Worldnutra 2003, (September 28-30 and October 1, 2003 in Las Vegas Nevada) was a symposium attended by about 300 attendees representing a mix of academic and government scientists with a smattering of international companies and researchers and a few North American industry interests.
The program featured in excess of ninety scheduled presentations, over thirty posters, an exhibitor area, and networking opportunities in a rather intimate environment. The actual Worldnutra event was preceded by a day of pre-conference symposia covering ‘Quality and Safety Management’ and ‘Nutraceuticals for Companion Animals and for Improved Products from Aquaculture and Agriculture’.
Seminars / Plenary Sessions
The scope of topics ranged from International Regulations (well attended sessions covering US, Japanese, Canadian and Korean regulatory developments) to Functional Foods (GRAS issues and Intellectual Property protection) all the way to quality control issues, bioactive product development, and a series of presentations relating the latest research in nutraceutical development against targeted disease states.
Some of the highlights included (in addition to those noted above):
‘Finding the Intellectual Property for a Functional Ingredient’, presented by Thomas Saunders, Counselor at Law, (Rudnick, Berlack, Israels LLP) who surprised many in the audience when he pointed out some of the realities of the IP world, such as the potential for patents to be granted based only on predictive data and not on actual proven science or the fact that efficacy is not a part of the patent process.
‘The Importance of Reference Standards and Reference Materials for the Analysis of Dietary Ingredients’, presented by Frank Jaksch, President & CEO (Chromadex, Inc.) who spoke about standard availability and requirements in the context of a changing regulatory environment with cGMP’s pending and method validation requirements being established.
‘The Immune-Enhancing Benefits of Natural Immunoglobulin’, by Eric Weaver, Vice-President, Health Division (Proliant, Inc.) provided background on immunology and went through the mode of action of natural immunoglobulin.
‘Functional Beverages: An Industry Overview…Catching the Wave of Health and Wellness’, Donald Wilkes, President/CEO (Blue Pacific Flavors and Fragrances, Inc.) provided attendees to this plenary session an excellent overview of the ‘Health and Wellness’ beverage marketplace including breaking the sector into Lifestyle Wellness beverages (those with little actual health benefit including popular energy drinks, waters and other products with minimal levels of functional ingredients), Functional Wellness beverages (including milk, soy beverages, fortified drinks containing GRAS ingredients and meeting guidelines for structure/function or content claims) and Therapeutic Health beverages (targeted at a specific health-related use). In the presentation, issues such as understanding distribution, importance of ingredient, flavoring and delivery systems, and trends such as the importance of the ingredient supplier and the opportunity to provide a systems approach was discussed. Positioning for a particular sector and simplicity were developed as key concepts.
‘Can Health Care Costs Be Reduced by Functional foods and Dietary Supplements?’ In this presentation, Ian Newton (Roche Vitamins) discussed specific examples where disease costs are well established and examples where supplementation and fortification can be quantified (folic acid, sterol spreads) and concluded by urging all those conducting the research and providing the products to collect the evidence of economic benefit.
‘Marine Natural Products as a Source of New Nutraceutical and Functional Food Ingredients’, Colin Barrow )Ocean Nutrition Canada) initially discussed one of the fastest growing marine products, omega-3 derived from fish oil, and went on to discuss product development issues from a business and market perspective, including product formulation to improve stability and taste profile and thus reach a larger market. The presentation also gave insight into how one organization ties its research activities tightly to emerging commercial opportunities.
There were approximately 16 exhibitors representing book publishers, clinical research and other solution and service providers as well as one or two ingredient companies. Exhibit traffic was light, although posters and mixers were held in the exhibit hall to promote traffic and dialogue.
The networking opportunities were valuable for exhibitors but the entire exhibition was generally lacking traffic and interaction.
The event was held at the Riviera, a venue which created several issues. First of all, since it is at the end of the strip, with limited facilities nearby, attendees left the premises for lunch and immediately following the sessions. This combined with usual Vegas distractions limited interaction and networking opportunities and reduced the intimacy potential of the event. The other issue was that because it was a lower end venue, many attendees also elected to stay elsewhere which further reduced the community effect.
The facilities themselves were adequate for the event.
Worldnutra is a unique event to North America, with its focus on the science and research in nutraceuticals and functional products. As such, with the need to focus on fundamental science and research, and with the resources institutions and government have available to provide this research, it is a necessary component to our annual industry event calendar and ideally should be better supported by the industry community - if that community is interested at all in basic or applied science. At no other industry event is basic science presented, whether in symposia or poster form, and the Worldnutra organizers solicit these presentations from an international database of over 5000 professionals and scientists.
Having said this, content should include more business development and application of science presentations to help bridge science and business. Most of the presentations involve fundamental and pure science and are of a highly technical nature. Recognizing that presenters, as well as many in the audience, are experts in their field, this is understandable, but should be noted by a potential expanded audience.
This year, the organizers were influenced in both timing and location by attempting to create synergies with Worldnutra and SupplySide West which ran at the Venetian and Sands Convention Center, beginning Wednesday October 1st and running until Friday October 3rd. This combination of events likely only increased Worldnutra attendance slightly if at all, and only then for partial registrations. It did not influence exhibitors at all. In fact, considering that Wednesday saw activity at both events, and the fact that it made for a busy and long Las Vegas week for those involved in both conferences,it can be argued that any potential benefit from locating in Las Vegas, at this time, was lost. Next year, show organizers are moving to San Francisco in early November and are soliciting feedback and suggestions from participants.
This event, to reiterate, is unique in the industry, providing the only real connection between fundamental research and trade. It does not yet maximize the potential of this connection and interaction by really facilitating communication, partnering and collaboration, but these are logical extensions of the program.
At its best, it provides an intimate opportunity to meet and talk, one that you won’t find at either a SupplySide or an Expo, or even a Nutracon. And there are nuggets in the presentations that may well represent the future of nutraceuticals, once these ideas evolve and are developed.