New Hope Network’s exclusive Hosted Buyers Program offers travel and hotel benefits, chances to speak in seminars and more. See what it’s all about.

Douglas Brown, Senior Retail Reporter

March 8, 2024

4 Min Read
An aerial photo of Jimbo's headquarters and store in San Diego, California

Buyers, the professionals who decide what to stock on natural and organic grocery retail shelves, serve as the foundation of Natural Products Expo West, held every March in Anaheim, California, since 1981. If not for buyers, Expo West and New Hope Network’s upcoming Newtopia Now show wouldn’t exist; brands travel from around the world to showcase their innovations and new products for those all-important buyers.

New Hope welcomes all buyers to attend the shows free of charge. And thousands converge on Anaheim every year for the multi-day event, and in August will arrive in Denver for New Hope’s new innovative trade event, Newtopia Now.

Some buyers, however, participate in New Hope’s Hosted Buyer Program, a service that offers travel and hotel benefits to qualified buyers. Those taking part in the program also get invited to speak during educational seminars, participate in other Expo-related events and enjoy the private Hosted Buyer Lounge at New Hope shows.

When New Hope started the program at Expo East in Baltimore during the Great Recession, it supported 10 buyers. At Expo West this month, about 300 professionals will take part in the Hosted Buyer Program.

Over the years, the program has helped myriad retailers attend Natural Products Expo in force. In some cases, retailers could not attend if not for being a part of the Hosted Buyer Program. Others turn to the program to help them bring more of their staff to the big show.

Related:12 pro tips for retailers navigating Natural Products Expo West

The buyers invited to participate are the “top,” said Mary Beth Catapano, head of audience development at New Hope Network. Catapano spearheaded the first Hosted Buyer Program and has managed it ever since.

“Buyers are from conventional all the way to the tiniest independent grocery—the ones that drive and actually started this industry,” Catapano said. “Co-ops. Small chains. Large chains. The brands are so excited to interact with a great mix of hosted retailers. And it gives retailers exposure to so much fantastic content. They can’t get this content anywhere else.”

Some buyers, like the team from San Francisco’s Bi-Rite chain of stores, are newbies—last year was their first as hosted buyers. And it made a difference.

“We were able to bring a larger group—multiple category managers and our owners all came, so we were able to cover more ground at the show and connect in real time about what we were seeing,” said Jamie Nessel, director of product and purchasing for Bi-Rite. “Also, we were more in the mix by being in hotels on Convention Way, so we were able to network more and be less wiped out from traveling to further-out accommodations.”

And at this year’s Expo, she said, the team is also looking forward to attending buyer-only show hours.

Then there’s Hosted Buyer veterans like the team from Jimbo’s chain of stores in Southern California. Founder Jimbo Someck took part in the first Hosted Buyer program and has been enjoying it ever since.

“Our buyers go Tuesday through Saturday, and about half are in the Hosted Buyer program,” Someck said. “I think it’s an incredible service, besides the hotel and travel. The educational opportunities, the invitations to join webinars and panel discussions—it’s all just so valuable. In fact, I’ll be on a panel at Expo West this year that is cool, and another Jimbo’s buyer will be on a different panel.”

Someck added that he treasures the relationships that have developed between him and New Hope employees who work with the program—especially Catapano.

“She keeps me in the loop about what is going on, suggests to me where I might want to spend time at the show,” he said.

Stefanie Springer, wellness category manager at Roots Market in Maryland, said Roots’ participation in the program has been a “huge privilege.”

“There’s no way all of us could attend Expo West, if not for the Hosted Buyer Program,” she said. “Being there lets us see everybody at once, talk to brands in person rather than exchanging emails and phone calls that could take up a lot of time. The ease of being there makes a big difference.”

Hosted buyers for Expo West begin arriving in Anaheim next week. For the duration of the show, Catapano and other New Hope staffers will toil to ensure the hundreds of hosted buyers enjoy a fruitful and productive experience. But even as they spend their days in Anaheim helping buyers navigate and benefit from the show, they will be working on the Hosted Buyer Program for Newtopia Now, which will support another 300 buyers to ensure they have a productive and fun experience for the August show launch in Denver, Colorado.

“These shows are a phenomenon,” Catapano said. “We build them. But the buyers make the magic.”

About the Author(s)

Douglas Brown

Senior Retail Reporter, New Hope Network

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