Before we get into the key trends and highlights of the show, two things took place during the events and education part of Natural Products Expo East that are very noteworthy and deserve real attention.
1) CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY UNVEILS HEMP CBD SCORECARD
It goes without saying that CBD is one of the hottest ingredients in the food industry, and Nielsen expects the hemp-derived CBD market to reach $6 billion in sales by 2025.
With the proliferation of CBD in the marketplace and the difficulty of obtaining USDA organic certification of CBD products until as of late, many CBD companies have been using the word “organic” in their marketing very generously and liberally. As a result, a tremendous amount of misinformation is being disseminated into the marketplace, all to the detriment and confusion of consumers.
To help provide more clarity and accountability, Center for Food Safety (CFS) released the very first Hemp CBD Scorecard, which was unveiled last Wednesday in Baltimore by the organization’s West Coast director, Rebecca Spector.
CFS evaluated 40 hemp CBD companies to compare product policies and practices in three categories: (1) Hemp Farming and Organic Certification; (2) Processing; and (3) Testing/ Auditing.
Scoring was weighted by the following factors: Production – 25 points, Processing – 5 points, Testing – 30 points, Transparency – 40 points.
A Grades: RE Botanicals, Palmetto Harmony, Fountain of Health, Green Gorilla
B Grades: CBD Living, Gaia Herbs, Inesscents, Innovative CBD, Medterra, Nature’s Love, Sagely Naturals, Vital Leaf
C Grades: Bluebird Botanicals, Charlotte’s Web, Feals, Garden of Life, HempWorx, Koi CBD, Medical Marijuana, Inc., NuLeaf, Plus CBD Oil, Prime My Body
D Grades: CBD Distillery, Joy Organics, Kannaway, Premium Jane, Pure Hemp Botanicals, Straight Hemp, SunSoil, Upstate Elevator Supply
F Grades: Ancient Nutrition, Barleans, CBD Mendo, Gnome Serum, Haleigh’s Hope, Hemp Fusion, Irwin Naturals, Lord Jones, Nature’s Plus, Shikai
“The response we received was overwhelmingly positive, from both retailers and members of the industry,” said Rebecca Spector. “It is the Wild West of CBD products out there, and this is a great way to identify companies doing the right thing.”
“There were a handful of negative voices, from some that got failing grades. We told them we will redo the survey, probably within the next six months, and they can improve their scores,” she continued.
CBD is a very expensive product, and consumers deserve the right to know exactly how each product is produced and which ingredients are being used.
Aside from providing shoppers with as much information as possible, the scorecard should spur more companies to get USDA organic certification, embrace regenerative practices and promote full transparency on their websites.
Needless to say, this is a very welcome resource for both consumers and our industry.
To learn more about Center for Food Safety’s Hemp CBD Report and Scorecard, click HERE.
2) WOMEN ON BOARDS, SURVEY IS LAUNCHED
Having more women sit on boards of organic and natural companies is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.
According to a study by MSCI, U.S. companies with at least three women on the board experienced earnings growth of 37% over a five-year period while companies that had no female directors experienced a -8% earnings drop in that same period.
Having more women on boards in our industry was the subject of an important panel discussion at Expo East, and it is where I heard the most shocking comment all week.
Brad Barnhorn, a panelist and long-time industry veteran, said that of the 9 different boards that he sits on, there are 50 total board members and only one of them is a woman.
“This is crazy and absurd,” he followed up.
(Women on Boards panel, from l. to r. Alex Hanifin, CEO of Alpine Start Foods; Najla Guthrie, President & CEO of KGK Science, Inc.; Melissa Facchina, Founder & CEO of Siddhi Shot; Brad Barnhorn, independent board member; Carla Vernón, President of the Natural & Organic Operating Unit at General Mills)
To address this and other issues of diversity, OSC2 has formed the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Collaborative, co-founded by Lara Dickinson, Executive Director and co-founder of OSC2 , and Sheryl O’Loughlin, former CEO of REBBL. The group has released a 5-minute survey to get accurate benchmark data on the current diversity makeup in the natural products industry.
The goal is to have 500 companies fill out the survey by January 2020, so the group can not only report the findings at Expo West 2020 but help set industry goals and track them.
Carla Vernón, another participant on the Women on Boards panel and President of the Natural & Organic Operating Unit at General Mills, acknowledged, “relationships are a huge part of what happens on these boards. People suggest people who they like and know.”
But she also insisted to the audience to “get over this notion that networking is awkward. Put yourself in the conversation and let people know we exist.”
Wanting to do her part, Carla Vernón is promoting female executives with her
#100daysofbadassladybosses campaign on Twitter (@carlainspired), in which she is spotlighting 100 innovative female business executives over 100 days.
Whether it is individuals getting active on social media or JEDI’s new initiative, the natural products industry has finally started to take steps to address this critical matter.
And with the organic industry’s top-line growth slowing to single digits, it can only help companies’ bottom lines to have a more diverse and inclusive leadership.
TAKEAWAYS/TRENDS/OBSERVATIONS FROM EXPO EAST
* A big shift from shelf-stable to refrigerated bars/snacks has begun. Thankfully. Shelf-stable bars are shelf-stable for a reason.
* Sparkling beverages were everywhere and so was CBD, not surprisingly. Having a dedicated Hemp Pavilion certainly made things easier.
* To me, CBD is a better and more natural fit for tea than with coffee, although we will undoubtedly be seeing a ton of CBD coffee.
Speaking of Mood33, which unveiled its CBD teas at the show, the Eric Schnell-led company is executing a unique strategy among U.S. organic beverage brands.
Not only is it selling THC-infused, ready-to-drink tea in dispensaries in California, but it will soon have bottles of organic CBD, non-THC teas for the natural channel. Mood33 will have a presence in each market, appealing to both the THC and non-THC consumer.
While I have heard of THC tea brands crossing over into the non-THC tea market, Mood33 has the opportunity to be a breakout brand because of Eric Schnell’s decades of experience in the RTD organic tea market, most notably as co-founder of Steaz.
* I loved seeing so many Step up to Organic signs at booths throughout the show. As we wrote about a few weeks ago, this is New Hope’s campaign to promote and highlight organic at Expo East and Expo West.
* While I no longer give awards for best trade show booths at Expo East — only at Expo West now — General Mills would have taken home the prize. Again.
Below is a presentation of a farm pre and post having been farmed regeneratively. Love the creativity here!
* Major kudos to Dr. Mercola for paying farmers in India to transition to Biodynamic farming and for also putting out the biggest line of Demeter-certified products of any U.S.-based company that I have ever seen — under the Solspring brand. Just amazing!
* Speaking of Biodynamic, I have heard that a Biodynamic Trade Association is in the works. And it can’t come soon enough.
Biodynamic needs increased support and marketing muscle, which will lead to more companies producing Demeter-certified products.
* I was thrilled to see Temple Tumeric founder Daniel Sullivan back at the booth and with the company. He is the soul of this brand.
* On Living Maxwell, I posted my Top 5 Organic Food Products from Expo East.
Narrowing it down from 12 to 5 on my final list was no easy endeavor, as I discovered so many outstanding products at the show.
* It was bittersweet to say good-bye to Baltimore, particularly because this was my favorite Expo East so far, but I am definitely looking forward to Expo East next year in its new location — Philadelphia.
Max Goldberg, Founder
Anchored by Regeneration International and the Sunrise Movement, a national coalition has called for massive overhaul of food and farming policy to address climate and farm crises.
To help facilitate connections and link together the rapidly growing U.S. organic supply chain, the Organic Trade Association has unveiled its new Find.Organic business directory.
According to a report from Brick Meets Click, online grocery sales now account for 6.3% of total grocery-related spending by households in the U.S.
To help fight fraud, the Organic Trade Association announced the development of three online training courses to bolster its Organic Fraud Prevention Solutions program.
The agri-chemical giant has a storied history of using shady tactics to attack critics and influence the media.
Oxitec filed an application with the EPA to release of a new type of GMO mosquito in the Florida Keys to kill a species known to carry fatal diseases.
Via the Indigo Carbon marketplace, farmers are now being paid to sequester carbon dioxide.
Zak Normandin's Iris Nova, which uses text messaging to sell beverages directly to consumers, has added two organic brands -- Minna and HALO Sport -- to its platform.
The Amazon-owned company said it was making the change "to better meet the needs of our business and create a more equitable and efficient scheduling model."
Funded by Goliaths of the agribusiness, food and pharmaceutical industries, the International Life Sciences Institute has been quietly infiltrating government health and nutrition bodies around the world for decades.
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* Yesterday, the Organic Farmers Association sent a letter of opposition to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, in response to a statement made by Department Under Secretary Greg Ibach concerning gene editing in organic agriculture.
* How Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario uses daily meditation to approach her job as ‘a happy warrior’.
* QAI, one of the world’s largest organic certifiers, is now certifying U.S. hemp crops, hemp, and hemp-derived CBD products.
* Nutiva has received Glyphosate Residue Free certification for its organic chia seed line.
* Chipotle has paid $6.5M to settle a class action lawsuit over Non-GMO claims.
* In Los Angeles, a trash-filled hillside is transformed into a thriving urban farm.
* In India, Goa is set to be declared as an organic state.
* USA Today ranks 10 of the best farmers markets in the U.S.
* This Florida organic farm is helping veterans with PTSD. Very cool.
* Whitefish Stage Organic Farms in Montana has created a giant bear-shaped maze, which uses 4,000 bales of straw, covers about an acre of land and took 200 hours to create.
* The Brooklyn restaurant with no chef and no trash.
* A new farmer-owned cooperative has been formed to market certified organic peanuts from Georgia.