Editorial: 2003 - The Good, the Bad... and the Rest

By Len Monheit
[email protected]

As we leave 2003 behind us, it’s a good time to reflect back on the past twelve months and the highlights (and lowlights). This also provides us an opportunity to come out fighting in 2004 since many of the battles fought in 2003 were mere salvoes in a much broader conflict that will face us head on in the New Year.

What follows is not a complete recap or analysis of the year, its just some of the significant or defining moments the industry experienced in the past twelve months. Let’s roll back the clock…

General Observations

Several highly credible and high profile studies were published, in addition to reviews and meta-analysis that were less favorable about specific products or entire categories.

Media negativity and criticism reached new highs, triggered by strong associations between dietary supplements, weight loss products – and ephedra.

‘Low carb’ and ‘trans fat free’ became the approaches of choice in product introductions.

Legislative pressure was felt in North America and in Australia and New Zealand. Canada finalized its new regulations for natural health products set to launch in January 2004, while debate raged on Capitol Hill will several pieces of legislation tabled which would dramatically affect the industry including Senator Durbin’s S. 722. and the Bill to fund FDA (S. 1538) to implement DSHEA. FDA finally presented its proposed GMP’s and received significant response from industry trade associations and companies at most levels of the industry value chain.

Industry trade associations were active and in some cases proactive in their attempts to present a responsible maturing industry. There was also increased evidence of the industry trade associations working together.

Several successful executive level conferences and summits were held over the year, suggesting that top level networking and peer discussions are important for industry decision makers.

Month by Month

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

What Next?

The outlook for 2004 is far from clear. Education appears to be a key word circulating among many industry leaders as their critical objective, whether we’re talking about legislators in Washington, use of qualified health claims on food products to educate consumers, in store retailer programs or a shifting burden for category development and education to ingredient suppliers.

As many of the industry guru’s have stated, the days of the blockbuster product driving industry growth are over. Steady, responsible, strategic growth is typically more sustainable anyway.

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