By Len Monheit
Over the past few years, I’ve typically wrapped up Expo West, SupplyExpo and Nutracon with a few comments and observations, and true to form, I’ll attempt to do so yet again. I’m presuming that most of you have now recovered, and with over 52,000 attendees, and a seemingly endless amount of must-see’s and to-do’s, the event has become both more enthralling and daunting than ever. From sales meetings to dinners, from receptions to educational seminars, from fashion shows to dances, the out of show-floor environment now means that for many, the show-floor experience is now a series of one hour blasts sandwiched between major off-floor commitments. I know it was that way for me.
Some Thoughts on Nutracon
The industry’s largest event really started Wednesday with Nutracon, intended to gather product developers, researchers and brand managers in an environment where current science, applications, and breaking industry issues could be discussed in a forum led by experts and visionaries. Plenary presentations included Dr. Richard Atkinson, speaking on “Viruses as a Cause of Obesity”, Dr. Jorn Dyerberg, pioneer of omega-3 research, Sasha Issenberg, author of The Sushi Economy, speaking about the global supply chain for sushi, leveraging that experience, with the aid of a panel of experts, into learning for our industry specifically, and Shaun Issel, author of Steroid Nation and journalist for ESPN, the Magazine, speaking about the use of steroids in sports and how that topic does become a supplement industry issue.
I honestly considered this year’s Nutracon program, heading in, to be one of the strongest in recent years. The keynotes did not disappoint, and several of the other presentations and panels also delivered exceptional learnings. Specifically, I found value in the session entitled “Creating Champions in the Professional Community”, and observed that the session on functional Personal Care was extremely well-attended. Interaction and audience participation was the order of the event, indicating that those in attendance were extremely engaged.
Coming out of Nutracon though, I couldn’t help but observe and wonder at the future of education for the industry. This concept has continued to plague me over the past few weeks. With over 52,000 people at Expo, it’s obvious that most of them never saw an educational session. True, the need for learning changes depending on position in the value chain, but is a need none-the-less. So where, and more importantly, when does this learning happen? And how does the entire industry community become engaged and know what they need to know as the world and beliefs, behaviors, practices and trends change around us? How do we manage to deal with operational crises in our current environment, and still obtain best practices guidance?
Back to the event itself….
As I mentioned, my time at the show itself was primarily spent scrambling across the show floor from meeting to meeting, interspersed with an educational session or two. The session, “Winning the Claim Game Without Landing in the Penalty Box” was standing room only, and a following session on “Digesting the Nuances of GMP Compliance” was also reasonably well attended. I found it ironic to note that as our desire to push the envelop on claims continues unabated, we, as a group, continue to see it as a more interesting priority than compliance, at least if seminar attendance is any barometer.
Much of my time was spent in the SupplyExpo Hall where NPIcenter hosted its Exchange of course, 6 presentations over 3 days, focusing on new technologies, science and applications. This application focused theme was further developed a the Global Supply Marketplace booth in the hall, by Mark Crowell, from the Research Chefs Association and Culinex, who presented several cooking demonstrations over Friday and Saturday using functional ingredients. What most impressed me in personal dialogue with Mark was his understanding of business issues and supply chain management fundamentals, superimposed on his grounding in culinary arts, overall a formidable arsenal of skills, many of which companies in our sector lack, even as we develop innovative ingredients and products for the food and beverage market.
My show floor and other discussions tended to center around the world of ingredients and whether this year was truly to be a year of weeding out, or at least of solid appreciation of the efforts of some ingredient companies to go the extra mile, translating to measurable increases in business. My own feeling on that issue is positive, that with supply chain management issues under increasing scrutiny, yes, there is increasing value being attributed to properly managed ingredient development and delivery.
On a closing note for this particular ‘musings’ article, for the first time in several years, I found myself in a position to venture into the confines of Hall E, downstairs at the Convention Center. For those of you who didn’t have the chance, this hall is typically smaller booths with younger companies and proof that the spirit of innovation and creativity is alive and well, in fact absolutely thriving in our industry. In my own mind the taste and flavor sensations in that hall were exemplified by one of my ‘finds of the show’, Wholemato’s Organic Agave Ketchup – and I’m not even a ketchup fan. Another interesting taste sensation was the tart flavor of yumberry, in a few spots around the main show floor.