Editorial: Industry's March Madness

Every year, at about this time, most of us go through this frenetic series of last minute preparations as we launch ourselves on Anaheim for Expo West, SupplyExpo and Nutracon. This year will be no exception, although the attitude may be even more determined than in years past, as those experienced understand that while wishing cannot exactly make it so, wishing can at least provide both an economic and emotional stimulus, and our industry too can benefit from both.

The challenging economic times we’re currently experiencing have affected us all. While our sector may be faring somewhat better than others, with less disposable income making its way through the economy, we’re bound to feel the effects. In many respects our ‘March Madness’ could not be coming at a better time, allowing us to take stock of just where we do stand, and most fortunately, to pay attention to the friends, partners and colleagues standing right beside us in Anaheim.

As usual, there will be so much going on that it’s impossible to tally it all. And part of the Anaheim experience is to not plan so heavily, so that you can actually wander the tent, keynotes and lesser trafficked halls to see and hear the future of the industry unfolding.

My own week will start Wednesday with the opening presentations of Nutracon. While I know some of you are more ‘veteran’ than I am at Nutracon, some of my observations are that it has not quite delivered on potential with take-away, actionable messages, and that heated discussions and debates, once started, fizzle even before event conclusion. Also, despite the potential for good networking and relationship building, it has fallen a bit flat, especially in recent years. I predict (and hope) that this year will begin altering all of that, and that attendees will participate in a high touch environment, with a focus on interaction and ROI, that we will watch relationships begin, and that the event success will start being measured with Julian Mellentin’s opening keynote. With a focus this year on relevance, with our Supply Portfolio team acting as stewards and ambassadors, with our intention being to initiate Nutracon 365, I believe the Nutracon community will see value from speaker one and subsequently all year round.

This year’s tracks include weight management and obesity – certainly a topic that transcends to mainstream. Attendees will find out not only where the opportunities do lie, at Nutracon, they will find new potential partner communities willing to actively participate in both education and business moving forward. A highlight of the two day track is almost certainly going to be the Ingredient ‘slim-slam’, where 5 ingredient companies will try their best to ‘make their case’ in front of supporters and skeptics alike. Expect feelings to run high with this one…

Day 1 also sees the Healthy Aging track, certainly a topic of relevance with an aging population and rising health care costs. Track Chair Anthony Almada will guide the track experience, and although the highlights will certainly be plentiful, a presentation by Yakult on Probiotics and the Aging Digestive Tract is a ‘Can’t Miss’ and the closing series, first Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg on Age-Related Changes in Micro-Nutrient Requirements for Optimal Health and then NMI’s Maryellen Molyneaux on Emerging Nutritional Trends for Baby Boomers should be stellar. The other track Day 1 is applications of Fermentation Technology where attendees will observe emerging and proven applications, in dairy and other food systems including, I am told, a unique tasting opportunity from half way around the world.

Sandwiched into a working lunch for attendees will be NBJ’s State of the Industry, a special presentation and forum for Nutracon attendees on hot new products and industry trends.

And that’s just the first day!

The second day of Nutracon promises to be just as exciting with the continuation of the weight management and obesity track, and the opportunity to participate in two ‘net new’ tracks.

SuperFruits and Berries promises to engage with discussions on current state of both business and science (the former, appropriately led by Mr. Mellentin of the Centre for Food and Health Studies) with subsequent discussions covering phytosterols, resveratrol, fruit breeding and ultimately concluding with a case study highlighting the challenge of taking science from the lab to the marketplace.

The final track, Vitamins and Minerals, promises to be a thought provoking journey through recent science and controversy, emerging health policy issues that could shape much of our industry, and key debates looming on the horizon including, evidence based nutrition and the clinical trial model, the use of folic acid (risks and benefit evaluation), the future of health claims, and much more. Chaired by CRN’s Dr. Andrew Shao, this session has gathered so much expertise into a single Nutracon track that participants are bound to better understand how complicated science and policy issues can be, even in what some would describe as a relatively mature category.

Day 2’s special event is Speed Data, an opportunity for Nutracon attendees to interact one on one with some (6) of the industry’s most respected gurus and advisors in what is almost a bonus, personalized consulting session on topics ranging from trends and marketing to regulatory compliance.

In case it’s not evident, I’m quite excited about this year’s Nutracon agenda. Even for myself, planning which sessions to attend will be more of a challenge than ever before. And yes, I hope to see many of you there.

Once Nutracon concludes, it’s off to Expo West and SupplyExpo. As this is the last column I’ll write before the show, for those of you wanting to chat, much of the time you’ll be able to find me in the Global Supply Marketplace Booth 130 in Hall A. Come by if you can. Some of the highlights there are the cooking demonstrations with functional ingredients, NPIcenter’s third annual Technology Exchange where I can honestly say we’ve scoured the world for promising applications to present, and on Saturday at 4:30, the presentation of the NutrAward.

Education at SupplyExpo is also on a level not seen before. Highlighted by the keynote Friday at 3:30, The Informant: The Man Behind the Movie, in room 204A, topics range from Natural Products Marketing to GMPs, an Insider’s View, presented by the FDA’s Brad Williams. Oh, and I’ll be part of a presentation Friday afternoon entitled Natural Crossing Borders.

Amidst the current uncertainty, one this is certain. The 5 days in Anaheim next week promises to: showcase the best industry has to offer, present innovation and ideation at its finest, and give the chance for the industry community to come together to celebrate friendships and opportunity.

For myself, I can hardly wait...

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