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Key Takeaways from Natural Products Expo West 2017

More than 80,000 attendees, nearly 2,800 exhibitors and an emphasis on the environment headline this year's show.

In last week’s email, I talked about The Freedom Caucus, the group of Republican representatives that is lobbying President Trump to eliminate the entire National Organic Program.

Needless to say, I was quite concerned about the future of organic.

However, after several days at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim and spending time with many of our industry’s leaders, I am more optimistic than ever.

Regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C, I believe that our industry will come together in order to push organic forward.

Market forces will ensure that organic continues to thrive. After all, this is what consumers want, despite the efforts of Big Ag and Big Chemical to discredit organic and eliminate it entirely from the USDA’s budget.

Highlights and Trends from Expo West 2017

My number one takeaway from Expo West is that there has never been more energy around regenerative agriculture (RA).

In my view, the discussions around regenerative agriculture – a method of farming that regenerates the soil, which helps to capture carbon and reduce climate change – are still pretty fluid at this point.

Will a farm or product be certified organic AND have some type of RA certification or designation? Will there be two levels – regenerative organic agriculture and regenerative agriculture?

Some groups do not believe that if a farmer is using synthetic pesticides that it can be regenerative agriculture at all. Other groups believe that the only way to truly move the needle is to encourage conventional farmers to pursue RA, even if they are using chemicals, in order to get the scale we need.

This is a complicated matter, and I will get into it more in future newsletters. The bottom line is that very constructive and engaged conversations were and are taking place, something that was not happening before.

Along with the many discussions about RA, on Wednesday in Anaheim, the first Climate Day was held.

Organized by The Climate Collaborative, this day-long summit urged companies to commit to making change in the following 9 areas: agriculture, energy efficiency, food waste, forests, packaging, policy, renewable energy, short-lived climate pollutants, and transportation.

Current Trends at Expo West:

* The selection of plant-based milks has never been greater, and the quality has never been better.

* Fermented foods and drinks are exploding in popularity, and the flavors and offerings are becoming more inventive.

* Low-sugar continues to be a dominant theme.

* Reishi mushrooms, turmeric, and ashwaganda are very hot ingredients.

* I think we are beginning to see a shake-out in the pressed juice category. The competition is getting absolutely brutal, and mid-tier players are struggling. With a price war going on, differentiation is essential.

* Reducing or eliminating food waste is being incorporated into more products and is becoming an increasingly utilized business model.

Future Trends at Expo West:

* Numerous companies that I spoke with appear to be exploring the possibility of offering Transitional Organic products. A fantastic development.

* Repositioning of organic baby and kids food is taking place. By saying they are just for babies or kids, several brands believe they are limiting their market share.

After all, these are healthy, organic food products that can be eaten by any age group. The repositioning will help grow revenues and allow brands to reach a wider demographic. Smart move.

* With Colony Collapse Disorder becoming more serious by the day, I see more integration with honey-related products that are committed to this cause.

* At the show, I got to taste several organic products that have yet to be released. Suja and Hilary’s Eat Well have some phenomenal things in the works.

Have a fantastic day!

Max Goldberg, Founder

This Week's News Items

Weekly News Summaries

First Course
The Guardian

UN: Pesticides Cause Major Damage and Are Not Needed to Feed the World

By Damian Carrington

Scientists from the United Nations have just come out with a very critical report of pesticides, saying that they have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole” and that "it is time to create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”

The New York Times

Organic Food in the White House Kitchen? Unlikely

By Kim Severon and Marian Burros

While Laura Bush and Michelle Obama were known to stock the White House full of organic food, we shouldn't expect the same from the current first lady. The New York Times takes a look at the White House kitchen under President Trump.

Sustainable Pulse

California to Require Warning Label on Monsanto's RoundUp

In an incredibly important ruling, a California judge has just declared that the state can require companies to use a cancer warning label on products that contain glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto's RoundUp.

The New York Times

Serious Ethics Questions Haunt USDA Secretary Nominee Sonny Perdue

By Eric Lipton and Steve Eder

The person who may end up leading the USDA and overseeing the National Organic Program has some very questionable ethics dealings in his past. Not exactly encouraging news.

Second Course
Supermarket News

Juicero Launches Pilot at 11 Whole Foods' Locations

By Julie Gallagher

In what could be a complete game-changer for the company, Juicero has just launched a pilot program with Whole Foods Market at 11 of its stores in Southern California.


General Mills Leads a $6.5M Series A for Farmhouse Culture

By John Kell

Farmhouse Culture, a producer of fermented food products, has closed a $6.5 million Series A. 301 Inc., the venture capital of General Mills, led the round. A very smart investment.

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This Week's Quick Hits

Quick Hits

* On Living Maxwell, I just put up My Top 5 Organic Food Products of Expo West 2017. It was very, very difficult narrowing it down to five.

* Congrats to my friend and Annie’s President John Foraker for being named to the 2017 Hall of Legends at Expo West. I am not sure there is a more well-liked person in the entire industry than John.

* Before and during Expo West, I filmed Facebook Live interviews with the founders of Thrive Market, Foodstirs, and Solti.

* I touch on it below, but the massive amount of negative press about organic lately is a result of the pesticide industry’s assault on the Environmental Working Group and its new Dirty Dozen list.

* Several years ago, I called out the Alliance for Food and Farming. Again, there is speculation that they are behind this year’s attacks.

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