‘I’m a big believer in creating your own destiny’
Fresh from the success of last month’s show, Vitafoods Europe director Chris Lee talks travel, tango and changing lives…
Leader, structured, strategic.
What’s your biggest professional achievement?
Building a successful division, from scratch, within a big corporate company. It has been a long journey to take Vitafoods from a small exhibition in 2004 to the market leader for its industry, with a presence in three continents.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started in sales for a small exhibition organiser working on numerous shows. That meant I had fantastic opportunities to get involved in everything, which helped fast-track my career. After five years there, I left to join Informa and took on Vitafoods, having recognised the huge potential of what could be achieved within a 10-year vision. I’m eight years down the line now and feel honoured to have built the brand into what it is today.
What are your pet hates?
Time-wasters, bad science and uneducated consumers who do not understand that they can prevent disease and maintain their health through nutrition.
Give us a positive prediction for the food industry over the next 12 months
Large manufacturers are spending money on marketing campaigns to educate consumers about the benefits of their products. With an ageing population, more disposable income and a greater interest in health and wellbeing, consumers will naturally turn to dietary supplements and functional foods and drinks. With Article 13 health claims now enforced, we should see clear messaging on claims hitting supermarket shelves.
What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?
Leading by example and giving a clear vision to your team, project or industry. Enthusiasm, determination and mentoring are key, but the ability to listen, understand and implement will set exceptional leaders apart from others.
Who do you most admire?
I admire those who make a difference, innovate, inspire, are top of their field, determined and believe in their own vision, passion and cause – from Ayrton Senna to Bill Gates.
Which people/organisations or companies are the ones to watch right now?
The nutraceutical industry has seen more acquisitions over the last two years than ever before. DSM and BASF are both ones to watch, each having spent a huge amount of money on established players and smaller, niche companies. Nestlé should stay on the radar with its ambitions for research and innovation, and move towards acquisitions. In terms of key markets, infant and elderly health products are big news for this year.
Which word or words do you most overuse?
I think I may be guilty of saying ‘have you thought about it like this’ a little too much, or ‘I have a new idea’.
If you weren’t Vitafoods director, what else might you be doing?
Travelling the world and learning about culture, language and traditions, while writing a successful range of ‘rough guide’ books about the 190 or so countries around the globe.
Tell us something about yourself that few people know
I have a huge passion for all types of music and dance. I particularly like to tango, which I first started some years ago in Buenos Aires. I also have a secret passion for drumming.
Red grapes, including Pinotage, Malbec and Shiraz, are right up there, but karaoke is still a major release.
What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?
Nothing. I am a big believer in creating your own destiny and that you chose to make your own quality of life
How do you relax?
They say that ‘the time to relax is when you don’t have time for it’ and I hope I never find myself in this situation. I enjoy high octane sports and time with family. Having young children keeps you on your toes and really gives you that balance and understanding of how to split your time.
How would you like to be remembered?
For making a difference, however little or large, and changing people’s lives for the better.