The first annual "Marketing health functionality - export tactics for US success conference" will take place in Toronto on December 10th. Organized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the event will focus on opportunities for Canadian players within the rapidly growing US market for functional health ingredients.
"The market is ripe for this type of conference as exporting to the US, although close in proximity to Canada, offers many unique challenges for Canadian companies to overcome…," said Rune Nilssen, partner with Strategro International, a consultancy helping to organize the conference.
The one-day Toronto conference will discuss how Canadian companies - particularly those based in the heavily populated province of Ontario - can benefit from opportunities in the US market. The event will feature presentations and case studies from industry experts, inward investment representatives from the US, as well as successful Ontario-based companies.
"Combined with a vibrant entrepreneurial community, Ontario is also rich in raw materials, science and technology so many critical pieces are in place to create a solid natural health products sector - this event will further help shape the industry," said John Kelly executive director of MaRS Landing, also partnering with AAFC to present the conference.
However, approaching the US market has traditionally been easier for Canadian companies than vice versa, given the somewhat trickier nature of laws governing the functional food and nutraceutical categories North of the border.
The Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD), a division of Health Canada has regulations covering herbal remedies, homeopathic and traditional medicines, probiotics, amino acids and essential fatty acids, all of which have to be issued with a license before they can be sold.
The allocated natural health products number must be printed on product packaging. However there has been some confusion over the jurisdiction of the NHPD, since a health claim based on ingredients means a product is a 'natural health' product - even though it may also be marketed as food or drink.
Health Canada recently put the processing of these food and beverage license submissions on hold while the NHPD and the Foods Directorate grapple over which jurisdiction such products fall under.
In the past, the Canadian industry association Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) has singled out functional foods as a potential savior of the country's manufacturing sector, but cited a heavy regulatory environment as seriously obstructing this.
In the absence of reforms, FCPC said Canadians could face a lack of access to innovative products being developed and sold in markets around the world.