We’re committed to high-quality ingredients that deliver nutrients in their best forms. But what exactly does that mean? You might be wondering: how does Ritual define quality ingredients? What are the processes used to find them?
Here to answer a few commonly asked questions is our Vice President of Research & Development, Dr. Luke Bucci.
Let’s start by getting the lay of the land. What are the key practices that mark a good supplier?
Very few supplement companies actually mine, grow, harvest, synthesize, ferment, extract, purify, test and produce their own ingredients. Instead, most supplement companies buy their ingredients from suppliers around the world and then mix them together into products. That means the suppliers are largely responsible for creating a safe, high-quality product. The minimum requirements for a quality ingredient are identity, purity, potency and safety: the ingredient has to be what it says it is, in the purity it says it is, in a useable form that is within regulations for microbial contamination and heavy metals.
Those are the governmental agencies’ minimum requirements for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for ingredients. But the best suppliers are those that deliver documentation that meets the requirements you want, with a history of honesty, integrity and fulfillment.
You’ve been in the industry for a long time. How has your approach to sourcing ingredients changed, between other supplement companies where you’ve worked previously and now?
Previously, the cost of an ingredient or formula was the primary factor. Companies had to adhere to price limits imposed by the marketplace or internal needs. That usually meant we made some compromises or even sacrifices that still yielded an effective product (we almost never used the lowest bidder), but we weren’t making a product that was as clean or powerful as I knew it could be. For Ritual’s products, these constraints didn’t exist, so I could focus on finding branded ingredients that were exactly what we wanted: the best for our bodies and health. Our stringent requirements narrowed the field to a select few suppliers that shared our approach and values—making for beautiful, functional partnerships.
How does Ritual define quality ingredients? If you could describe the Ritual stamp-of-approval, what would it be?
Ritual has more stringent requirements than many other dietary supplement companies, and we execute these in a number of ways.
Our ingredients have transparency. We always ask our suppliers for flowcharts on exactly how their product was made, and we always make sure our suppliers have technical personnel available to answer questions and provide the information we request.
We use the same molecular forms of nutrients that are found in our cells and healthy foods. This is not the norm for vitamins and minerals. The B vitamin Folate is an excellent example. You’ll often see Folic Acid (a manufactured form) in supplements instead of methyltetrahydrofolate (the natural, most active form). This can be problematic, as up to 40% of women have suboptimal activities of the enzymes necessary to utilize inactive Folic Acid to activated Folate forms like methyltetrahydrofolate. Ritual doesn’t use Folic Acid; instead, we chose to use the cell identical form, 6S-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate (MTHF).*
We always use vegan-friendly, non-animal ingredients. We use organically-grown ingredients when applicable (there’s a long story behind why not everything can be organic), and we avoid ingredients derived from genetically engineered (GMO) plants/animals.
We rigorously test for identity, purity, strength, and composition, so we can be sure that what’s on the label is what’s in the capsules. We also use a third party lab to test each batch, twice, for heavy metals, microbes, allergens, and other contaminants, ensuring they are below levels deemed safe by the FDA’s current Good Manufacturing Process.*
We prefer branded ingredients because of the attention to detail that’s been given to them. This means more agreements and sometimes licensing. And we need to know the supplier will be around for a long time so we can get what we want when we want. We also define quality as trust, built from a relationship with each supplier.
Once you’ve identified your suppliers, how do the ingredients make their way into the vitamin?
Our manufacturers order the ingredients we have chosen and specify, according to our formulation. Once the ingredients reach our manufacturers, they are tested to ensure identity, purity, potency and safety, all with strict limits that need to be passed to move ahead with production. Only then do our manufacturers begin to combine the ingredients-—turning the solids into our beadlets (in Essential for Women) or inner capsules (in Essential Prenatal), and the liquids into our oil. The final step is putting it all into our capsules.
Is there a final quality control once it’s all mixed and ready to go?
We send out our just-finished products to be independently tested a second time to make sure all of our requirements have been met. We do not release our products until all testing has been completed and passed our criteria.
As consumers, what should we be looking for on a label?
First of all, look for a way to contact the supplement company for questions or complaints. Next, look for an expiration or “best used by” date. There should also be a lot number or unique identifier somewhere on the bottle or packaging. Look at “other ingredients” (the fine print) and be wary of artificial ingredients, which could potentially mean the company is using less expensive methods or ingredients to make the products.
Along those same lines, if we want to research an ingredient, what are the most important benchmarks?
Know the terminology. Precision counts. Be very, very careful about web searches—many sites are more visible because they want to sell you something. Instead of relying on hearsay, be sure to check out the real scientific literature. Google Scholar is a great way to search for that, and PubMed archives a large number of credible studies. Dig deep enough to see a consensus or identify good points or problem areas. Even these fine resources are not the ultimate authority—they miss a lot of salient info, and even have their own biases that miss the big picture. Once you’ve done your homework, you can ask a company an informed question about their position.
We understand that process isn’t easy, and that’s why we’ve spent time making sure you can use our website to see our ingredient forms, dosages, supplier information, and the content we’ve created to explain them all. We've already read and interpreted a lot of science, and our own conclusions are thoroughly fact-based and objective; we want to show our work and let you be the (informed) judge.