Musings from Vitafoods 2019

I really like Geneva and Vitafoods—I just can’t help it. 

Over the last 15 years, several Geneva traditions have merged into my own Vitafoods experience including a vibrant show floor, awards receptions, fondue, the old town, late nights and early mornings, white asparagus and perhaps a couple others that are probably best left anonymous. On top of those, there has been the occasional marathon spectating and even one year watching the final stage of the Tour Romandie – right at the finish line and then interviewing racers and coaches as a representative of the food supplements industry. Most recently, an annual boat cruise has been added to my repertoire, and the backdrop of city and lake, combined with great friends and wonderful colleagues makes this event quite remarkable.

As I reflect on Vitafoods 2019, I’m struck again at how global then regionally nuanced our industry is. We may be talking transparency and sustainability (and clean label) in Geneva as well as elsewhere, but in Europe, it seems to be with a more clinical, detached view, whereas in North America, one feels much more connected to the market and the passion of the movement- it seems less theoretical and much more practical.

Considering themes and major value-based conversations, Vitafoods showcased the above as topics, of course, as key discussion points, as well as outlining the necessity of reaching out to and connecting with new consumers. These were key topics in addition to dialogue on pill fatigue and emerging health conditions where significant new science is focusing – eye health, brain health and nootropics, skin health (read collagen) and the connection between cognitive support, mood, stress and alertness. 

Other dominant themes:

  • Gummies, gummies, gummies – just how many gummies will the world really consume? We know consumers are tired of pills, and looking for different, more unique, flavorful and compelling delivery systems and gummies keep rising to the top. With everyone talking gummies, though, we’re chewing on the question “is that really the greatest delivery form for everything?”

  • Hemp and CDB – in case you missed it or were a tad concerned, this CBD and hemp movement is truly a global phenomenon despite regional and national boundaries to both supply chain and commerce and numerous regulations and understandings in development. On the Vitafoods show floor, in addition to extracts, we saw companies showcasing their synthetic capabilities for cannabinoids. This brings up the purist and pure discussion – how does industry handle this synthetic question and is that truly part of the supplements marketplace and conversation? It would certainly be a challenge to consider at Expo West, wouldn’t it? – Watch this space…

  • Probiotics, prebiotics, personalization/tech and the microbiome – While quite a broad umbrella, even in the absence of a healthy claims environment, probiotics continue to grow as a category in Europe as well as elsewhere. And where there’s an ‘otic’ there’s an ‘iome’ as companies position around microbiome expertise, and products intended to impact the microbiome. When you combine that with new technology and animal and human models, and then factor in an increasing ability to pre-select a likely to respond population, then segmentally targeted products become viable. These developments were showcased on the floor and in off floor discussions with new and established companies of all sizes.

  • Where has all the fiber gone? Long time ‘passing’… (In the old days, I’d probably have written a mock song)J Seriously, the emergence of new prebiotic strategies and approaches, not a focus on fiber as a functional ingredient, was evident on floor. While linking to whole microbiome strategies, it was also a separate priority of many companies.
  • No longer a suit and tie affair – At those Vitafoods of a few years ago it seemed like suits and business formal attire were an absolute requirement, and while this event will never be as absolutely casual as an Expo or even SupplySide West, ties are now going by the wayside as increasingly are jackets. I think I’m mixed about that…

What were your key takeaways from #VFE19? Please comment here or in person at the next event—IFT in New Orleans next month!

~Len

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