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SupplySide West 2015: Trends and Developments

SupplySide West was held October 5-9 in Las Vegas, NV at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The show featured 1,216 exhibitors and nearly 14,000 industry professionals from the food, beverage, dietary supplement, pet food, animal feed and cosmetics industries.[1] In attendance for the 2015 SupplySide West from Burdock Group were Dr. George Burdock, President, Ioana Carabin, Medical Director, Dr. Ray Matulka, Director of Toxicology, John Geisler, Director of Business Development, Amanda Roche, Marketing Coordinator, and Gina Radcliff, Controller.

The first official day of SupplySide West featured two educational tracks, Natural Products INSIDER and Food Product Design. Before event kick-off of the first sessions, Informa Media announced that they would be merging these two content brands into one brand in 2016 (you may have noticed that Natural Products INSIDER recently changed their logo). As they announced on their blog in June 2015,

Last year’s acquisition of VIRGO by Informa created the ideal timing for us to create a single comprehensive media brand to offer information and education on-demand when our events including SupplySide and the various global Vitafoods shows are not taking place. As a result, our INSIDER and Food Product Design brands will unite to create a comprehensive, global brand covering healthy ingredients and finished applications. By the start of 2016, this brand will be recognized as INSIDER, and will cover all the verticals concerned with healthy, innovative ingredients, including food, beverage, dietary supplements, sports nutrition and beauty.[2]

We expect to see interesting developments moving forward as the small, Arizona based Virgo team integrates with the global corporation, Informa Exhibitions.

Two major trends our team noticed this year at SupplySide West included plant-based foods and ingredients, as well as probiotics. As regulators, academia, media, science and industry all collide during this one week event in Las Vegas, we see these trends as an outcome of the intersection between all of these fields.

Plant-based Foods and Ingredients

In lieu of the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which came out at the beginning of this year (February 2015), many readers and industry members have commented that the draft report unnecessarily favors plant-based foods over meat-based products, partially due to the report’s focus on environmental impact and sustainability. In response, many in both industry and academia have argued that sustainability is not within the scope of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) mandate in the 1990 National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act (NNMRRA), which is to provide “nutritional and dietary information and guidelines… based on the preponderance of the scientific and medical knowledge.” [3] Recently, USDA released a blog post on their website stating that sustainability will not be focused on in their report; however, not has been determined if they will reconsider their focus on plant-based foods and health.[4] USDA plans to finalize the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the end of this year, or the beginning of 2016.

Whether or not USDA is overstepping its bounds by promoting plant-based products in their dietary guidelines, industry has already responded to these proclamations in the science and strategy presented at the 2015 SupplySide West exposition. The trend towards plant-based innovations does not seem to be going away, especially in the case of protein, with exhibitors featuring many new, vegetarian-sourced protein, such as rice, pea, casein, algal, and even looking towards beans and legumes as a both vegetarian and gluten free alternative to protein, as Ewa Hudson noted in her presentation, “Gluten-free Explosion: Opportunities & Challenges Surrounding the Nutritional Composition of Gluten-free Food” on Tuesday, Oct. 6th, the day of the SupplySide West educational sessions.


Along with plant-based protein sources, seaweed showed itself as a burgeoning field attempting to ride the wave of plant-based foods. According to an industry trend expert Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business, seaweed snacks are “riding a rising ride in the U.S. with sales swelling between $250 and $500 million in 2014.” Seaweed, unlike other plant sources, is an entire family of plants cultivated globally with no supply constraints, and offers a more attractive nutritional profile with no barriers to the number of food applications you can use it in, according to Mellentin.[5] Seaweed is also one of very few naturally occurring sources of the iodine, which our senior toxicologist Dr. Laurie Dolan points out in a past newsletter article, “Iodine Supplementation: Should It Be Considered for People Consuming Plant-Based Diets?[6] We expect to see increasingly more, and more diverse, applications for seaweed ingredients and food products in the future.

Cannabis-based Products

Along with the tide of plant-based food and ingredients, cannabidiol-based oils, ingredients and products are also beginning to make waves at SupplySide West. During the Natural Products INSIDER educational track, Patrick Rea presented on the “U.S. Cannabis Industry Market Overview – Opportunities, Trends and Risks.” While cannabidiol (CBD) oil and other cannabis-based products are still on shaky grounds federally, with the classification of cannabis as a schedule I substance, companies are still beginning to research and produce cannabis-based products (using the hemp plant, which contains only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC). These companies are often using the term “hemp” in order to attempt to get around federal law. Burdock Group encourages all companies strategizing any type of cannabis-based product or ingredient to consider consultation from a legal or regulatory expert before taking any hemp-based products to market.


The diverse applications for probiotics and research on microbiome health continues to grow, which was a constant theme throughout the trade show and persisted into the probiotic workshop, “From Microbiome to Market Success,” held on the last day of the conference, Friday, October 9th.

Health Claims

With the US v. Bayer (the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)) case reaching a court decision in favor of Bayer less than a week before the conference, the excitement for the future of probiotics and probiotic health claims was palpable during the workshop. As Ray Matulka, Ph.D., Director of Toxicology at Burdock Group noted, the Bayer case decision is a welcome one for industry; many in the supplement space have been concerned that this case might set a precedent of FTC requiring two randomized controlled trails (RTCs) to support the standard of “competent and reliable scientific evidence.” This change in requirements would essentially redefine the definition of “scientific evidence”, and create a standard that is very close to that of an investigational new drug application (IND) and required scientific support for drug claims.

In contrast to this good news from Dr. Matulka’s presentation, Ewa Hudson from Euromoniter International presented the negative effects of the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) strict regulating of the definition of “probiotics” and its rejection of over 300 claim applications from 2007-2012. Ms. Hudson showed that year on year percentage growth of probiotic yoghurt in the E.U. steadily declined from 2010 to the present. “Among just six of the EU member countries—Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom—the probiotic health claims ban will cost as much as €1.5 billion (approximately $1.7 billion) in lost sales for drinking probiotic yogurts between 2012 and 2020.”[7] Ms. Hudson presented a convincing case that health claims do have a significant impact on the sales of a product, and that EFSA’s strict regulation of these claims and its effect on sales and growth of probiotic yoghurt in the E.U. exemplifies this.

Market Opportunities

Looking towards the future of probiotics, Sunita Kumar suggested that the current research on the gut-brain axis may be one potential growth area for the probiotics market, driven by ongoing research in the “intestinal brain.”[8] Ms. Kumar also suggested that the market for probiotics will begin to focus on specific strains targeted to specific health concerns, along with the present increasing focus on individualized medicine and formulations. Additionally, in the session “Sports Nutrition: Market Trends and Ingredient Opportunities,” Ralf Jager highlighted the opportunity of combining probiotics into protein (specifically, plant-based protein powders) as way to increase the absorption rate of amino acids from the protein as well as maintain the overall immune health of athletes.

The conversations on probiotic market growth, opportunities and challenges were continuous throughout the conference.

SupplySide West 2016

Hosted by Informa Exhibitions, SupplySide West is an annual tradeshow and educational forum that is the finished product manufacturer’s gathering place for top performers, trends, scientific advances and networking. SupplySide West is all about the exploration, discovery, innovation and marketing strategy around the development of finished consumer goods that drive the global business economy. In its 20th year, the SupplySide West 2016 show will be held Oct. 4 to 8 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

We look forward to seeing you and continuing the conversations at next year’s SupplySide West!


[1] Natural Products INSIDER. “SupplySide West Attracts Nearly 14,00 Participants.” October 2015.

[2]Food Product Design. “Food Product Design, Natural Products INSIDER Unite to Meet Global Market Needs.” June 30, 2015.

[3] Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Advisory Report.” February 2015.

[4] United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA Blog post. “Dietary Guidelines Giving You the Tools to Make Healthy Choices.” October 6, 2015.

[5]Food Navigator USA. “As seaweed snacks gain popularity, they present a chance to get in at ground level, expert says.” September 30, 2015.

[6] Laurie C. Dolan, Ph.D. “Iodine Supplementation: Should It Be Considered for People Consuming Plant-Based Diets?” February 26, 2015.

[7] Nutritional Outlook. “Crackdown on Probiotic Health Claims Costs Billions for EU Yoghurt Industry.” October 12, 2015.

[8] Nutritional Outlook. “Are Probiotics Moving Beyond Gut Health?” October 20, 2015.

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