Growing Up Organic

Anyone who thinks that the natural and organic food market is an isolated niche hasn’t been to the convention center in Anaheim, California in early March in a while.

Natural Products Expo West began more than two decades ago as the rag-tag group of entrepreneurs of organic food decided to hold an official trade show to connect those businesses with the marketplace. I’m headed over to the show floor for the final day of what has evolved into a large scale melee with roughly 70,000 people wandering among more than 4,000 booths and attending a bevy of educational seminars. The show has spilled out of the massive convention center with exhibit booths now peppered in hotels and on the plaza surrounding the main event.

As I have walked the floor and caught up with a lot of old friends over the past few days, I have been struck by how much the industry has grown. It’s reached heights that the organizers probably couldn’t imagine. I’ve also been struck by how much we need to broaden our reach.

Nearly every exhibitor, and participant, at the Natural Products Expo is marketing a product designed to enhance our health, and the health of the planet. There are supplements you can ingest, fibers you can wear, and facial creams to provide that natural, healthy glow.

For many folks, good health begins with being able to buy groceries for their family.

That’s the next frontier for those truly committed to the principles of organic food and sustainable agriculture.

Fortunately, chatter in many of the hallways, and in the coffee shops around the Expo Hall was among people searching for ways to grow organic farm production, reduce the cost of organic food processing and distribution, and making organic products more accessible to families on a budget.

After a couple of decades, the organic food movement has grown up quite a bit in many respects. In others, it is still in its infancy. There will be growing pains, but I think we are headed in the right direction.

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