With consumer awareness of functional nutrition higher than ever, and science and technology driving exciting new innovations, the future for nutraceuticals is looking bright.

In fact, a survey by the organisers of Vitafoods Europe – which takes place on 15–17 May 2018 in Palexpo, Geneva – shows that 92% of industry professionals feel either ‘quite positive’ or ‘very positive’ about the future of their companies, a rise from 88% in 2017. Almost half (48%) of those questioned see increasing consumer awareness as one of the biggest opportunities for their business, followed by innovation through new ingredients (37%) and growth in developing markets (27%).

Evolving to meet visitors’ needs

Vitafoods Europe is expected to attract over 21,000 visitors and over 1,100 exhibitors. Despite enjoying a recordbreaking year in 2017, the event’s organisers have not sat back. Based on feedback from visitors, the team has adapted and expanded its popular attractions and resources.

For example, the New Ingredients Zone will, for the first time, include an ingredients theatre where visitors can find out more about specific ingredients, products and services through case studies and presentations.

Another feature that has expanded to offer more content is the Omega-3 Resource Centre in association with GOED. This knowledge hub will help visitors to learn about various omega-3 formats and sources, and connect them with the right omega-3 supply chain partners.

The Sports Nutrition Zone, sponsored by Friesland Campina DMV, also has new features. This engaging and interactive demonstration area will offer a new sports nutrition theatre, as well as a sampling bar and product showcases.

Tackling the issues at the top of the agenda

This year’s survey reveals a threeway tie at the top of the nutraceutical agenda. Healthy ageing, general wellbeing and digestive health, each chosen by 23% of survey respondents, ranked jointly as companies’ most important health benefit areas.

Reflecting the importance of healthy ageing, the Vitafoods Life Stages Theatre will offer expert sessions on nutrition requirements from infancy to later life. Speakers will include Dr Astrid Stuckelberger of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva and Lausanne, who will give the keynote presentation entitled ‘Beauty and health: Going from anti-aging to advanced health’, while Dr Emma Schofield, global food science analyst at Mintel, will discuss food, drink and healthcare for seniors of different age groups.

While healthy ageing has long been a key focus for the industry, this is the first time that digestive health has topped the poll, reflecting the current boom in the global probiotic industry. Accordingly, probiotics will be a major focus at Vitafoods Europe. The Probiotics Resource Centre, in association with the International Probiotics Association, will help visitors to understand everything there is to know about probiotics, from the latest breakthroughs in probiotic technology to consumer analysis and market trends.

Another key area of focus will be cardiovascular health, which was their main health concern for 22% of survey respondents. The role of anthocyanin for vascular function will be explored in the polyphenols R&D forum.

A platform for innovation

The Vitafoods Europe survey shows how the industry is investing heavily in research and development. Almost half (46%) of respondents said their companies will spend at least 10% more on R&D in the current financial year, and over a third (37%) said their investment would be even higher next year.

Reflecting this spirit of innovation, Vitafoods Europe will offer visitors a range of opportunities for discovery. For those looking for something new for their business, the New Ingredients Zone will showcase the latest ingredients and raw materials, and the New Products Zone will display the latest functional foods and beverages – from teas, bars and powders to health shots and chewable vitamins.

Visitors will be able to engage with entrepreneurs at the cutting edge of the nutrition sector at the Springboard Pavilion. Alternatively, they can meet experts of innovative ingredients, products and technologies by taking one of the themed innovation tours or self-guided discovery trails.

For those who want to try before they buy, the Tasting Centre offers opportunities to sample the latest retail-ready products, and visitors will be able to gain one-to-one advice at the Packaging Zone, where they can discover creative new packaging solutions with an overarching theme of simplicity and convenience.

Exploring the consumer trends shaping the future

Vitafoods Europe always focuses on new trends and hot topics, with a focus on how businesses can apply them. This year, ‘clean label’ topped the poll as the most significant trend, being chosen by 49% of those surveyed, and overtaking scientifically supported health claims on 39%.

The 2018 edition of the show will provide a range of opportunities to learn more about these key trends, as well as providing a window on emerging issues for the future. Speakers at the Vitafoods Centre Stage – a one-stop shop for industry insights at the heart of the event – will include Suzanne Robinson of Happen UK, who will speak on the growth of the free-from trend, and Monica Feldman of Consumer Health Strategy on fasting.

Elsewhere, experts from Innova Market Insights will showcase a series of poster and iPad presentations with specialists on hand to offer independent advice on emerging trends at the Market and Trend Overview. Meanwhile, companies will be seeking strategic partners in the NCN investor meeting and the NutraIngredients Awards will take place for the fourth year.

The new and improved Vitafoods Education Programme

In a fast-moving consumer-led industry, the importance of marrying future trends with the latest scientific research has never been greater.

The Vitafoods Education Programme, which runs alongside the main trade show, brings together big names from academia and industry. After securing in-depth feedback from delegates through research and interviews, Vitafoods Europe will present a new, improved and more interactive programme this year.

One major focus area will be personalised nutrition, which ranked in the poll as one of the most important industry trends for 2018, but is yet to conquer the mass market. To find out why, the Education Programme will include a new personalised nutrition workshop. This half-day, interactive event will explore issues such as improving consumer awareness, as well as legislative and policy changes that might help the category achieve its potential.

The programme will also explore the trend of probiotics, with an R&D forum sponsored by DuPont Health & Nutrition. This will explore the challenges of this industry sector, including ways of incorporating beneficial bacteria into a food matrix.

Other R&D forums are devoted entirely to emerging ingredients. Speakers will include Rimantas Venskutonis of the Kaunas University of Technology, who will discuss industrial hemp as an ‘old-new’ source of functional ingredients, and Miomir Niksic of the University of Belgrade will focus on the potential of Kombucha and other ingredients from fungi.

For delegates with a professional interest in science and technology, a series of R&D forums will introduce ingredient benefits from recent studies, as well as exploring ingredient application and product development. The forums will focus on eight key topic areas: probiotics; vitamins and minerals; marine ingredients; protein; polyphenols; up-and-coming ingredients; botanicals; and new technologies and approaches for nutraceutical product development. Speakers will include Professor Philip Calder of the University of Southampton, who will discuss a review of the factors influencing the bioavailability of omega- 3; Dr Steffen Oesser of the University of Kiel on advances in collagen research; and Dr Emma Wightman of the University of Northumbria on the cognitive and mood effects of resveratrol.

Meanwhile, five business and marketing forums will help delegates understand marketing strategies and how to benefit from consumer trends in a regulatory environment. Jeff Hilton of Brand Hive will discuss digital strategies to drive awareness, engagement and conversions, and there will be a roundtable discussion on the interaction between R&D and marketing. With Generations Y and Z increasingly important to the nutrition industry, Alexia Rea of Nutrikeo will be asking who the consumers of the future are.

For the first time, the R&D forums, and the business and marketing forums will include seven interactive roundtable discussions to encourage the sharing of best practice and peer-to-peer networking. Also, a new one-day pass option will allow timepressured delegates to take part in the forums on a cost-effective basis.

Guidance through the regulatory maze

Stricter regulation topped the Vitafoods Europe poll as the biggest challenge for businesses. In fact, over a third (33%) of those surveyed said they now see the EU regulatory framework as unhelpful, an increase from 25% at the start of 2017. A key reason for this is the EU’s apparently tough stance on the approval of health claims. With over a quarter (28%) of respondents saying the EU policy change that would most help their business is an overhaul of health claims regulations, Vitafoods Europe will offer practical help in this department, with Patrick Coppens of EAS Strategies outlining the step-by-step process to register health claims in one of the business and marketing forums.

A key regulatory change this year has been the introduction of new rules for the approval of novel foods, with applications now submitted to the European Commission rather than individual member states. Visitors interested in how the new system will affect them will be able to learn more in an update from Liza Van Den Eede, regulatory affairs director at Pen & Tec Consulting, in a business and marketing forum entitled ‘Insights on recent and upcoming regulatory developments’.

Unrivalled networking opportunities

Over the past two decades, Vitafoods Europe has earned a reputation as the place where professionals from across the global nutraceutical supply chain meet to create products that deliver optimal health. The event’s expected 21,000-plus visitors are able to connect with leading manufacturers, distributors, buyers and high-quality suppliers across the four key nutraceutical industry areas: ingredients and raw materials; branded finished products; contract manufacturing and private label; and services and equipment.

For established brands and smaller companies with products, ingredients or services to launch or showcase, Vitafoods Europe is the perfect platform.