Chinese companies flex muscles at trade show

Chinese companies flex muscles at trade show

One trend at this year’s Supply Side West show was easy to see—the proliferation and increasing sophistication of Chinese dietary supplement ingredient suppliers coming to our shores to show and to do business.

Chinese suppliers showing at North American trade shows—be it Engredea, co-located with Expo West, Supply Side or the IFT show—is not a new phenomenon.  But until just recently they tended to mostly cluster in an all-Chinese aisle or mini pavilion with common, and not very attractive, booth signage.  It’s not a very inviting presentation, truth be told.

There is a China aisle at the show here, too, with all the drawbacks that entails, such as crude, poorly translated (and sometimes misspelled) banners, stark booths outfitted with just a couple of folding chairs, a paucity of informative handout materials and a shaky command of the English language.  But a large number of Chinese companies have ventured beyond that learning phase and are competing on an equal footing in the show environment with attractive booths staffed by engaging personnel. It’s a display of strength that must give their competitors pause, given the steep learning curve Chinese companies have demonstrated in other industries.  It’s a not-so-well-kept secret in the dietary supplement business that most of the ingredients in products sold on shelves in the US come from China.  Now those suppliers are showing up to flex their muscles in person.

A ripple within this wave is the large number of Chinese companies offering some form of stevia for sale.  Most of the signs I saw just said “stevia” with perhaps the percentages of rebaudosides called out as subsidiary information.  In other words, there was little attempt to distinguish one stevia offering from another, leading to the conclusion that stevia is close to becoming a commodity ingredient.

Another trend my colleague Todd Runestad noted at the show is the large number of companies listing vitamin K2 among their product offerings. This is a welcome trend, as K2 is the more efficacious, albeit more expensive, form of vitamin K.  It seems that word has finally gotten out to consumers, leading enough of them to seek the ingredient out to make it worth while for suppliers to offer it.

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