Editorial: Musings from Expo

I’ve now had a bit of a chance to regroup after Expo, and hope you have as well. An intense five days (considering Nutracon and Expo combined) has been followed by a week of retrospective, follow up dialogue, and perspective sharing, allowing me to download a few lingering thoughts from the week in Anaheim.

Industry was waiting

No one can doubt that industry was waiting to celebrate itself and its opportunities and that’s exactly what happened. Industry legends were out in full force, the buzz was enormous, products were being introduced at every corner, and determination and commitment were everywhere.

Some Takeaways

While I can’t speak for everyone, this year was actually even more difficult than previous years to take everything in. I personally never made it very far into Halls D and E, took in only small parts of the education program, and even in Nutracon itself, found myself, like others in serious conflict over which of the three concurrent tracks to actively participate in. This led me to some tough decisions and probably fewer takeaways than in previous years. Maybe though, I’ve got a few of them right….

In tough times, the smart get educated.

Right from the commencement of Nutracon, it was apparent that we were facing an engaged audience. Enthusiasm for Nutracon, the week’s educational conference, was at its highest levels in recent years, and with a great faculty, attendees came away quite fulfilled. Education at SupplyExpo and expo West was also jammed, suggesting that retailers and manufacturers were also learning new products, new science, and especially, how to succeed and differentiate in challenging times. The more that retailers can offer to increasingly curious and perhaps stressed consumers, the better the chance they can use the exchange to develop a deeper, more consultative relationship and challenge the de-personalization and lack of control that exists increasingly in most aspects of our lives.

Slamming the slimming…

This year’s Nutracon featured five ingredient companies pitching the state of their science for weight management (loss), back to back to back in the first edition of ingredient ‘Slim-Slam’. Presenting companies included Sabinsa (Forslean), Nutrition 21 (Chromax®), Lipid Nutrition (Clarinol), AHD International (LuraLean®) and InterHealth Nutraceuticals (Super Citrimax®) and in the allotted 15 minute time slot, all presenters did a wonderful job of elaborating the current state of their science amidst the pressure of peers (and competitors) in the audience. In all, it was a tough crowd - and a tall order. Some of my personal conclusions from the presentation were that industry is seriously challenged to present any product as good for long term weight loss, although pretty much all presenting companies were able to pitch potential solutions for weight management, largely through modification of either behavior or body composition, or both. The association between mood and behavior and dieting/weight management is currently being studied extensively (also presented by Professor Benvenuto Cestaro of the University of Milan opening Day two’s Weight management track, and certainly reinforced by Baylor College’s John Foreyt in the track’s closing session.)

In their critiques of the Slim-slam session, attendees noted a general deficiency in long term human studies supporting weight loss specifically, observing that in a multi-billion dollar market, you would think that someone would be investing in long-term human clinicals for weight loss. Alterations in body composition seemed generally well supported, but data specific to weight loss was scarce and long term data scarcer.

GMPs interesting, but not many interested…..

During SupplyExpo and Expo West, several of the sessions dealt with dietary supplement GMPs, including an ‘ABC’s of’ session with industry experts, and then a chance to hear right from the FDA itself as Brad Williams of that agency was available for his take and to respond to audience questions on GMP implementation. Mr. Williams, among his other responsibilities, is one of those responsible for training GMP inspectors on how to conduct dietary supplement inspections, so one could presume that his take might be indicative of things to really watch out for once inspectors were on site, and perhaps be the basis for some last month cramming for those supplement companies who are in the mid-size range, as their June GMP compliance date draws near.

While the discussion was productive and helpful, one might have expected more attendees. Sure, there was a lot going on, but what could be more important for supplement companies than their state of compliance, and with only a few months left, some free, FDA-led consulting should have been a slam dunk. Perhaps most disturbing though was the fact that the level of questions indicated inadequate preparation on the part of many of those in the audience in order to make the June compliance deadline. One can only hope that those who didn’t attend know more…..

On that very subject, be sure to check out UNPA’s upcoming seminar May 28 ‘Mock FDA GMP Inspection for Dietary Supplements’.

One last thought: Overheard at Expo - “ Ingredient companies are a huge part of the problems relating to GMP compliance. Companies can and will fail through their choice of suppliers….” Stay tuned for more on this subject in upcoming months.
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