By Len Monheit
Last week I spoke a bit about event planning, and as spring approaches, companies are getting much more active in their communications, and putting operational plans into actual practice.
In the last year and a bit, we've seen the flattening of the low-carb market, the introduction of glycemic index and 'lesser evil' as terms that bear watching, the emergence of natural personal care as a convergence area that needs to be monitored for future growth, especially with the concept of inside-out products, ingested internally with health or healthy manifestations externally. Despite the fact that we've seen few truly innovative ingredients, we've seen deeper science bases constructed for these ingredients and a mushrooming of both applications and applications support from these ingredient manufacturers. Could all of these developments and trends be predicted? Could a well-connected organization have managed to ride the crests, avoid the troughs and be positioned for success in the next ten years?
This industry does not operate in a vacuum - geographically or as a sector. We are influenced by international developments (including regulations, companies, messaging) and increasingly, we are impacted by our neighbors and colleagues operating in food, beverage and personal care. This means that our community has now expanded to include most consumer packaged goods groups, and that the concept of 'healthy' is continuously being redefined and expanded, both within our industry, but most importantly, in the minds of our consumer audience.
It is with these thoughts as a backdrop, that I plan for and anticipate the upcoming Nutracon, SupplyExpo and Expo West events in Anaheim a few weeks out. As with any event, the outcome is really what you make it, and that's certainly the case here. I'm struck by the appropriateness of a reflection from Tim Avila, Community and Content Experience Advisor to New Hope Natural Media:
“It’s the only event in the world that has the sheer mass, diversity and energy of all forms and disciplines in healthy lifestyle activities. It allows developers and marketers to select a unique learning experience. If making and marketing winning, healthy consumer brands is your objective, this eclectic event is like a master's festival of jazz and world music."
Done right, Nutracon can be like a buffet. Attendees can get a smorgasbord of content offerings in a curriculum designed not only to capture and reveal current status and thought, but to truly predict and plan for future developments. Presenters ranging from Estee Lauder’s Mindy Goldstein to Michael Dansinger, one of the physicians at Tufts-New England Medical Center, who conducted the study that examined which diets are the most effective at weight loss and reducing heart disease risk factors, are part of tracks which include functional confectionaries, the 'new lesser evil', natural personal care, new ingredient science, the Future of Organic and a global market review, that includes presentations from both Sweden and Canada. From the new 'super juices' (noni, mangosteen and pomegranate - presented by Bill Knudsen) to the 'challenges of chocolate', participants should get some insights into future directions and opportunities. Based on last year's experience, I'm particularly interested in this year's Formulator's Challenge entitled, 'The Next Red Bull'.
New this year is the move of the TechnologyTransferCenter to the SupplyExpo show floor and the launch of a product ApplicationCenter also on the show floor. Theoretically, this should allow participants to learn and plan at Nutracon, then begin the application process on the SupplyExpo floor. Expanded this year is the poster session and new ingredient showcase.
Unlike other industry events, the '3 events, 5 days' offering spans many relevant markets and connects a significant part of the value chain from concept through commercialization. The ability to appreciate conception in Nutracon through scouting the actual marketplace in Natural Products Expo West is one benefit of participation. The ability to guide an organization among industry leaders and to network with them on a peer-to-peer basis is another. Taking a step back after Nutracon, analyzing what was said and not said in the various tracks, and letting this guide your Expo West experience is a third.
I must confess that most of my observations have come from personal experience and from being by nature a curious sort. My impression of the context and significance of the Nutracon curriculum and SupplyExpo overlay did not come to me from a review of marketing materials or communication I read about the event. In fact, I have found that it is becoming increasingly difficult to appreciate or discern event relevance, and sometimes even more importantly, simple appropriateness. By this I mean that while an event might be relevant to your organization or job function, either its timing (or the state of your organization's ability to benefit) or its nature (is it one-to-many rather then interactive, does it provide you with the opportunity to share and discuss ideas, which is what you might really need, or is it merely another state of the sector report or trend report, that while valuable, doesn't get you operating at that higher level of planning for a leadership position five years out.)
In many of my conversations with industry professionals, it seems as though industry events are necessary evils. Many are. Some are more, and many are just evil.