Sudhir Ahluwalia

Pregnant, lactating mothers and children need more protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, fiber and minerals. These are generally obtained from food, fortified food products and supplements. There is an ongoing debate between those that lay stress on natural foods and others who believe that supplements are critical to maintaining the mother and the child in good health.

When it comes to naturalfoods the food source becomes critical. Traditionally cultivated cereal, fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy often contain high doses of fertilizers and chemicals. These chemicals are used during cultivation to improve yield. Such contaminants are potentially hazardous to the health of both mother and the child.

Would that mean thatexpectant mothers, infants and children should get their requirements of nutrients,only from certified organic natural foods? And if the go natural route is the healthiest option then should we eschew supplements altogether. These are someof the questions that I discussed with Nazneen Hussein President Indian Dietetics Association and other experts during the September 2018 Vitafoods Asia event held at Singapore.

While natural organicfoods are a great source for obtaining balanced nutrition, these need to be planned for an individual. The diet requires to be customized to an individual’s taste, social and cultural preference. If the individual happens to be a vegan then the challenge will be finding an optimum natural food source rich in Omega3, Vitamin B12, calcium and other requirements. Plant based foods are not good sources of these essential nutrients.

The go natural routewhile ideal appears not very practical. The cost of an organic custom-made diet will be something that only small segments of people can afford. The majority require to make do their maternal nutritional need from nutritional supplements.

According to a DSM study,around 80 percent of pregnant women in Europe take a supplement while pregnant and in China 98 percent use maternal health products (https://www.vitafoodsinsights.com/market-trends/consumers-want-know-why-should-they-supplement).

The global market forinfant and mother nutrition is huge too. The global infant nutrition market ispredicted to grow at a compound annual rate of 5.90 percent in the period 2018to 2023. It is expected to reach U$75.672 billion by 2023. This market was estimated in 2017 at US$53.634 billion (Global Infant Nutrition Market –Forecasts from 2018-2023 by ResearchandMarkets.com)

The Infant and MotherNutrition Market can be segmented into that catering to the mother and infants.Dietary supplements, dairy and dairy related products, cereals, beverages, bars, shakes etc. are major products for mothers while baby food, milk formula and related products focus on infants.

The natural product-basedfood and nutraceutical market is seeing the early signs of volatility and turmoil that is being brought about due to the trade tensions between the US and China. The natural products nutrient and supplement market is dominated by Chinese manufacturers. The Chinese presence in this market was evident in the Vitafoods Asia, 2018 Singapore event. Nearly half of all the displays came from mainland China companies.

Most of these companies can be put in the small to mid-sized category. They produce and market natural ingredients and nutrient supplements for not just maternal nutrition but the entire segment of health needs. Many of these do brisk business in East Asia.They also have a significant presence in North America and Europe too. This presence may be either direct, as ingredient suppliers and contract manufacturers for other firms.

As tariffs on Chinese made exports into the US rise, many of the natural products supplement companies that are dependent on large exports to the US will become uncompetitive. Existing supply chains and contracts between US, European and Chinese companies will come under strain.

Production capacity built in China will be forced to migrate to other low-cost regions like Vietnam, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India. New supply chains will require to be rebuilt.The on-going trade tensions between the worlds largest consuming market – the US and the manufacturing power of the world – China should throw up opportunities for nimble, agile and innovative companies in other parts of theworld.

The nutrient supplement market is still dominated by mid-sized companies. Big pharmaceutical and nutraceutical players are too seeing the opportunity in this emerging nutrient supplement market. Most big pharma companies are eager to buy a good nutraceutical brand and seize upon an opportunity whenever it comes their way.

Innovative, science based nutrient manufacturers will find opportunity not just as target acquisitions but now can build their business organically by building new supply chains. China based ingredient suppliers and manufacturers should be more open to a deal now than earlier.

It is a brave new world for the entire spectrum of natural products market. I think, we are just in the early stages of market turmoil and there should be interesting pickings as we go along. The maternal nutrition segment will be part of this opportunity.

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