Musings from SSE 2019

Destination: Secaucus, New Jersey.  Timing: early April. While not the most exciting or luxurious of destinations – it’s a great place to do some health ingredient business. SupplySide East, for the second year, came back to New Jersey featuring two shortened, but well-filled days for attendees. Proximity to Newark, transit and local companies makes this event work, and allow it to be more productive and practical than recently attempted ingredient events in Orlando and Manhattan. You just need to check your Expo West and SupplySide West and even IFT-based expectations at the door and recognize that good quality time with reps and execs is a small show floor away.

I’ve been to SupplySide East or one of its derivatives before – something like 20 and counting. It’s intimate, yet I was surprised at the number of senior execs on the floor, available and accessible. Instead of the distractions of 90,000 excited attendees, all participants instead only had to compete with education sessions a few doors down, a show floor happy hour and bar around the corner…. and transit. I know for many of the botanicals folks, the event ran opposite the Oxford International Conference on the Science of Botanicals, which was unfortunate.

With less than 300 exhibitors, you can take in the show floor in a couple hours at most. The programming even enabled those that couldn’t grab some of the content at other events like Expo West to get their feet wet on topics like CBD, and ‘otics’. More about those in a bit.

It’s about content, right?

As it has been, transparency was a hot topic. On day 1, Todd Pauli of 24 Stories covered supply chain transparency story telling and that messaging was woven into nearly every presentation and conversation on the show floor. As for myself, it’s always an honor to be invited to speak, and when asked to do so at SupplySide East last week, it was an easy decision since I was going to be at the event anyway. And talking about supply chain transparency issues to another audience (still ‘ZERO’ contract manufacturers in the room – guess they must feel they know it all already) has become a bit of a soapbox. The chance to chat with a few young brands who admittedly don’t even know what they don’t know is always heartening, especially when they engage. So, I was very happy to be part of a curriculum that hit many of the industry hot issues.

Ivan Wasserman of Amin Talati drew a standing room only crowd for his ‘Probiotics, Prebiotics, Synbiotics, Postbiotics, Oh My!’ presentation. And, as with Expo, the main draw was CBD. The first day, NBJ’s Clair Morton presented info on the CBD business opportunity and on the second day Steven Shapiro and Marc Ullman of Rivkin Radler LLP presented on the current regulatory environment. Both sessions were standing room only.

As I muse along in the immediate aftermath of SupplySide East, I cannot help but wonder at the sheer dominance of CBD in our news and minds. It’s engaging the existing, attracting new folks, and while certain to be a lucrative category and supply chain if everything goes right, the disproportionality of its headlines is more than a bit worrying. Where’s the science at the forefront? Where’s the mature rational approach? Where are the lessons learned from 25 years of DSHEA and well before even that, the lessons learned from a very high quality sophisticated botanical marketplace that gave us our pharma grade, well-characterized extracts? I personally am looking forward to CBD 4.0.

See you next at UNPA and Vitafoods.