SupplyExpo/Nutracon review: GMPs and quality dominate the discussion

Some 52,000 retailers, manufacturers and industry professionals attended Expo West after Nutracon.In case you missed it, this year's Nutracon Conference attracted the health and nutrition industry's senior-level innovators, brand managers and professionals interested in sharpening their understanding of the impact of 'next generation' ingredients, emerging markets and regulatory constraints. The hot topic was GMPs.

After the conference, more than 52,000 retailers, manufacturers and industry professionals perused 3,392 exhibits at the Anaheim Convention Center in California, comprising the nation's largest natural, organic and healthy-products trade show, Natural Products Expo West/SupplyExpo 2008 ( The event is produced by New Hope Natural Media, a division of Penton Media.

What they said…
GMP compliance — Are you ready? With a looming June deadline underfoot for companies with 500 or more employees on the payroll, Good Manufacturing Compliance rules are pending. Marc Ullman, of Ullman, Shapiro, Ullman, and Joseph Betz, PhD, from the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, warned of coming actions by the FDA. The word on the street is that the FDA is conducting intensive training of inspectors in preparation for some high-profile inspections, says Ullman. Betz warns of mountains of paperwork and mandatory training and qualifiers for employees, supervisors, and even consultants and vendors. "The days of using brokers for raw materials from anonymous sources are probably over," Ullman says.

Global supply-chain management — Quality is king. In the game of supply and demand, it's largely a price game or a quantity game, says Larry Kolb, TSI Health Science's president of operations. Such an approach represents a deep lack of understanding about the importance of quality, he says. The five-member panel, including Kolb; Loren Israelsen, LDI Group; Sasha Issenberg, author of The Sushi Economy; Guy Langer, DD Chemco; and Steve Allen of Nestlé, cited the need for intense certification programmes for raw-materials sources. "Cheating will happen," Kolb says, "but this is not a China problem. It must become a 'how' question, not a 'where' question, because roles can change." Panelists agree that after years of lax oversight from the FDA, the agency will soon become an active regulator, and that industry members need to better understand the supply chain. Among the suggestions: go to China and track your sources; require your supplier to be third-party audited; embrace validation and established monographs..

Counterfeiting: it isn't just about watches anymore. A problem once limited to consumer goods such as handbags and watches, product counterfeiting has now raised serious concerns for pharmaceuticals, dietary-supplements and nutritional companies, says Shane Freedman, legal counsel for Patton Boggs. "If you don't think your product is being counterfeited, you aren't looking hard enough," Freedman says. The Web-based technology opens the door for anyone to forge your product, he warns, and the new GMPs place the onus and liability for injury or even death squarely on the shoulders of the legal manufacturer, not the fraudulent one. Protecting your product integrity, intellectual property, and consumer safety and confidence is paramount in today's gray market of Internet sales. The lack of confidence in raw materials imported from overseas only compounds this difficult problem, he adds.

New strategies, science and applications for probiotics. Beyond GMPs, exciting new developments in the probiotics market drew a large crowd to hear presenters Steve Demos, founder of NextFoods; and Julian Mellentin of New Nutrition Business. Mellentin outlined the elements of success that have allowed probiotic products such as Activia and Actimel to flourish. These include communicating easy-to-understand science of immunity; consistent advertising appeal to family health needs; and the emphasis on the physiological, intellectual and emotional benefits of probiotics. Demos, whose new company is betting on GoodBelly, a probiotic fruit drink, pointed to the Japanese market, always a precursor of Western markets, showing that 60 per cent of functional-foods sales there are focused on gut health. The worldwide market for probiotic products is estimated to be $15 billion.

Dates to remember

23-24 June — Nutracon Europe 2008, Cologne, Germany

26-28 June — Natural Products Expo Asia, Hong Kong, China

12-19 July — NPA Natural MarketPlace, Las Vegas, Nevada

23-25 July — NBJ Summit, Dana Point, California

6-7 October — Healthy Foods European Summit, London, UK

15 October — The Healthy Foods Conference, Boston, Massachusetts

15-18 October — Natural Products Expo East, Boston, Massachusetts

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