Event Review: Health Strategy Network North America

Name of Event: Health Strategy Network North America

Annual: Yes
Date: February 20-22, 2003.
Location: Blue Mountain Resort, north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Estimated or confirmed attendance: 45

Business Case Discussions and Networking:

General overview of event:
Hosted by Health Strategy Consulting, and sponsored by Euromonitor, DSM, BASF, IMAGINutrition and NPIcenter, the two plus day conference was organized as the first of an international series to discuss and analyze industry business cases.

An interactive two day event with participants discussing four business case studies with relevance to small to large companies and covering both dietary supplements and functional food categories.

Ingredients and finished product strategy were considered.

An intimate atmosphere prevailed with feedback and discussion points provided by participants. The Nestle and Snapple case studies centered around marketing strategy, Nurture, as a raw material supplier, had its own issues to navigate such as ingredient branding, health claims issues, technological and formulation advantages and IP. In the Natrol case, a mature company was trying to reach the next growth level in a flat business environment. Elliott Balbert was seeking to change a company with entrepreneurial spirit into a more mature scaleable enterprise with new businesses and new business concepts. The discussion focused on his challenges and analyzed the decisions.

Attendee feedback:
General feedback was very positive and that the format was unique to the industry. Numerous attendees suggested other cases they’d like to see in future events, the value was exceptionally high (under $700 USD, all inclusive), the networking was of good value with people in the same room and table who might never have been in contact before. The range of issues was broad and the outcome of the functional food marketplace a key discussion point. The validity of business decision making strategies was questioned, both in the Nestle and Snapple cases, and for smaller companies, the potential fallibility of these organizations was interesting to note. Also the high focus on US conditions and cases could be broadened with more international issues.

Most attendees are eager for future events, whether it’s the upcoming Australian stop in the series, or next year’s North American conference.

There were comments received about the relevancy of the business cases. For example, the Nestle LC-1 launch disaster was a while ago, and was a big organization venturing into what was obviously for them, a relatively unknown marketplace. The Cadbury Shweppes / Snapple case, while current, is a marketing positioning issue that may not be totally relevant to supplement or ingredient companies. In this case, having actual product to evaluate, along with indications of strategy and market positioning, led to a lively discussion.

Most agreed however that the discussions and feedback were thought provoking and valuable to business decision makers whatever their business situation.

Key contacts directly responding to attendee feedback:
Nestlé USA
Steve Allen, Vice-President, New Business Development

Natrol, Inc.
Elliott Balbert, President & CEO

Nurture, Inc.
Griff Parker, President & CEO
Phone: (610) 989-0945
Fax: (610) 989-0991
E-mail: [email protected]

Conference Layout:
World-class facilities at Blue Mountain Resort north of Toronto, Canada provided the backdrop including food, fun, and accommodations. Many of the attendees took advantage of the skiing, snow-boarding and tubing opportunities.

The formal event began with networking and an opening dinner and keynote address by Michael Heasman, co-author of ‘the Functional Foods Revolution: Healthy People, Healthy Profits?’ and in the near future, ‘Food Wars: the Global Battle for Minds, Mouths and Markets’.

Two cases Friday and two on Saturday constituted the bulk of the formal schedule, however breakfast, lunch, dinner and entertainment provided ample discussion and networking opportunity.

Attendees were provided the cases and discussion materials in advance, and each case analysis, facilitated by host Tom Clough of Health Strategy Consulting, began with an examination of case issues and factors, comments and discussion from the floor and concluded with comments from the case subjects themselves, with the exception of Snapple, who was not represented at the conference, although feedback to the group is expected.

Improvements suggested:
Some attendees suggested other business cases they’d like to review. Others suggested they’d like cases more directly relevant to dietary supplements. Observations were made that the feedback was gentle on the companies presenting, and could have been perhaps bolder and more critical. Q and A at end of each case may have been an idea, or even breakout sessions for specific discussions and issues.

Conference Organizer’s comments:
Pleased with response and results. Participants could have been even more outspoken and critical in case analyses. A successful launch to the conference series.

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