China-US trade war: Still plenty of opportunities for Chinese food and nutrition firms – Expert
New product development would best follow the direction of current trends, such as anti-ageing and brain health, so as to best secure chances of acceptance by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said United States-based regulatory consultancy Davidia Healthtech President Dr Hua Deng
“Some things that are very hot and in demand [by US consumers] right now are anti-ageing products such as those based on nicotinamide riboside or Urolithin A, as well as products for brain health like HVMN’s Nootrobox, or lutein which was previously best known for eye health,” she said.
“Another important area would be in stress management – some traditional Chinese herbs such as the five-flavour fruit and rhodiola rosea [are known] to be good for this.”
More on regulations
Dr Hua emphasized that to apply to enter the United States, companies also need to make sure that applications are being submitted to the correct agencies.
“The FDA regulates all local and imported food and beverage items, but with the exception of meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables and processed egg-based products – these are under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), so go [to the right place],” she said.
“Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent American institution that provides protection for consumers and prevents anticompetitive business practices, [so firms need to pay attention to them too].”
She added that the FDA was looking at internal reorganisation to remove the many existing ‘gray areas’, and one of the agency’s recent initiatives was to hold a ‘Public Meeting on Responsible Innovation in Dietary Supplements’ on May 16.
“Basically, they discussed how to let the public gain more access to new health innovations but still maintain order and safety.”
She cited the example of potential international collaborations, for example where local companies would provide branding and foreign companies provide funding so as to prevent too many limitations being imposed.
As for technology, she cited the example of local companies such as Shanghai Dubang Biological Technology making use of DNA verification to verify the microorganisms in its probiotics products, even creating their own form of digital Polymerase Chain Reaction for strain identification.
This could potentially help to speed up the application process that needs to be conducted via the US FDA.
The US and China has been embroiled in a high profile trade dispute since 2017.
“Consequently, the United States has implemented three rounds of tariff increases on a total of US$250 billion worth of Chinese products, while China has increased tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. products,” she added.
Food and beverage products, including dietary ingredients to be used in supplements, were most heavily affected by the third round of tarriffication, where an additional 10% tariff was applied last year with plans to raise this to 25%, according to tweets by President Donald Trump.
“The Trump Administration has threatened to increase tariffs on nearly all imports from China, [making it] all the more important for [food firms to know how to make the most of the situation],” added Dr Hua, who was speaking at the FI and HI China exhibition in Shanghai.
“We believe the way to do this is to innovate, both in terms of technology and products.”