Beware Proprietary Blends and What They Aren't Showing You

reading supplement label

Once you decide to take a health or fitness supplement, you need to figure out which product makes the most sense for you to buy. This task may be more difficult than you think. After all, you have lots of choices available no matter what type of supplement you are considering. Most of these products are going to look similar and come with price tags that are nearly the same. Even the ingredient list is going to appear to be nearly identical. That is, unless it's a "proprietary blend." But what is a proprietary blend? Is it as special as the manufacturers try to make it sound? No, it's not. Here's everything you need to know about proprietary blends and why you need to be cautious of these. 

How Do Manufacturers Get You to Choose Their Product?

Getting your attention is not an easy task with so many similar products being sold. Bright colors and large lettering isn't enough. In fact, certain words are often included on product labeling simply to attract consumers. "Proprietary" is one of these words. Manufacturers place this word on their labels along with other words intended to make you believe their product is exceptional. After all, if the formula is proprietary, it must be good for you, right?

What Are Proprietary Blends?

Truthfully, proprietary blends are mysteries. Only the manufacturers know exactly what these products contain. While ingredients are listed, not all of them are shown in percentages or weight. Typically, a blend of this type includes several different minerals, vitamins, or herbs in an undisclosed combination. 

More specifically, proprietary formulas do not list the weight of each one of their ingredients. To put it simply, the amount of each ingredient contained in a proprietary blend remains hidden from the consumer. You can see its name, but you have no way of knowing how much of the ingredient the product contains.

Doesn't the FDA Require Companies to List Ingredients?

The FDA  requires companies to list every ingredient that is contained in a product. The full amount or weight of each ingredient must also be listed. 

One exception to this rule does exist. The label does not need to include the amount of any ingredient that is part of the proprietary blend used to make the product. 

When a proprietary blend is involved, the manufacturer only needs to list the total weight of the blend. The individual weight of the blend's proprietary ingredients does not have to be listed.

Problems and Risks Attached to Proprietary Blends

Unfortunately, it's difficult to determine how effective a proprietary blend is going to be when you don't know exactly how much of the active ingredient it contains. The effectiveness of certain ingredients is determined through clinical trials and scientific studies. During each of these trials or studies, the amount of the active ingredient being evaluated is strictly controlled. 

If you can't match the dosage contained in your supplement with the one used in the clinical trials, you have no real idea what to expect regarding its effectiveness in treating a particular health issue. If you purchase a supplement offering a proprietary formula, you are simply guessing and hoping that it will deliver the desired results. 

Why Do Companies Use Proprietary Blends?

Each company has its own set of reasons for using proprietary blends. Only one of these is totally innocent in nature. A company looking to protect its formula from being copied may do so by using a proprietary blend.

Other reasons for keeping the full details of ingredients hidden include:

  • Promoting the value of a product 
  • Hiding useless ingredients such as fillers
  • Trying to make a product look more valuable than it actually is
  • Creating a cheaper product by using a smaller quantity of active ingredients
  • Selling a less effective product that does not contain a high enough percentage of the active ingredients to achieve any real benefit to keep manufacturing costs lower
  • Trying to encourage sales by making a product look more important than it actually is

Reasons Why You Should Avoid Proprietary Blends

The two most important reasons to avoid proprietary blends are money and results. Not only are you spending more for a supplement that doesn't contain the dosage you need, but you are paying for something that isn't going to deliver the health benefits you are hoping to get.

Many proprietary blends come with expensive price tags that aren't merited by the quality of their formulas. You are getting charged more than the product is worth simply because the manufacturer can get away with it. 

You don't know whether or not the supplement contains enough of the active ingredient to actually do you some good. Your purchasing decision is most likely prompted by the promises of good results found on the label. If the most important ingredients are missing or found in limited quantities in the supplement, you aren't likely to achieve the health benefits you were hoping to get. 


For many consumers, the task of selecting a supplement is an unfamiliar one. As a result, unscrupulous manufacturers can easily sell products containing proprietary blends. If you plan to take a supplement as part of your health and wellness strategy, you may want to avoid proprietary blends. Instead, choose a supplement that actually lists each ingredient and its weight. Doing so can make all the difference in the benefits you achieve.

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