Women Making Their Mark in Natural Products

Publisher's Letter

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A few months ago, I did an interview with Loren Israelsen of UNPA. He noted that WholeFoods Magazine has long had the foresight to discuss important topics early on. Loren pointed to our coverage of mood support, GMOs, and Mushrooms in 2008. Back then, those topics were just starting to get on people’s radar. Today, they top the lists of trends and need-to-know news.

With that in mind, I’d like to go back even further, to March 1999. Our own Maggie Jaqua (then Maggie Breslin) was our new Assistant Editor at that time, and she embarked on a feature that was well deserving and groundbreaking in the 1990s: The Women of the Natural Products Industry. Do any of these names sound familiar? Peggy Brevoort, Janet Zand, Francine Drexler, Rachel Perry, Rae Howard, Patricia Bragg, Ann Yates, and Cheryl Hughes. I hope they do. These were some of the most prominent women in the industry at the time, and some of them are still making their impact today.

What the Pioneers Said

In that feature, the executives and entrepreneurs shared wonderful insights that are still relevant today. Brevoort noted that she had attended many meetings that were mostly men with just a few women. Howard said similar about the retailer meetings she attended. Drexler pointed out that many women ended up in the industry because of families and children. Zand lamented that few industry women were given the same opportunities as men.

Each of these women saw more opportunities for women in the future. And yes, they were right! In 1999 we spotlighted eight women. Now, 23 years later, we could easily fill hundreds of pages on the amazing woman in this industry. I am honored to be among them, and call so many of them my friends, and also my heroes, in every part of our industry. There are too many to name here, as there are so many respected and influential women. But just walk a few aisles at the next trade show and you will have no problem encountering these leaders. Woman-owned and women-led businesses are on the rise. I am proud to be at the helm of one of them.

A few years ago, Naomi Whittel started Woman in Naturals. This was an event we all looked forward to attending, so we could hear inspirational women speak and meet so many new contacts. What was great about this event was that it was attended and valued by women and men.

New Initiatives

Just a few weeks ago, I attended VitaFoods in Europe. I met with another influential group of women; some I already knew and some I had just met. The group is called Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN). They are tackling important topics, like women gaining a spot in the C-Suite, and women gaining financing for their businesses, plus more to come. This is an excellent group to be part of, and to help women grow to reach their greatest potential. I look forward to what we can all collaborate on in the coming years.

Of course, there is also our NutraViews series, which we are presenting in partnership with Nutrasource. NutraViews covers topics that impact every aspect of the natural products industry and our ability to meet the needs of our female audience, from shortcomings in the research to shortcomings in messaging and marketing approaches. Industry experts and consumers—the shoppers you want to reach—are joining the conversation to give industry members a full, thoughtful view that will lead to a better understanding of the problems, solutions, and opportunities.

The first presentation in the series, Lack of Female Representation in Research—Problems & Solutions, is available to view now on demand. This discussion explores key questions, including: What is the state of female representation in research on nutraceuticals? Why are women underrepresented? And what are the deeper implications of this for our industry? Our experts also share advice for women working to advance their work, as well as men in leadership roles looking to foster a more inclusive environment.

Looking Forward to What’s Next

I now see so many younger women entering the industry with innovative, bright ideas. This bodes well for our future. We are blessed to work in a wonderful industry, with so many female leaders emerging. This is not like other industries; we are proud to say we are equals. Each room I walk into, I know I will have at least one inspiring conversation with a woman, and of course men, too. We all equally contribute to our Natural Products Industry.