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Editorial: Natural Products Industry Roars in Anaheim

Probably the best part of attending Nutracon, Expo West and SupplyExpo this past week was being so busy that I could avoid the mass media headlines for the better part of a week. And so, as much of the rest of the business world was inundated with the latest negative data, I was one of many thousands who could appreciate an important phenomena developing.

Tradeshows are yet another barometer of industry success and confidence. They, like the rest of the economy, are typically experiencing slumps in the past few months, as rising travel costs, endless re-forecasting and general business malaise take their toll. Last week, the formula went slightly awry…

Natural Products West in Anaheim was an unmitigated success. Not only did its numbers and economy defy these times, but the enthusiasm in the natural products industry and community indicates that health and nutrition, natural products consumption and the various supporting industries not only have new products and opportunities to pursue, they may even by a critical factor as our world emerges from recession.

So first, the numbers:
Overall attendance was up slightly, reported at 53,000. Exhibitor numbers were down as companies overall took fewer individuals to the show itself to cut travel and associated costs. Subtracting one from the other would seem to support the fact that active buyers grew sharply, certainly a huge positive sign of industry confidence. The fact that exhibiting companies took fewer people meant that senior managers were working the booths, in some cases for the first time, giving rise to a close to the ground feeling not felt around Expo for a few years and surely needed now. Industry legends were quite visible at special events including Dr. Andrew Weil, Steve Demos, and notables from Whole Foods, UNFI and elsewhere.

And the buyers came to buy and to learn.

Show floor activity was solid from moment one until closing Sunday. Their interest in new and existing products was sincere and almost driven. Their participation in the education program was at an unprecedented level, perhaps a realization that especially in these times, differentiation and high quality, learning-based touch with customers is more important than ever.

The Nutracon education was well attended and perhaps more importantly, the energy and level of interaction there mirrored the bigger tradeshow indicating a desire for new ideas, new products and new health paradigms. And SupplyExpo, operating at a different pace than the greater show, nonetheless had great activity, especially the first two days of the event.

As we go back to our offices we leave Anaheim with a sense of renewal and recommitment. We’ve spent the past few days with a lifetime of friends and colleagues who share our passion for this sector and all those within it. As we face the challenges of the months ahead, as we get bombarded with the latest data points and distress, we can say, at least in some measure, “that’s not us”, and continue to position the natural products industry as one of those sectors that will lead the economic rebound.

For those of you in Anaheim last week, celebrate, remember and continue to dig in. Tell your customers and friends, in this industry or not, just what it felt like. Let them know that just as negativity becomes self-fulfilling, so too is enthusiasm and optimism.

This industry has long felt itself to be more than merely a business sector involving healthy alternatives, but rather a core component of fulfilling lives and communities. The opportunity for us to make a profound influence on our society is in front of us here, now, so perhaps it’s our responsibility to take the momentum, enthusiasm, passion and commitment we felt last week to the community at large, saying, that despite the challenges, we will prevail, and that community and commitment are key.

It’s our responsibility to not let this glow fade. It’s our mandate to let others in our immediate networks feel this aura. It’s our role to create a positive beacon to stand out from the distress all around us. Let’s keep this going…

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