2018: The Year of the Consumer


Karen Howard, CEO and Executive Director of Organic & Natural Health Association, @OrgNatHealth, shares her perspective on 2018.

We no longer have to wonder about the impact of the FDA’s budget being frozen, a federal hiring freeze, or a full-out directive to terminate and prevent promulgation of ‘most’ regulations. The natural products industry, food and dietary supplements in particular, is about to experience the fallout in 2018.

The risks are real. Lack of oversight of the organic standard is likely to lead to more fraudulent products entering the United States. Failure to inspect could plague the reputation of the dietary supplement industry, jeopardizing the significant advancements in GMP compliance and public confidence being championed by industry leaders. What’s an industry to do without the loving guidance of regulators and legislators?

Move over government. Consumers are driving revolutionary change, demanding transparency, traceability and quality. The result is a weakening of the old standard bearers on Capitol Hill. Consider Campbell Soup’s voluntary labeling of GMO ingredients and its subsequent withdrawal from the Grocery Manufacturers Association. (Nestlé, Dean Foods and Mars quickly followed suit). Not even the organic industry is immune from this trend. Longtime organic champions are publically chastising the Organic Trade Association’s decision to abandon its roots and soil-building tenets by including hydroponic agriculture in the organic standard.

The American Grassfed Association’s standards for meat and dairy are clarifying evidence of consumer demand for ‘clean’ food. New regenerative agriculture standards could become the hot bed for production of organic foods. And savvy dietary supplement companies are investing in production of whey, collagen and colostrum derived from grassfed beef. Restorative agriculture is now a term of art.

What else can we expect to see in 2018? 

Testing: The Organic & Natural Health Association is doing a 3-year test for glyphosate residue in the dietary supplement supply chain. We’ve already learned that Roundup has crept into the product line of Ben & Jerry’s, which has taken immediate action to rectify issues in its supply chain. The testing trend promises to grow as public awareness relating to heavy metals, antibiotics and pesticides increases.

Knock, Knock –  merger, acquisition and market entry: These are not new issues, but they are increasingly interesting. Steady growth in an association with natural products is attracting big business. Campbell, turning a new leaf, is an example of how the customer has become king. Nestlé acquiring Atrium with its beloved consumer line, Garden of Life, and the highly regarded practitioner Protocol line is a sign conventional business is adopting the power of dietary supplementation into the mainstream health care solution set. How will the culture of natural and organic impact the definition of nutrition in conventional corporate America? Perhaps Mylan, following its EpiPen price-fixing scandal, will recreate itself as a new member of the Natural Products Association.

Personalized nutrition: It is DNA testing, individualized diets, personalized dietary supplement regimens and more. Organic & Natural is committed to empowering people with the ability to measure and monitor nutrient deficiencies as part of a population-based, nutrient field trial, eradicating vitamin D and omega-3 deficiency.

In the face of a new year one thing is certain. This year, and many more to come, will stand as The Year of the Consumer.

Karen Howard, CEO and Executive Director of Organic & Natural Health Karen Howard Natural & Organic Health AssociationAssociation, is a visionary and results-focused leader who has spent more than 30 years working with Congress, state legislatures and healthcare organizations to develop innovative healthcare policy and programs. She has held a variety of executive positions, including serving as professional staff for a Congressional committee, and has policy expertise in the diverse areas of integrative and complementary medicine, managed care, healthcare technology and mental health. An advocate at heart, she has worked to strategically advance the mission and vision of organizations through effective advocacy and strong collaboration. Prior to Organic & Natural Health, Howard served as executive director for both the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Schools. During her nearly 10-year tenure at AANP, she built a sustainable infrastructure, significantly improved financial performance, established a strong federal presence and supported multiple state association advocacy efforts for licensure. Also during this time, the naturopathic medicine profession established itself as a key component of comprehensive healthcare for the future.  www.organicandnatural.org @OrgNatHealth