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What’s Natural Products Expo East all about? An entrepreneur's take

Natural Products Expo East is a smaller show than Expo West, but that's one of the advantages for early-stage brands, this CEO says.

Daniel Scharff, Founder

June 20, 2023

3 Min Read
Daniel Scharff is the CEO of Machu Picchu Energy

Natural Products Expo West was like a zombie scene from The Walking Dead, except everyone was alive (but just as hungry!). Hordes of attendees and buyers swarmed the aisles, chomping through more than 3,000 booths at the Anaheim Convention Center in March.

Even the Fresh Ideas Organic Marketplace tent had Black Friday-level lines. When the main halls opened Thursday, the crowds tried to overwhelm, but we brands were prepared for the primetime with ample sips, bites and, of course, our 10-second pitches. It’s hard to imagine how many great deals came from the show: We at Machu Picchu Energy got a few massive ones, including launch partners for our new yerba mates. 

So, what’s Expo East? An underdog, like Rocky? Not exactly; it’s pretty crowded. Relative to Expo West, the hall feels friendlier and calmer, while still emanating great energy and opportunity. In general, it feels like a particularly good place for new brands to stand out and connect in a meaningful way with buyers and partners for these reasons:

  • The Hot Products section is HOT. Emerging brands dominate here with that new-new spotlight, but there's plenty of space for them to be thoughtfully appreciated.

  • Buyers a-plenty. Most of the major East Coast buyers, many Midwestern and national grocers and even a good smattering of West Coast natural stores like Mother’s Market attend Expo East.

  • Time is on your side. It’s mainly one big room, so buyers don’t feel the pressure to sip-and-run. With the same number of days the hall is open, but far less ground to cover, buyers are open to really hear your story and hang out for a while.

Harvest Festival is a tradition at Natural Products Expo East

Expo East offers a lot of the same—Pitch Slams, retailer showcases, media and investors—with a lot less competition. I had no trouble queuing up for Kroger First Pitch and getting a great audience with some major decision makers. We’re very excited to launch our first Kroger banner this month! There are far fewer skyscraper-esque booths overshadowing your 8x10, and The Harvest Festival, which opens the show on Wednesday, has one of the best buyer-to-brand ratios I’ve seen. (Pro tip: This year, for the first time ever, there’s an unpublished 20% discount for first or second time startup CPG exhibitors! Ask your account manager about it.) Even if you’re focused on Expo West, consider East an opportunity to test and learn. 

As a West Coast brand (come visit us in Santa Monica!), we invest our biggest resources in our Expo West booth, but you’ll always find me in Philly, having quality interactions with key buyers and broadening relationships with our whole CPG community.

Daniel Scharff is the CEO of Machu Picchu Energy.

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Natural Products Expo East begins Sept. 20 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. In addition to the traditional education sessions and trade show, New Hope's Innovation Experience debuts this year. Attendees can enjoy the Harvest Festival, Pitch Slam, a Fun Run through the streets of Philly and a concert with Grammy Award-winning musician Wyclef Jean. Learn more about Expo East's agenda, exhibitors, retail buyers and registration.

About the Author(s)

Daniel Scharff

Founder, Startup CPG

Daniel Scharff founded Startup CPG to help small brands succeed. He is the CEO of a Miami-based beverage company, formerly head of strategy and insights at Eat Just, Mars Chocolate, Deloitte and a Wharton MBA.

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