Editorial: Industry's Dog Days of Summer

By Len Monheit

As we progress through the dog days of summer, another Natural Products Marketplace is in the books, and we’re off to a sold out NBJ Summit. The buzz surrounding these two events could not be more dissimilar, yet, there is a unifying element at the same time.

Let’s start with a quick recap from this past week’s Natural Marketplace.

I’ve long held the view that few events have such a concentration of industry leaders and in some cases ‘legends’ as this July event. The Natural Products Association, as the one which best represents the retailer community, is consistently able to draw leading veteran retailers to Las Vegas in July. What is apparently absent is the flock of newer retailers that would presumably support these veterans. It is this presence of leaders that is the common element at both this week’s events, in fact, with many also making trek directly, as I am between the two.

The summer industry snapshot that is Marketplace covers industry issues such as regulations well, and with special presentations from the Department of Commerce regarding programs in China, (DOC’s as well as the association’s programs there including ingredient testing and import/export work), the commercial implications of a better, more transparent trading mechanism (both ways) from China are obvious.

This however, was about as sparse a show as one would want to find. Some exhibitors on the early (high growth) track of commercialization were able to analyze their participation as ‘opportunistic’ and ‘worthwhile’, while many others struggled to justify. More than a few have said they will give the event another shot next year though, as New Hope Natural Media takes over show management. This year, new product introductions on the show floor were sparse, although pet product, personal care and an occasional new supplement did reach my radar. (One product on the floor which certainly caught my attention was a hands-free prostate device.)

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this year’s event was the introduction and participation of Senator John Tester (D-Montana), a working organic farmer in his first Senate term. I had the opportunity to meet the Senator and was impressed by his genuine appeal and personality, his straightforward approach and his potential to be a key industry champion in upcoming years. At this spring’s Natural Products Association Lobby Day, Senator Tester was brought around by Senator Harkin, and if things continue to evolve, Harkin may have helped the entire industry (organics as well as the broader natural products/supplements environment) secure its next legislative champion.

From his presentation, Senator Tester is anti-GMO, not because they’re not safe, but because they haven’t been tested, and advocates supplements (uses them too), admitting that they are needed when people don’t eat so well. He explained his evolution into organic farming as the pesticides killed the field birds, (while the grasshoppers returned, the birds did not), and his weekly returns to his home state where he and his wife actively work their family farm.

The personal appeal of Senator Tester was obvious and genuine. It is apparent that his spirit is kindred to that which moves our industry. For that presentation alone, participation at this past week’s event was worthwhile for me, and I think for others in the room similarly impressed.

Overall as a show offering, there is much to be done with Marketplace. Yet it provides a decent opportunity to get a snapshot of the broader industry picture, network with friends and industry leaders – and enjoy the summertime sweltering sights of Las Vegas.

Off to the NBJ Summit…..

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