There’s a slight nip and slant of light in the air which means Natural Products Expo East is nigh. As the autumnal equinox nears, many of us will be trundling off to Baltimore by the harbor to meet and showcase our products. Not only do we sample, slurp and sniff the dizzying array of organic and natural creations but we come to commune and learn. As I walk down the aisles this year, I will reflect on how far we have come in the last forty years. Indeed we have changed the way we eat, farm and clothe ourselves in a mere handful of decades, and I believe the shift has only just begun!
Natural Products Expo East is a big deal; it’s not quite as big as Expo West, but it still draws thousands of young entrepreneurs, eager retailers and seasoned business people. The floor bustles with activity and flavor. What was once a small eclectic movement has now become big business. The opportunities are boundless for those explorative souls who are driven to fanatical fermenting, mixing, brewing and baking with only healthful and (hopefully) organic ingredients. To a lesser degree (but growing), there are weavers and textile merchants seeking a less toxic paradigm to producing those soft plush fabrics we hold close to our skin.
The Expo is not only a forum of food and fiber but also a philosophical and political space to share ideas and learn about sustainability. It a place to redefine the products we sell and the way we do business. The leading authority on the North American organic market is the OTA. They will deliver a one-of-a-kind conference program this year with critical information on the issues that impact organic business. From the state of the organic industry to defining non-GMO under the organic regulations, the conference line-up will hit all the hot topics of the day and is sure to spark conversation. Don’t miss this opportunity to share ideas, learn and participate in taking our industry to new places.
It’s inevitable that when you bring this many natural and organic people together that celebrations will ignite. This year’s festivities officially start off Wednesday evening with the OTA Annual meeting and awards dinner. It will all take place at Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore starting at 5:30pm. You’ll love the venue; it is 80,000 square feet of magical museum exhibits, mystery and fun. Just after the meeting, we really kick off the merriment at OTA’s Annual Leadership Awards Celebration. From my past experience, this will be an epic organic celebration! I dress up comfortably and play with purpose as the organic community comes together to honor the 2015 Leadership Award winners. It’s going to be an incredible night honoring and toasting three inspirational leaders in the organic industry. This is one party not be missed!
More partying with purpose will ensue in earnest on Friday night. There will be a frolicking fund-raiser for the Organic Political Action Campaign or Organic PAC. Most don’t realize that we even have a political action campaign! I’m here to tell you that it’s an important strategic tool to support legislators that support organic policy and funding. We’re not yet a super PAC but your participation could help nudge us one step closer! Join in on the festivities on the 18th at the Baltimore World Trade Center where the Organic PAC and its supporters will be convening for an incredible night of fun and fundraising! Come play casino games, delight in delectable organic food, while enjoying the best view in Baltimore, the top of the Baltimore World Trade Center! Everyone can give back to the industry that supports them by investing in Organic PAC, the single-most important way to strengthen the organic sector’s voice in Washington, D.C. Learn how to get involved in Organic PAC.
What happens at Expo often stays at Expo, but what cannot be held back are the radical shifts that have come from this phenomenon. Over the years, a group of dedicated entrepreneurs have brought organic and natural foods into the mainstream. Some have built dynasties, some have changed lives in developing countries and others have brought choices and transparency to our food system. These changes have filtered out and infiltrated the palettes and minds of millions of Americans. There isn’t a week that goes by, but one, and then another traditional big food company is taking out artificial ingredients, freeing layers from their cages or removing genetically modified components, and advertising it!
I hope you can join me at this year’s Expo East in Baltimore. Let’s change the world through food and fiber, one bite, quaff, sniff and snuggle at a time! See you there!