Expo West – Day 1 Recap

Written by Max Goldberg on March 12, 2011. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

Yesterday was the my first day at Natural Products Expo West, the biggest organic food trade show of the year, which is taking place in Anaheim, CA.

I only walked the trade show floor for about 15 minutes since a majority of my day was spent listening to panels and lectures.

Here are the highlights of what I saw:

- Started off at a Food Safety Track Update session where Rebecca Spector, the West Coast Director of the The Center for Food Safety, and Dr. Charles Benbrook, Chief Scientist of The Organic Center, gave us an update on where things are with GMO in Washington. These are two incredibly knowledgeable and valuable people we have on our side.

- Went to go see Alex Bogusky speak about the branding challenges and opportunity for organic. If you don’t know who Alex is, he has been called the Steve Jobs of the advertising world and is a rock star in that industry.

What Alex talked about was how, through branding and advertising, the organic industry could grow from 5% penetration (of all U.S. food consumption) to 15% penetration. That 15% number is the critical point, or tipping point, where organic could really change the market in a significant way.

He used examples in other industries where aggressive marketing campaigns were used to achieve similar goals. His slides below showed the size of each industry and how much the industry spends on branding itself.

And here is the organic industry…….

This slide says it all. Alex made the argument that organic needs to do similar branding/advertising to reach that critical 15% and is now spending basically zero dollars in this area. He was 100% correct.

The first thing he would attack is “natural”. He would do a campaign destroying “natural” because it doesn’t mean anything or stand for anything, and yet many people think natural is better than organic, which we know is not the case.

Organic, unlike natural, has standards and defines its brand.

Alex talked about a scaled funding model where big companies, such as Whole Foods or Stonyfield, would contribute a greater percentage of the pool than smaller companies. Everything he said made total sense.

He spoke for about 20 minutes and then did some Q&A. I’m very glad I got to hear him speak, learned a lot and walked away convinced this guy indeed is a rock star.

Hopefully, the organic industry can fund a branding/advertising campaign and get Alex involved. We have a huge asset on our side and we need to utilize him. Quickly.

- The last session of the day was listening to the industry heavyweights speak about where we stand with the GMO fight and what is next.

On stage, from left to right were:

* Walter Robb, Co-CEO of Whole Foods.

* Robynn Shrader, CEO of the National Cooperative Grocers Association

* Gary Hirshberg, President and CE-Yo of Stonyfield

* Michael Funk, Chairman of the Board of United Natural Foods, the largest distributor of organic food.

* George Siemon, CEO of Organic Valley, the largest organic farmers’ cooperative in the U.S.

There was a lot of concern about what is next for the organic industry, in terms of how to combat GMO, but the discussion did not lead to any concrete answers. It was a shame that Alex Bogusky was not on this panel because if these industry heavyweights could spearhead the funding for and creation of a national organic branding/advertising campaign, a lot of these GMO fears, and how to deal with them, would disappear because the demand for organic would explode.

- I shot an interview with Andrew Kimbrell, the Executive Director of The Center for Food Safety, where he broke some news about the impending GE-alfalfa injunction and talked about how Obama is worse than Bush when it comes to protecting organic.

- I ran into my friend the amazing Robyn O’Brien, author of the book The Unhealthy Truth: One Mother’s Shocking Investigation into the Dangers of America’s Food Supply– and What Every Family Can Do to Protect Itself.

She and I met on Twitter about a year ago and finally got to meet in person. She is awesome.

A great first day, and the next two days will be focused on seeing products on the trade show floor.

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5 Comments

  1. Hi Max,
    I appreciate Alex B. a great deal.

    I am disappointed that the panel discussion that included Walter Robb
    did not lead to any concrete answers. What was missing? Simply curious.
    I do hope you can interview Walter at some point, if you are still interested in doing so.

    All the best,
    stephanie

    Written by stephanie haughey on March 13, 2011 @ 4:10 pm
  2. Hi Stephanie,

    What was a missing? Leadership about how the industry can come together and make a concerted effort/campaign as one. Everyone is doing their own thing, it seems.

    I met Walter and told him I know you. He said you were great. I would love to interview him at some point.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on March 14, 2011 @ 2:42 pm
  3. Hi Max,

    Thank you for letting me know. Sweet that you connected with Walter.

    All the best,
    stephanie

    Written by stephanie haughey on March 15, 2011 @ 12:40 pm
  4. No problem Stephanie. I’d love to do an interview with him one day.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on March 16, 2011 @ 12:33 pm
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