Business Strategies / New Food Products / Process and Operations

October 2008 Supply Side West Attracts Wide Range of Executives

Industry executives from dietary supplement, food, cosmeceutical, pharmaceutical and animal nutrition companies gathered on Oct. 22-24 in Las Vegas for Supply Side West.

The biggest buzz on the floor of SupplySide West was the regulatory status of the herb and sweetener stevia, grown for generations in Central America and sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement. It does not have FDA GRAS status for use in food and beverages although, with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo developing products using it, approval is expected soon.

The Australian and New Zealand food standards authority recently approved steviol glycosides for use in foods, while in June 2008 the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) concluded that stevia extracts containing 95 percent steviol glycosides are safe for human use in the range of 4mg per kilogram of body weight per day.

Merisant and Cargill notified the FDA that rebiana (the common name for high-purity Rebaudioside A) from stevia should be GRAS. PureCircle signed agreements with Pepsico and Whole Earth Sweetener Co. (a subsidiary of Merisant Co.) to supply Rebaudioside A under the PureVia brand. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola teamed up with Cargill to use its rebiana brand Truvia.

Representatives from both companies discussed their collaboration. George Pugh, manager of food toxicology for Coca-Cola, stated the company’s goal when embarking on this project: “We’re interested in developing a natural food ingredient with strong scientific safety support to meet consumer demand for a non-caloric, natural sweetener.”

If the FDA issues a letter of no objection, stevia will be the new sweetener used in many food and beverage products.

Reviewing functional food trends, Elizabeth Sloan, president of Sloan Trends Inc., pointed out that the No. 1 group of functional food users are between the ages of 18 and 24. People in this age group also are the most frequent healthy snackers.

Currently, the top functional foods are those that address heart health. For the coming year, Sloan offers the following top 10 trends: body fat; kids at risk; “primature market”; circulation/stroke/artery health; naturally functional/mainstreaming of phytochemicals; satiety; baby “kaboomers”; vitality; Gen Y; ailments of aging.

She said the premature market targeting post-menopausal women is a “huge missed market,” and foods that address sarcopenia (the loss of lean muscle mass, strength and function as we age) has “mega market potential.” “Kaboomers,” a term apparently coined by Time magazine, are the children of baby boomers born between 1979 ad 1989 … otherwise called Generation Y.

Taking a look at consumer understanding of and interest in foods fortified with omega-3s, Fiona Angus of Leatherhead International said there is great market potential for omega-3 enriched foods and supplements, with food sales in the EU and U.S. projected to top $9.72 billion by 2012. Consumer awareness of omega-3s is quite high — 88 percent in the U.S. and 92 percent in Europe — although there is less knowledge about the types of omega-3s and specific health benefits.

Other hot topics covered in sessions included nanotechnology applications, nutrigenomics, nutricosmetics, cosmeceuticals, probiotics and ingredients to address anti-aging, stress, energy, sleep deprivation, obesity, and the opportunities and challenges of entering the Chinese and Indian marketplaces.

With the global economic downturn, many shows are seeing drops in attendance, but with 1,079 exhibitors (up eight percent) and some 8,000 attendees, this was the largest-ever SupplySide West show.

“What I like about the show is that it is extremely compact,” said Doug Rye, purchasing manager at Odwalla Inc. “I can reach a lot of people, and a lot of people can reach me in a short amount of time. It's a great use of my time. IFT is too diverse, while SupplySide West is a great ingredient show.”

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