Here are my thoughts, takeaways, trends and observations from last week’s Natural Products Expo West.
* Regenerative agriculture was a major theme throughout the show, and many of the most progressive organic brands are either talking about regenerative agriculture or are already moving in that direction.
Behind the display case in the Main Hall, the organic spicy dried mangoes from Patagonia Provisions were being shown with the Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) seal. Based on my conversations with the company, it appears that this will be one of the first ROC-certified products to hit the market — arriving this fall — and it will be produced in partnership with Sol Simple in Nicaragua.
It is also expected that Dr. Bronner’s will be on the market will its own ROC-certified product around the same time, and I am told that it will be the company’s organic and fair trade coconut oil from Sri Lanka.
Without question, ROC-certified products will be the talk of the industry once they finally hit the store shelves. As we have discussed in Organic Insider for many months, this certification may be perceived in the marketplace as the new gold standard for organic, something that is sure to be a topic of much debate and controversy.
Aside from the products in the ROC pilot program, there are many compelling regenerative projects in both the U.S. and abroad. General Mills’ announcement about its commitment to 1,000,000 regenerative acres by 2030 — and its trade show booth — certainly garnered much attention.
But it wasn’t just the large, high profile brands that are engaging with regenerative. One example is Picaflor, an organic fermented foods and hot sauce company in Boulder, who is leasing land from the city in order to turn this acreage into regenerative farmland.
* The awareness of glyphosate and interest in glyphosate testing have never been stronger. We are seeing glyphosate prominently displayed on packaging, in trade show booths and on swag (great job, Megafood!).
* Ketogenic products are definitely having their moment, and keto-labeled products could be seen all over the show. And for good reason. It resonates with consumers in a major way.
“We have always had this SKU but when we added that ‘keto friendly’ yellow sticker (below), we became the number one seller nationally in Canada,” said Julia Kirouac, Founder/CEO of nud fud.
* I spent a good amount of time with the people from Alexandre Family Farms getting informed about A2 organic milk. I think this is going to be a major trend going forward — once people start to understand the A2 story.
* As expected, CBD and hemp were everywhere at the show, and it was very cool to see certified organic drinks that had CBD in them, such as beverages from BluePrint and 4Pure.
Nutiva founder John Roulac officially launched his new organic CBD brand RE Botanicals, which won a NEXTY and hosted a super-fun party on Friday afternoon celebrating the Vote Hemp victory.
* With 3,600 trade show booths, it is getting increasingly difficult to see all of the exhibitors, and the biggest victims may be the companies who were on the third floor of the Main Hall.
Throughout Expo West, I kept hearing people talk about the North Tower, the Main Floor, Hall E or the Hilton. Unfortunately, I never heard anyone mention the third floor.
When I finally made my way up there on the last day with two hours remaining, one founder told me that I was the first person he saw from the press for the entire show. This is a shame because there were some fantastic products and companies on the third floor.
* GRO Organic, the voluntary check-off program launched by the Organic Trade Association, held a “fishbowl” meeting at Expo West to get feedback on its national branding/ad campaign and how it plans to help support organic farmers. Organic stakeholders have already committed to invest $1.5M in this initiative, and the key consumer message being promoted is ‘Skip all the Chemicals and Just Go With Organic.’
More details about the plans and progress of GRO Organic will be coming in a future Organic Insider.
* Shannon Allen, founder of the Florida-based certified organic restaurant chain Grown, gave a great speech at The Organic Center dinner. She talked about her goal of making organic food more accessible and affordable via restaurants. It’s a very important and noble mission, especially since it is still so challenging to eat organic when dining out.
* I thought this was “Natural” Products Expo West and was shocked to see both Impossible Foods (Impossible Burger) and Cargill having booths.
The Impossible Burger uses a genetically-engineered protein as its main ingredient, something that is not “natural”. Cargill is one of the world’s biggest players in GMO crops — crops that are not found in nature.
As more synthetic biology and gene-editing companies (GMO 2.0) come to market with their own consumer food products, should we be prepared to see dozens of GMO brands at Expo West in the future?
Organic Insider will be following up with New Hope about this.
* A piece of news I learned at Expo West was that Dwight Richmond was recently named Head of Grocery for The Fresh Market.
Along with Errol Schweizer, Dwight helped run grocery for Whole Foods Market for many years and was an unbelievable champion and nurturer of so many organic brands.
One super-connected industry player said this was the biggest news of the show. I could not agree more.
* With very few organic brands attending the bi-annual National Organic Standards Board meetings — the place where ingredients, processes and policies get voted on and recommendations are made to the USDA — it feels like something is badly missing at Expo West when important organic policies are not being discussed.
The organic industry is facing serious regulatory challenges from the USDA, whether it is related to the crisis in organic dairy, hydroponics or animal welfare standards. Not having discussions about these issues — when nearly all of the industry’s most important CEOs are in one place — seems like a giant lost opportunity.
* In case you haven’t seen them yet on Living Maxwell, I just put up my:
Have a great day!
Max Goldberg, Founder
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In a fascinating and important development, an organic farmer in Nebraska was able to prevent cross-pollination of his organic corn from a neighbor’s genetically-engineered Enogen corn using a pollen-blocking organic corn variety known as PuraMaize.
Diana Food North America, part of Germany's Symrise Group, has introduced a line of organic, sustainably sourced colors for foods and beverages, including a blue made from spirulina and a pink/reddish color sourced from red beet.
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SPINS and HowGood have partnered with the goal of offering their mutual clients greater insight on sustainability, transparency, and health and wellness -- from source to consumption.
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* If you live in California, please support Assembly Bill 468 — an important measure designed to protect children from toxic pesticide exposure at public schools and day care centers throughout the state. The deadline to contact your representatives is March 19th.
* Organic industry pioneer George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, has stepped down, and recently-hired Robert Kirchoff takes over as interim CEO.
* CPG sales and marketing firm C.A. Fortune has acquired national e-commerce agency DaCosta Global, which specializes in selling products on Amazon, Jet.com and Kroger.
* Organic Farmers Association has announced a newly elected governing council and policy committee.
* Congrats to organic cheese company Rumiano’s for being in business 100 years. Wow!
* “Refrigerdating” — yes, it’s a thing now. And it’s actually a good idea.