Dispatches from Vitafoods Europe 2011

Vitafoods 2011 roundup: Industry finds new strength post-recession and EFSA

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health claims, Nutrition, Dsm

Vitafoods 2011 reveals a profitable European health & wellness sector
Vitafoods 2011 reveals a profitable European health & wellness sector
Vitafoods Europe 2011 revealed upbeat ingredients, supplements and functional food players forging ahead after the recent recession years and rapidly adapting to life under strict European Union health claim regulations.

A scan of financial statements from ingredient players in the past 12 months has produced many above forecast results with emerging market development and core area consolidation a theme among many from DSM to Barry Callebaut to BASF to Probi – and this bottom line wellbeing was reflected on the show floor over the three days.

New alliances

While some big players like Cargill and Tate & Lyle chose not to exhibit at the convention this year, show organisers reported increased overall exhibitors and newly merged ingredient giants like BASF-Cognis shared stands for the first time on European shores, although DSM and Martek kept things separate for now.

Indeed newly rebranded DSM announced another acquisition during the show – the Spanish carotenoid player Vitatene. DSM’s transition period from a chemicals company to a health and nutrition and life sciences company is complete, it said - now it is focused on growth.

In an interview with NutraIngredients, DSM’s head of global marketing in human nutrition and health, Gareth Barker, said the Dutch giant had other targets in mind.

Further acquisition talk was rife on the show floor and few companies refused to rule out their own ongoing acquisition interest, or the interest their company represented to others.

Herbs, omega-3

Pharmaceutical companies had a bigger presence at the show, with one large herbal extracts company representative observing that the EU Herbal Directive was drawing interest to the sector, as more products received official validation.

But he observed that while health claims like the antioxidant positive opinion for olive polyphenols issued by EFSA recently were useful, a uniform situation would develop with all products bearing the same claim, and so differentiation would then be sought in other ways such as price.

While herbal medicines were prominent in the finished products section, so too were the number of ingredient suppliers marketing high-dose versions of their wares with the pharma sector in mind.

Omega-3 suppliers making EPA-DHA purity claims of up to 97.5% were some of the highest ever seen, but some high-dose product makers said they preferred to use greater quantities of lower dose omega-3s because of greater oxidation control.

The omega-3 sector continues to expand with a recent Frost and Sullivan report showing raw material supply had pushed through $1bn and there were many new vendors offering such high-dose versions, including a large number in the Chinese pavilion. Increasingly sophisticated branding and marketing was apparent among these players, with some referencing the fact omega-3s have won EU health claims in marketing materials.

Adam Ismail, from the Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) visited the NutraIngredients stand at the show and relayed that some of the new Chinese suppliers had joined the trade body, and the group was reaching out to all new players in the sector by encouraging compliance to the GOED voluntary monograph.

Another new omega-3 supplier, Chile-based Golden Omega, is set to become the first South American based company to enter the omega-3 supply chain, a move that was always inevitable given a majority of the world’s fish sourced omega-3s come from the strictly governed anchovy fisheries of Peru and Chile.

Even though it will not debut until September, ambitious Golden Omega had a large stand at Vitafoods, and sales director, Bjorne Rene, a GOED technical committee member, said interest had been strong in its portfolio that included 60% EPA/DHA offerings.

Algae and plant-based omega-3 suppliers also had a strong presence at the show, with many promoting the sustainability of plant-based omega-3s compared to fish sources. Look for a lively video debate on this topic on NutraIngredients in coming days.

Probiotic players were on display in force, seemingly undaunted by the ongoing EFSA rejection of their health benefits. '"The science work goes on and we remain confident our claims will eventually be accepted," ​said one.

Essential

A 'back to basics' approach was also apparent for many companies, with vitamins and minerals receiving increasing attention due to the positive health claims they have won at the expense of other ‘non-essential’ nutrients that have so far not impressed EFSA scientists.

With these claims in hand the broad portfolio suppliers were building health category platforms featuring various vitamin and mineral blends with non-essential nutrients, and offering ever-more dynamic marketing and regulatory solutions to make it easier to formulate and market products for their current and prospective clients.

“The ingredient is such a small part of the offering now,” ​observed Emily Lauwaert from Roquette. “Customers expect so much more of us now so that is the challenge we have to meet.”

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