SupplySide Update: Day Two

Las Vegas, NV—We continue our coverage of Day Two at SupplySide West,  with insights and observations from the show floor theater.

* Name five people who changed the natural products industry. Well, Loren Israelson, executive director of United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), gave his picks: Bernarr McFadden (inventor of sports nutrition and before/after photos), Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring, which changed society's understanding about the relationship between health and chemicals in foods), Sandy Gooch (founder of Mrs. Gooch's Natural Foods Markets, whose stores are still the hallmark of beautiful natural products presentation. Her Gold Standard of product safety, “Goochable,” established the first natural foods stands), Robert Rodale (founders of the first U.S. experimental organic farm and powerful magazines like Organic Gardening and Prevention) and Craig Venter (founder of human genome project).

* In an FDA Update, Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., director of dietary supplement programs at FDA, said of the supplements industry, "We have a lot of challenges and non-compliance issues." He added there's a higher rate of official action with supplements than other commodities. "We want to see that improve," he said. Fabricant pointed out that AERs are a problem in the FDA isn't receiveing all the information it should be getting when AEs are found. "We hope there are some changes there, and people will fulfill that mission," said Fabricant. Of note, he says illegal disease claims are still prevalent, including on the SupplySide show floor. After meeting with FDA, the show organizers asked those exhibitors to leave. Fabricant noted that illegal claims affect more than just bodybuilding, weight-loss and sexual vitality. Relaxation products could be the next target. Last, he predicted we may see more import detentions. Speaking of compliance in general, Fabricant stated, "We need everyone’s help here. It’s not just us. It’s not us versus you. We have to work together to see these issues addressed going forward."

* Collaboration is key for innovation, says Guru Ramanathan, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief innovation officer at GNC. The sources of product innovation, he stated, are either customer demand or suppliers pushing ideas into the forum of product developers. Suppliers’ strength is in identiy of new materials and ensuring quality. But, they aren’t close to the end user. That’s where retailers come in.  Ramanathan suggested the two groups should collaborate to spur innovatation. "This will be imperative for future growth," he stated.

* Steve French of Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) spoke on the subject of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food, and referred to the close defeat of California’s Proposition 37 as a “tipping point” for consumer opinion on the issue. The “Right to Know” movement is aimed at implementing regulations that will let consumers know what’s in their food, but consumers, he stated, are still confused about the issue. There is not necessarily a a widespread awareness of the details on GMOs, and this leaves some consumers unwilling to come to conclusions about the issue. Most consumers, however, are interested in seeing simpler food product labels and call outs that tell them what is and is not in the product. French quoted the thoughts of some consumers on the issue, conveying the range of perspectives they have. Those in favor of GMO labeling talk about the unknown health implications of GMO use, while those that feel positively about GMOs talk about their potential to help feed the world and reduce demands on resources.

* Beverages are soaring in demand, and James Tonkin, president of HealthyBrandBuilders, offered some insight into the hottest ones. Functional beverages with condition-specific ingredients (brain health, cholesterol lowering) are the future, he said. The reason? "People want healthier drinks," he said, just like want from their foods. He added that RTD teas are resonating with consumers. In the end, he says the category is more than trends and marketing. Data-backed functional foods will win out in the end, so be sure you're partnering with responsible, science-driven companies.

* Avoiding an FDA warning letter is within your power, said Joy Joseph, president of Joys Quality Management Systems. "FDA is out in full force auditing supplement facilities. Most end in 483B, which is not doom and gloom," she said. Joseph noted the 483Bs are simply FDA observations; when not dealt with, however, many end in warning letters. To avoiding this, "You need to respond to the 483 list of observations explaining how you’re going to fix the problems," she stated. Some companies don't realize they should respond at all. And, FDA isn’t going to be satisfied is you give them a date in the future when the observations will be addressed, since the GMPs are final now. Instead, very quickly respond and make those corrections within 15 days. Send corrected actions to FDA as part of your response.



Published in WholeFoods Magazine (online Nov. 9, 2012)