Natural Products Expo West will be filled with food, beverage and supplement brands trying to convince buyers to fill retail shelves with their products—as well as media, consultants and competitors looking for the next natural food trend.
But the entrepreneurs, representatives and sales experts inside those booths had best not overlook the folks who help move those products from the shelves to customers’ homes: Influencers are perhaps the most economical marketing system available today.
So what do those influencers—the bloggers, the social-media mavens and, in their own way, the educators—want to accomplish at Natural Products Expo West 2019? We asked several experienced and popular influencers, and they weren’t shy in their responses.
Most importantly, the influencers we spoke to want information. Real information, not hype. They want to know from where products are sourced and how they are processed.
Erica Dermer, the woman behind Celiac and the Beast, attends expo to find gluten-free and other allergen-free foods. Just because a brand says it is gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s safe for those who are sensitive to gluten. On behalf of her audience, she needs to find out how a food is produced because contamination can be a huge issue.
“In the end, I’m there for the consumer,” Dermer said.
Unfortunately, some people staffing a booth may not know the details an influencer needs, or even who to contact for that information, Dermer said.
“It happens all the time,” she said. “Have someone in the booth to answer those questions.”
Dermer would like to see a brand manager in every booth, or at least have available contact information for the brand manager or a spokesman.
Krysten Dornik suffers a variety of food allergies, including cane sugar, so she is looking for allergen-free foods as well. She looks for real foods—the words you can pronounce, not chemical compositions—in the ingredients lists.
Like Dermer, Dornik needs to know the sources of the ingredients for consumers who follow her on Krysten’s Kitchen. She agrees that people staffing the booths need to have more information. She often has to reach out to the brands after the show to get answers.
Sourcing is also a concern for Eco-Vegan Girl, aka Whitney Lauritsen. Palm oil is a controversial ingredient in the natural products world, but even more so in the vegan community because its production can harm orangutans and other animals. However, at least one palm oil company is certified vegan because its palm oil is harvested safely, she said.
These influencers noted that trouble getting the information they need isn’t unique to Expo West; they have the same problem at most trade shows.
But these veterans love attending Natural Products Expo West because they can find the newest products as well as products that have been revamped to fulfill today’s specialized diet requirements.
Dr. Venus Ramos, a medical doctor who also reaches the public through her website, Dr. Venus, and social media, annually visits Expo West.
“I really like to be able to stay on top of what’s coming out, as a blogger and a physician,” Ramos said, adding that patients often ask her about products. “Being a physician, I understand my opinion may mean a lot.”
She’s seeing more members of the public become interested in natural foods and products.
“They’re starting to understand there’s a huge impact on their health,” Ramos said.
While the keto diet is quite popular, prompting many food manufacturers to add keto-friendly products to their brands, Ramos would like to see more natural foods in the keto trend, she said.
Sarah Kay Hoffman, A Gutsy Girl who writes about her years-long struggle with digestive issues, looks for foods and products that truly promote gut health.
“These days, everyone is touting that their product is ‘for the gut’ or gut-friendly.’ But that’s not true. I’m looking for those that actually are,” Hoffman wrote in an email. Specifically, she wants to find more low-FODMAP products; foods with 5 grams or less of sugar; and “products that just taste absolutely incredible.”
So, exhibitors, take a moment as you prepare for Expo West and make sure you can provide the information that influencers want as well as the foods they love.