Editorial: Musings from Expo East

We’re back from Boston and the latest industry event, Expo East, held at the BostonConvention Center last week. This was the second such event in Boston, and there’s no denying that the floor was noticeably smaller compared to a year ago. Couple the economy with some geographical and other challenges and many people expected a lot worse than they got. You see, a funny thing happened on the way to the show…

This is a unique industry. Its native energy and passion, not to mention the number of bubbling and boiling issues that people just love to talk about (at times 10 people seem to have 11 opinions) ensures that there is always more than a ‘usual’ sense of interest. By usual, I mean that this show, Expo East, blows away almost all shows in other , more‘usual’ industries.

This time I did make the show floor on a few occasions, enough to satisfy myself that some of the theories I came in with had at least some basis in reality.

· With a few big players absent, the attention on small and mid-tier was increased.

· In this budget conscious environment, with fewer people travelling, those that do are smarter and better prepared. They’re asking better questions, they’re actively participating in education and translating to the exhibitor side, visitors can engage exhibitors in meaningful dialogue.

Speaking of education, our Global Supply Portfolio, supported by Sabinsa Corporation as Education Track Sponsor, had a huge role to play in some highly provocative discussions and presentations upstairs at the convention center. Some of these sessions, including ‘Are you Smarter than a Regulator’ and Dr. Elizabeth’s Sloan’s: Quintessential Trends: Antioxidants, Weight Management and Healthy Aging were absolutely jammed. In fact, a few of the seminars included a line-up of post-presentation questioners that seemed to include everyone in attendance.

Dr. Sloan, in a tee-up for the 2010 Nutracon which features all three of her subject areas, trotted out reams of data in making key points such as:

· In the world of antioxidants, technical terms such as flavanoids and carotenoids are gaining consumer awareness

· If you’re operating in the supplements market, given an aging demographic, consider a condition specific approach to marketing antioxidants

· The term ‘phytochemicals’ has arrived

· The concept of bioavailabliity is on the radar

Considering weight management, Dr. Sloan offered:

· Body composition is starting to ‘spark’

· The concepts of energy and stress are intrinsically related – especially when one considers compliance

· A combination approach with weight management products (ie. Targets) has merit

On anti-aging, according to Sloan:

  • It’s about staying strong and healthy
  • Skin health demographics are surprisingly young
  • And don’t dismiss periodontal health when considering aging.

A take home message from both this presentation and from discussions on and off the show floor, is that there are numerous new products (and players) on the horizon.

Your Suppliers Can Kill You

A subject of one of my recent blogs, the behavior one finds all too often in the ingredient world is a subject of deep concern. Please don’t get me wrong – there are great suppliers with amazing QC programs that straddle the world. The other end of the spectrum exists too, and manufacturers fall victim much too frequently, knowingly or not. One presumes that some of this gets ‘cleaned up’ with increased enforcement action, but I’m more than a little dismayed.

As we built the curriculum for Supply Education at Expo East, we decided to tackle this issue head on. One of the sessions involved a discussion of SIDI (Standardized Information on Dietary Ingredients), with presentations including a raw material perspective (Kyowa Hakko), a manufacturer perspective (Nutramax Laboratories), some information on the proposed Standardized Information system presented by one of the supporting organizations (CRN, AHPA, NPA and CHPA are all involved), and concluding with Dr. Vasilios Frankos, Director, Division of Dietary Supplement Programs for the US FDA.

A couple of resonating trends emerged in this session:

  • Suppliers and manufacturers agree on what constitutes good information and quality
  • If you don’t have documented evidence of supplier qualification, you cannot use the C of A.
  • It is ‘expected’ that you can show you have met the supplier
  • It is ‘expected’ that you have the results of an onsite audit, whether your own or third-party
  • The water source must be ‘qualified’
  • The QC department must identify complaints that are GMP related and ‘qualified personnel’ must investigate by tracing this back up the chain.

Some of the notes made by Dr. Frankos included noting that a company needs ‘corrective actions for deficiencies’. Considering that inspectors are ‘doubting souls’, there will be deficiencies, anything else is unrealistic. In concluding, he noted that if a product is scarce and hard to collect and suddenly it’s at half price, there’s going to be an issue.

Despite the late hour (end of day) a good crowd attended.

The next morning began with what could be termed a follow up session, entitled literally, ‘Your Suppliers Can Kill You’. In the session, Marc Ullman from the law firm of Ullman, Shapiro, Ullman LLP outlined four recent examples of exactly that. The session played of the manufacturing experience of Sabinsa Corporation, as presented by company President, Jim Cudahy. Perhaps due to the nature of the title, (or the earlier hour), this presentation was better attended.

The focus on this subject, as noted earlier was deliberate. We were extremely fortunate to have the educational support to put on this program.

No show is legitimate unless it has ‘other’ room activity. And this show was no exception. As I write this, in just a few hours, in a hearing called by Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA), “The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs will explore the availability of banned substances — including those developed for BALCO — at health food stores in a hearing this afternoon. “. The USA Today article notes the upcoming testimony of USADA (US Anti-doping Agency) head Travis Tygart, as well as that of interim Natural Products Association Executive Director and CEO Dan Fabricant. The outcome of the hearing, and the tone it takes, will have significant impact on industry credibility, and also the on availability of potential partners that industry will need in order to prove it is mature and responsible, especially with its extremely vulnerable and suspect supply chain..

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.