for the organization that is responsible for keeping our consumers safe. 

Anita Brikman: How do we fix that? Product listing is one thing to do what else can be done to strengthen regulation of the category and therefore, engender even greater consumer confidence. 

Duffy MacKay: Yeah, and it's somewhere...It's strengthening regulation, but at the same time it's getting the right balance between consumer access, product safety, and transparency. And so things like the product listing are small steps in the right direction. There's a lot of things the industry can do on a voluntary level. FDA inspects our facilities. FDA comes in and makes sure we're compliant with the manufacturing standards in their...It's called good manufacturing practices. But FDA is under resource so they don't get into every facility every year, so the best practices is most responsible companies have what we call a third party come in and do the same inspection to ensure the organization is compliant with the manufacturing standards. 

And so retailers have really embraced this. They like the idea that third parties are going in and consumers like this too, but what's taking place is the third parties have become a cottage industry and they all have their different standards to allow you to pass, and so we have this patchwork of standards out there and our manufacturers are really burdened by it. We have retailers who will say, "We only accept an inspection by firm A." And then retailer B will say, "We only accept inspections by firm C." And so as a manufacturer, once you have ten retailers who require their own GMP inspection, you have ten inspections, that's an inspection a month, and call that audit tourism, where you're hosting a different inspector every month, you have to shut down production. It's a real mess. So what we really need is one standard that everyone can meet and all retailers can be rest assured product integrity has been met, and we're working on that. 

Anita Brikman: And I'm sure your CHPA members are so happy to hear that. What else do you see on the horizon as far as growth for this category? 

Duffy MacKay: To prevent an illness, but recognizing that this is an important component and, and that sort of validation during COVID, I think is going to open people's mind to, "I'm aging and I'm going into that area where my mom started to go into cognitive decline. Are there things I can do to preserve my cognitive function?" And lo and behold, there are. There are nutrients that we miss out in as we get older. Our diets are not the best as we get into our seventies and eighties. We tend to have habits that are hard to change. 

I mean, in practice, when I was a naturopathic doctor, you get a 75 year old patient, they have a certain diet, and the solution is for them to change their diet. That's a heavy lift to get a 75 year old to relearn how to shop, to relearn how to cook, to relearn what's healthy. So a lot of times you really have to use supplements as a tool to get them there, and I think that the growth opportunities are going to be in condition specific areas. People who have the right scientific horsepower to develop products in areas like cognitive decline. Improving sleep, people are struggling with sleeping. Stress and anxiety. These are areas where if you can get products with good clinical evidence, great success. 

Anita Brikman: All right, so now we're going to get a little personal here. What do you do to live optimally when it comes to your diet, exercise? What's the Duffy secret? 

Duffy MacKay: I'm a moderation person so the foundational stuff are very important for me. Eating a healthy diet as close to whole foods as possible. I travel a lot, that is not always possible. Sleep is critical. Always looking at sleep hygiene, getting enough rest. Exercise for me, I love it. I'm a total exercise freak, I'm up everyday exercising, but I'm not a big fan of conventional exercise, the gym or running. I will do it if I have to, so I try to surf as much as possible. I can do it for hours and hours and hours, and I never get tired. It feels great. 

And I cycle, I ride my bicycle. My previous role here in DC, I lived in Bethesda and I rode my bike to work every single day and it kept me sane. And I take my vitamins. I add extra fiber. I don't eat enough fiber. I've done the math before so I have to use a fiber supplement. I don't eat enough cold water fatty fish, so I take a fish oil supplement, and then a multivitamin just as insurance policy. And then of course, if I get sick or if I misbehave, I might add some other vitamins in there just to compensate. 

Anita Brikman: When you misbehave. That's great, Duffy. Now I don't quite see you surfing on the Potomac at this point, but hopefully we will see you about town riding your bike and really being out there and enjoying the sights and sounds of DC now that you are joining us again. 

Duffy MacKay: Of course, of course. And also, those little electric scooters they have all over DC. Those are a lot of fun too. 

Anita Brikman: Those are a lot of fun. A couple of them have almost taken me out on an occasion on a DC sidewalk, but all kidding aside, we are thrilled to have you at CHPA and look ahead toward a very exciting future. It is exciting, isn't it? 

Duffy MacKay: Oh, it's so exciting. I like to see this industry as sort of a child and so in 1994, when DSHEA was passed, it was born. And then you have this sort of fledgling period with health food stores and these kind of remote companies, it's sort of a childish environment, playful. And then we got into the adolescence and we started to see some rebellion, some misbehavior, we got the bad actors in the play. We got people that were doing unscrupulous things. And now we're at that phase where we need to be a parent and we need stronger regulations, we need rules of the road so that the industry can mature and become a young adult, and then eventually a professional. And we are emerging towards that professional stage where we are science based, we are appropriately regulated, and we're fully transparent. And when we get there, we will be a 100% mainstream product that consumers will rely on without question. 

Anita Brikman: Duffy MacKay, thank you for joining me on this episode of CHPA Chat. 

Speaker 2: Thank you for joining us here at CHPA Chat. For more information, and to hear our entire catalog of shows, please visit


Duffy MacKay Headshot
Senior Vice President, Dietary Supplements

The views expressed in this podcast are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

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