Editorial: HIE Paris - Perspectives

The current editorial is being scrawled as I sit back and enjoy a cross-country trip between Strasbourg and Paris, returning from a weekend sojourn to Alsace after last week’s Health Ingredients show in Paris. While I’d like to say that I consumed ample resveratrol and other phytonutrients, since Alsace is best known for its white wines, my nutrient consumption may not have been extreme, but the enjoyment factor more than made up for it.

And now back at it…

Heading into this past week’s HI event, I indicated that there were several areas of interest my queries were initially going to pursue. These included nutricosmetics prospects, fallout or feelings regarding the economy, a third-party US election perspective, and the commitment of companies in the hazy current claims environment.

Let’s start however with a new observation – was HIE a food or supplement event? Opinions on this subject differed somewhat, mostly governed by history and experience. For those ‘in the know’, while FI (Food Ingredients Europe) was originally intended to be the traditional food ingredients expo, HI had the opportunity to transcend traditional food and provide a focus for the supplement ingredient sector. Two factors however have complicated the scenario – first, VitaFoods has become a signature food supplements event, while even in mainstream food, there has been a similar push to healthier as what we see in north America, hence HI appears to have evolved as a healthy ingredients event with much of its focus on food applications rather than supplements. Absent in large part from the floor were the contract manufacturing entities present in significant numbers at VitaFoods, although service companies were in evidence and a few manufacturing operations were there.

On the subject of nutricosmetics, maybe it was the absence of a critical mass of supplement companies that made it difficult for me to specifically find companies exclusively targeting this arena. Sure, several companies would comment on how their products had applications, but as far as my dialogue with them was concerned, it was in a product portfolio approach rather than as a core target area.

As far as the economy is concerned, many had opinions, and similarly to current North American practice, European organizations appear to be watching with concern, tightening operations, solidifying value chain relationships, extending lines under rare circumstances and if possible, holding off new product launches or capital investment. This last aspect is further complicated by the investment many primary suppliers are currently making as they continue to deal with EFSA, preparing and filing dossiers to support health claims, and in fact, skewing research initiatives that would ideally attract better marketing positioning into pure claim substantiation. Dollars that would be going to marketing and communications, in many cases, are currently going directly into compliance. Several companies remarked with chagrin that they had excellent current clinical trial results recently released, but had not yet had the time to disseminate them to the marketplace, as they were immediately fed into the dossier process. Almost all of the companies I spoke with have, they said, maintained their commitment to the claim substantiation process, but more than a few evidenced frustration at the current rate of success – or lack thereof.

On the new product/innovation side, I was struck by new probiotic applications and technology, evolution and differentiation in phospholipids and protein technology, a couple prebiotic product introductions, and the significant presence of the world’s big dairy companies seeking value-add presence in this growing marketplace. Conversations with Arla, Fonterra and others served to illustrate that the dairy side holds much promise for new product introduction as well as product evolution. In fact, the show’s top award winner, TensGard™ from DSM, is a dairy peptide intended to help control blood pressure. On the technology side, Merlion Pharma impressed as a lead discovery tool, but also for its fingerprinting technology as a potential QC tool. Stay tuned for more in this interesting application which may have benefits for manufacturers using fingerprinting to qualify impurity profiles.

From a market analysis standpoint, I was told that currently finished product companies are asking for and expecting the ingredient community to ‘differentiate by adding value’ Peter Wennstrom, HealthFocus Europe). I was also told that ingredients mean little but that health conditions and benefits are the key to successful communications, hence the obvious focus of EU-interested companies in the health claims process.

In conclusion, I can only say that it was quite interesting to be in the EU when such a monumental election was happening in the US. I was amazed at the amount of knowledge of issues and level of opinion that just about everyone had. I don’t think that anyone was unaware of Election Day itself, and even conversation among Europeans themselves often went directly to this topic. While there may be concern about trade barriers, one comment seemed to be essentially echoed by all, or certainly most that I spoke with: “You have not been the only ones hoping for change.”

Oh, and if you were there looking for us and didn’t see us at NPIcenter and Functional Ingredients magazine, we were in the back corner opposite a fire hose and emergency exit. From our perspective, show traffic was weak, especially the final day. The location in Paris also left a lot to be desired, making it impractical to travel anywhere easily. However, as with any event, it is what you make of it, and so our travels of the show floor cemented old relationships and developed new ones - so- mission accomplished, and thus ends the 2008 show calendar for many of us.

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