March 6, 2022
Challenges and opportunities facing the natural and organic industry have evolved rapidly since the last in-person Expo West.
Back in the old days—that is, prior to March 2020—industry experts participating in the many panels at each year's Expo West explored trends and themes that had been slowly ripening and emerging for years. The discussions often were inspiring, shedding vital light on incremental change.
Due to COVID-19, it's been three years since the last in-person Expo West. And now, the old days not only are over, they seem like long-ago fodder for historians and archeologists.
"Slowly" and "incremental" fail to describe the changes that have captured the natural and organic food industry since 2019. From new supply chain challenges to keen consumer interest in immunity to the rise of delivery and curbside pickup, the industry has experienced immense upheaval and transformation.
This year's Expo West parade of panels, discussions and presentations offers penetrating analysis and wide-ranging conversations about the many ways the fierce storms of the past few years have affected the industry. (See the in-person agenda.) They also bring guidance for how to navigate forward, across what remain volatile and ferocious currents. https://www.expowest.com/en/events-education/in-person-agenda.html
All of this year's talks are engaging and worthwhile, touching on an enormous diversity of issues retailers, brands and others in the industry face in this altered world. But some might present more urgency for everyone toiling to develop and market new products or to keep bringing customers through those front doors.
Just have time for one? Maybe you can swing five? We've got you covered with what we think are five "do not miss" discussions at this year's Expo West.
State of Natural & Organic Keynote Address
8:30 to 10 a.m., Wednesday | Marquis Ballroom Center | Livestream
If the Expo West schedule permits time for just one panel discussion, this is it. The address features seven of the industry's most prominent thinkers and doers: women and men who have devoted their lives to organic and natural foods, are fluent in its nuances and pressure points, and have paid close attention to the many changes wrought by COVID. This wide-ranging but focused conversation will yield insight after insight, offering analysis of how things have transformed, and guidance for how to adapt to so much upheaval.
The State of Supplements
10:30 a.m. to noon, Thursday | Grand Ballroom F
The pandemic disrupted much surrounding the natural and organic foods industry—and some of the change was positive. Consider the supplements industry, which experienced historic growth during 2020 and continued to witness COVID-driven momentum during 2021. The industry today is searching for a "new normal," and this annual panel discussion arrives with even more urgency than usual. A wide range of industry experts, led by Nutrition Business Journal editor-in-chief Rick Polito, will offer insights about everything from mergers and acquisitions to supply chain to diversity.
How Plant Based Eating Is Driving Food System Transformation
8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Friday | Grand Ballroom F
Plant-based brands are not new to the natural and organic food industry; they have occupied an important niche for decades. But now, the niche is expanding at a lightning pace. New brands emerge every week. Plant-based startups raise enormous amounts of capital. This superb session features panelists from brands, SPINS and New Hope Network who are well-equipped to dive deep into the new world of plant-based eating.
Building Resilience: Strategically Adapting to a Changing Supply & Logistics Ecosystem
8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Thursday | Grand Ballroom E
The abrupt shuttering of business activity in March 2020 created tsunami-like waves in industry, culture, politics and more. The tsunami may have receded, but the waves and ripples continue. The business of connecting companies with manufacturing needs—botanical ingredients, meat, glass bottles, plastic tubs, rare metals, lumber—is right up there with healthcare in terms of COVID-generated upheaval. In this focused discussion on supply chain issues, with an emphasis on the route ahead, seasoned supply chain experts offer deep insights and wise counsel.
Pitch Slam Finals
4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Wednesday | Grand Ballroom F | Livestream
After a busy first day at Expo West—or second if you attended Climate Day—you likely need a break from the pen or laptop. Head to the Natural Products Expo West Pitch Slam Finals and listen to the founders of emerging brands engage in vigorous persuasion before a panel of judges. Come for the lively pitches and stay for the celebration to learn who wins. The winning brand's rewards include a free booth at Expo West 2023.
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