This year’s 31st Annual Natural Products Expo East turned out to be the largest one on record, with 28,000 industry members attending, a 10% increase from last year’s event. The number of exhibitors this year was also impressive, with 1,450 brands, 450 of which were exhibiting for the first time. As a result, the exhibit space was expanded to the convention center’s third and fourth floors to accommodate the volume. As always, WholeFoods Magazine was there to take it all in. Here are some takeaways.
Trends. There was plenty to see this year, traversing the show’s many levels. Grocery was the prominent category with the heavy presence of plant-based and vegan foods, product categories that have become a dominant force in the natural products space. However, paleo is no slouch either and Expo East was host to emerging jerky brands and quite interestingly, there were a variety of sippable bone broths. As we know, bone broths are not only an excellent base for soups, but also rich in protein and collagen. Sippable bone broths are flavored and allow consumers to enjoy the full-bodied, savory broths on their own. Two brands (Ancient Nutrition, Jarrow Formulas) even took the bone broth idea and veered into supplement territory with bone broth protein powders that can be enjoyed hot or cold. Protein, exceptionally popular for sports nutrition, has also be dominated as of late by plant-based formulas, so it’s interesting to see a new and innovative protein attempting to challenge both the plant-based and whey products.
Cannabis is a contentious topic in our country and not less so in the natural products industry. As you may know, New Hope Natural Media Expo Exhibitor Standards beginning with Expio West 2017 will prohibit foods and supplements containing added cannabinoid, per U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s current thinking on the matter. One brand (HempFusion) with a line of hemp-based phytocannabinoid nutritional supplements is an example of how firms can market hemp products without adding islolated CBD. Its Whole Foods Hemp Complex provides a spectrum of naturally-occurring phytocannabinoids and the firm’s more specialized formulas such as sleep and digestive support utilize other ingredients. This pushes the cannabis and hemp category forward toward acceptance.
Organic growth. In a press meeting on Thursday, Sept. 22, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) unveiled a new consumer survey. In its U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes and Beliefs 2016 Tracking Study, which surveyed over 1,800 households throughout the country with at least one child under 18, OTA, in partnership with KIWI Magazine, studied generational buying habits for the first time. Their results showed that Millennial parents (18–34 years old) make up the largest organic-buying group, accounting for 52% of organic buyers.
The survey also looked at the organic buying habits of the Generation X and Baby Boomer generations. Generation X came in second place with 35% of parents buying organic and Baby Boomers with 14%. Taken together, the results show that eight out of 10 U.S. households buy organic, at least sometimes, with the number of families never buying organic steadily decreasing to 18%, compared to 30% in 2009. Millennials however, demonstrate a stronger knowledge and faith in organic agriculture and food with nearly 77% reporting being as “well informed.” The discussion also turned to the fact the Millennials also have a more “well rounded” approach to organic.
Previous concerns about conventional vs. organic agriculture, had primarily to do with pesticides. Since then, concerns have moved to genetically modified organisms, but also, interestingly, toward animal welfare. This brought us to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Proposed Rule to Amend Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices, which Nate Lewis, OTA’s farm policy director explained will “clarify and codify” aspects of animal welfare by providing objective definitions to terms like “outdoors.”
Retailer survival. In an education session titled, “The Complete Survival Guide for Independent Retailers,” presented by the Natural Products Association (NPA), a panel of experts ranging from retailers and lawyers to raw material suppliers provided valuable advice to retailers in the audience. Among the advice that was somewhat unexpected, considering more urgent fears of lawsuits by “bounty hunters” and class-action lawyers, was cybersecurity. Attorney Marc Ullman of Ullman, Shapiro & Ullman, LLP, expressed concern about retailers being able to properly protect employee and customer information such as payroll and payment information. This is particularly important if running an online marketplace where shoppers can be very vulnerable.
“Understand your policies when you’re doing anything on the web or collecting consumer information,” warns Ullman. However, even those who don’t sell products online are vulnerable to cyber threats such as ransom ware. This is when a hacker locks you out of your system and holds all of your and your employees’ personal information ransom for a large sum of money. Pay them and regain functionality. Therefore, retailers should truly take appropriate measures to protect themselves, Ullman suggested.
Recognition. On Friday, Sept. 23, the NPA presented its President Award, Lifetime Achievement Award and Socially Responsible Retailer Award. The President Award went to Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mo for successfully placing a provision into the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, that not only places Administrative Order 346 on a list for the Task Force to address to Congress in its first report by Dec. 31, 2016, but also forces the Task Force to consider the economic effect Administrative Order 346 has on the natural products industry.
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-AZ received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Although Rep. Salmon will retire from Congress this year, he will leave behind a legacy for being a defender and pioneer of the natural products industry. Recently, Rep. Salmon has spoken out against over-regulating natural products and dietary supplements in Puerto Rico.
The Socially Responsible Retailer Award, which recognizes an NPA member company that has excelled in multiple aspects of business such as education, volunteerism and environment, went to Southtown Health Foods.
Jeff Novitzky, vice president of athlete health and performance for the Ultimate Fighting Championship, was honored with the Industry Champion Award for his “notable
contributions to the natural products industry above and beyond commercial success.”Novitzky first gained attention for uncovering the BALCO doping conspiracy and later on for helping drive the government probes to bring down Roger Clemen and Lance Armstrong and testifying at the perjury trials of Bonds and Clemens.
While it was announced in the July issue that PCC Natural Markets was the WholeFoods Retailer of the Year, the staff took the opportunity at Expo East to personally present them with the award. Darrel Vannoy, VP of merchandising and procurement for PCC accepted the award on behalf of the coop.
Natural Choice Award Winners at Expo East
Heather Wainer, publisher of WholeFoods Magazine, and Sebastian Krawiec, assistant editor, presented the 2016 Natural Choice Awards at Expo East.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine November 2016