Editorial: It's a Small, Small World

By Len Monheit
[email protected]

Ok, so I may be a bit biased or my view skewed slightly. We ourselves do much of our communications on-line and in any day, I’ll receive about 800 messages from around the world, and yes we actively try to gather news daily on a global basis. I’ve bounced a few of my views off colleagues in various industry roles, and so far no one has told me I’m absolutely wrong.

I’m seeing more information and intra-industry communication than ever before and the scope of communication is global. I guess that makes sense since we're really and truly operating in a global environment. Perhaps this week it's appropriate, with some of the industry gathering in Europe for Vitafoods that the imminent (suggested) approval of phytosterols in juices in the UK is one of the week's top stories. But there's other news too. Dr. Rath is making news in South Africa with reverberations echoing through various United Nations departments. On of our own regular columnists, Paul Yamaguchi has released his latest report on the Japanese nutritional supplement market, entitled 'Nutritional Supplement Japan Market Report 2005', and if past efforts are any indication, this report will be extremely popular and fuel more discussion about trends in Japan and both how they influence or will impact other marketplaces, as well as the opportunities they may or may not represent for North American companies.

On NPIcenter, we've launched a UK and European portal at www.npicenter.co.uk , recognizing that with the Internet as a business resource and sourcing tool, we've already reached a global audience that we now need to cultivate and expand, and judging by some of the latest company registrations on our site, and other indicators such as trade show representation at North American events by companies from right around the globe, if you don't have global strategy and awareness, you might not survive, or at least you’re really limiting your upside potential.

The Nutracon content for the past several years has recognized this by focusing on key geographical areas -and tried to do so from both a regulatory and business perspective. At Worldnutra, the same can be said, although traditionally this has been more regulatory and science, with this year, an expanded effort in the business and market sense. Publications such as NBJ (Nutrition Business Journal) have been tracking global market progress for years and New Hope Natural Media is also now presenting (pretty much as I speak - next week in fact) Natural Products Expo Japan.

In other globally impacting news, we've watched the evolution of the EU Supplements Directive with more than passing interest as it would seriously restrict access to many ingredient and finished products currently on the marketplace. We've also watched the Codex dialogue with international trade ramifications. On the industry ingredient side, many of the largest players have their roots in Europe, sourcing channels are in many cases multiple layers deep with global ties including China, India, the rest of Asia, South America etc. and the emergence of acai, mangosteen, ayurveda, hemp, flax, carotenoids, TCM and many more as recognized products, ingredients or concepts is a measure of our reliance on global trade and more importantly relationships and communication.

What do these observations really mean? What other issues should we be following?

Without a flawless crystal ball it's extremely difficult to say. We're seeing global quality and certification programs emerge that make it easier to identify company practices and potential deficiencies. We're observing dialogue amongst regulatory agencies as some harmonization efforts are initiated (some more successful and well thought out than others) as well as production or quality baselines rise in regions where baselines never existed a few years ago. We're noting different value chain relationships and collaboration with co-sponsored research, innovative licensing strategies and distribution arrangements (US-based Nurture, Inc. and Ireland-based Glanbia). We're seeing sector convergence and renewed differentiation which now straddles organic, personal care, food, beverage, genomics and supplements. We're seeing the adoption and tolerance of healthy messaging at various rates around the globe. We're seeing increased frustration with government non-responsiveness or lack of either will or comprehension of the 'big picture' in Canada, the United States and Europe. We're seeing a continuing evolution of the 'pharma:supplements power struggle' with battleground Europe and North America. And tying back to the Internet as one critical media and communication vehicle, we're seeing, almost all around the globe, a more personal and direct interest on the part of individuals in matters concerning health and wellbeing. Part of this is driven by increasing skepticism, part by access to technology and information, part by rising levels of either education or general awareness regarding health issues.

Despite all this, it is still possible to develop and sustain a business in a rather isolated and non-connected environment. Personally, though, I think it's not as much fun, it limits creative options, leads to tunnel vision, it doesn't provide adequate opportunity to remove yourself from the operational and focus on the strategic, which is fundamental to any long term sustainable growth in this (or any) industry.

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