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Natural Products Expo
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What retailers are focusing on at this year's Natural Products Expo West

As a brand, you might be wondering about the overarching goals of retailers at Natural Products Expos. That's why we reached out to five natural products retailers for a little insight into which products and categories are priorities right now.

Most people going to Expo West have some kind of goal or priority heading into the conference. But what are those priorities for retailers this year? We talked to a few to find out.

  • Theresa Harris from Essentialz Specialty Grocer is looking for prepared food options with minimal packaging waste.
  • Jonathan Lawrence from Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market said, “We’re always looking for what the next growth category is going to be and how we can jump on it before anyone else.”
  • Donnie Caffery, owner of Good Foods Grocery, while not attending Expo this year, said all eyes would probably be on CBD if he were–“CBD rules at this point.” 
  • Diana Hicks of MaMa Jean's Natural Foods Market, if she attends, will focus on connecting with her Independent Natural Food Retailers Association friends “and other retailers/vendors that I've built relationships with,” on top of looking for new and exciting products.

And Jason Brainerd, purchasing director at New Morning Market in Connecticut, had a few thoughts to share. Perhaps the main priority for this retailer: improving distributor contracts. They’ve found that some distributors are better at managing their contracts with certain brands than others. He worked with one distributor, for example, that consistently delivered one yogurt brand when it was already close to its best-by date, and the yogurt wasn’t selling well. He found a different distributor that gave them yogurt with dates much further out — and sales ended up doubling, when he had been close to discontinuing the line before the switch. He’s also had distributors stop carrying some products from a brand and only carry the top-sellers, so then he needs to figure out where to get the rest of the line. He’ll be focused on talking with brands at Expo to figure out who is best at distributing their products.

In terms of product trends, clean and plant-based continue to be strong across all categories; the dairy and frozen aisles probably have the most opportunity for growth. And, he added, they’re still looking for gluten-free, but products made with whole-food ingredients—reinforcing the overall trend toward clean more broadly

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