Food Safety Pathogen Testing Market at an Inflection Point

Given it’s the end of summer and vacation time for many, August has been surprisingly full of new information on the pathogen testing market for the U.S. food industry. Much of the buzz began at the recent annual meeting of the International Association for Food Protection in Milwaukee, where a big presence and rumored activity by major market players was evident. And there has been a steady flow of interesting new product and market information to Strategic Consulting since then.

The most visible new development in food safety testing is that Roka Bioscience has now entered the pathogen testing market and they did so in a big way. Their presence at IAFP was impressive with continuous educational seminars at their booth and invitation-only demos of the new Roka Automated Instrument. The company and technology launch certainly generated some buzz. Based on Gen-Probe’s proven molecular technology (Target Capture, TMA, and HPA), Roka’s instrument platform offers ease of use while maintaining accuracy and sensitivity.

At the same time, bioMerieux was showing an exciting advance of a different sort, with its new salmonella assay that provides results in 19 hours with a one-step enrichment. And there were rumors of 3M adding molecular pathogen testing to its portfolio of Petrifilm and other food safety products.

These are just some of the indications of what appears to be an inflection point for pathogen testing. There’s a good chance of major changes in testing requirements on the horizon, and our most recent research report on the U.S. food testing market (Food Micro—5) shows a clear and consistent rise in pathogen testing volumes. It also indicates a continued movement of testing outside the plant, both to lab-in-a-box sites at major food production facilities and to fast-growing contract lab companies. All of which are driving a need for high-volume testing options that can be used by expanding pathogen-analysis operations. Certainly this is a sweet spot for Roka’s new offering.

Back in the plants, ease of use and more rapid results continue to be in demand. There clearly seems to be a need for a simple, “black box” approach that quality and safety managers can implement—with confidence and with existing staff—in their plants. Perhaps this will be the target of 3M’s entrance into the molecular pathogen testing business.

Given these market drivers, resulting testing volume increases, and evolving customer requirements, clearly technologies and product solutions for pathogen testing will be evolving over the next 3-5 years. In fact, a quick look at the last decade shows a market evolution that is ripe for a major advance. During the early 2000s, there was the drive to launch instrument based results, whether antibody or molecular based. By 2010 there were 10+ participants with various technologies, and it was beginning to be hard to differentiate one from another based on product features/benefits. All had acceptable sensitivity/specificity, and provided acceptable results, thus making price the major driver in the marketplace.

Now things are changing, with truly new advances in technology beginning to appear. This is an exciting time.

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