The Nutraceutical Research and Education Act will be reintroduced in the next session of Congress. If the NREA is passed then manufacturers could promote a direct health benefit claim with ten years of exclusivity in the use of their nutraceutical products. The result would be a shakeup in the nutraceutical industry, leading to more innovation and fewer weaker claims - ultimately a healthier situation for the consumer.

The proposed introduction of the Nutraceutical Research and Education Act (NREA) may fundamentally change the US nutraceutical arena by encouraging stronger innovation investment and discouraging vagueness or exaggerated claims in the market.

The legislation would create an exclusive category within nutraceuticals for products to carry direct health benefit claims when manufacturers back them with clinical research. In addition, the claim would earn a period of exclusivity, potentially ten years, bringing nutraceuticals more in line with the pharmaceutical industry. With this kind of incentive, it is not hard to imagine greater interest from both food and pharmaceutical firms.

Currently, the fast-moving consumer goods industry is characterized by ever-decreasing first mover advantages. Food and drink products are easy to imitate and competitors free ride off the back of one firm's innovation by quickly introducing me-too products. However, in the pharmaceutical industry, innovation investment is protected, and therefore strongly encouraged, through the issuing of patents.

An exclusivity arrangement over marketing claims would work in a similar way to patents and encourage larger per-company investments and thus spur better, more effective innovations. As a result, alliances that merge the clinical research capabilities of pharmaceutical firms with the consumer knowledge and marketing capabilities of food firms would be expected to increase.

However, the result would not be more players in the market, but fewer, larger ones. NREA approved products would win consumers' trust at the expense of those products with spurious or unfocused claims - which has to be good for the consumer.

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