Editorial - Thoughts From SupplySide

By Len Monheit
[email protected]

As we readjust to business post-SupplySide, we’ve gathered some thoughts and observations from last week in Las Vegas.

From an enthusiasm and opportunity perspective, 2003 looks promising. At the show itself, pace was brisk, excitement was high, orders were booked on the showfloor and exhibitors and attendees met pre-show objectives. In fact, fate was likely determined prior to the show with proactive communications programs on the part of many industry leaders and indications of their resolve to make 2003 a breakout year. Strong support for education and science indicate companies within the industry recognize that activities for the ‘greater good’ are required if the industry is to grow.

The show featured about 430 companies occupying over 500 booth spaces. Many of the booth occupants were new faces. Almost 20% of booth spaces represented companies outside of North America, supporting the fact that the industry and its issues are truly global. Over 50 booths came from the Far East. Pre-show estimates projected over 5,000 attendees.

My own experience, echoed by many throughout the exhibit hall, was that the floor time was too limited to accomplish all the business objectives. With essentially two five hour show days, the second cut by a mini-reception for the last two hours, many would have appreciated additional show time. That said, first day traffic was steady and high and supported the second, slower day.

From the State of the Industry Update and other presentations, the issues themselves appear unchanged including credibility/negative media, regulatory challenges including activity or inactivity on the part of regulatory bodies such as the FTC and FDA, a difficult economic climate, industry fragmentation, lack of blockbuster products and a few others. Few new concrete proactive steps with solid results were evident, although internal industry communication is increasing.

The NSF hosted pre-show seminar received positive feedback, featuring presentations on Food Safety Security Legislation, Adverse Events and Liability. In the show education programs and VendorWroks sessions, the high level of participation and support of companies such as Cognis and Lonza, and several sessions with a focus on science, education and the theme of nutrition were all positive signs. At the DSEA breakfast Friday morning, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) suggested the industry introduce itself to new members of Congress and Senate in a directed and concerted program, an idea that, if successful, would be both united and proactive, two elements lacking from many recent industry activities.

One theme emerged at several levels of show activities, a perspective voiced by senior industry executives, researchers and regulators. Until there is an attitude supporting a bigger picture, a ‘for the greater good’ approach, this industry will not be mature enough and credible enough to counter the challenges it faces. There is a time for competition and a time for consultation. Not knowing what time it is marks an industry in transition, one that still needs to seriously mature.

A final observation: The term ‘Nutritional’ is appearing more and more in our industry, especially to describe or position ingredients, and the science base supporting them.

This was an upbeat show with many positive and encouraging signs. Underneath the façade are serious issues and concerns, which if not addressed, will destroy the industry. While it is good to see new participants at industry events, it is a reminder that there is little barrier to sector entry or exit. 

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