Back to the Future and the reset called 2021

By George Paraskevakos, IPA Executive Director

- Last updated on GMT

© airdone / Getty Images
© airdone / Getty Images

Related tags Probiotics International probiotics association Probiota americas

Contemplating the year that was and in the classical fashion of penning articles tied to movie titles, I must say, it was difficult to choose one which depicted the year IPA and the world of probiotics has gone through.

We went from being locked down, to hopeful that this one will be over, to looking forward to ringing in 2021 and just like that 12 months flew by fast and furiously!

IPA’s work and mission to ensure safe, efficacious and quality probiotic ingredients and products continued but was delivered in a very different fashion. Self-containment revised our world. As early as February and deployed in March - IPA devised an outreach and communication plan which ensured our commitment stayed relevant and unwavered to safeguard the probiotic industry. Zoom, Teams, and GoTo Meeting became the order of the day, and ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’ meets ‘Total Recall’.

Webinars and virtual events seemed to rule the internet! IPA announced a series of webinars which touched upon a) immunity b) the Lactobacillus​ taxonomy change c) probiotic applications during the pandemic and finally d) what’s next and forward-looking work into 2021. Additional to these public facing events we also created by invitation only webinars specifically for media and the health care professional audience. At IPA we felt that these cohorts were lacking some basic education about probiotics and their benefits. We marched onward with increasing our output of articles and infographics. Our general blog posts were weekly, and all the IPA committees became involved with relevant publications. Science, increased Education, Regulatory guidebooks and new Technical standards were on the menu.

We had virtual outreach to different governments around the world. From the culmination of our work in Brazil with revised guidelines from ANVISA, to new outreach with Australia, Korea and continued work in Europe, and China. Meetings with the FDA were also on tap, exchanging on items such as third-party audits, IPA’s NDI comments enforcement discretion and master files. As we are preparing for the New Year, the Codex work to harmonize probiotic regulations globally with Argentina and Malaysia will resume.

Two larger initiatives to speak of concluded this year. The public facing media campaign IPA embarked on titled ‘Are we living too clean?’ was an educational outreach to the public to not forget about the good microbes that the lockdown might be robbing us of. The six-month four major US city campaign on TV, Radio, Social Media platforms and Published articles wraps up at the end of January 2021. The other big project was the completion of the IPA’s Regulatory Book. Hearing the ‘broad stroke’ statement that probiotics are not regulated one too many times, IPA decided to produce a Global Regulatory Overview; a manuscript for probiotic regulations. We have begun with an analysis of 28 countries and should add another 10 for 2021. This guide will serve as testament to the regulations that companies need to comply with if they are to commercialize probiotic products and be a quick reference tool. Oh, and did I mention this is one of the values of IPA membership as the tool will be for IPA members only.

And what about the market you say? Well IPA ordered market data for our member companies. Along with our partners we revisited the data for the market and were surprised but then again not really. With so much research and science tied to probiotics and immune support and with an increasing public looking towards prevention as a new way of being, the market for probiotic supplements went up globally. Let us look at the US where last year was forecasting a very little to no growth market. Well upon review of the numbers we saw the US which is the largest dietary supplement market for probiotics reported growth of almost 10%. China surpassed Italy as the number 2 market and APAC as a region still continues to grow and is now more than 50% of the entire probiotic global category. Just a small snippet of what our members received as information for the market.

So as the year winds down and it feels like we are emerging out of ‘The Matrix’ type of year, we can only wish that getting ‘Back to the Future’ will allow us to reset and pick up where we left off during the last decade and continue the work to making sure the probiotic industry continues being the poster child of the dietary supplement sector ensuring quality, safe products with benefits. IPA will continue to do the right thing for probiotics and continue raising the bar for our industry.

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