The Natural Products Association seeks member approval of bylaws changes that would extend membership benefits to large chains and online retailers.
“Right now, when NPA helps defeat harmful legislation in Congress or pushes back on damaging regulations, everybody in the industry benefits, but as NPA members under the current membership bylaws, only you are paying for it,” NPA President Jeff Wright wrote in an opinion piece encouraging an affirmative vote. “Continuing to deny NPA membership to those new to the industry won’t slow or stop their involvement in the marketplace. However, it does give them a free ride on you, while weakening our ability to influence legislation because we represent just a portion of the market.”
With this focus on legislative advocacy, leadership of the association of natural products retailers and suppliers began discussing the membership changes about a decade ago and moved more seriously toward these bylaws proposals about three years ago.
“Advocacy preserves an opportunity to provide consumers with products that are important to their health and wellness,” NPA CEO John Shaw said. “And that’s what separates us from other trade associations. We’re trying to assist with the greater good by creating and selling products that help people maintain and achieve a healthy lifestyle.”
The bylaws changes would:
- Remove the requirement that 75 percent of sales consist of nutritional foods, dietary supplements and related items.
- Remove the requirement that a retailer must have a physical storefront.
Members must approve the changes via mail-in ballots, which will go out July 25 and must be returned by Aug. 25. Votes will remain in third-party custody until results are revealed to all during the association’s annual business meeting Sept. 25 at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore.
The association will have online town hall meetings July 16 and 25 to answer questions and hear concerns about the proposal.
Some independent retailers have raised concerns about losing their voice to larger corporations that increasingly compete in the natural foods space. Shaw has tried to allay these fears in past organization meetings and reiterated in a Natural Foods Merchandiser interview that the “independent retailer is the backbone and will continue to be the backbone” of the Natural Products Association.
“Folks have legitimate concerns, but those concerns should be put at rest because NPA is not changing its core values nor democratic principles,” he said.
These guiding philosophies include the one-member-one-vote rule.
Because accepting such members has not been allowed, NPA staff do not have data about how many online and larger companies would like to join the association. Shaw estimates there could be 200 Internet retailers that would be ready to become members.
The organization currently represents 1,900 members, of which 1,184 are retailers that pay less than $100 to belong to the organization.