More than 3,000 executives from dietary supplement, food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies attended SupplySide East earlier this month, said organisers Virgo Publishing.
The event, from May 5-7 at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey, attracted around 100 more visitors than last year's show.
"This was the first time I attended the show, and I found it interesting and came back with some new ideas," said Dr Jidong Sun, product development manager for nutrition at Perrigo. "It's a one-stop location to meet all the players and talk business."
There were 254 companies exhibiting at the show this year. Next year SupplySide East moves to the Baltimore Convention Center.
"The show was terrific, one of the best shows we've ever had," said Frank Assuma of Natural Health Science. "It was well attended and we had a lot of traffic at our booth, and a great response to what we're doing."
While many companies will now be waiting for positive outcome from contacts they made, speakers at the conference revealed the tough times for the industry. President of leading supplement manufacturer NBTY Harvey Kamil said: "I don't believe I've ever seen a more negative attitude towards dietary supplements."
Other industry representatives such as Gail Montgomery, president and CEO of Nutrition 21, and marketing specialist Jeff Hilton, also discussed the consumer crisis of confidence at an opening seminar, arguing that the industry needs to join forces to further promote safe and effective supplements.
"The press can't keep attacking us - we need to go back to them with a response," said Kamil.
"There are many consumers out there who really want to believe in this industry. It is up to us to take the science to them. The future will be sharing resources and partnering, so the industry speaks with a unified voice," added Jeff Hilton.
GMPs were also a major subject of debate, with the FDA-Industry GMP Forum on May 4. Representatives from the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) presented information about the proposed Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for dietary supplements and answered audience questions, but the questions continued into the conference program.
"The GMP regulation will affect every business and person in this industry," said Jon Benninger, business development director at Virgo Publishing.
And while most companies assured us that they welcomed the new regulations, as a means of guaranteeing quality in the industry, it is unlikely that many fully realise the cost and extent of change that will be needed to meet the proposed law.
"We don't think the current proposal is what we need in some ways," said Annette Dickinson, president of trade association CRN.
She highlighted some problematic areas, such as the fact that producers of agricultural raw materials will not be affected, and yet many of these are major players in the industry.
While Dickinson said it is unusual for such a rule to be changed much, the FDA has allowed an extended comment period. By the time SupplySide West comes around in October, there could be some major changes underway.