The first annual “China Anti-oxidant Berry & Super Fruit Industry Conference” was held on May 26-27, 2011 in Beijing and was organized by the Ministry of Commerce’s Chamber for Natural Products, Herbridge.com, Center for Public Nutrition and the Ministry of Water Resources.
The event was a big success bringing together a wide variety of government and industry leaders to discuss the future development and current trends of antioxidants and super fruits in China’s overall health and nutrition industry. In attendance were representatives from over 40 different organizations including State Food and Drug Administration, Public Nutrition and Development Center, Unilever, Agricultural Food Giant COFCO, Beijing Gingko Group, Skyherb, Amway, NBTY, U.S.-China Health Products Association, JF-Natural to name a few.
Seabuckthorn and goji berry were highlighted during the event, but many other fruits were also discussed such as elderberry, blueberry, bilberry, noni, etc. Mr. Li Yonghai discussed Seabuckthorn his particular area of expertise noting that it has been cultivated in China since 1980, but did not do very well until recently after the Chinese government invested upwards of 1.2 billion RMB ($185 million) throughout the last decade. Mr. Li noted there are over 200 different elements identified within the seabuckthorn such as vitamins, minerals, OPC, amino acids, etc. and it is only second to Acai in terms of its ORAC value.
As part of the National Development and Reform Commission, Dr. Yu Xiaodong’s presentation focused on public health and wellness. He made clear that China is investing heavily to transform its overburdened health care system to be more preventative in nature. This shift should encourage the growth and development of natural health products and education, which will promote healthier lifestyles. Dr. Yu believes that super fruits and vegetables should be part of a healthy diet. However, like everywhere else in the world getting five daily servings is difficult. He feels super fruit products such as smoothies or juices high in nutrients and low in sugar can really help to satisfy this daily requirement.
State Food and Drug Administration’s Vice Director for Food and Drug licensing Mr. Zhang Jinjing discussed SFDA’s role in monitoring and licensing food that have specific claims. He said evidence for functional foods is limited and takes a long time to realize the results in people. Basically the SFDA views super fruits as a type of functional food and should have animal and human trials done to verify their efficacy and claims. Director Zhang said, China’s State Council is currently reviewing new implementation regulations for the dietary supplement industry and is looking to push through new regs that will encourage industry development. However, there are still many issues to consider. For example, there are many Traditional Chinese Medicine health products in the market with decades of use. However, many have never been scrutinized in a western model and how do these traditional claims fit into the regulatory system. Director Zhang mentioned that currently there are many fake products and misinformation in advertising, which is hurting the industry. He hopes that the new regulations will help to rid the market of these types of practices and offer consumers solid information on scientifically proven dietary supplements and other natural health products.
Beijing Gingko Groups CEO Mr. Li Chunhua discussed a bit about his company and its use of berry extracts. Mr. Li said, although the Goji berry has become more popular, the goji industry in China is not yet up to international standards. There are still many pesticides used and quality varies greatly from supplier to supplier. Mr. Li feels boysenberry and Ligonberry will become part of the super fruit category in time. New Zealand is expanding their boysenberry production in preparation for this. Also to solidify Ligonberry as an up and comer, Coco Cola company produced a Ligonberry beverage for the northern European market. One of the biggest problems he sees for China’s superfruit industry is a logistic issue. China doesn’t have a well-developed cold storage logistic industry and superfruits rely on immediate and consistent cold storage until ready for processing. Unregulated cold storage can have an adverse effect on the cell walls and nutrients contained in the fruits.
U.S.-China Health Products Association’s Jeff Crowther gave a presentation on the U.S. market covering both sales and regulations. Crowther highlighted China’s great potential for becoming the largest market for dietary supplements in the coming years. However, without appropriate regulatory reform investors and many foreign companies will choose to wait until the market is more transparent and open. Crowther noted Chinese consumer’s lack of education about dietary supplements as a stumbling block, but would be rectified with new legislation that will encourage investment and the spread of product knowledge. Being based in China for over six years, Crowther is very familiar with Chinese social norms and eating habits. Using a personal story, he showed the audience a bottle of Jarrow Formula’s Daily 5, which is a powdered blend of organic fruits and vegetables. He explained how every morning he has a smoothie using orange juice, oatmeal, whey protein and a scoop of Daily 5. Although not practiced by all Americans, it is certainly not out of the ordinary. However, in China making a smoothie like this at home is definitely not common practice. Since moving to China, Crowther has explained what the smoothie contains and why he takes it on a regular basis.
Overall, the event was very well organized and there are plans for another conference next year to continue to discuss and share information on antioxidants and superfruits. Everyone involved from the speakers to the attendees were very optimistic about China’s future as not just the leader in supplying ingredients, but transforming into a destination for finished products. With China’s economic growth and expanding consumer base, I don’t feel their aspirations are off the mark.
For more information on this event or to explore the potentials the China market holds for natural health products, please contact the U.S.-China Health Products Association at [email protected] or visit their website at www.uschinahpa.org
About the association: The U.S. – China Health Products Association is the only U.S. non-profit association operating in China. Its missions are to work toward a more open regulatory environment in China, to increase dietary supplement and other natural health product exports to China as well as work on creating a safer more transparent supply chain through its work with one of its founding members NSF International.
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