Expo East Celebrates #30

Some 25,000 industry members came together in Baltimore, MD, for the 30th annual Natural Products Expo East tradeshow and conference. This year’s event boasted 1,363 exhibiting companies, including 400 new brands that launched at the show. Here are four observations from the tradeshow from WholeFoods editors.

1. Upbeat vibe. This year’s tradeshow seemed to have a positive and upbeat vibe. Lizann Anderson, president of Among Friends, Ann Arbor, MI, stated, “We’ve had some great conversations. This show is less flashy and more substance.”

Among Friends Co-founder Suzie Miller added, “Everyone here is trying to make the world a better place. I love the vibe here. There’s a lot of positive energy.

Greg Gray, inside sales manager at Nordic Naturals, also says attendance was positive in the food aisles. “NPEE was a great show for us,” he stated. “The turnout at Expo this year was strong and noticeably better than previous years.”

2. Organic is evolving. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) held a press meeting at which Laura Batcha, OTA’s CEO and executive director covered several major issues to keep your eyes on in the organic industry. First, she noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was about to update its 2008 report on organic sales.

Sales from organic U.S. farms were $5.5 billion in 2014, which marks a 72% increase from 2008 sales. Milk was the top organic commodity, representing a $1.1 billion industry. Organic cage-free eggs reached $420 million in sales. Sales of organic produce are also growing.

Given this growth, Batcha and other OTA representatives covered what to do to keep up with the increased demand. “We know we have to keep up with the acres versus demand,” she stated.

Expo East  
Heather Wainer, WholeFoods Magazine publisher, gives the 2015 Retailer of the Year Award  to Jim Leahy, general manager of Debra’s Natural Gourmet.  

Likewise, Melissa Hughes, president of OTA’s board and general counsel and director of government relations for Organic Valley, brought up the challenges of securing acreage conversion to organic. “The arc of organic is going to continue growing and growing,” she stated, noting that 5% of agriculture is organic in this country. “5% is not enough. How do we keep that growing?” she asked.

Lynn Clarkson, president of Clarkson Grain, agreed that with this growth and lack of interest in this country, “we’ve turned to exports.” For instance, organic soy beans are often exported from India. “I would like to see more organic production in the United States,” says Clarkson. “Farmers don’t turn to organic out of convenience….people seem reluctant to do it.”

Thomas Harding, president of Lehigh Valley Organic Growers, pointed out that a huge problem is that the incredible farming subsidies in this country “reward producers for not growing organic…we’ve got to find a clever way within the government framework to bring more people into organic production.”

His suggestion is for the organic industry to be more politically active and for people to support the political action committee. “We need to get our fair share at the table, even with the media,” he stated.
He also felt the industry should do more to encourage young farmers, since the average age of a farmer is 60.

3. Product launches. There also seemed to be a heavy load of new product launches at this year’s show. Healthy snacks again were prevalent, including plenty of chip options like Plaintain Strips from Artisan Tropic, bean-based BeanStalks from Mediterranean Snacks; and crinkle-cut Kale Chips from Simply 7.

Free-from foods were definitely everywhere, including a new ready-to-eat ancient grain cookie line from Zemas Madhouse Foods; Buttery Sticks from Melt Organics; and several bars and cereals from Freedom Foods.

Probiotics continue to be included in new launches like Yumbutter Superfood Nut Butters, Mighty Muffin with Probiotics from flapJacked, new probiotic blends from Suja Juice and a Probiotic Buttery Spread from Melt Organic. And, Xlear is launching stickpacks with xylitol and probiotics for dental health support. Companies are also launching plenty of protein options include Kura Protein Smoothies, Sol Cuisine’s plant protein burgers and a new flavor of Vegan Smart from Naturade. On that front, jerky continues to have a strong presence in the gourmet and natural food channel.

On the beverages front, coffees and teas remain popular, including a new line of shelf-stable medicinal teas from Teaonic.

Interest in beauty from within continues to build with launches like Glow Matrix and Derma Matrix from NeoCell; Hair, Skin & Nails from Hyalogic; and Plant-Based Collagen Builder from Reserveage Nutrition. Meanwhile in the grocery aisle, All Beauty Water for healthy skin is now on the market. And, don’t forget about furry friends! NOW Foods has a new pet nutrition line, Vibrant Companions is new from Vibrant Health, as is Canine Matrix from Mushroom Matrix.

The supplement aisles continue to offer new and improved fish oils like a Natural Omega-3 Kosher Fish Oil in vegetarian softgels from Bluebonnet Nutrition and very high-concentrated oils from Nordic Naturals now available in Postnatal Omega-3, Omega One, Ultimate Omega Mini and Ultimate Omega 2x.

4. Great people. The OTA honored several inspirational individuals with its Annual Organic Leadership Awards for outstanding leadership in the organic movement. This year’s honorees were Thomas Harding, president of Lehigh Valley Organic Growers, with the Growing the Organic Industry Award; Michael Berger, founding partner and vice president of supply chain at Elevation Burger, with the Rising Star Award; and Benny McLean, production manager at Uncle Matt's Organic, with the Farmer of the Year Award.

  Expo EastThe Women in Naturals event, hosted by
Reserveage Nutrition.

Batcha said that Harding is an inspiration for what he’s done to grow the organic industry, while McLean has created an innovative citrus greening solutions. And, Berger is a rising star for what he’s done with Elevation Burger to bring healthier, organic options to the fast food industry.

Meanwhile, the Natural Products Association (NPA) continued its tradition of honoring “outstanding individuals and businesses” with its annual awards.

In an official statement, Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., CEO and executive director of the NPA, stated, “The Natural Products Association has a long history of excellence and this year’s crop of winners represents the best the industry has to offer. Their passion, dedication and hard work are in step with the association’s mission of securing natural products for all, and we look forward to continuing to support and collaborate with all who strive to further the growth of and access to natural products.”

Expo EastNPA award winners with WholeFoods Retailer of the Year.  

Stuart Pape was this year’s President’s Award recipient for his long-term contributions as a champion for the food and beverage industry. He regularly appears before FDA to fight against unjust extension of its power. He has also written several books on FDA regulations.

The late Bob Ullman ​received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his major role in defending the supplements industry against unjust actions by FDA ­­ and FTC in court. The award was received by his son Marc Ullman, of counsel at Rivkin Radler.

AAK Personal Care was honored with the Industry Champion Award for its contributions to the industry above and beyond commercial success. The firm makes vegetable-based emollients, bioactives and other ingredients for personal care products, and is said to have “outstanding technical expertise and service.”

The Clinician Award went to internationally recognized expert Tieraona Low Dog, M.D.
Cambridge Naturals received the Socially Responsible Retailer Award for “excelling in social responsibility in multiple aspects of their businesses, such as volunteerism, education,employee empowerment, environment and health.”

Natural Choice Award Winners at Expo East: Heather Wainer, publisher of WholeFoods Magazine, and Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner, editor/associate publisher, presented the 2015 Natural Choice Awards at Expo East.

Expo East A group from Bluebonnet Nutrition received the Sports Nutrition Supplement Award from Wainer. Pictured are Gary Barrows, president; Carl Germano, consultant; Wainer; and Pat Hessler, director of sales.

Expo EastRandy Gilbride, category director for bakery at Boulder Brands, received the Food for Sensitive Diets trophy from Chiarello-Ebner.

Expo EastWainer gave Stacey Gillespie, director of product marketing at MegaFood, the Supplements: Full Line award.
Expo East  A group from Aubrey Organics received the Hair Care trophy. Pictured are Stacey Erdman, regional education specialist; Rosario Van Matre, sales rep. East Coast; Jenna Thomas, director of marketing; Chiarello-Ebner; and Brian Wilson, director of national sales. Expo EastTim Mount, CN, CCMH, director of education, and Shannon Hirtzel, marketing manager of NeoCell Corp., received a trophy for Bone/Joint Health Supplement from Wainer. Expo EastChiarello-Ebner gave the Nutrition Bar trophy to a group from Quest Nutrition. Pictured are Rachel Baker, Monica Scott, Andrew Ryan, Jeremy Girmann, Jacqueline van Biene and Brandie Girmann.
Expo EastAlbert Dahbour, VP/chief sales officer, and Jay Levy, director of sales at Wakunaga of America, with Steve Lankford of Health Quest Podcast, received the Heart Health Supplement Award from Wainer. Expo EastWainer gave the Children’s Supplement award to Lindsay Gizdich, advertising coordinator, and Meredith Greiner, marketing manager at Nordic Naturals. Expo EastGabrielle Green, marketing manager; Rich Iannone, East Coast sales lead; and Andrea Neves, events manager at Nubian Heritage, received the Skin Care award from Chiarello-Ebner.
Expo EastChiarello-Ebner gave Love Debberman and Carol Debberman of Sunshine Burger the Vegan Food award. Expo EastPaul Nye and Mike Hooper of Xlear Inc. received the Personal Care award from Wainer. Expo EastWainer gave Jim Rettela, director of sales at Source Naturals, the Immune Health Supplements Award.
Wainer presented Guinevere Lynn, director of sales, and Todd King, vice president of marketing at Gaia Herbs, the Herbal Supplements trophy. Expo EastRenew Life received the Digestive Health Supplement trophy. Pictured are Nicole Burbank, VP of HFS, HCP sales; Wainer; Bonnie Cooper, VP of marketing; and Ken Vargha, SVP of sales and marketing. Expo EastWainer gave the Weight Management Supplement award to Jim Gibbons, president, and Shari Allen, VP of sales of Nature’s Plus.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine November 2015