Calling from his Beijing apartment, Daniel Mabey, contact person for United Natural Products Alliance China, said things were returning to “normal”, but only past experience can provide such a definition. People still wear face masks at Starbucks. They can only remove the masks from their mouths when they are sipping their coffee, and only if they are seated a full yard from other customers, he says.
This counter is practically an intimate moment compared to the days when he had to have a code to scan ready to show to the police when he left his apartment ready to be arrested at the door of the grocery store, one of the very rare businesses even authorized to be opened. “They actually have thermal sensors to read your body temperature and facial recognition to verify your identity,” he says.
And yet, things are getting back to normal, not just for Mabey, who always provides caution in every encounter, but for the factories that supply the ingredients that keep the U.S. supplement industry going.
“Right now, most businesses are operating at around 80% of their capacity across the economy,” Mabey said, explaining that the missing 20% is due to persistent travel restrictions after the Chinese New Year.
Each year, much of the country’s manufacturing activity continues during the holidays. Workers drawn to coastal towns for work return to their home countries and factories remain inactive. This year, the vacation coincided with the worst of the epidemic and the vacation was extended by decree. When life got closer to the “normal” described by Mabey, some of them returned, but travel remains an obstacle and not all factory teams are fully back online. Now, he says, China can see a world descending into the kind of chaos that only draconians entrenched in Chinese government and accepted by Chinese society have helped avoid the world’s largest market.
Besides the triumphant return of civilization inherent in this café au lait one meter apart, Mabey indicates that the reopening of Apple Stores – while they are closing in other countries – as the surest sign of the return to the normality. “It shows that the Chinese market is more or less opening up and the rest of the world is closing,” he said.
Jeff Crowther describes a similar “180 degree reversal”. Crowther heads the US-China Health Products Association and lived in China for 15 years before moving to Austin, Texas. China is opening up for business while the rest of the world is closing its doors, he echoes, and the supply chain can be an equally slanted aspect. Chinese companies generally anticipate the New Year’s disruption and plan inventory accordingly. With the factories back in production, ingredient makers will resume production quickly enough to meet U.S. demand, but the infrastructure across the Pacific must be ready for it. “If it is destined for Europe and America, there could be loopholes in that logistics,” Crowther said.
Mark Thurston did not see these holes. The AIDP president may be stuck in a Los Angeles hotel as one of the only customers, but the company is handling containers and processing orders at full speed, working staggered shifts. with disinfection sweeps in between to minimize the impact if a worker on a shift becomes ill.
Demand is strong and AIDP intends to meet it. “Anything related to immunity flies away,” Thurston says, offering an example of a claim from his personal life: “My wife isn’t a heavy supplement user, but she takes all of our supplements.”
To take with: China was the predicted supply chain pinch point, but factories are coming back online due to shipping and sourcing logistics issues in other countries.
Thurston sees one of the greatest demands coming for andographis, elderberry, zinc and NAC. Vitamin C is an instant sell. Almost everything sells as quickly as it can be moved across the line. “There’s no ascorbic acid anywhere,” Thurston said. “He goes out as quickly as he goes in.” “
All of this is happening while California and all that surrounds the AIDP is largely still. It’s still a breakneck speed for his business. “Three months of volume is gone in a month,” says Thurston. “We do air freight like andographs in the country. “
This volume cannot go on forever, not for everything. The demand may be endless, but the supply, in some cases, cannot be. Jeff Wuagneux, CEO of RFI Ingredients, is running his team to meet demand like Thurston’s, and it is holding up so far. But Wuagneux is quick to explain that some of the ingredients are plant ingredients. This means that they can run out and the replenishment is tied to the seasonal harvest. RFI has contracted with elderberry producers to remain in stock for the time being, but is seeing shortages in the industry in certain classes of certain ingredients. For example, there is a lot of conventional zinc, but there may not be enough organic zinc, he explains. “They won’t be able to keep up with this organic production,” he says.
The current situation is promising for ingredient suppliers like RFI, says Wuagneux: “We were able to bring in shipments from China during all this mess. From a raw materials perspective, we’ve been pretty good. But that doesn’t mean he takes anything for granted, contracts or not, contamination protocols or not. The whole industry must accept it, he said. The only plan might be to have a multitude of plans and be ready to trade for each other in an instant. “You never know what will happen on a daily basis,” said Wuagneux. “It’s an everyday situation.
Pandemic potential, part 3