The Natural Products Expo East show is an opportunity for many brands, retailers and suppliers to come together and show off the best of what they all have to offer. There are also a number of workshops and sponsored events that bring together some of the best and brightest in the industry with the intention to inform and educate, honor and respect and to simply bring together like minded people who have the same or at least very similar goals.
The experience is unique not only because you can sustain yourself for three whole days with samples of exclusive foods and beverages derived from and infused with a number of fruits, vegetables, and minerals alone. It’s unique because there’s a certain energy that you can feel the moment you walk through the automatic doors of the Baltimore Convention Center. Yes, there are greeters right at the door to welcome all attendees to the annual event, but there’s something else that draws you in and makes you want to become a part of everything that’s going on. Maybe it’s the countless quirky personalities you meet as you journey the floor and visit hundreds of booths. Maybe it’s the incredible ability that people possess to list off every benefit that each of dozens of products have to offer. Maybe it’s something larger than I can understand. All I know is that I’ve never been to a place quite like this before.
There are countless activities for one to partake in. You can go to one of the many seminars like the one I went to, “Aisle to Aisle: Organic Retail Trends” so you can not only learn from a variety of professionals in the field about what they have come to understand about their area of expertise, but also ask questions and gain a personal connection to these people who might otherwise be incredibly difficult to reach. That’s only one piece though as there are dinners and events that encourage attendees to educate themselves while having a good time. The Women in Naturals dinner sought to recognize and empower women by honoring women who were prominent in the industry, and bringing them together to acknowledge and appreciate one another. The same goes for the Organic Trade Association’s Leader’s Dinner which gave a voice to their honorees to share their story, most of which were very touching and reminded everyone that behind every fruit and vegetable is a person who has put their life, dreams, and future generations aspirations into the produce that we purchase.
So, you see, it wasn’t just a bunch of big business buffs getting together and schmoozing, closing deals, and furthering their company agenda. Though I’m sure there was plenty of that, it never felt like it was the focus. I guess that was what set it apart: it was business, but business with heart.