Editorial: From Economics to Local – a Week in Industry

Returning last week from SupplySide East in Secaucus, New Jersey, I was struck by implications of the ‘think global, act local’ mentality that is driving business including organic, sustainable new era ventures around the world. If anything, this event succeeds significantly on the basis of being an East Coast regional event. It typically draws deeply from participant organizations operating in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, many of whom make the day trip and return in order to meet with floor exhibitors, or as was the case this year, with exhibitors who chose to walk the floor rather than exhibit actively. This was fundamentally a good show, a necessary event the operated from its strengths – the regional relationship; and face to face opportunity. In fact, many ingredient companies either extended the trip to make a sales call or two, or broke from the show experience to take a couple hours for local calls. This regional success serves to remind us that both global context and regional activity is frequently required for overall business success. While we can have a nice, small community feel in Secaucus, the US dollar and natural and international economics also is a force to reckon with.

With ten total show hours, time was precious. Day one was quite active, and predictably, day two was less so, but in our convoluted industry, gave exhibitors time to meet with each other to support the myriad of distributor/ partner/ licensee relationships that exist in our value chain. From a venue standpoint, Secaucus leaves a lot to be desired, but the location is close enough for numerous attendees (including exhibitors) that the venue itself becomes secondary – for most. And of course, across the river there is Manhattan.

Not unlike other industry events, the setting is appropriate for discussion of current industry events, and this was certainly the case last week. The GSK (and others) Citizen’s Petition regarding elimination of weight loss claims for supplements was the topic on numerous lips, and this combined with the economy, provided a good chance for view exchange and an assessment of the current industry status.

On the former issue (Citizen’s Petition) many felt that an active, consolidated industry response was required, and in examining strategy and timing, there was debate on whether GSK was, at little risk to themselves, protecting their own weight loss product (and its numerous uncomfortable side effects) in a simple aggressive tactical move, or operating as part of a larger strategic initiative to carve out weight loss as a pharma category, just as cholesterol and blood pressure have been carved out and effectively removed from the realm of supplementation. Whatever the case, as was presented at the 2007 Nutracon, the ‘Diseasification of America’ is an ongoing challenge to the supplement industry.

From an economic standpoint, the failing US dollar, and a decline in confidence in the immediate economic future (including related issues such as write-downs etc.) has resulted in a hesitancy to engage on the part of many industry companies, at the same time as others recognize the dynamics at work now will shape the industry of the next ten years. For instance value chain relationships strengthened now by ingredient or contract service companies going an extra mile to enable simpler compliance will translate to secure business years out from now.

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