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Editorial: Nutritionals 2002 - A Worthwhile Event

By Len Monheit

A few weeks ago, Nutritionals 2002 in Anaheim brought together key movers in the nutritional and dietary supplements sector from across the United States. A three day tradeshow was combined with symposia, and Canon Communications brought together several banner events, including Plastec West and Medical Design and Manufacturing.

This was the first time Canon tried to combine these events, moving Nutritionals from its home at the Disneyland Convention Center to the much larger Anaheim Convention Center. The experiment was less than ideal, although there was some cross-over traffic into the Nutritionals booth area. A networking reception hosted by Canon Communications the opening evening was well attended, although the Nutritionals attendees were “lost” in the larger crowds, and in fact, many Nutritionals attendees stopped at the door when they didn’t see the familiar faces they’d usually see at a smaller, more intimate event.

The technical symposia at Nutritionals 2002 were topical, well attended and the speaker calibre was excellent. Highlighting the speaker list was a videotape from FDA Director Joseph Levitt and a presentation on FDA issues and programs by Christine Taylor Lewis of CFSAN. The list of relevant topics was extensive and participation from industry groups ensured latest available information on subjects such as Codex, FTC, The Council of Better Business Bureaus and representatives from business, research, industry in ten separate sessions.

Attendees were also treated to a presentation by Jonathon Emord, speaking about victories over FDA in the Pearson and Shalala cases. NSF International was extremely active in the program with presentations defining many terms and issues relating to analytical methods and NSF programs. Organizations such as CRN, DSEA, NNFA, CHPA were very active either in chairing sessions or in the presentations themselves.

The tradeshow received mixed reviews from attendees and participants on the floor. Although attendance was lower than many expected, the quality of attendees and interactions was exceedingly high. A nice touch for badges was the position of the attendees, and although this can be misleading, the numbers of Presidents, Vice- Presidents and directors of leading companies was very encouraging. A tradeshow and event is only what you make of it, as is always the case, so those that measure success based on quality of interaction rather than quantity felt quite satisfied.

Some of the notable developments:
Although FDA has made GMP’s an “A” priority, an untouchable priority is “Food Safety and Security” which will consume much of the FDA’s scarce resources. FDA does have some funds for GMP’s, but even when these GMP’s are published, many wonder how strong FDA enforcement can be with very limited resources. This was evident in both FDA presentations.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) met late last year and is moving towards the development of global standards in issues such as labeling and daily guidelines. A significant development, as expressed by Mark LeDoux of Natural Alternatives International is the lessening of pressure to have RDA (recommended daily allowance) as the guidance for consumption of vitamins and a move towards scientific risk assessment. This represents a serious change of direction for many of the EU participants. John Cordaro of CRN, speaking for John Hancock, also dealt with Codex developments including political implications and global trade.

FTC spoke about supplement advertising and FTC enforcement activities as well as clarifying the scope of FTC authorities. Recently, FTC resources are being directed at “Cure All” advertising, bogus bio-terrorism cures and weight loss scams with the latter expected to be a 2002 focus as well.

Linda Gilbert of HealthFocus International spoke about consumer trends in functional foods and beverages, saying that taste is king and that directing your message to positive nutrition rather than negative nutrition will reach consumers. In a second presentation, speaking about nutrition benefits was reiterated.

An interesting panel dealt with emerging science and started off with an informative presentation by Dr. David Heber of the UCLA Center for Dietary Supplements Research Botanicals. Dr. Heber described his group of researchers, their priorities and results including Chinese Red Yeast Rice, Green Tea Extracts, St. John’s Wort, Soy Isoflavones and Echinacea. It became evident that research of this type is critical to expand the base of science to support botanicals and dietary supplements. A focus on efficacy is imperative.

There were several other presentations dealing with brand strategy, consumer confidence, safety, and other issues. A new discussion topic was Genomeceuticals and nutrient-gene interactions.

Some of the key sessions ran in parallel, forcing attendees to make decisions on which session to attend. The sessions also ran opposite the tradeshow except for a brief lunch gap, so if the tradeshow was not a priority, attendees avoided it.

Several of the exhibitors commented on the lack of booth traffic, with both the first and final days being extremely slow. Many said that the middle day alone justified their presence with solid leads and new business opportunities. Final numbers from Canon Communications were 1100 attendess for the Expo with 300 conference and symposia registrants. For those that measure tradeshow success by quantity and an intimate Natural Products environment, then Nutrtitionals 2002 was disappointing. Those that sought quality of presentation and interaction were very successful.

Next year, Canon will split the shows again. The original plan was to move the show back to the smaller and more intimate environment at the Disneyland Convention Center, but recent information suggests that Canon is considering other locations as well.

For a strong symposia series and good interactions with key decision makers, it should be another worthwhile event.

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