By Whitney Blomquist, VRG Intern
In preparing to attend the 2012 Natural Products Expo, I had the opportunity to view a webinar sponsored by New Hope 360 and Natural Foods Merchandiser. This webinar discussed the current natural products market and how the gap between natural and conventional retailers is rapidly narrowing. Concerns mentioned by the presenters included:
- Sales increases for supplement stores, with reasons linked to a larger product mix and increased retail space
- Decreased sales for health food stores
- Increased internet retailers
- Increasing competitive threats from large retailers
Though there may be competition between avenues of distribution, after attending the Natural Products Expo in Baltimore, Maryland, it was clear from the crowds and enthusiasm amongst attendees that the natural products industry is flourishing. I had the opportunity to interact with activist, entrepreneurs, established businessmen and women and fellow non-profit workers.
The VRG’s booth was located in a back corner of the ‘New Products’ showroom this year. Last year we had been placed in a prime location so we were expecting a little less interaction at this expo. To our surprise we were even busier than last year!
We distributed information and offered resources to many different companies and individuals. Organizations wanted to work with us to get the word out about their product or service or distribute our resources to their consumers.
An employee of Choc and Nut, who came to visit VRG’s booth, discussed his efforts to break into the American food market with us. Look for an upcoming product review for his vegan version of Nutella.
Geetha Pai was looking for resources that could help her expand her operations. Geetha puts on cooking demos to show people how to cook healthy meals for their families and she founded a company that sells eco-friendly, handmade baskets and bags whose profits are shared with charities. She explained what an impact her cooking classes have on these families and filled us in on her charity work. Geetha was similar to so many that stopped by our booth at the Natural Foods Expo, sharing amazing stories with us and taking away useful information that will benefit their endeavors.
Walking around the expo was a great adventure and I discovered so many new products. For example, EdgyBurger’s vegan butternut squash, spinach and quinoa burger, washed down with Suvva Juice, a sweet, cacao based fruit juice was a pallet pleaser. My favorite treat was Maggie’s Conscious Vegan Cuisine black beluga lentils with Thai green curry. It was delicious!
I tried some samples from Lavera, a cosmetic company that offers over 100 vegan products. The organic wild rose and organic macadamia nut moisturizing cream truly moisturizes and smells great too! Andrew Eisenberg from Awearables, LLC introduced me to the new vegan alert wristband for children; a stylish wristband for little vegans that alert adults of children’s allergies or diet practices. I had the chance to chat with the founder of Smile Squared, a company that sells bamboo toothbrushes. For every toothbrush Smile Squared sells they send a toothbrush to a child in need who doesn’t own one, a simple idea that is making a huge difference!
I was exposed to the difficulties faced by those trying to break into the natural products market and how important it is to network with everyone you meet. For 30 years, VRG has always been happy when we can help new, innovative businesses.
The Natural Products Expo brought together businesspeople with similar interests and values, establishing connections that will continue to grow. I look forward to witnessing additional development of vegan products at next year’s show.