Educational Seminars Well-Received at SupplySide West
In addition to an entertaining keynote address by Al Franken and a two-day smorgasbord of networking on the Expo floor, SupplySide offered a variety of educational seminars. Panels and speakers covered topics that included buyers' question and answer sessions, quality control and online opportunities.
Two of the best-attended seminars brought suppliers and manufacturers to a Buyer's Q&A Forum. Two panels of three speakers each addressed how e-commerce, quality control standards, good manufacturing practices and more influence their own buying decisions. The speakers included Bill Coakley, Rexall Sundown; Gary Jepson, Weider; William Fitzgerald, Leiner; Tom Longstaff, Wyeth-Ayerst; Daren Sigrist, Olympian Laboratories; and Terry Word, Nature's Way. Across the sessions, attendees and speakers noted the increasing importance of quality standards and methodology of testing.
"We offer an outline of our quality control standards," Jepson said. "We determine our own testing methods and can correlate information. We do need standardization of testing across ingredients."
Quality control is a crucial part of becoming a supplier to a high-volume, high profile manufacturer. "We send out a 10-page supplier questionnaire," Coakley said. "We want to control a supplier audit and ensure that everything is correct. Then they're still only given provisional approval until we have an established history to rank them on our preferred use list." Coakley's questionnaire, as well as those mentioned by other panelists, were in hot demand after the seminar.
QC standards were also a point of discussion in the seminar "The FDA and Legal Perspective of Compliance and GMP Issues." Brad Williams, special assistant to the division of compliance and enforcement with FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, laid out for attendees the agency's 10-year implementation strategy for the regulation of dietary supplements, as well as its intent to move on issuing GMPs. "The goal of GMPs is to ensure quality and safety," he said. "And GMP development is one of our top priorities. I'm told we will publish proposed GMPs by the end of 2000." Williams also outlined requirements for regulation of functional foods ("they're foods"), the GRAS process, and the determination of "new" dietary supplement ingredients.
Other panelists included Larry Platkin, counsel with American Home Products; Sid Tracy, president of Traco Labs; and Saul Pilchen, partner in Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. Platkin shared his past experience in dealing with FDA and GMPs in the pharmaceutical area and how adverse event reporting (AERs) is important for the industry. "We need FDA to gather AERs to build a knowledge base for companies, regulators and consumers," he said. "We must learn to interact with our regulators for our consumers' benefit."
In the session "Building Your Brand Online," Integrated Marketing Group's Jeff Hilton discussed what it takes to create a Web site where consumers will return again and again. Some of his suggestions included offering a site that was easily navigated, that maintained the same image as the company it was representing and that offered consumers quick and easy access to what they were searching for. "Evaluate the strength of your online branding efforts by assessing seven key areas on your site: strategy, design, content, navigation, organization, interactivity and programming," Hilton suggested.
It seemed that he really connected with his audience; after the seminar, Hilton was inundated with business cards requesting additional information about Web site construction and even reconstruction.
Also, in the session "How Web-Based Information Providers are Growing the Market," panelists Jeffrey Eisenberg from IntraMedicine Inc. and Cheryl Bottger from Healthnotes Inc. covered how to create a site that services a company as well as its consumer. Creating a site that offers the latest research, coupled with a database that records consumers' preferences, is what will make a site a potential standout in the billions of unique pages that already inhabit the Web.
"Web-based information is expanding learning for the profession as well as the consumer on natural products and their functions," said Eisenberg. "By providing reliable science-based information through a web-based and relational system, research time is reduced while at the same time reducing product time to market."