Nutrient Innovations Inc

Healthy Athlete

DMAA Replacement in the Diet, Weight Loss and Performance Sectors

By Scott Pounder, President, Nutrient Innovations, Inc. July, 2012

My clients often ask me for my opinion regarding which ingredients should be used in their new formulas.  Most recently I have been faced with the challenge of helping companies replace DMAA, a controversial and recently outlawed ingredient in their weight loss and pre-workout formulas.   DMAA or 1,3 Dimethylamyline, a powerful synthetic stimulant compound that has been said to be found in the Geranium plant is now being banned by the FDA because studies show it is not actually found in nature at all.  This has left a major gap in diet, weight loss, and pre-workout formula sectors as marketers are scrambling to find the next cutting edge trend.  Even though new and unproven trends can be lucrative, there is still something significant to be said for all the other ingredients that have withstood the test of time and government regulation.  Who is to say that the next cutting edge ingredient will last any longer than DMAA, for which marketers are now facing serious implications for having introduced it into commerce without what the FDA considers to be proper NDI notification?  I believe that once the ingredient is removed the FDA will be satisfied without pressing the issue further; however, this is really pure conjecture at this point.  There is no telling what consequences marketers and distributors will face in the coming year and beyond.

For now it is smart to go back to ingredients that were available before DMAA changed the playing field of weight loss and energy supplements, especially in the sports performance sector.  Upon revision of an existing DMAA product with a strong sales track record, it is important to maintain potent efficacy when users are already expecting significant boosts in energy, weight loss, and mood without crashing and other negative after effects.  If these next generation formulas do not stack up to their DMAA predecessor, a new product launch will inevitably be dead in the water.

The main reason DMAA became so popular is because it offers an intense energy boost along with several other benefits at an affordable cost, including improved focus, memory, mood, appetite control and accelerated weight loss.  Other formulators agree.  Damon Armani, a highly experienced research and manufacturing consultant to top selling marketers in the sports nutrition field and President of FiveStar NT makes a key point: \”Another reason why DMAA became so popular is that it has a synergistic effect with caffeine and allows for a more sustained release instead of the usual \”half-life\” which then deteriorates into a crash.  A reformulation should also focus on attenuating the crash versus simply increasing the caffeine dramatically to provide a quick performance boost.\”  Therefore, instead of only increasing the caffeine, the idea is to mimic principles properties of DMAA with several ingredients that are legal and have less of a chance of falling by the wayside.  Such a product should have a longer shelf life in terms of legality and will show greater long term sales if marketed effectively.  Five key ingredients that provide individual properties of DMAA include the following:

N-Methyl Tyramine – companies are using this as a main replacement at the moment

Hordenine – another key ingredient for energy

Yohimbe HCL for powerful energy boost.

Sulbutiamine (a vitamin B1 Analog) for focus/memory/mood

Rhodiola Rosea Extract for mood, stamina, fat oxidation

Evodiamine for increased thermogenesis

Raspberry Ketones for fat incinerating

A proper blend of these ingredients is a powerful combination, especially when used in conjunction with other ingredients that a qualified R&D specialist might consider for use in a weight loss capsule:

Green Tea extract 95% polyphenols/45% EGCG
Oolong Tea Extract
Caffeine Anhydrous
Beta PEA (phenylethylamine)
Zingibar Oficinale (Ginger Extract)
Irvingia Extract (African Mango)
Piperine 95% (Black Pepper Extract)
Guggulipids standardized to Guggulsterones
Green Coffee Bean 50% Chlorogenic Acid
Kelp with iodine
White Kidney Bean Extract

The absence of Coleus Forskohlii, a highly popular thermogenic ingredient is intentionally left out.  Due to a global shortage in supply, prices have increased dramatically, causing this ingredient to be a huge cost driver in any weight loss formula.  Since such a substantial dosage must be used to accomplish any worthwhile effect, there is simply no room for other ingredients to shine.  I recently suggested to one client that they remove the Coleus from their top selling weight loss SKU and replace it with Evodiamine, which offers a better marriage of cost and weight loss benefit.

One might argue that this approach will not work because it is a step backwards to over half a decade ago circa 2005; aside from the Raspberry Ketones, Green Coffee and African Mango, which are widely popular this year due to good press from Dr. Oz, the other ingredients listed have already seen their peak in popularity.  Today’s consumers have already moved on in their search for the next hot ingredient.  My response is to look at other countries like Sweden where regulation is so strict that the use of Synephrine and Caffeine in the same formula is not permitted.  A controversial ingredient like DMAA would never make onto any finished product label.  Despite the limited selection of legal ingredients, supplement sales are booming in Sweden right now.  The fact is consumers will buy into a good marketing story as long as the research is sound and they will make the repeat purchase if the product works.  Additionally, sales are most often relationship based.  Consumers tend to buy brands they know and trust.  If a marketer already built a customer base with a product that contained DMAA, half the battle is won.  With the removal of DMAA, all that is needed is an effective formula and a good explanation why the change has been made.  If this means attending more consumer driven trade shows and visiting more retail stores to directly interact with consumers to enhance these relationships, then it should be done especially if retail is the marketer’s primary distribution channel.

With the additional ingredients listed here, we now have a more robust package than the concentrated formulas that have flourished in recent years, such as the diet and pre-workout offerings from leading brands like USP labs and Cellucor.  If leading brands follow suit to employ a multiple ingredient approach to replace the multi effects of DMAA, finished product costs will increase across the board due to ever increasing raw material prices and the obvious fact that there are simply more ingredients needed to make up for the vacancy left by DMAA.  If profit margins are preserved, this change can actually be met with enthusiasm as opposed to dread.  In many cases, higher prices result in greater net sales.  1000 bottles sold at a retail price of $34.99 is certainly better than 1000 bottles that sold for $29.99 if both are sold at the same profit margin.  In the face of adversity by governmental regulation, marketers and distributors must find growth opportunity instead of discontinuing a popular brand, jumping onto the next potentially limited trend, or resorting to the lowest form of salesmanship – releasing a new inferior product and driving prices down when it is entirely unnecessary.

UPDATE: 10/23/2012

Today I had a conversation with a client who asked me for a recommendation regarding exactly what he should use in place of DMAA in a new pre-workout formula.  After referring him to read this article, I realized I did not specify any direct swapping possibility – i.e. what might be used to replace the DMAA if you only want to change that ingredient.  The top two choices right now are Hordenine and N-Methyl Tyramine.  A combination of these along with Yohimbe HCL, Beta Alanine, Caffeine and Evodiamine will prove to be very powerful.  Formulas with this combination have proven to sell very well in the market over the last few years.  If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected].


Scott Pounder
Nutrient Innovations, Inc.
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