Vitafoods Asia 2018

Mr.Chris Lee
Managing Director, GHNN Europe

AFB talks to Mr.Chris Lee, Managing Director, GHNN Europe, Global Exhibitions, Informa, to learn more about his company’s mission, how they contribute to the growth of the nutraceuticals in Asia, and what new possibilities are in store for Thai companies.

Held in Singapore from 11 – 12 September 2018, the 8 th Vitafoods Asia is Asia’s sole event with exhibitions and conferences about ingredients and raw materials, equipment and innovative technology, contract manufacturing, and branded goods in the nutraceuticals, dietary supplements, functional food and beverages industry. The year’s two-day event attracted 5,500 to 6,000 businesses and exhibitors from nearly 60 countries, on par with 2017.

Growth of Nutraceuticals in Asia

Demand for functional foods and nutraceuticals is high in this region. The Asian nutraceuticals ingredients market already accounted for 44.3% of the global market since 2016. Asia will continue to be the world’s fastest growing region over the next five years, driven by demand in India, China and South Korea arising from increasing consumer awareness and longstanding traditional cultural knowledge of the benefits of preventive products, alternative medicine, and the positive link between an adequate diet and
disease prevention.

Key countries in the Asia-Pacific that drive the region’s 7.5% year-on-year growth are China, Japan, Australia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The region’s compound annual growth rate is expected to grow 9.9% by 2025. Euromonitor estimates that the overall size of this regional market will be nearly US$90 billion by 2021, while Grand View Research reveals that the global market value by 2025 will likely exceed US$578 billion.

This growth is why we’re here at the show, connecting and taking the market opportunity for exhibitors and businesses here to capitalize on it. Our USP [unique selling proposition] is to bring multiple markets from all over Asia and not just a Singaporean local market, to the eight to ten markets that we’re serving and really bring in to a worldwide exhibiting audience,” Chris said. “It’s not Asia for Asia, but global for the Asian market.

Importance of Vitafoods Asia to Asia’s nutraceuticals supply chain

‘‘Vitafoods is about bringing more health to more people. We aren’t the leaders in Asia, but we are people that bring key stakeholders together to shape the industry,” said Chris. This belief made Vitafoods evolve from an ingredients-based exhibition to providing the full range of companies along the entire supply-chain including private labeling and even regulatory, marketing and packaging side services.

Most attendees are manufacturers who come to meet ingredients suppliers, consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, and due to growing consumer awareness, manufacturers have to learn how to better serve the audience that have begun to shift away from healthcare systems compared to how it was 20 years ago.

Despite its popularity, Vitafoods Asia is unlikely to extend beyond two days. “If it is three days, 5,500 attendees might be diluted and people might not be able to see enough companies. If you are an exhibitor on a stand, and have sufficient staff, you can see more than 100 companies a day,” he explained. “My job is a connector of communities. My team and I are here to build and grow that community. We must ensure we are connecting the right people to each other, and help them with the needs and challenges they have coming
into the region.”

Another event organized by Informa is Natural Products Expo West in the US with nearly 4,000 exhibitors and 90,000 attendees. The format is the reverse of Vitafoods Asia as CPG companies and manufacturers that are attendees in Asia are exhibitors on the show floor there.

More important than organizing global events in Asia, Europe and the US, is their mission.

“Our job and our purpose is about our in-house colleagues and external customers shaping the food industry for optimal health through science and innovation.”

Informa is an enormous corporation with global reach. Aside from organizing exhibitions and events, it hosts live events to industry portals. It has different businesses producing daily blogs and articles, Natural Products Insider journal, academic publications and business journals.

Chris and his team travel around the world visiting agricultural regions not only to understand lifestyles and products, but to ensure that workers are properly treated along the supply-chain. Their expertise and connections make them ideal partners for non-profit organizations such as Vitamin Angels that combats global malnutrition in infants and women.

Informa recently established a supply-chain with Nutritional Capital Network (NCN) to invite investors to meet and source capital for start-ups and innovators in the food industry that have projects creating new ingredients.

Market trends

Vitafoods shares market trends and offers assistance in fielding the complex regulations and processes in Asia which is not unified yet as they are dictated by individual countries. In the future, he believes that Asia will harmonize its standards towards a single framework like a Food and Drug Administration in the US and EFSA in Europe, but this disparity allows Informa to offer advice on public safety and scientifically proven safe processes and products.

The event is geared towards driving innovation and showcasing new products from ingredients suppliers to manufacturers and branded finished goods to consumers. The emphasis is not on curing diseases but rather providing choices that prevent diseases and maintain good health. Demonstrations and tasting bars show the latest trends which are products that improve skin

health and ‘beauty from within’, as well as those that boost energy and recovery in the form of gummies, vitamins and beverages. Asian vs. European demand for nutraceuticals in functional foods, beverages, and dietary supplements

“Consumers who are more aware of preventative and alternative medicines are trying to take supplements and functional foods to prevent diseases and have a better lifestyle, longevity, and ensure healthy aging,” Chris said.

Even before supplements, consumers value healthy food. Therefore the show has many ingredients to produce fortified eggs from hens that have healthy lifestyles and feeds to suit different consumers. “It is all about thinking how we can benefit consumer lifestyles and give them a better life.”

Though Asia is not a region typically associated with high malnutrition, every country has different deficiencies. Even people in wealthy developed countries with healthy diets like Japan tend to lack calcium and iron.

“Macro themes related to nutrition and weight management systems are really key. It is also about keeping diseases such as cardiovascular diseases and blood sugar levels under control, regulated through minerals and herbs in beverages.”

“The trend in APAC with functional foods and supplements in Malaysia and India has led to the demand for heart healthy products with cholesterol reducing and enriching compounds. Consumers are very aware of fibers and calcium. There are also local herbs known for different benefits like ginseng and tongkat ali. Many Asian consumers are also looking for products that boost energy, immunity systems, and aid recovery.”

Functional beverages that improve alertness and reduce calorie consumption, as well as having performance additives are a part of the package for fitness enthusiasts and athletes who know the importance of staying hydrated are especially popular in China and India.

Cardiovascular health supplements include Omega-3 for cognitive and heart health, and cannabidiol (CBD) which helps lower cholesterol in blood levels. Asian consumers are clued on the importance of supplements related to metabolism and the benefits of prebiotics and probiotics in regulating the  digestive system.

At this year’s show, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED), sent experts and staff to give attendees a quick blood test to see their Omega-3 levels. The activity helps them understand how they can bring a better product to their consumers and take these products themselves.

“We’re not just here to connect communities, but we’re also consumers.”

Advice for Thai businesses

Informa acquired UBM in June 2018, a B2B events driven business that complements Informa which is more events and intelligence driven catering to

consumers and attendees. With two companies that have a completely different set of stakeholders, partners and suppliers enhances the union and new products.

As Informa gains expertise with its new business that focuses on start-ups
and incubators, it might start to guide Thai ingredient companies and suppliers as early as 2019. “We already have a very good understanding with models and experts on how to connect people in start-ups and incubators, the latest research, the next big investment, and we also know the investors,” he said. This new developments would definitely enhance the growth of new nutraceuticals and health food manufacturing sector in Thailand.