SupplySide Update: Day One

Las Vegas, NV—Many industry members are currently enjoying some time in Vegas as they meet for the SupplySide West tradeshow. A new component of the tradeshow debuted on the first day of the show (November 7) with insights and observations from the show floor theater.

Speakers covered diverse topics and offered valuable messages in short, 10-minute timeslots that were streamed live over the Internet. Here are some interesting take-home points from Day 1:

* The GRAS self-affirmation process may have had an unintended consequence; several hundred new substances that the FDA isn't aware of could be in use throughout the U.S. food chain. Many ingredients are self-affirmed GRAS, but haven't gone through the process of seeking a letter of non-objection from FDA. This insight came from Alexander Schauss, Ph.D., FACN, senior research director of natural and medicinal products research at AIBMR Life Science. To help establish some clarity, his firm launched just this week a searchable database of all companies since 1997 that have completed the self-affirmed GRAS process. "It will be supported by AIBMR for the benefit of industry and in the nature of transparency," stated Schauss. The database is accessible at

* Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association, covered how this year's election results could affect the industry. Click here for the full story.

* Howard Schiffer, founder of Vitamin Angels, offered some tips for ensuring a company's or a store's charitable efforts are going to the right places. One tip for inspiring employees to remember their part in such work is to hang posters, pictures and other visual reminders of the people and places they have helped. This will help establish a personal connection between the employee and the non-profit. In other news, Vitamin Angels is debuting a new quarterly digital magazine called Upwards!

* Hallie Rich, president of Rich Vitamins (maker of Alternavites) spoke about product innovation. Companies must differentiate their brands, she said. "Try to de-commoditize the category. Give shoppers a reason to be emotional [about your product]," said Rich. Areas of differentiation to consider include delivery form, packaging, environmental efforts, a charitable component and price. Whatever the path, be sure your product "fits into the lifestyles of consumers, and not the other way around," she suggested.

* Dr. Catherine Adams Hutt, chief regulatory and science officer for SloanTrends and president and CEO of RdR Solutions Consulting, offered some insight into hot emerging markets. She pinpointed three areas of interest. First, is areas surrounding the muscles, be they products that support age-related muscle loss or muscle recovery after exercise. You should optimize protein intake with 30 grams of protein at each meal, she suggested, to optimize one's ability to release amino acids. Other hot markets are blood sugar support, lower GI function and functional foods for kids. "It's a huge area that’s underserved," she stated.

* Ed Steele, president of EAS Consulting Group LLC, said it's baffling that the supplement industry has so many GMP violations. Last year, there were 150 inspections of supplement companies; 70% had some kind of violation, he said. The regulations have been out for a while and companies spend money to get staff trained, yet many of the same firms get warning letters. Why? It could be because of an increasing number of inspections and that FDA is going further with regulatory action. He added, "Unless top management commits to safety and compliance, and sets the tone, nothing will change. QA should have the backing of management." He also predicted we will see more aggressive enforcement from the agency in the future.

* Mark A. LeDoux J.D., chairman and CEO, Natural Alternatives International, shared some observations about the supplements supply chain. He recently met with some attorneys, and learned that you shouldn't "write anything down that you don't want to see on a wall 10 feet by 12 feet high." In other words, if you have an anomaly in a raw material, handle it properly but carefully. "Wrestle [the problem] to the ground and take it back to the primary location where that raw material was either harvested or manufactured. You cannot test quality into a raw material that fails quality." Overall, when addressing any quality issue, he says companies should go one step further. "Go partner with your suppliers…visit them and work with them. Come up with a collaboration that will allow you to verify the quality in your supply chain," he stated. That way, in the event of a problem, you've built good relationships across your supply chain and it will help you resist pressures if you're accused of not doing your due diligence.

* Justin Prochnow, Esq., shareholder at Greenberg Traurig LLP, spoke about self regulation for the industry, both within the company and through industry groups. He said that many companies are getting hit with class action lawsuits, most recently Pepperidge Farms (about GMOs in crackers) and Monster (about EGCG from green tea in its beverages). Companies, he suggested, should be careful about any claims and can consult trade groups or attorneys for advice. He added that the cost of defending against an "all natural" label claim (which is very difficult to do) may not be worth it.


Click here for Day Two.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine Online, 11/8/12