Editorial: Thoughts on Ingredients 'Mega-trends'

By Len Monheit
[email protected]

Are ingredient companies channeling enough resources into the food sector?

The promise of functional foods and beverages has to date remained largely unfulfilled. Now, though, with the ability to make qualified health claims for foods, and attention on more revealing labeling and overall health and nutrition of food products, there appear to be excellent prospects for companies approaching the food marketplace with the right attitude, portfolio and with their homework complete.

Reviewing Expo, IFT, Nutracon, Newport Summit and other event programs over the past twelve months, it becomes quite apparent that companies are seeking, in increasing numbers, to leverage their research and brand and capitalize on opportunities in food products. Budgets are being developed and relationships established and deepened and several CEO's I’ve spoken with expect the contribution of food industry sales to drive a huge part of future business growth. Words such as 'taste', 'texture' and 'formulation' are taking on a whole new significance as these companies prepare for a different and discriminating audience that has high expectations and a totally different set of rules.

The debate of 'supplementation' versus 'food from nutritional sources' is never far from media headlines. It is popularly stated by medical professionals and dieticians that a balanced, healthy diet is adequate for health maintenance, with part of the counter- argument being that the majority of the population does not eat a balanced, healthy diet and that certain healthful ingredients are limited or nutritionally unavailable.

Fortification or the creation of functional products, and the replacing of products that are proven to have negative health impact (trans fats and others) appear as a middle ground between these views, and we are seeing ingredient companies develop both products and technologies to reach this ground.

In fact, in a much bigger sense, the role of the ingredient supplier is changing. Tomorrow's supplier must do more, in their relationships with food companies, but also within the more traditional supplements sector. This trend is being driven by a tight business environment, regulatory pressures and value chain management initiatives. A supplier now needs to be more than just a provider of tangible goods, but must instead provide value added services. These often take the form of formulation expertise, delivery technology expertise, bioavailability studies and data, flavor system input and development, end user education, and on the marketing side, brand support.

As we head into this week's SupplySide West in Las Vegas, arguably the most important of ingredient events, it'll be interesting to see ingredient suppliers adopting new and expanded roles and to examine their positioning and intentions for the food and beverage industry. It'll also be important to examine the show audience itself to determine whether food manufacturers are reiterating their commitment to health and nutrition that was evident at this past year's IFT event in Chicago by attending and making contacts and deals in Las Vegas.

It is also clear that industry companies are more interested than ever before in food events. Whether they are exhibiting or just walking the show floor, the past few years has seen a significant increase in both the number of companies as well as their financial commitment which obviously has had an impact on their dietary supplement industry show and marketing spend.

A quick snapshot and some contact information for upcoming food related events in the next two months follows:

Food Industry Events - October-November, 2003

October 25-28, Food & Nutrition Conference & Exhibition, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, San Antonio. Contact 800-877-1600. (American Dietetic Association - http://www.eatright.org/Public/96_13100.cfm )

October 30-November 2, Worldwide Food Expo, McCormick Place, Chicago. Contact Heidi McNeal, 703-761-2600. (http://www.worldwidefood.com/ )

November 18-20, Food Ingredients Europe, Messe Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany. Contact 49-69-7575-6811. (http://europe2003.fi-events.com/default.asp?mainmenu_id=2)

November 18-20, National Food Processors Assoc. Annual Meeting, Grand Hyatt, Washington. Contact 202-639-5900. (http://www.nfpa-food.org/meetings.htm)

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