Editorial: Home Again With A Few Reflections...

By Len Monheit

Interacting with the markets in Japan and then Hong Kong (Hong Kong really involved representation from at least 15 countries around the world – not only Asia) has reinforced my long held belief (expressed in this column oh so many times) that the business that ignores global forces does so at its peril.

Speaking at an event in Tokyo, both immediately following I was barraged with both questions and serious misconceptions about the US supplement GMPs. In a ‘long-winded’ rather deep and broad presentation, I discussed the current regulatory environment as one of four topic areas, with the US being one of several markets covered. It was only with a rather assertive twist that I was able to discontinue the regulatory dialogue and move on to other issues. Then again, when discussing global economic forces, many of which are becoming almost second nature to our North American based industry, again I was forced to dig deep into the analysis in front of an obviously interested audience. You see, the Japanese market, once perceived to be the most developed functional products environment in the world and certainly perceived to be in a leadership position in healthy lifestyle belief and practice globally, has been in serious decline in both supplements and functional foods and is only in 2009 expected to arrest the decline. While this means several things, significantly, it means that Japanese companies are more eagerly and aggressively considering what it will take to successfully compete in North America and Europe, in a similar fashion to the positioning that we are seeing today out of India. And in these days of hyper-communication, what is perhaps most intriguing is the amount of miscommunication and misunderstanding which is set to exist in both regulatory and business environments. Whether deliberate or not US organizations seem to be misdirecting foreign companies regarding GMP compliance issues in the US, perhaps underscoring their own critical ignorance of the regulations and impact. The same can be said regarding the hunger for Asian participants at Expo Asia to learn about all foreign markets and regulatory developments, and just the critical mass of companies attempting the leap into new continents, despite critical regulatory uncertainties and the misinformation frequently being delivered..

In another area though, we are hearing increasing dialogue about food miles, and the cost of transportation is certainly set to impact more than business travel and behaviors, meaning trade impact is inevitable.

I’m going to close for this week, not because I’m out of stuff to say, but because my own miles in recent weeks have started to catch up. Next up, some thoughts about IFT in this same context.

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