Exhibitors and attendees at the fifth SupplyExpo held in March at the Anaheim Convention Center praised the high-quality traffic, the useful scientific, NPD, regulatory and marketing seminars they found there; as well as the unique proposition afforded by the co-location with Natural Products Expo West and Nutracon
SupplyExpo and Natural Products Expo West, the world's largest natural, organic and healthy-products trade show, posted 10 per cent growth in overall attendance this year, with more than 47,000 attendees and 3,162 exhibits at the co-located events. SupplyExpo exhibitors say visits to and from food, beverage, supplements and cosmetics manufacturers located in the adjacent Natural Products Expo West halls opened up business potential, with many reporting deals inked during the show.
US, Japanese, Chinese, Scandinavian and other international suppliers of fruit extracts, omega-3s and organic ingredients as well as refined mineral, vitamin and others such as Vitamin K and the carotenoid astaxanthin, all reported healthy trade and interest in their ingredients.
"It's been a great show for us," says Eric Anderson, brand manager at New Jersey-based supplier PL Thomas. "We've had great traffic, particularly from food companies who have been showing a significant interest in our ingredients. The quality of marketing and R&D people here is second to none. SupplyExpo is unmissable if you are a serious ingredients supplier."
Kenn Israel of California contract supplements manufacturer Robinson Pharma, agrees. "We have done some tremendous deals as a result of exhibiting here," he says.
"We've seen all our key customers," says Karen Todd, New York-based director of marketing at Kyowa US. "This is one of the only shows where you can see both ingredients suppliers and product manufacturers."
The SupplyExpo education programme was also highly rated with seminar capacity running at 86 per cent, and overall seminar attendees, including keynote events, up 14 per cent over last year.
"We are going to have to move some seminars to bigger rooms or halls in 2008," says program manager, Susan Fecko. "We have literally had to turn some people away from seminars this year, which is obviously not ideal, but encouraging all the same."
Mike Roberts, the director of SupplyExpo and publisher of the show's official publication, Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals, says Expo exceeded all expectations. "It's been a huge success from the quality of the exhibitors and seminars to the networking events and show-floor innovations such as the Applications Café where attendees sampled vendor ingredients in real foods and beverages and the NPICenter Business Information and Technology Exchange, which offered presentations and networking events."
He says SupplyExpo deepened its reach by developing partnerships with like-minded organisations such as the Southern Californian Institute of Food Technologists and the United Natural Products Alliance in Utah.
"The bottom line, of course, is business," Roberts adds, "and business has been done here. We are encouraged by the industry's support of this event and will continue with further innovations to meet the needs of the business community that values the complete supply-chain proposition we offer at Expo."
Nutracon makes an impression
This year's high-value Nutracon programme attracted a capacity crowd with cutting-edge presentations ranging from nanotechnology to product development and research strategies, market drivers and all things regulatory.
Greater industry input meant a more refined agenda to stimulate the international assembly of product developers, R&D scientists, formulators, brand managers and executives in attendance at the DSM-sponsored, two-day event held at the Marriott Hotel in conjunction with SupplyExpo and Natural Products Expo West.
"This year's programme was the best I have experienced in the years I have been coming to Nutracon," says Saul Katz, president and CEO of Canadian functional-foods innovator Solo GI Nutrition. "The range of speakers was excellent and I'm taking away a bunch of new ideas and information from ingredient development to marketing strategies that can only help our company grow. The networking events were great, too. Nutracon is one of the first dates written in my diary every year."
Nutracon was kicked off by industry veteran Dr David Hughes, a food marketing professor at Imperial College in London and expert on the global food industry. While pointing out that obesity had been an issue long before the current crisis, with editorials appearing in the New York Times as long ago as 1974, he noted that, "we're going to see a five-to-eight year dash to health and wellness."
Hughes highlighted PepsiCo as one of many examples of big food companies that had committed to a health-and-wellness agenda by reducing its 'fun-for-you' (PepsiCo-speak for 'bad-for-you') products and expanding its 'good-for-you' offerings. Nestlé also had committed itself to being a respected nutrition-and-wellness company, as far back as 2001, he said.
Consumers are concerned about how food is produced. For ingredients suppliers this translates into the ways they are sourcing and producing their ingredients. Food miles, fair trade and environmental issues are all gaining huge significance. "We're going to have to look back down the supply chain to see how a food product is produced," said Hughes. "This trend is retailer driven - so suppliers are going to have to figure out how to accommodate it."
As the probiotics market in the US is starting to gain momentum, Julian Mellentin, co-director of the UK-based Centre for Food and Health Studies and editor-in-chief of New Nutrition Business analysed this growing market. He noted that digestive health is the most successful functional-foods category in the global market. Globally, consumers have more in common than differences, he said, pointing out that the two biggest players, Yakult and Danone, both market their products using the same fundamental strategy everywhere.
But he warned that patience and marketing investment is required for brands to succeed. By way of example, Danone's Actimel (DanActiv in the US) has taken seven years to turn a profit, he said.
A nanotechnology session was chaired by the Burdock Group's George Burdock, PhD, who predicted that it would take five years before the controversial technology takes off. "The first consumer benefits are likely to be in drugs, if absorption and distribution problems can be overcome," he said. Charles Brain, president of Ingredients Innovations International (3i) highlighted some of the current applications including several vitamins, co-Q10, soy lecithin and fish oils. "Nanotechnology can improve bioavailability of ingredients like co-Q10 seven fold and vitamins E and D up to nine times. It can slow down oxidation, extend shelf life and make fragrances last longer," he said.
Day two of Nutracon, coproduced by United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), and chaired by UNPA executive director, Loren Israelsen, emphasized the importance of ingredient selection; protection of intellectual property; and the need for better, thoughtfully designed research that is able to answer questions useful in the marketplace.
California physician and alternative-medicine veteran, Dr Julian Whitaker, founder of the Whitaker Wellness Institute, said in his keynote speech that the supplements industry must be more pro-active in promoting itself if it is to fulfill its ability to offer an alternative to the pharmaceutical industry. "The future will be determined by how effectively we inform the public of the value of our products," he said.
Jim Tonkin, of Arizona-based Tonkin Consulting, chaired an expert panel discussion on steps needed to successfully take a product to market — from R&D through to the branding — that provoked a colourful referendum on whether food giants were squeezing out start-ups and entrepreneurs or providing an incentive to innovation. "Know your market, your competition and your competitor attributes," suggested marketing guru Jeff Hilton, head of Utah-based IMG Branding.