1 October 2020

Vitafoods Europe has become a premier showcase for the health and supplement industry. In 2020, the event switched to a digital format during the coronavirus pandemic. Jackie Coleman reviews the online show and looks ahead to future Vitafoods events.

Vitafoods Europe opened its doors to just 100 members of the nutraceutical industry for the first time 22 years ago. Since then, as the popularity of the event and the health market have rapidly expanded in tandem, thousands of experts now attend the show. In 2019, the world’s premier event for the health industry achieved record footfall with over 24,000 people attending the Palexpo exhibition centre in Geneva. The nutraceuticals market size has the potential to grow by an astonishing $180.38 billion during 2020–24, and the market’s momentum is predicted to accelerate during the forecasted period.

Attended by a global audience across the ingredients and raw materials, branded finished products, contract manufacturing and private labelling, services and equipment sectors, Vitafoods Europe provides multiple opportunities to engage, discuss and debate the most important topics in the nutraceuticals industry.

A unique experience

In 2020, due to the coronavirus crisis, Vitafoods Europe was delayed until September 2020. While representatives from across the industry anticipate the rearranged show, organisers launched a digital week instead, which took place on 11 May 2020. The web-based format provided attendees with a unique learning experience, fuelled by a carefully curated series of webinars and podcasts, covering topics including European ingredients trends, healthy ageing, immunity, sports nutrition and sustainability. The online event also featured product showcases and provided access to a range of downloadable reports, articles and galleries, which were made available for free throughout the week.

FMCG Gurus and Innova Market Insights were the knowledge partners of the online showcase, which was created to support the industry in finding new ways to work more smartly and seek inspiration, drive conversations and inspire connections via the web.

As Chris Lee, managing director, health and nutrition network, Europe, at Informa Markets, explained before the event, “In light of the unprecedented challenges facing the global industry, we wanted to bring the nutraceutical community together in a way that allowed us to collaborate as we usually do in person, to understand how we can continue to support consumer health into the future.

“The Vitafoods name is synonymous with showcasing the latest expertise and driving forward the most important conversations, and our digital week will build on these commitments,” Lee says. “The expansion of our digital offering, which already includes Vitafoods Insights, means we are able to facilitate dialogues and invite the industry to further their learning opportunities through engaging with leading experts and exclusive content.”

A preview of Vitafoods Europe’s state of the nation report was also made available during the week. Featuring an in-depth analysis of the nutraceutical industry and what lies ahead for the next decade, the full report will be launched at the physical show to provide insight-driven commentary to inspire the sector and ultimately the end consumer, to help shape the future of the food industry.

Up-and-coming interests

The digital event explored a variety of key topics, set to affect the nutraceuticals industry in the years ahead. One primary theme discussed was sustainability, current ecological challenges particular to the nutraceutical sector and how these compare to the food and beverage industry. Participants were particularly keen to debate how climate change will impact ingredient supply chains over the next 10 years, as well as exploring what brands can do to positively impact and alter the course of this threat.

With corporate social responsibility highly prized by customers, attendees were enthusiastic to find out how brand value proposition aligns with consumer demands, focusing on building trust and customer loyalty. One key pledge welcomed this year was Vitafoods’ commitment to achieve zero waste at the event by 2025, in response to amplified consumer concern over the widespread use of single-use plastics.

The digital week also showcased a number of the most up-and-coming supplements currently favoured by customers. Taking centre stage were representatives from the probiotics industry, a sector that is expected to grow by 7.8% by 2026, as people become increasingly aware of the complex microorganisms that dwell within their guts. According to research from Reportlinker, prebiotics and probiotics are projected to expand rapidly over the forecast period. This is thanks to the increasing use of probiotics as a primary ingredient among the majority of food manufacturing companies, providing better nourishment and reducing health problems caused by harmful bacteria.

As interest in sourdough bread, lactic fermentation and the multimillion-dollar supplement space continues to accelerate, manufacturers must increasingly focus on clinical research to support their offerings. For 40 years, UAS Labs has been investing in trials and recently conducted one of the world’s most extensive probiotic-digestive health studies. Vitafoods Europe shared the results of the pioneering report that used a unique parallelarm design to assess the effects of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains on problematic gastrointestinal symptoms, in over 300 subjects.

Also, among the numerous companies showcasing their products were members of the omega-3 industry. The sector is expected to grow as buyers continue to explore the impact DHA and EPA can have on a number of prevalent health risks, including depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and heart disease. Some scientists have even hailed fish oil supplements as a health panacea. “More than 4,000 studies have demonstrated that EPA and DHA play crucial roles in the healthy functioning of our hearts, eyes, and brains across all life stages,” says Chris Gearheart, director, member communications and engagement, Global Organisation for EPA and DHA Omega-3s. “They also support the health of expecting and nursing mothers, and the development of their babies.”

Many consumers have also been flocking to solutions that boost the immune system during the coronavirus crisis. With no known cure currently available for the disease, people are taking precautions to give their system the best chance of fighting off the virus. As conscientious event organisers were keen to point out, although the market is being circled by frantic consumers, it’s critical that the industry responds responsibly and with a dedicated commitment to safety, efficacy and scientific validation – now and for the long term. During the numerous webinars, emphasis was, therefore, placed on science-backed solutions targeted at improving overall health and decreasing risk factors, such as diabetes.

Time to unwind

The crisis has placed a significant burden on peoples’ mental health too. This has been exacerbated by the isolating nature of lockdown, as well as the ongoing economic implications. Attendees were, therefore, invited to take a moment of calm and unwind with interactive online vinyasa yoga sessions.

As nootropic aficionado Eric Matzer told the Atlantic, “If somebody invented a drug that improved the brains of the world’s 10 million scientists by 1%, it would be like creating 100,000 new scientists.” Named after the Greek word for mind, these supplements have exploded in popularity over the past decade. Well-known fitness influencers, like Dave Asprey, advocate the use of a ‘bullet-proof’ diet and tablets to gain a competitive edge, for instance.

Indeed, nootropics have been touted to increase brain performance for busy students and office workers alike. Some are even said to facilitate Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’, a state of blissful concentration. At the digital event, Marion Schumacher, content manager at Vitafoods Informa health and nutrition; and Professor David Kennedy, brain, performance and nutrition centre at the faculty of health and life sciences, Northumbria University, were in attendance to discuss the latest fascinating findings in this space.

Health first

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a disruptive and transformative year so far. As people tentatively look ahead to the new decade, the average lifespan of the human population is continuously lengthening. Researchers are now exploring additional benefits of a variety of supplements, proving that they are vital, not just for the first few years of life, but across all life stages. Healthy lifestyle choices and physical activity are at the basis of increasing lifespan, thinking beyond age-related conditions and into optimal function throughout a lifetime.

With so much food for thought at the digital week, September’s Vitafoods in Geneva will be eagerly anticipated. After a year-long interval, no doubt some will be disappointed that they couldn’t attend. But for now, as one delegate put it, “the most important thing is our health. We can wait a while for the exhibition.”


Number of people in attendance at Vitafoods Europe 2019.
Vitafoods Europe


Percentage the probiotics industry is expected to grow by 2026.
Vitafoods Europe

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