Expo West: It’s More Than the Product
Back at my desk in Boulder after three days at Natural Products Expo West, one of the largest gatherings of the natural, organic and supplements markets, I am tired and I have a list of people to email or call. But I am filled with an optimism that is rare after attending an event.
At Expo West, as it’s known, about 50,000 or so vendors, retailers, buyers and product seekers descended on Anaheim, CA, to learn what is emerging and exciting in these high growth businesses, which encompass everything from raw organic energy bars to shampoo made from beer. I took the opportunity to listen to legends like Gary Hirschberg of Stoneyfield Farm, meet authors including Paul Greenberg (Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food) and enjoy a beer with Adam Lowry, Co-founder of Method Products, who is a leader of a new wave of young entrepreneurs.
Expo West overwhelms the senses. The vast convention center is filled with organic chocolate that will stop you in your tracks, essential oils, raw vitamin drinks, gluten-free grilled cheese sandwiches— and something even for the eyes—the chance to be photographed with Fabio.
I attend Expo West to see trends. This year’s product trends were easy to spot; raw, GMO-free, gluten-free (and delicious) and Chia, which is not just for “pets” anymore.
But the most interesting trend at Expo West had nothing to do with products; it had to do with the companies that were exhibiting–the emergence of the Benefit Corporation, or “B-Corp”.
Certified B Corporations are a new type of corporation. The designation identifies companies that are redefining what success means in business. To earn the B-Corp designation and display the logo, a business must meet transparent social and environmental performance standards. These companies are part of a new business community that stands for much more than just corporate profits: They are committed to doing good for the world while doing well for their shareholders.
King Author Flour proudly displayed their B-Corp logo next to their other 3rd-party certifications. Why should this matter? Shouldn’t only the quality of the product matter to the shopper? “Consumers are interested in the type of company that you are just as much as the kind and quality of the product that you make”, explains Tom Payne, Director of Marketing, King Arthur Flour.
I may be going out on a limb, but it feels like a movement is growing here. Companies that are good for the world want to “occupy your cart, refrigerator or cupboard.” And shoppers seem ready to listen.
Consumers want to know more–not just about what they are buying, but who they are buying from. They want to know if there is pink slime in their kid’s lunch, or if their cans have BPA in the liner, and, if so, why a company felt the need to use it there. If a company can assumer its customers that it is providing them with the most natural and healthy product possible, and that it cares about the community and the planet, and that it embraces a new way of doing business, it can build a powerful brand around transparency, authenticity and trust.
I look forward to Expo West 2013. As for trends, I think we are going to see even more Certified B Corps. It’s the right marketplace. It’s the right message.