Food procurement is often one the largest areas of healthcare organizations procurement process. In addition to natural food, supplements are an important piece of the food strategy within healthcare and senior living. Due to supply chain challenges, we have seen disruptions in the availability and cost of supplements that have impacted healthcare providers and consumers. 

As food procurement experts, it is important to stay informed about supply chain disruptions and explore strategies for cost control, including the possibility of creating homemade alternatives.

The Changing Landscape of Food Supplement Procurement

Previously, healthcare food supplements have been developed by two primary manufacturers. As many in healthcare procurement might be aware, one manufacturer has ceased production of a popular nutritional treat supplement, while the other is struggling to pick up raw materials needed to obtain inventory. These disruptions have increased the cost of these supplements for our providers. 

Overall supplement prices have increased 3% in the last 12 months but the cost for nutritional treat alternatives are anywhere from 40-200% more expensive per serving. 

Understanding Food Supplement Categories

To effectively manage costs and explore alternatives, it is important to understand the different supplement categories available. Nutritional treat supplements, known for providing protein and calorie supplementation, have been widely utilized by many providers. However, the recent cost increase and product availability has made it necessary to evaluate other options.

Controlling Costs and Making In-House Alternatives

One cost-saving approach is to make your own supplements.  You can collaborate with broadliners and your menu partners who can often share recipes for fortified foods. These recipes allow you to focus on providing nutrition through food first, rather than relying solely on supplementation.

For example, can you make a nutritious shake or a fortified cereal that can be added to residents’ breakfasts? Homemade options provide an opportunity to tailor the supplements to the specific needs of your residents and potentially reduce costs. However, it is important to consider labor challenges and ensure stable labor within your facilities before implementing these homemade alternatives.

While prioritizing a food-first approach is ideal, certain situations may necessitate the use of more expensive supplements based on physician’s orders or family preferences.

However, there are tools such as temporary order guides on the Direct Supply® DSSI™ OGM® 3  platform available to ensure that expensive supplements are only used when necessary. This allows for easy removal from the order guide once the supply chain stabilizes.

 The Future is Food

Food supplements are a necessary aspect of healthcare food procurement, but balancing their use with a food-first approach is crucial. Staying informed about the supplement market, exploring cost control strategies, and considering homemade alternatives will help healthcare experts better navigate this challenging category within their procurement process. 

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