By Len Monheit
For anyone who says that what’s happening external to a national marketplace has no bearing or impact on their business environment, I say think again.
Case 1: One of the outcomes of the current pet food quality issue involves raw material handling and quality control, especially for international suppliers. Already, the overlap into food manufacturing has been noted, (although the different regulatory environment for pet products has also been noted). At least one AP article has connected the issue to broad concerns over FDA’s inability to police international suppliers, and with a significant portion of industry’s raw material coming from abroad, and the perspective that the industry is predominantly unregulated, it’s only a matter of time before a provocative journalist establishes a connection between supplement quality woes, danger, and supply chain challenges.
Another international factor which looms over the supply environment is the increasing movement towards support of sustainability practices. Ultimately, this means a benefit to those companies with close monitoring of harvesting practices, but this also is an international issue with an impact on both the supply and demand sides of the equation. In addition to supply and demand, both labor and fuel charges have the potential to impact raw material prices and hence landed costs.
While some might argue that the items listed above are relatively obvious, as I was traveling last week in Japan, several more became quite clear. Obviously international markets closely watch trends and patterns from the United States, both to determine future product introduction opportunities, but also to better anticipate trends in their home markets. In addition, health condition targets and demographic issues are often in the spotlight for comparative purposes. We’re also seeing evidence of international research collaboration, whether it’s to extend the applicable population, or just to make use of research expertise in centers of excellence around the world. Work by the US Council of Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and IADSA on safe upper intake levels of several vitamins and specialty ingredients and imminent work on amino acids, is affecting and will impact the international community guiding the use of these supplements.
Finally, market stability and regulatory policy development have international connections. This was clearly evident at the IADSA (International Alliance of Dietary (Food) Supplement Associations) regulatory workshop held in Yokohama, Japan last week. Anyone who thinks that EU claims legislation is being developed in a vacuum, or that the regulatory challenges of Health Canada’s NHPD are not being monitored by those charged with developing new or improving existing regulations is being quite naïve. Similarly, one can suppose that the now-imminent US GMPs (or the guidelines with which they will be administered) have been revised with a view to developments external to the US, and will also be very closely monitored from a few standpoints, by countries such as China and South Africa and regions such as ASEAN, now developing a harmonized approach to supplement regulation.
From sourcing to product development, research to regulation, we live in a global community upon which we superimpose regional or national perspectives. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking supplement, functional food or natural health product, if we don’t gaze outward from our national market from time to time, we’ll find ourselves blind-sided by a complete manageable set of circumstances.