Shelf Life of Powdered Dietary Supplements

by Christine Hronec

A wide range of raw materials are used when it comes to dietary supplements where each ingredient will differ in its sensitivity to temperature, light, and moisture. It is extremely important to have a thorough understanding of what things will affect the shelf life of your products as you introduce them into the marketplace.

Overall, powders will have a longer shelf life than liquid products because they are not subject to remaining dispersed within a liquid phase. Over time, particulates within liquid supplements incur sedimentation where phase separation starts to occur within only 6 months. This is a significant concern as the rate at which these products travel through the supply chain may limit the actual shelf life of the end user.

When considering the shelf life of your brand, the life of the product is typically listed underneath the lot number by your manufacturer. However, it should be acknowledged that there is a difference between a “Best By” and an “Expiration” date. A “best by” date means that the product is guaranteed to be consumable up until the date listed on the container. An“expiration” date means that the products have undergone shelf stability testing and has been analytically proven to no longer be good after that date. This information is quite valuable as it indicates that a product past its “best by” date may still be good for consumption at the consumer’s risk. A good example of this is capsule based products, where although the manufacturer lists a 2 year best by date, there have been studies indicating that the active ingredients in the capsules are stable beyond 10 years. Essentially, manufactures want end consumers to re-order as well as limiting their own liability in term of pushing the outer limits of the best by dates.

In general, all supplements should be stored in a cool, dark place, in a tightly sealed opaque container. When considering the packaging of your brand, it is best to stay away from transparent materials such as PET containers. While the aesthetic of a red PET plastic container (such as the signature packaging of BSN®) is impressive, the shelf life and/or effectiveness of these products is being limited as the powders are susceptible to degradation by UV light. Another concern is any product packaged within a Mylar bag. All Mylar bags are not created equal when it comes to wall thickness and density. Before specifying packaging in a Mylar bag, not only must the bag thickness be determined, but also if the bag is single versus multiple layers. Multiple layered bags are the best (and most expensive) option especially if you intend to transport products overseas.

Finally, the last concern is whether or not desiccant packets are needed. A food grade desiccant is typically made of silicon dioxide spheres within a packet. Desiccant is used to absorb moisture when ingredients that are hydroscopic in nature are used in a supplement. A hydroscopic ingredient is one that tends to bind water to itself therefore causing clumping in the dry powder form. An example of a hydroscopic supplement is L-Arginine AKG. This is commonly found in pre-workout products, and without a proper desiccant, the shelf life of the product is questionable. Using these precautions will only help the success of your brand!

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