Geneva has a rich history. The earliest stages of St Peter's Cathedral there date back to 1160. A famous hotbed for Protestant revolutionary zeal in the 16th18th Century and home to church reformer Calvin, the European headquarters of the UN is also renowned for being the nexus of human rights activity.
The city is also, of course, well known for being a prominent seat of banking and business. And that makes it a particularly appropriate host for Vitafoods Europe, and its allied show Finished Products Expo (FPE), which showcase a plethora of functional food and drink ingredients, supplements and cosmeceuticals. Switzerland may have developed a reputation as a wartime neutral zone, but you can bet that exhibitors won't adopt a neutral tone when it comes to plying their wares. Especially if last year's extravaganza, which attracted 500 exhibitors and more than 8,500 buyers from around the world, is anything to go by. So, roll your sleeves up and prepare for a tour of duty to bombard your senses.
Veteran visitors to the show will find the 2011 Nutraceutical Business & Technology Awards, which are designed to promote innovation and excellence in the category a novel addition to the mix. But, aside from the awards, a packed conference programme will run throughout the trade fair's three days. Speakers are drawn from high-profile firms including Unilever, Glaxo SmithKline and DSM Nutritional Products and research bodies such as the Institute of Food Research and Reading University. They will cover specialist topics, ranging from appetite control and gut health to food allergies and EU nutrition and health claims regulations.
However, for those wanting to get straight to business, stands are divided into international pavilions dedicated to countries and regions such as France, Belgium, Ireland, China, India, Korea and the US.
One of the first things you'll notice is the explosive growth in exhibitors from the Far East. At last glance, out of more than 400 exhibitors, 65 hailed from areas such as China, Malaysia and Singapore. The China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products and the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency are both manning stands at the show. It shows the rapid development of the region's food processing and pharmaceutical industries, keen to increase their share of a global market that Vitafoods organisers reckon is worth $243bn (£150bn).
FPE's and Vitafoods's new product zones act as guides to the latest innovations to hit that market. FPE also boasts a tasting bar, which allows delegates to sample the new creations and vote for their favourites.
Attendees will be able to find more information on these new launches, plus other developments and case studies at supplier seminars. If they want an overview of functional food trends, rather than just linking up with a few key players, they should make use of the VitaTrend series of presentations. This initiative between Innova Market Insights and Vitafoods Europe will deliver data to satisfy even the most curious enquirers.
Of course, hunting out good ideas is only half the battle. The other half lies in how they are applied and marketed.
There'll be a range of processing equipment suppliers and research bodies on hand to solve those complicated formulation issues. For those struggling with the complicated legal implications, experts from advisory group EAS will be holding sessions to provide input, offering free one-to-one meetings as well. Meanwhile, discussion forums will be held to provide the opportunity to question regulatory and marketing representatives on groundbreaking industry developments.
"Each year we work hard to come up with new, creative and innovative ideas to improve on the previous year's shows," says event director Chris Lee. "From seeking brand new exhibitors who can bring something unique to the table to sourcing exciting educational features that can better help industry professionals, our aim is to bring something new that will exceed everyone's expectations."
Show organisers are harnessing every form of communication to help exhibitors and visitors get their messages across, including Twitter, which will update followers on the latest developments in real time.
As the world faces food security issues and the sustainability of land-based resources is being questioned, many food manufacturers are looking to the world's oceans as an alternative and rich source of bioactive ingredients. These include: Aquapharm, which struck a partnership deal with Tate & Lyle last year to develop such ingredients; Abyss Ingredients; Aker BioMarine Antarctic; AlgaeCal; Algatechnologies; Algae and Algues et Mer. And those are just the players listed under 'A'.
Business is picking up for krill oil, which is derived from the shrimp-like crustaceans otherwise known as euphausiids and is a major source of the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids. Among the companies exploring it are Neptune Technologies & Bioressources, which will be proudly displaying its recently launched Eco Krill Oil: EKO. Commercialisation of the product in Europe is awaiting the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA's) approval of a health claim under EU health claims legislation, although it has received full US endorsement.
For most contenders in the marine area, though, omega-3 remains the area of greatest interest. US-based Nordic Naturals will be bringing an innovative delivery system for fish oil to Finished Products Expo and highlighting its Omega-3 Effervescent product. This is a water-soluble drink mix containing long-chain omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). It claims to offer all the health benefits of omega-3s and vitamin D3, such as heart, brain, joint and bone support, without the fishy taste.
Meantime, Martek Biosciences is offering the vegetarian-friendly 'life'sDHA', derived from algae, which can be used in applications ranging from baked goods and confectionery to dairy and drinks. Martek refers to studies hailing DHA's benefits, such as eye health and improved memory. Lonza will be showing off its vegetarian omega-3 product DHAid, which refers to similar claims.
Some omega-3 prototypes offer more than just health benefits. Croda's melife Smooth will demonstrate just that as a component of melife ice creams distributed free to anyone stopping by Croda's stand. The concentrated emulsion is designed to convey a smooth, creamy mouthfeel as well as the usual boosts to physical well-being.
Those looking for more than just internal health boosters from the seas should stop at Copalis's stand, where it will showcase Protein M+ an example of the rising popularity of nutra-cosmetics. It's described as a natural combination of chondroitin sulphate, hydrolysed collagen and glucosamine, combining proteins and marine polysaccharides found in the skin. Other assertions are that it can help repair sun-damaged skin and combat hair loss.
Collagen protein specialist Gelita claims that the demand for such products in Asia is moving westwards and is placing its bets on its Verisol product. It says Verisol increases skin moisture and prevents the formation of wrinkles. It can not only be taken in supplement form, but can be incorporated into foodstuffs ranging from chocolate to instant coffee, says the company.
Another major collagen peptide player, Rousselot, will equally be placing its faith in the moisturising and anti-ageing benefits of its Peptan peptide mix.
Danish firm Lallemand Health Ingredients, by contrast, believes the future for nutra-cosmetics lies in the story of beauty and the yeast, displaying premium yeast-based zinc and B vitamins. These add to its existing LalminSe product, based on inactivated whole cells of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast, and bear EFSA-substantiated nail, hair and skin health claims.
Others are harnessing the power of fruit to deliver, not just skin health, but also cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits. LycoRed will present its latest clinical findings on Lyc-O-Mato its natural Lycopene complex, which contains carotenoids with high antioxidant properties. The company cites recent studies showing its potential to protect the skin against sunburn and reduce blood pressure, increase skin cell repair and reduce inflammation. Prototypes it will demonstrate include confectionery fortified with microencapsulated vitamins and minerals, a beauty drink and a functional water.
Antioxidants offer technical benefits for food formulation, as well as health bonuses. Vitae Caps, which is celebrating its 10th year at Vitafoods, will be plugging its antioxidant systems to avoid oxidative damage in fats and oils, extending shelf-life. The business also specialises in natural vitamin E production.
Ocean Spray will be promoting the antioxidant benefits of its cranberries, as well as their potential to help protect against urinary tract infection, fend off harmful bacteria from cells and enhance circulatory health. "A 2010 study, for example, points to cranberry's potential role in supporting cardiovascular health, finding that cranberry polyphenols [a type of antioxidant] may help regulate vascular endothelial [internal cell wall] function," says Christina Khoo, research sciences senior manager at Ocean Spray.
Aside from its work with DHAid, Lonza also has a foot in the antioxidant camp with its ResistAid immune support ingredient made from North American larch trees. It consists of arabinogalactan and bioactive flavonoids, with antioxidant capacity.
WEIGHT LOSS/SPORTS NUTRITION
Lonza is also flexing its muscles in weight loss and sports nutrition with its Carnipure L-Carnitine product, created to boost energy metabolism. The product claims benefits for infant nutrition, male fertility and pregnancy.
For those looking to sculpt their biceps, Solbar will be presenting its wide range of soy proteins in addition to its isoflavone extracts offering relief for the symptoms of the menopause and osteoporosis. The low viscosity isolated soy protein Solbar Q842 is aimed at producers of protein bars and extruded snacks, while calcium fortified isolated soy protein Solbar Q735 is intended for beverage applications.
Speaking of beverages, Bariatrix Europe will showcase new global solutions at Finished Products Expo, including its banana flavour protein supplement. And, aside from low sugar cakes sweetened with polyols, it will put two new low-calorie protein-rich snacks on show.
Like Solbar, Serbia-based Sojaprotein is pursuing a slice of the soy market, promoting everything from textured soybean proteins to crude soybean oil for applications ranging from bakery to confectionery. The company is currently building a 70,000t a year soybean concentrate plant, plus a factory for producing functional soybean concentrates with capacity for processing 30,000t a year.
If soy protein doesn't take your fancy, there's always peas. Cosucra will be plugging its Pisane range of pea protein isolates with its Nastar range of pea starch and Fibrulose range of chicory oligofructose.
Roquette is offering both protein and weight loss hits with its Nutralys proteins and Nutriose wheat or maize soluble fibre, on which its Satiety Smart stick, which aims to aid dieting by boosting feelings of satiety, is based.
PROBIOTICS AND GUT HEALTH
Rather than concern themselves with protein consumption to define their abs, some have chosen to focus on internal gut health to define their business plan. Probiotics International, for example, will be unveiling a strong new look and strategy for its award-winning multi-strain probiotic brand Bio-Kult. It will also be talking to customers about its new manufacturing facilities in Somerset in the UK and its plans for gaining EFSA probiotic health claims.
Meantime, Danisco will be extolling the virtues of orange juice fortified with its probiotic blend Howaru Bifido, plus its Howaru Balance range of probiotic supplements offering digestive and immune health to all the family.
Why limit yourself to one specialist solution, such as gut health, when you can view several at the same stand? Plant extracts with a range of health benefits will be displayed by companies such as K Patel Phyto Extractions, which is based in India. It proudly boasts 40 botanical extracts and 10 speciality phytochemicals. Recent launches include water soluble botanical extracts.
And DSM will launch two vitamin, mineral and functional platforms one for children and teenagers and one for men under its Health Benefit Solutions umbrella. The 12 other products in the range will also be on show, alongside its Fruitflow heart health ingredient.
Philosopher and resident of Geneva, Jean Jacques Rousseaux said: "There are two things to be considered with regard to any scheme. In the first place: 'Is it good in itself?' In the second: 'Can it be easily put into practice?'" Many of the ideas at Vitafoods will qualify for your business on both counts. Your mission is to find them.