Forget the backstop - what about the supplements?!

Brexit confusion: How will sports nutrition be impacted?

By Nathan Gray contact

- Last updated on GMT

With Brexit looming ever closer, our latest video diary takes a look at how experts at our European Sports Nutrition Congress think the process might go - and where the category, and wider industry, may end up in a post-Brexit world.

As the UK and EU lurch ever-closer towards a possible ‘no deal’ Brexit, and the British political establishment warns of the potential for the so-called Irish ‘backstop’ to scupper any deal, NutraIngredients wades into the conversation to ask the important questions, like ‘just what does all this mean for sports nutrition?’

Tom Evans, head of product development at Sci-MX, says the answer is ‘easy’: “We just don't know. Nobody knows, it changes all the time.”

“We're doing a lot of work to make sure that we're prepared for it, whatever the eventuality is,”​ he noted. “But until something is signed on the dotted line, we just don't know.”

Luca Bucchini, managing director of Hylobates Consulting and vice-chair of the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA), agrees that for many companies working in both the UK and EU, the future is uncertain.

“Basically we don't know the outcome, but I think there are many concerns,”​ he commented.

“Is the UK going to diverge in terms of regulation, from the EU​?” said Bucchini. “That is a big question.”

“Is it going to be more like the US, or more like Australia, or more like Canada? That's the big thing,”​ he noted.

Finding balance?

Mark Gilbert, co-founder of FitnessGenes and vice-chair of ESSNA, suggested that the UK could end up with a ‘much more innovative’ supplements market if Britain and the United States harmonised supplement rules.

“They could have much more innovative products made in the UK, that wouldn't be allowed to be made in Europe. And could have much more innovative claims that tell the consumer what they want to know and that promote the product better,”​ he noted.

However, Gilbert noted that ultimately getting the right balance between over-regulation and under-regulation would be key.

“Britain used to be the once sensible country that doesn't over restrict, doesn't under restrict, and keeps things safe,”​ he said. “I can't speak for the whole industry but I think a lot of people in our industry would like to go back to those sensible business and consumer friendly rules.”

What about research?

While much has been written about possible business woes in the post-Brexit world, much less focus has been given to how research and universities in the UK and European Union may be impacted by the break-up.

While some have suggested that a reduction in European funding for UK institutions could have devastating effects, others have suggested that when it comes to research, Brexit will have very little impact.

“I'm not particularly scared of Brexit, at all,”​ said Professor John Brewer pro vice-chancellor and professor of applied sports science at St Mary's University, London.

“I think there are opportunities for many universities to still undertake good quality research, funded both privately and centrally, both before Brexit and of course after Brexit.”

He noted that what universities, and those who conduct research should be doing, is “worrying less about Brexit and more about doing the right type of research that industry wants to help support claims, to help support new product development.”

“I think, if you do that, and deliver the right quality of research product for companies, then regardless of Brexit we will still be able to work through it.”

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