I recently attended the Natural Products West Expo in Anaheim, USA this month. The purpose of the trip was to get a feel for the marketplace. I spent my time walking through the exhibition halls with 20,000 other people picking up samples and talking with reps.
There were several ‘hot markets’ or trends that I came across:
- Probiotics are mainstream but prebiotics just starting.
- Calming and de-stress products mainly in beverage format.
- Sexual vitality and hormonal regulation (e.g.PMS, menopause)
- Fibre and its link to weight management was prevalent. Fibre seen as cure for all (regulate glucose levels = better sleep).
- Beauty from the inside – digestible collagen, bars with berries promoting good skin.
- Immune and gut health were prominent but not linked.
- Natural energy – tea leaves, coffee beans. Adding caffeine to water drinks.
- Start to see sports products that do more than just hydrate, carbo for energy and protein for recovery. Including plant extracts for additional functions (e.g. turmeric root, blueberry, grape seed) around antioxidant role. Most have before, during and after formulations.
In terms of formulations:
- A lot of dry powders for single serve drinks – seen in a variety of markets from sports nutrition, supplements to normal consumer beverage (cordial powders etc).
- No single products – always part of in a range – something for each occasion. Not just shots but up to 400ml beverages
- Organic nut bars are everywhere.
- Beverage companies moving into bars.
One thing that has always bothered me about natural products is their lack of scientific validation.
Currently products in the natural products market succeed by having an association with scientific literature or studies, matched with ND/ MD endorsement and ALOT of marketing. That’s all they need to do as the US consumers accepts this. ND? You may be thinking. I was too. It stands for Naturopathic doctors. Something very very different to a MD, medical doctor. The problem…they act and portray themselves as the latter. Look at the image below of the doctor. On the right you see his name on his lab coat. The stethoscope carefully covers the end of the ‘N’, so from a distance you actually think it reads MD (in addition to the lab coat and stethoscope stereotype). This may be my mind running in overdrive but I thought this was too much of a coincidence and I believe summarises all that is bad about the industry…deception.
All products I came across stated….
“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
While it is good they have abided by law and disclosed this on the product, it seems like as long as this is stated (in small print), they can make what ever claims they want on the product. This is a worry as majority of consumers cannot understand what the claims mean in light of this statement i.e. not scientific validated.
From the view of someone looking to introduce a new product into this market, ‘science’ is crucial. However, I am unsure if validated, robust scientific evidence specially associated with the product (and not just referenced studies undertaken by others) would aid in the success of a new product. I fear that it would simply not rise above the noise as the consumer cannot distinguish between the different types of scientific evidence.
Since taking up a business development role at Plant and Food Research a few weeks ago, I’ve been reading a lot into NZ’s Food and Beverage industry, particularly nutraceuticals and functional food. And I’ve come across some great resources produced by MED and NZTE.
The Ministry of Economic Development has recently commissioned the Food and Beverage Information Report.
This five year project, not only gives overview of the NZ food and beverage industry but also investigates in depth, several key sectors e.g. seafood, wine, processed foods, dairy, functional food and nutraceuticals. The functional food report is particularly impressive because it provides some clarity around an industry that is quite fragmented and fraught with product differentiation and credibility issues. This report is the first to really define and quantify the industry. There are also reports on specific global markets ( only Singapore to date).
To add to this wealth of market data, NZTE has also released a number of market intelligence reports for the global food and beverage industry over the past couple of years, many just being released over the past month. For example the F&B market in Australia, Malaysia, China, functional food in Korea, health food market in China, the list continues. However I’m hanging out for a Japanese F&B market report to be released.
Graeme @ graemefielder.com
I found an interesting article in the online issue of Business Week. John Carey, the author of ” Is Ethanol Getting a Bum Rap?” provides some of the hidden truths about the food vs fuel debate. The article is based on a study conducted by Texas A&M University that provides some interesting and controversial conclusions. It provides yet another perspective with its own statistics and comments by notable backers.
“Biofuels are a very, very small factor” in rising food costs
“The underlying force driving changes in the agricultural industry, along with the economy as a whole, is overall higher energy costs,“. As a result without corn derived ethanol, food prices would still be increasing. Apparently last year there was enough corn produce to allow a stockpile of 10% surplus.
“the ethanol industry is here to stay”
Certainly the 1st generation corn-fuels were and are not the way to be heading to a greener and sustainable renewable fuel due to its negative carbon and energy balance (more to produce than save). And it is widely accepted that investment should switch to focus on higher generation fuels and innovative processing technology for increasing yields and productivity (especially the separation technology for cellulosic sources with lignin). They mention sugarcane and switchgrassas as potential corn-substitute crops. However I still believe neither is satisfactory, with organic waste streams holding a more viable ethanol source. For example methane is obtained from wastewater treatment plants for energy use, however is ethanol able to be extracted from this process too? Solid waste from this industry (the largest biotech industry) accounts for a solid chunk of their operational costs. It is certainly challenging to get your head around the different perspectives and pull out a logical/ most appropriate means to pursue the biofuel revolution.
They rub further salt into the wound of followers of the ‘ethanol is causing increases in food prices’ bandwagon by stating and reasoning that increasing food prices is actually not a bad thing
If you do end up reading the article be sure to check out the replies to it – you can definitely feel the heat around this global debate. Fueling such responses:
“Excuse me, fertilizer from oil and natural gas? Oh, you must be the princess who spun gold from flax. do some research before commenting”
” I disagree with your assessment. No one on God’s green earth can tell me that ethanol has done anything to help.”
A couple others that support the other side of the story:
http://www.technologyreview.com/printer_friendly_article.aspx?id=20641 – ethanol is the cause of food prices
http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2006/12/08/philpott/ – cellulosic ethanol is even worse