Editorial: Global Impacts and Influencers

By Len Monheit

We live in a society with global impacts and influencers. We cannot isolate any one economy and say, it is successful, for in the absence of global forces and inputs, it simply suffocates and dies. Too, a fundamental reality of corporate growth is the need to seek out new markets. While a company can be a regional or national player, still, international and cultural issues will impact the marketplace regularly.

In last week’s column I spoke briefly about Nutracon Europe and some interesting parallels with our own North American environment and marketplaces for supplements and functional foods and beverages. This week, I’d like to dive a bit deeper, not necessarily into the specific content of this worthwhile event, but into some of the macro issues and observations.

The macro observations have to begin with noting that the Day 1 Co-chair, was Ms. Lea Pollack, Expert Advisor, Croatian National Institute of Public Health. To have a government official chairing a food supplements conference was a signal event, and a perhaps a model we should seek elsewhere as industry seeks to build new bridges and relationships. Regulators who seek access for safe and efficacious products should be welcomed anywhere in our industry.

The first true presentation was made by Grant Ferrier of the Nutrition Business Journal, describing preliminary results from a global food supplements survey. Interestingly, market opportunities easily identified in developing Eastern Europe were in the countries of Turkey, Poland and Russia, and the late morning of the first day was to feature regionally targeted presentations in each of those areas.

Of course an overview of the European environment would be incomplete without an investigation of some of the more established markets, and one item of note that resonated with me personally, was the fact that Germany, commonly perceived to be a very restricted or controlled marketplace, might in fact represent a key opportunity for new products, depending on channel strategy, at least according to Gert Krabichler, Chairman of ERNA (European Responsible Nutrition Alliance).

Moving on to the specific high potential regions of interest, perhaps the most interest was triggered by presentations dealing with Poland (Monika Stefanczyk, PMR Publications) and Russia (Gregory Temkin, Russian Standard). In the first case, a market of approximately 170 companies representing commerce of about 300 million euros was described with primarily a pharmacy based distribution channel. Many of the players were companies I had never heard about, and the region wants to expand its ‘connections’ with the rest of the global community. In Russia, apparently 1825 new products were introduced in 2006, according to Mr. Temkin, and of 690 foreign products, almost 20 percent came from China. Mr. Temkin also described variable duties from 3 to 25 percent in what appears to be a very complicated transitional economy where the savvy can make market inroads.

Another Day one presentation dealt with unique data from China, providing insight into Chinese manufacturing vision and objectives, as we have seen in other parts of the world with the effects of changing supply forces (from China) in vitamins, coenzyme Q10 and several herbals.

Day One was essentially a day of national and regional overviews, opportunities and challenges, Day Two would get more specific.

Day Two of the event began with a digging into the sport nutrition market, with presentations dealing with market potential, testing and quality issues associated with banned substances, followed by a case study on one 80-year old market leader (Lucozade by Glaxo Smith Kline), and a technical presentation on aspects of carbohydrates and glycemic impact.

‘Beauty from Within’, nutrigenomics and nanotechnology completed the event, the former delivered by Stephanie French, in an interesting presentation that dealt with opportunities, messaging, practical examples and valid market observations.

While I cannot say that transplanting the venue to North America would have triggered the exact same dialogue, I was struck by the fact that as a whole and with very few exceptions, the dialogue could essentially have been taking place in almost any country (and so certainly with a regional flavor) with the same excitement, frustration and dealing with many of the same realities.

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