Natural Foods Merchandiser

Expo showcases experts and education

Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore will bring back old favorites to the showroom floor and introduce a few twists to the four-day September event. Expo East organizers at New Hope Natural Media, the parent company of The Natural Foods Merchandiser, are packing in as many educational events, demonstrations and speakers as they can to make the 2007 event in Charm City a memorable one.

The show floor opens Thursday, Sept. 27, but there's a host of educational events tailored for the retail crowd beginning Wednesday at the full-day Retailer Workshop. This year, the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. educational series will require a fee to attend—$95 for the day, which includes lunch and takeaway resources. There's a lot of value in this year's workshop, says Susan Fecko, program manager for New Hope Natural Media.

"In this hands-on workshop, retailers can learn skills to help them run their businesses better," Fecko says. "We'll have sessions on organic training, cultivating broker relationships and the best human resource practices. Additionally, the workshops will provide tips for effective sales and merchandising, cash flow and finances, store layout and effective marketing and promotion."

Maggie Bayless, managing partner of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Zingerman's Delicatessen, will headline the workshop with a talk on the "Art of Giving Great Service with Zingerman's ZingTrain." Named "the coolest small company in America" by Inc. magazine, Zingerman's is known nationwide for its exceptional customer service.

Some of the other workshops for the day include "Cultivating Valuable Broker Relationships" with New Hope's own Bill Crawford and Monique McCurdy of Maximum Marketing, "Organic Retailer Training" with grocery guru Mark Mulcahy and Shannon Szymkowiak of Whole Foods Co-op, and "People Power: Keys To Effective Human Resources Practices" with Nancy Hoopes of Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy. And that's just in the morning.

The afternoon kicks off with a networking lunch at noon and then features several more workshops covering everything from boosting sales to smarter merchandising. Speakers include Michael Kanter, founder of Cambridge Naturals; Gordon Hagedorn of Amy's Kitchen; Bill Hargis, a business consultant who specializes in natural foods; Clifford Ginn of AKiN'S Natural Foods Market; Jay Jacobwitz, president of Retail Insights, a professional consulting service for natural retailers; and Debby Swoboda, a marketing ex?pert in the natural products industry and contributing writer for NFM.

The workshop and other educational programs are put together based on a number of variables such as retailer feedback and expert opinion, according to Fecko. "It's a combination of expert opinion, survey data, and evaluation forms," she says.

Of course, all work and no play makes for a dull show. So, the popular Decadence Bar is back in the New Products Pavilion. Indulging in the free samples of chocolate, coffee, cheese, ice cream and wine is highly recommended while watching chefs spin their spatulas and perusing the new products on display. "They're all small companies, mostly newcomers to the industry," Fecko says of the booths located in the New Products Pavilion.

Other highlights of the show include: A trio of tours on Wednesday: the Green Site Tour to the Philip Merrill Environmental Center in Chesapeake Bay, an herbal tour, and a retail-store tour to local natural and specialty shops in Baltimore.

Cooking demonstrations with Kerry Dunnington, a Baltimore cookbook author and food columnist, are scheduled Thursday and Friday. The Expo will also host its first-ever "Wok Off" Saturday, pitting two culinary experts in the Baltimore area in a stir-fry cooking competition.

The Retail Resource Center, an area for retailers to conduct business meetings or hop on a computer to check e-mail, will be open all four days. The National Nutritional Food Association-East and industry experts will partake in a series of think-tank discussions in the resource center beginning Thursday. The topics include "The Changing Face of Consumers," "Building Community in Your Store" and "Staying Competitive: Big Fish Versus Small Fish." Retailers can drop off questions and comments any time between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., with the panel answering questions beginning at 3 p.m.

Thursday night wraps up with a concert by the English indie rock band Gomez.

Friday's town hall meeting at 10:30 a.m. will go behind the headlines in one of the most talked-about issues of the year: food safety.

The Women in Naturals Panel and Networking Event returns with an inter?active gathering at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

For a full listing of programs, events and information about the show—or just to play with the interactive floor map to see who is attending—visit

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 8/p. 16, 18

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