Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Las Vegas, Supply Side West & Protein Dreams

Las Vegas. Late October. Out of baggage claim and there's the infamous and unbearably long line for a taxi cab. Waiting in an air-conditioned shuttle while folks filled the seats, however slowly, struck me as a better idea.

Why Vegas when it's one of my least favorite destinations? It's where they hold the big shows for the supplement industry, with Supply Side West being where you can meet new suppliers with all the latest offerings in raw materials and manufacturing processes.

I was pitched everything from inulin (a kind of fiber, often derived from chicory roots, and also often the cause of allergic reactions) to Tibetan goji berries (eh, I prefer dried cranberries personally) to modified tapioca starch for gluten-free baking (I liked the chocolate chip cookie sample and quietly wondered if we have enough Co-op members interested in gluten-free products).

The weirdest thing was walking on to the show floor and seeing a prominent Krispy Kreme cart, a man in a suit worthy of IBMers handing out ice-cream confections, and another couple of guys in much worse suits handing out white cake with that icky powdered sugar frosting. The humor was lost on most folks, who eagerly grabbed the goodies and passed business cards while wiping frosting from their lips.

I guarded my business cards like they were a rare and very valuable currency, and unceremoniously declined to take the slick brochures sales folks with aching feet and frozen smiles tried to push my way. I was on a mission and didn't want to get bogged down with a heavy tote bag of stuff I would just have to haul to the recycling center.

The show floor was not so busy on Friday.I met an Indian supplier for organic and vegetarian fed spirulina. The company boasted an alphabet soup of certifications (USDA NOP, USP, HACCP, etc.). I talked to a company that specializes in flavorings -- masking the odd tastes of herbs and vitamins in consumer blends.

I chatted with a dairy products manufacturer, who predicted that US dairy ingredients (whey included) will go up in price due to weather patterns this year.

Their rep talked about heavy rains and flooding in the Northeast (farms in Vermont were in declared "disaster areas") and heat waves in California as well as the east (Vermont and Massachusetts milking herds were hard hit with scorching temps).

Apparently, once a cow is heat stressed, milk production can drop 10-20% and the recovery of milk production due to heat stress "takes a long time."
Who knew?
Next stop? I made an effort to talk to a major manufacturer of protein powder drinks. Good discussion. The sales rep seemed glad to have someone who was looking for more than freebies at his booth.

And, you're possibly wondering, what does this all have to do with the Co-op?

I'm working on a protein powder formula, one that will have a raft of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components, along with vitamins and minerals for those folks who: (a) would never take the time to open multiple bottles and take a handful of pills each day or (b) actually can't swallow all those pills.

I met with my consultants (two naturopathic doctors who work full-time in regulatory and formulatory activities), scrubbed the list of ingredients, talked to suppliers, and revised the list again. After talking to scientific advisers, I scrapped the whey protein for a rice protein (my bias all along), since rice protein is more gentle on the system and still provides a full protein.

It's not an overnight process to design a new product, with a different underlying manufacturing process. I can say that my trip to Las Vegas was quite useful, moved my "system protein" project along, and was blessedly short.

More soon!


Firedaisy said...

I am intersted in gluten free products. I think I do have an allergic reaction to gluten- not as seriously as many but I still feel a significant difference when I lay off the gluten.

Firedaisy said...

And one more thought, a shake that I love- the only one I will buy because of all the awesome ingredients- is Solgar's Optein shake. It has all of the right stuff according to my years of research and the only element that I could see that would create a better product would be all organic ingredients. I think you are right about rice- much better. Thought looking at the optein shle might help in the shake making enterprise :)

Keep up the good work-

you kats rock!

Cindy Marteney, CEO, Our Health Co-op said...

Okay, so I got tied up in other things and had a semi-false start on my blog. Glad to hear gluten-free is of interest. We're going in that direction. Would love to offer a gluten-free baking product at some point. Perhaps in 2008.

2007 is all about launching Cell Nutritionals with "Constant Health" with close to 50 ingredients for intestinal, immune, and detox functions, all gluten free!

The second Cell Nutritionals product will be a rice protein powder with fiber, lecithin, and medium-chain triglycerides, all good for intestinal health and boosting protein in shakes of all kinds.