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Adam Andersen: Connecting the new and next at Expo West 2015

Adam Andersen: Connecting the new and next at Expo West 2015
Natural Products Expo West represents a microcosm of the industry that has grown incredibly through the years and shows little sign of slowing down. Adam Andersen, the show director, took a break from his busy schedule to reflect on the community and consider its future.

What role has Natural Products Expo West played in the industry through the years?

Adam Andersen: Besides being the annual gathering, the community event for the natural products industry, it’s been the launchpad for many companies and many products. But Expo West is also a place for people to get together and talk about issues: it has been a great place for organics to develop as a category and its own brand in a way; it has been a base where retailers can sit together and share their successes and challenges and grow together whether it’s forming a new association or strengthening existing ones. 

What historic expo event stands out to you?

AA: Not one thing stands out, but in my 15 Expo Wests, there are many that happen every year. One of my favorite things about expo is the buzz that happens before and after the event, whether that is mergers and acquisitions or new initiatives or rising advocacy challenges. Right now I think there is some momentum in the GMO labeling area. I’m always excited to see what one or two cause buzz on the show floor. Maybe it’s a big acquisition or merger, or maybe it’s about some news that came out that week. 

What defines the current Natural Products Expo West era?

AA: I think we’re evolving into a new era as the industry has really grown up overall. I think that’s a theme. We’ve grown and grown, and now we’re being recognized; natural and organic products are finally having their time. There’s so much interest from outside forces whether it’s bigger companies coming into the industry or it’s investors. But it has also created this whole new realm for innovation and new products and disruptive companies. We’ll see unprecedented growth over the next five years.  


What most excites you most about Expo West 2015?

AA: I’m excited about all of the things we’re doing to improve the attendee experience. Some of that may be challenging. But I think everyone is going to see a better show and have a better experience while they are in Anaheim. Whether it’s picking up their badge, getting on a shuttle bus or finding a place to meet, we want people to walk way saying, ‘I got a lot of value out of this experience.’ How is expo changing as the natural products industry evolves?

AA: I think we’ve adapted to provide opportunities for new companies. We realized many years ago that this was not just an opportunity for growth for the expo but for the industry. We support those new companies through education and by providing pavilions and areas on the show floor where buyers will seek out innovative new companies. New products are the lifeline of the retail and grocery industry. We’ve always tried to adapt the show to those growing needs and make sure everyone is able to find new products and new companies.

As the Anaheim Convention Center expands, how will Natural Products Expo grow?

AA: We are in the process of defining that right now. Over the next three years, as construction takes place, we are looking for ways to expand. We are making some small changes to position the show floor and the entire industry for growth. We’re in the Hilton this year and will be expanding next year until we get to 2018 when the expansion is fully functioning.

What’s your dream expo?

AA: Where our community walks away with a feeling of inspiration and everyone feels like they had a good experience. While we can’t control everything that happens, we’ll definitely try to influence that as much as possible. When my team and I walk away, we always feel good and have more challenges to address to make Expo West a better experience next year, but that’s what we do and that’s part of the dream. We’re living the dream.

What do you imagine Natural Products Expo 2040 will look like?

AA: What will trade shows look like? I think the value of face to face is never going to go away. I think we’re actually seeing in the events industry that technology complements the face to face. As long as business has been done that way, I think it’ll always be done that way most effectively, especially in the kind of business we’re in. It’s always going to be about the people behind the retail storefronts and the brands that are in there and how you keep connecting them in an environment where technology just grows and grows. In 2040, will we need as many large booths? Will the ways we communicate present things differently? Will it all be technology and screens? At the end, I think people will still want to touch and feel and taste and they also want to shake hands and hug and make those connections that are bonding and last lifetimes. So I think in 2040, we’ll still have yoga, people dancing, people having a good time, shaking hands, interacting, but there will be many more ways to do that.

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