The event brought together a wide variety of government and industry leaders to discuss the future development and current trends of antioxidants and superfruits in China.
By Jeff Crowther, founder, U.S.-China Health Products Association
The first annual “China Anti-oxidant Berry & Super Fruit Industry Conference” was held on May 26-27, 2011, in Beijing and was organized by the Ministry of Commerce’s Chamber for Natural Products, Herbridge.com, Center for Public Nutrition and the Ministry of Water Resources.
The event was a big success bringing together a wide variety of government and industry leaders to discuss the future development and current trends of antioxidants and superfruits in China’s overall health and nutrition industry. In attendance were representatives from over 40 different organizations, including State Food and Drug Administration, Public Nutrition and Development Center, Unilever, Agricultural Food Giant COFCO, Beijing Gingko Group, Skyherb, Amway, NBTY, U.S.-China Health Products Association, and JF-Natural, to name a few.
Seabuckthorn and goji berry were highlighted during the event, but many other fruits were also discussed, such as elderberry, blueberry, bilberry, noni, etc. Mr. Li Yonghai discussed seabuckthorn as his particular area of expertise, noting that it has been cultivated in China since 1980 but did not do very well until recently after the Chinese government invested upwards of 1.2 billion RMB ($185 million) throughout the last decade. Li noted there are over 200 different elements identified within the seabuckthorn such as vitamins, minerals, OPC, amino acids, etc., and that it is only second to acai in terms of its ORAC value.
As part of the National Development and Reform Commission, Dr. Yu Xiaodong’s presentation focused on public health and wellness. He made clear that China is investing heavily to transform its overburdened healthcare system to be more preventative in nature. This shift should encourage the growth and development of natural health products and education, which will promote healthier lifestyles. Yu believes that superfruits and vegetables should be part of a healthy diet. However, like everywhere else in the world, getting five daily servings is difficult. He feels superfruit products such as smoothies or juices high in nutrients and low in sugar can really help to satisfy this daily requirement.
State Food and Drug Administration’s vice director for food and drug licensing Mr. Zhang Jinjing discussed SFDA’s role in monitoring and licensing foods that have specific claims. He said evidence for functional foods is limited and that it takes a long time to realize the results in people. Basically, the SFDA views superfruits as a type of functional food that should have animal and human trials done to verify their efficacy and claims. Director Zhang said China’s State Council is currently reviewing new implementation regulations for the dietary supplement industry and is looking to push through new regulations that will encourage industry development. However, there are still many issues to consider. For example, there are many Traditional Chinese Medicine health products in the market with decades of use. However, many have never been scrutinized in a Western model; therefore, how do these traditional claims fit into the regulatory system? Director Zhang mentioned that currently there are many fake products and misinformation in advertising, which is hurting the industry. He hopes that the new regulations will help rid the market of these types of practices and offer consumers solid information on scientifically proven dietary supplements and other natural health products.
Beijing Gingko Groups CEO Mr. Li Chunhua discussed a bit about his company and its use of berry extracts. Li said that although the goji berry has become more popular, the goji industry in China is not yet up to international standards. There are still many pesticides used, and quality varies greatly from supplier to supplier. Li feels boysenberry and ligonberry will become part of the superfruit category in time. New Zealand is expanding its boysenberry production in preparation for this. Also, to solidify ligonberry as an up-and-comer, Coco Cola Co. produced a ligonberry beverage for the northern European market.
One of the biggest problems Li sees for China’s superfruit industry is a logistics issue. China doesn’t have a well-developed cold-storage logistics industry, and superfruits rely on immediate and consistent cold storage until ready for processing. Unregulated cold storage can have an adverse effect on the cell walls and nutrients contained in the fruits.
U.S.-China Health Products Association’s Jeff Crowther gave a presentation on the U.S. market covering both sales and regulations. Crowther highlighted China’s great potential for becoming the largest market for dietary supplements in the coming years. However, without appropriate regulatory reform, investors and many foreign companies will choose to wait until the market is more transparent and open. Crowther noted Chinese consumers’ lack of education about dietary supplements as a stumbling block. He noted this situation would be rectified with new legislation that will encourage investment and the spread of product knowledge.
Being based in China for over six years, Crowther is very familiar with Chinese social norms and eating habits. Using a personal story, he showed the audience a bottle of Jarrow Formula’s Daily 5, which is a powdered blend of organic fruits and vegetables. He explained how every morning he has a smoothie using orange juice, oatmeal, whey protein, and a scoop of Daily 5. Although not practiced by all Americans, such a practice is certainly not out of the ordinary. However, in China, making a smoothie like this at home is definitely not common practice. Since moving to China, Crowther has explained what the smoothie contains and why he takes it on a regular basis.
Overall, the event was very well organized and there are plans for another conference next year to continue to discuss and share information on antioxidants and superfruits. Everyone involved, from the speakers to the attendees, was very optimistic about China’s future as not just the leader in supplying ingredients but transforming into a destination for finished products. With China’s economic growth and expanding consumer base, their aspirations are not off the mark.
For more information on this event or to explore the potentials the China market holds for natural health products, please contact the U.S.-China Health Products Association at email@example.com or visit its website at www.uschinahpa.org
About the association: The U.S. – China Health Products Association is the only U.S. non-profit association operating in China. Its missions are to work toward a more open regulatory environment in China, to increase dietary supplement and other natural health product exports to China as well as work on creating a safer more transparent supply chain through its work with one of its founding members NSF International.