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What is the State of the U.S. Nutrition Industry?

Strong and still growing

Faring well through the first part of 2009


Wide open and uncertain

These are just a few of the ways members of Nutrition Business Journal’s editorial advisory board described the state of the U.S. nutrition industry now and moving forward in 2009. I asked our editorial advisors to comment on the state of the industry to help us prepare for this year’s NBJ presentation at Natural Products Expo West.

One of our advisors—Scott Steinford, president of ingredient manufacturer ZMC-USA—was especially thoughtful and eloquent in sharing his views. I believe his opinions might be useful to others in 2009—a year that promises to deliver great challenges and opportunities for nutrition industry companies—so I am posting them here.

NBJ: How would you describe the current state of the U.S. nutrition industry?

Scott Steinford: The industry is at a crossroads. It can either lend itself to legitimacy and trust in the minds of the consumer or open itself up to more criticism and skepticism by the public and “competing” industries. The consumer wants and needs to believe and trust in the quality, safety and reliability of the products the nutrition industry presents. To accomplish this task the industry must accept the fact that this is an industry that will receive oversight and scrutiny by an array of governmental and private sector organizations. This is already happening. Fortunately, this industry has taken great strides in adapting to regulations such as the new GMP and AER regulations, and companies appear to not only be accepting of the new challenges but also meeting the requirements, which provide greater security and confidence to the consumer.

NBJ: What are the greatest opportunities facing the industry today?

Steinford: The industry’s greatest opportunities will come from continuing to establish a platform that synergistically creates a proactive healthcare system to complement and not compete with the more reactive pharmaceutical industry. An opportunity exists for the nutrition industry to present education to the American public that reinforces the role supplements can play to decrease total healthcare spending. It is up to the industry to provide continual clinical and scientific support to the products it presents to the healthcare consumer.

NBJ: What are the greatest challenges facing the industry right now?

Steinford: The industry’s greatest challenge in 2009 will be to overcome the attitude of many that the U.S. nutrition industry is filled with frauds and illegitimate claims. The quality of the products offered today are exponentially more proven and reliable than those offered a decade ago, but it is up to the industry members to concentrate on the education that supports these facts. It is a challenge to stay within the confines of believability and legitimacy in claims, but it is a challenge that is both necessary and supportive of the industry’s long-term success. The nutrition industry is viewed as being infantile in comparison to the pharmaceutical industry—and, in many ways, it is—but the delta between the two is shrinking and rightfully so, as our products are increasingly being manufactured at the same level of quality as pharmaceutical drugs. It is up to the industry to educate the public about this. In addition, the industry must face the challenge of educating the consumer, as well as the media, that supplements are not drugs and are not designed to be cures or reactive measures to already progressive disease states.

Finally, the industry should not appear to unduly resist oversight, as that gives the impression there is something to hide or fear. It is understandable to want to avoid the extra costs associated with oversight, but such costs are necessary to some degree if the industry is to convey confidence and transparency to the consumer.

NBJ hopes to see you at our State of the Industry: Hot New Products and Industry Trends presentation at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 5, 2009, in room 204AB in the Anaheim Convention Center.

If I don’t see you at Expo West, please consider dropping me an e-mail at [email protected] to let me know how you view the state of the nutrition industry and what you see as its greatest opportunities and challenges in this year of change.


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