How successful do you think this edition of Vitafoods Europe was?
From the feedback we have received so far from both our onsite teams and customers this year we felt that it was a particularly strong event. Overall, there was a clear trend toward a higher quality of meetings taking place, with more detailed discussions on working together. Significantly, this was both from existing clients and prospective partners, and there was a much greater focus on how we can potentially assist them in the development of new products and working together in the longer term.
More generally, I think we can say this is a trend across the industry to have more strategic partnerships with clients, but obviously the contract providers, like ourselves, do need that broad R&D capability to back this up. It’s one of the reasons it has been such an exciting event for both Sirio and Ayanda, because we specialise in the development of new products. Customers are looking for a partner that has experience in developing a differentiated product with better appeal and multiple USPs. For example, the Sirio gummy products were particularly praised for their enhanced taste over many other products. The fact that we have sugar free and vegan options was also a major strength that customers pointed to. This is clearly the direction the industry is heading – customers will go to outsourcing partners that can bring new benefits to products, with technologies that enhance a nutraceutical’s appeal or provide unique formulations or combinations.
Speaking of innovation, how well received by customers was the recently patented probiotic technology – a softgel capsule able to contain an active probiotic bacteria, as well as at least one oil (e.g. Omega 3)
The short answer is very well received, as the reaction we have seen from the market has been overwhelmingly positive. Many other companies have attempted to make it, but never successful commercially. The customers we spoke to at Vitafoods are really interested in this new technology, as it potentially opens up many new products. The industry has spent a long time trying to develop a product like this, and using this new production method we are able to balance the survival of probiotics and the formation of an intact softgel capsule – so it is a big achievement. It will enable the production of a probiotic softgel coupled with an additional oil – crucially reducing the number of dosages consumers need to get their supplement needs. With this new technology, we expect to see a growing interest from nutraceutical brand owners, as it opens up many possibilities for truly novel products. From here, we will continue to innovate and work on validating new probiotics over the next few years. The idea is to continue to develop new probiotics so that customers have more and more options. We are really just at the beginning of this innovation’s potential.
What other areas are interest are you seeing?
Undoubtedly, certain amongst the European companies we met there is a continuing growing trend towards vegetarian and even vegan formulations – especially in areas like gummies. Sirio is amongst a small group of providers that are able to deliver novel formulations (e.g. gummies that are sugar free and vegan).
Perhaps the most notable feature of this year’s event is the internationalisation of contacts we met with enquiries at the event coming from South America, India, Turkey and Malaysia in addition to the more traditional nutra markets in Europe and the USA.
There is also a push amongst our customers towards sourcing natural and sustainable alternatives where possible, and with Ayanda offering organic products and Sirio vegan options, we have taken a lot of interest in fulfilling those needs.
Customers are also now trying to work with us earlier in the development cycle to assist them formulate new products. Another important aspect of feedback we received was that our products often have better taste and texture profiles over and above our competitors.
What does changing stand designs indicate about the industry?
More generally, you can see yourselves amongst the stands at Vitafoods that the industry is becoming ecologically focussed, with more natural stands, plant pictures and designs – emphasizing the shift in the industry toward the natural, healthy and sustainable.
What do you think are the best opportunities this year based on what your experienced at Vitafoods?
The single biggest trends is that undoubtedly, our customers are now seeking to align themselves in tighter partnerships with bigger, more capable CDMOs. By this, we mean there is a clear trend for nutra companies to come to us earlier in the cycle and to rely upon us for a much broader remit of services. Rather than being transactional, the modern-day nutra CDMO is very much an active development partner, working with customers to deliver products that have unique benefits, and combinations. We are now working with our partners on activities as diverse as shelf-life and stability testing right through to complex taste and texture profiles and even how to market products.