Goal for IPA to become more agile, vocal in promoting probiotics, new director says

By Hank Schultz contact

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Goal for IPA to become more agile, vocal in promoting probiotics, new director says
After a months-long interregnum, George Paraskevakos, the new executive director of the International Probiotics Association, formally takes up the reins pledging that the organization will become more agile and vocal in defending and promoting the ingredients.

And the voice of the reinvigorated organization has been amplified and made more fully international, Paraskevakos said, with the move earlier this year by the Global Alliance for Probiotics and the Yogurt and Live Fermented Milk Association to join forces with IPA to form a European chapter of the organization​.

Paraskevakos, formerly director of business development for probiotics supplier Lallemand, is based in Montreal, and thus came the news that the IPA was ‘moving’ its headquarters to North America.  It’s a matter of semantics, Paraskevakos told NutraIngredients-USA, as the organization at the moment functions in a virtual manner without the brick-and-mortar base of other associations like GOED.

“It doesn’t really matter where the office will be based. We have calls on a weekly basis with all the committees and a call with the executive board biweekly,”​ he said.

Increased agility

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Paraskevakos acknowledged that the organization took a step back after the departure of previous director Ioannis Misopoulos, who resigned in late October last year. Misopoulos was working from Switzerland at the time of his exit.

“I was sitting on the board and was also president of the executive committee. We were trying to take care of the day-to-day operation of the association after the previous director left and we were doing the best we could, but that caused a little bit of a momentum lost in the association,” ​ he said.

One of the issues cited by observers of the probiotics sphere in the past has been the slow response of the association to challenges that crop up in the regulatory realm and in the mainstream media in the form of negative publicity.  The organization in the past has been perceived as one dominated by a committee mentality, making a clear message on matters of concern difficult to formulate in a timely manner.  That needs to change, Paraskevakos said.

“We need to be more vocal, and more transparent in responding to these things,”​ Paraskevakos said. “When it comes times to address things like the Bayer case ​(The US Federal Trade Commission’s contempt action) we need to be in a position to actually take a position. We want to start to become closer to the press.In the past our members have been looking toward us, asking, ‘Why aren’t you guys coming out and commenting?’ ” 

Driving a quality message

Paraskevakos said the organization will also continue to work on standardization within the industry.  One baseline to start from is the probiotics monograph that the IPA helped formulate with Health Canada’s Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD).

“Coming from a stakeholder standpoint we were able to  bridge the knowledge gap with the Canadian regulators.  Over a period of about two years starting we were able to formulate a probiotic monograph.  It does have its detractors but at least it’s a paper that can show people who want to be in that market what the dosage forms are, the target conditions and so forth. In Canada it works. It’s a dynamic document that has been revised to take into account new information,” ​he said.

Setting quality standards and becoming a more forceful advocate for the industry will help the organization grow, Paraskevakos said. Membership stands at 54 companies including Bayer, DuPont, Jarrow Formulas and Lallemand.

“We want to continue to grow our membership.  Last year we had our first member from Latin America ​(Invictus Farmanutrição of Brazil). Long term we would like to see an IPA Latin America chapter and an IPA Asia.  We need to create value for our members and we need to communicate that value.  And we need to continue to work on the standardization of products and to ensure that companies are making quality products so that consumers will have confidence to return to the category,”​ he said.

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