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Ingredient Marketplace: Opening Gambit

Ingredient Marketplace, held April 27 to 29 in Orlando, will bring  a mix of technology and health care to the global health and nutrition industry.

Finding new chemical sources for new drugs has become increasingly difficult. The cost of drug discovery has skyrocketed. Drug manufacturers want to look at natural products as a source of new drugs. They often look toward biotechnology interventions. The process requires to be supported by algorithms.

The natural product industry is still quite far from building capability to discover new drugs. However, I am convinced that it is just a matter of time when a natural product innovator or a startup will step into this space. Once that happens, we will be surprised at the speed at which transformation of the natural industry will occur. The future Ingredient Marketplace tradeshow, held April 27 to 29, and similar events will have a different attendee mix then.

The shift, to my mind, has begun. Many of the ingredient manufacturers and suppliers are common to the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical companies. I notice that among the attendees to the Orlando event, there is Agilent, a pure technology company. These are early straws of change in the event and indicators of the times to come.

The biotechnologists, drug discoverers, genetic re-engineering scientists, the IT coding and process companies along with the full complement of health sector providers from equipment manufacturers to hospitals will stream into these future events. I am just eagerly waiting for just a couple of Silicon Valley-type interventions in the industry. Maybe they are already coming to the event.

If that happens, the Pandora box, would have been pried open. A beginning to a new natural product industry would begin. Maybe this future will be written on the back of acquisitions, mergers or building synergies between companies. It could be as startling as the acquisition of Occulus by Facebook. We are on the verge of an explosion of virtual reality content here.

However, there still exists a divide between the mainstream health care and the natural products industry. This divide is reflected in the membership profiles of major natural product industry associations where representations from the mainstream health care are almost nonexistent.

Now back to the present.

The entire value chain of the natural products industry is attending Ingredient Marketplace. This includes raw material suppliers, ingredient manufacturers, packaging producers, contract manufacturers, retailers, consultants, scientists, dieticians, scholars, media, marketers and legal professionals. Some have registered as sponsors; others have booked store fronts and stalls. Many are coming to the event as visitors.

Suppliers and buyers from the across the globe have registered. After all, the United States is the largest consumer of natural products in the world. It is therefore not surprising that many of the natural products companies have multination presence. The biggest ingredient suppliers like Gelita, Sabinsa, DSM Nutritional Products, Capsugel, Allen Flavors and many others will be presenting their range of products at the event.

This year’s focus is on probiotics, improvements on manufacturing processes, sports nutrition, weight management and anti-aging products. Panel discussions on the latest trends on ingredient sciences have been included in the agenda. Academicians, scientists, practitioners and industry will participate.

The National Probiotics Association members are sponsoring a session on probiotics. The full spectrum from enzyme manufacturers to end product producers will be in attendance. A top-notch dietician will be speaking and taking questions in this special day-long event.

Individual manufacturers and product creators are showcasing superior product manufacturing capability and products. Some have carried out clinical trials to support the efficacy of their products. 

The manufacturing process over the years has substantially improved. This has been helped by the U.S. FDA insisting on high standards in manufacturing. This had spillover impact to manufacturers and suppliers practices worldwide.

Many companies are using the event to unveil new products and processes. They are coming to the event where the full spectrum of business is being represented. The innovators will hope to catch the attention of the media. Based on my experience on covering startups, I would recommend that the best strategy is to start early and get a media person interested in your product before the start of the event.

Companies will be vying to gain new customers. There will be competition for market share. Everyone coming to the event will be looking for a good deal. Or at least will be hoping to get a good deal.

The ones who have done their homework, initiated pre-event dialog with prospective suppliers, understood who is offering what at what price and what quality would have a deal more or less signed up before the event.

The reverse happy hour session on the evening of the April 28 will be a good place to get to know buyers and sellers, network, understand, explore and take a final call. Sales associates for the large companies would have already done the homework. The event is a time for the top management to take a final go no go call. It will be an exciting three days of April.

Sudhir Ahluwalia is a business consultant. He has been management consulting head of Tata Consultancy Services, an IT outsourcing company in Asia, business advisor to multiple companies, columnist and author of upcoming book on herb, “Holy Herbs." He has been a member of the Indian Forest Service.

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