Innovation is a key ingredient in the success of the graduate nutrition industry
Since launching Southern California-based Nutrition Innovation nearly 20 years ago, Alan Roberts ’02 MS has worked with various companies in the food, beverage and supplement industries and helped develop a myriad of new products and ingredients.
April 21, 2022
For Alan Roberts ’02 MS, it was important to him that his career combine his interest in nutrition with his undergraduate degree in physiology. He also wanted to apply his master’s degree in human nutrition. His work as the founder of a nutrition company has allowed him to do just that, while doing work that he finds innovative, impactful and interesting.
A former NCAA Division I athlete at UC Santa Barbara who competed in track and cross country, Roberts began his career with Westar Nutrition Corporation after earning his bachelor’s degree in physiology. Many of his colleagues were pursuing their master’s degree, and Roberts also became interested in furthering his education in human nutrition.
It was the degree his boss had earned, in particular, that caught his attention. Roberts saw his degree from the University of New Haven on the wall, and his boss praised the program. Roberts also decided to continue his studies at the University.
As a loader, Roberts took advantage of a variety of opportunities. He particularly appreciated the research he did for his thesis. Focusing on Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, he explored which supplements could help those who suffer from it. This research was particularly meaningful to Roberts, as he had a loved one who suffered from the disease.
“Being a student was great,” he said. “It was challenging and I liked the variety of instructors. I got a job as a student when I met people who worked for Herbalife International.
“I’m passionate about it”
A few years after earning his master’s degree and gaining more work experience, Roberts began to think about starting his own business. In addition to co-founding Instone, LLC, a sports nutrition company owned by actor Sylvester Stallone, Roberts founded Nutrition Innovation, Inc.
Based in Southern California, where Roberts currently lives, Nutrition Innovation’s services include product research and development, marketing and regulatory, distribution, co-packing and manufacturing support. The company serves clients in the food, beverage, supplement and cannabis industries, from large established companies to startups.
“I felt like I had worked hard to get my degree and my salary should reflect that,” says Roberts. “I wanted to put my degree to good use. I also want to work with good people and customers who I trust, like and respect, and who are looking to release a good product.
The company has helped introduce a variety of new ingredients, including an organic mushroom product to improve athletic performance. Eager to foster innovation, Roberts began exploring opportunities in the growing cannabis industry, producing new cannabidiol (CBD) ingredients. The growing popularity, expansion of use, and increasing legalization and decriminalization of cannabis has led to increased interest in the demand for cannabis-derived ingredients, including CBD, and Roberts has embraced the trend.
“CBD is close to home in that I’m passionate about it,” he said. “It has a lot of good properties. Although it has been around for a long time, it is a relatively new ingredient that we can work with. You will never see another ingredient change from an ancillary drug to a dietary supplement. Because it was Schedule I, you couldn’t do a lot of testing on it, but it’s promising because it positively affects mood, stress, sleep, and recovery.
‘Make your job your pleasure’
In addition to developing new products, Roberts focuses on current industry trends, closely following what consumers are looking for in their products. He thinks there will be technologies that will allow companies to create high-purity protein in large quantities, and he expects a push towards more sustainable, plant-based products. He also thinks that many current trends, such as the emphasis on transparency and the clean label movement — ingredients that consumers can pronounce and are familiar with — will continue.
“Sometimes our foods can go a little overboard, so I think getting back to clean labeling is key,” he explains. “Less processing, if possible, is something people want. Consumers are also looking for products that are good for them but also tasty. They want to enjoy a guilty pleasure but also want to feel good about eating it.
Roberts has shared his expertise with current students at the University, speaking to student-athletes about sports nutrition and optimizing their recovery. He also recently shared his story with students virtually, offering his advice and discussing his work. It encourages students to develop a network of colleagues, friends and confidants whom they can trust and with whom they can share ideas.
“Be open to all opportunities,” he continued. “You never know what will land on your desk. Be passionate about your work. If you can make your job a pleasure, then it doesn’t look like work. »