On a day when its headquarters in Copenhagen announced a significant overhaul of a number of its core businesses, Chr Hansen’s vice-president of health and nutrition sales highlighted the regulatory difficulties companies face when doing business in Asia.
“You really have to take a country-by-country model [in developing your markets] here, the primary reason being the regulatory situation in Asia is so different,” said Lasse Nagell at Vitafoods Asia in Hong Kong.
Earlier in the day , CEO Cees de Jong had singled out Asia as a point of focus among efforts to build its presence in emerging markets, while the company’s cultures and nutrition divisions would be among those pinpointed to provide more rapid innovation.
“We see attractive growth potential within our core businesses and have identified new opportunities for leveraging Chr Hansen’s strong technology platform within the field of microbial solutions,” de Jong said at the announcement.
In Europe, Chr Hansen’s probiotic-microbial business has been hit by claim rejections under tough EU regulations. But while it is hard enough to deal with one single standard across a single market, in Asia, companies are faced with a range of regulatory minefields.
“A lot of companies that come here are used to a European legal and regulatory framework to deal with, but that's not the way it works,” continued Nagell.
“You need to understand each and every market and their own regulations to be successful in getting your product onto the market at the right level.”
The company is keeping a close eye on moves to develop unified standards across the Asean region. According to Nagell: “We would always welcome regulations that make it easier or more transparent for companies to get products out on the marketplace.
“I don't believe we have been very involved with the policymakers but we have been following it very closely. I just don't know how open they have been in asking the industry to participate.”
A fighting advantage
As much other dairy and non-dairy ingredients suppliers, probiotics players have been every bit as affected by recent scares across Asia, and this is solidifying a consumer preference for Western products.
As a result, Nagell believes it is up to companies to give themselves the best advantage in this regard.
“There have been so many food scandals [in Asia] so companies that can document the quality not just for the probiotic bacteria itself, but for the whole manufacturing process should do so.
“We find whenever there is a scandal, we are asked to supply a whole lot of documentation about where we source from and what type of ingredients we use. So I think it's very important that you can document your processes.”