Innovation is a Key Ingredient in Alumnus’s Nutrition Industry Success
Since launching the southern California-based Nutrition Innovation nearly 20 years ago, Alan Roberts ’02 M.S. has worked with a variety of companies in the food, beverage, and dietary supplement industries and has helped develop myriad new products and ingredients.
April 21, 2022
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
For Alan Roberts ’02 M.S., it was important to him that his career bring together his interest in nutrition and 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 enabled him to do just that, while doing work that he believes is innovative, impactful, and interesting.
A former NCAA Division I athlete at UC Santa Barbara who competed in track and field and in cross country, Roberts began his career at Westar Nutrition Corporation after earning his bachelor’s degree in physiology. Many of his colleagues were pursuing their master’s degrees, and Roberts also became interested in furthering his education in human nutrition.
It was the degree that 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 spoke highly of the program. Roberts, too, decided to continue his education at the University.
As a Charger, Roberts took advantage of a variety of opportunities. He particularly enjoyed the research he did as part of his thesis. Focusing on Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, he explored which supplements could help those suffering from it. This research was particularly meaningful for 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 from my time as a student when I met individuals 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 company. 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, and 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 I had put in a lot of work to earn my degree and that my salary should reflect that,” explains Roberts. “I wanted to put my degree to work. I also want to work with good people and clients who I trust, like, and respect, and who are looking to put out 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, yielding new cannabidiol (CBD) ingredients. The growing popularity, expanding usage, and increasing legalization and decriminalization of cannabis has led to increased interest in demand for ingredients derived from cannabis, 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 great properties. While it’s been around a long time, it is a relatively new ingredient that we are able to work with. You’ll never see another ingredient go from a schedule I drug to a dietary supplement. Because it was schedule I, you couldn’t do a lot of testing on it, but it is promising because it positively affects mood, stress, sleep, and recovery.”
‘Make your business 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 believes there will be technologies that will enable companies to create high-purity protein in vast quantities, and he expects a push for more sustainable and plant-based products. He also believes many current trends, such as the focus on transparency and the clean label movement – ingredients that consumers can pronounce and are familiar with – will continue.
“Sometimes our food can get a little too far out there, so I think going back to clean label is critical,” he explains. “Less processing, if possible, is something people want. Consumers are also looking for products that are good for them but are also indulgent. They want to enjoy a guilty pleasure but also 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. He encourages students to develop a network of colleagues, friends, and confidants they can trust and share ideas with.
“Be open to all opportunities,” he continued. “You never know what’s going to come across your desk. Be passionate about your work. If you can make your business your pleasure, then it doesn’t seem like work.”