There has been some speculation about the impact that political shocks such as Brexit will have on the industry. But research by the organisers of Vitafoods Europe (which takes place on 9–11 May in Palexpo, Geneva), paints an overwhelmingly positive picture, with excitement about consumer awareness and developing markets on the rise.

Past visitors to the event were asked how they felt about the future of their businesses in terms of sales performance and profitability. Nearly 90% said they felt very positive or quite positive. When the same question was asked last year, a similar number answered likewise, suggesting that industry optimism has not diminished over the past 12 months.

Chris Lee, managing director at Global Health and Nutrition Network, Europe, Informa Exhibitions, said, “It’s a sign of the resilience and resourcefulness of our industry that even in a period of political uncertainty, companies are focusing on opportunities rather than problems. With consumers increasingly interested in nutrition, markets opening up across the world and new ingredients emerging, there’s a lot to be excited about.

“Vitafoods Europe helps visitors understand those opportunities and make the most of them. But there will always be challenges too, and part of our role is to support the industry in meeting them.”

Given this optimism, it seems fitting that this year’s Vitafoods Europe is expected to be the biggest yet. The first event took place in 1997, with 100 exhibitors and just over 1,000 attendees. This year, there are expected to be more than 1,000 exhibitors and over 18,500 attendees, and attractions will cover four key areas: ingredients and raw materials, branded finished products, contract manufacturing and private label, and services and equipment.

The main trade show and the newly revamped Vitafoods Education Programme offer a wealth of expert advice, and businesses will use the event as a platform for launches. Hundreds of new ingredients will be exhibited and demonstrated at this year’s event – 90 of them in the New Ingredients Zone alone.

There will also be plenty of innovation on show in the New Products Zone, and the Springboard Pavilion will provide a space to engage with entrepreneurs at the cutting edge of the nutrition sector. For visitors who like their information bite-sized, the unique Vitafoods Launchpad will offer concise, highly focused exhibitor presentations about the latest products and ingredients.

Explore industry opportunities

New for 2017, the Vitafoods Innovation Centre, in association with analyze & realize, will offer free consultations on product development, scientific marketing, licensing opportunities, regulation and market access. Visitors who take advantage of the Innovation Tours, in association with NutriMarketing, will be able to take a guided tour around carefully selected exhibitors. And for those who prefer to find their own way round, four self-guided Discovery Trails will show the way to sports nutrition suppliers; new exhibitors; those looking for distributors; and advice and expertise hubs.

Last year, one in five visitors to Vitafoods Europe listed probiotics as one of the categories they were most interested in, and this will be the focus of the new Probiotics Resource Centre, in association with the International Probiotics Association.  This dedicated knowledge hub will enable visitors to understand everything there is to know about probiotics – from the latest breakthroughs in technology to analysis of consumer trends.

Vitafoods Europe also helps visitors learn more about the markets in which they operate, with hundreds of industry figures offering valuable business insights, as well as addressing complex legal, regulatory and ethical issues. In the Market & Trend Overview, experts from Innova Market Insights will explain the latest innovations and trends. Topics will include the Top 10 trends for 2017, cognitive health and heart health. Visitors to Vitafoods Centre Stage will hear from expert speakers including Inga Koehler of Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, who will address upper limits for vitamins and minerals in Europe.

The Life Stages Theatre will review the bespoke nutrient requirements needed throughout a person’s life. Elsewhere, the Exhibitor Presentation Theatre will showcase 35 presentations from a range of global exhibitors. Experts will also be sharing results from clinical trials and research projects through Poster Presentations.

For those that enjoy competition, the Vitafoods Venture Den will be an informal pitching competition for businesses looking to raise finance and forge partnerships. In the NCN Investor Meeting, in association with Nutrition Capital Network, 15 professionally screened companies will seek investors or partners. The third NutraIngredients Awards will also take place.

Vitafoods Europe is a global affair. Last year, visitors travelled from 114 different countries, and this year’s event will host companies and ingredients from six continents. There will be 12 International Pavilions – more than ever before – with dedicated spaces for exhibitors from Germany and Canada for the first time.

As well as allowing companies to explore and understand opportunities, Vitafoods Europe helps them deal with the challenges they face. Foremost among these, the survey suggests, is stricter regulation, which was identified as a challenge by 44% of survey respondents.

Visitors with any questions about regulation, certification, market research or product development will be able to have a one-on-one consultation with experts in The Advice Centre. Meanwhile, Vitafoods Centre Stage will host a keynote panel discussion about the impact of EU regulation on innovation in the ingredients sector. Speakers will include Petr Mensik, EU affairs manager at EU Specialty Food Ingredients and Beate Kettlitz, director of food policy, Science and R&D at Food Drink Europe.

Tailored content

The Vitafoods Europe Education Programme will run alongside the exhibition. Previously known as the Vitafoods Europe Conference, it will deliver targeted, high-value content focused on delegates’ individual business roles.

Based on feedback from last year, the programme will be separated into three distinct platforms to give delegates more flexibility to access content aligned with their particular areas of interest. For those seeking high-level technical knowledge, there will be seven R&D forums, which will showcase the latest applied nutrition science. Each will be dedicated to particular ingredients; for example, omega-3s, phytosterols, polyphenols, vitamins, dietary fibres, proteins and ingredients from India.

The forums will be delivered by world-leading experts, including Dr Clemens von Schacky of Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, who will explain ‘Why you want to have a high HS-omega-3 index’, and Dr Anna-Marjah Aura of the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland, who will discuss dietary-fibre-intestinal microbiome interactions.

A series of Business Workshops will present best practice for business growth, market access and streamlined supply chains for management and senior-level professionals in sales and marketing. Each of the sessions will focus on one of four key areas: ingredient registration and regulation; market insights and trends; marketing strategies; and botanicals. Speakers will include Professor Vittorio Silano, professor at the University of Rome and chair of the EFSA Working Group on Botanicals.

The full-day Probiotics Summit, produced with the assistance of the International Probiotics Association, will explore the current market and regulatory environment, as well as the latest developments in R&D. Speakers will include new IPA EU executive director Rosanna Pecere and Professor Michael Messora of the University of São Paulo.

An eye on future trends

Vitafoods Europe helps the industry prepare for opportunities ahead, and the survey suggests that personalised nutrition is the next big trend to look out for. Past visitors were asked what they saw as the three most important trends for the industry. For the short term (over the next 12 months), personalised nutrition was picked by one in five respondents (19%). However, when asked to think about the long term (the next three years), over a third (35%) identified it as an important trend.

These will be among the topics discussed in one of the Business Workshops in the Vitafoods Europe Education Programme, with experts from New Nutrition Business UK explaining why 'personalisation is the new normal'. In the exhibition, it will be the focus of a panel discussion titled ‘Health by design: the future of personalised nutrition’, where speakers will include Dr Astrid Stuckelberger of the Institute of Global Health at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva.

Naturally, many of the attractions that have proved a hit in recent years will be making a comeback at Vitafoods Europe 2017. After a successful debut in 2015, the Omega-3 Resource Centre, run in association with omega-3 expert GOED has become a popular draw. Visitors will hear expert presentations on market trends and the latest R&D, including current expert thinking on the role of omega-3 in human physiology. They will also be able to sample a wide range of ingredients and products from GOED members.

Sporting chance

The growth of sports nutrition as a category has been a significant industry success story in recent years, and will be
an important focus at this year’s event. Dr Adam Carey, chair of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA), will chair a panel discussion on Vitafoods Centre Stage called ‘A new era of innovation in sports nutrition’.

More experts will be on hand in the Sports Nutrition Zone, which enjoyed a successful debut in 2016. This year, the zone will be sponsored by Friesland Campina, and will include product showcases and a sampling bar. Visitors will also be able to access one-on-one sports nutrition regulation advice specifically on supplements. Other popular features returning in 2017 include the Vitafoods Tasting Centre, where attendees can experience new functional foods and beverages for specific health needs; and the Packaging Innovation Centre, which will cover advances in packaging technology, with a focus on design, delivery systems, convenience, labelling and sustainability.

Interesting times

Whatever else is happening in the world, there is no doubt that this is an exciting time to be in the nutrition industry. And, with a broad range of new ingredients on show, as well as access to expert advice and the latest scientific information, Vitafoods Europe is the place to explore the opportunities ahead for any business.