Background and Objectives
The Whitehouse Consultancy has provided secretariat services for the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) since its formation in 2003. Following years of growth, ESSNA is now the leading trade alliance that represents manufacturers, distributors, retailers and media companies involved in the sports nutrition sector in the European Union.
Since 2011 it has been working with the EU institutions, including the Commission, the Parliament and representatives of the Member States, to secure a liberalisation in the rules governing sports nutrition, allowing the industry to innovate and grow without the threat of further regulation.
As this process draws to a close, we organised an intensive one-day Conference in Brussels in September 2015 to bring together law-makers, regulators, ESSNA members and potential members to discuss the implications of the forthcoming legislative changes.
Helped by an expansion of ESSNA’s work into fields such as PR, social media and ESSNA’s own non-compliance campaign to improve the reputation of the sports nutrition sector, ESSNA has grown rapidly over recent years. As the Association approached fifty members, it became the appropriate time to organise and host an event in Brussels to showcase all of the different strands of ESSNA’s work.
We invited key European Commission civil servants to give a presentation on the new rules that would cover the sports nutrition sector. With the knowledge that many attendees would be seeking to take advantage of these liberal new rules and grow their business, we also invited the Commission policy officer responsible for Mutual Recognition to speak to members. This is important, as Mutual Recognition is the system intended to ease EU-wide trade in goods.
ESSNA members also heard from important stakeholders on doping issues, an obvious concern to many sports nutrition companies. A panel discussion was organised, featuring the European Commission policy officer, ESSNA members, a representative from UK Anti-Doping, and a former Paralympian who gave an athlete’s perspective on the issue. These discussions, combined with a lively question and answer session, gave attendees a valuable insight into the challenges and concerns faced by regulators, the industry and policy-makers.
Other trade associations in the sector were also invited to give their views on the legislative changes affecting sports nutrition and where they saw opportunities for co-operation to achieve joint objectives.
Throughout the day we offered attendees’ opportunities to network, have informal discussions with policy-makers and, in the case of those who were not members, learn more about ESSNA and the benefits of membership.
Approximately one hundred people attended the event held in September 2015, underlining the appeal, and need for, the programme that was assembled. The number of Commission Officials and the policy range they represented is testament to the relationships that ESSNA has built over many years of engagement and reflects ESSNA’s credibility.
Feedback from both members and non-members was hugely positive, with those who came to Brussels appreciating the chance to hear in greater detail, and directly from those who made policy, about the issues affecting their business.
Attendees also valued the variety of topics covered, with the doping panel being widely praised for the expertise and first-hand knowledge of the issue.
A more direct effect of the Conference was that a number of sports nutrition companies joined ESSNA in the days afterwards, with the Conference either being directly responsible or being the final factor that influenced their decision.
“The ESSNA Conference was a pivotal moment in the development of ESSNA as a trade association. The calibre of the speakers and the quality of the discussions that took place at the Conference was a good indicator of how seriously ESSNA is taken now by businesses the sector and policy-makers for the sector alike.
“Needless to say, the Conference could never have taken place were it not for the organisational ability of the Whitehouse Consultancy. More than that, without the relationships that Whitehouse had built over the years with European Commission officials and other key regulators, the Conference would not have attracted such a large number of people and such a fine array of speakers. On behalf of all ESSNA members, I would like to extend our thanks to Whitehouse for all their work on this Conference and I look forward to next year’s event.”
Dr Adam Carey, Chairman, European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance