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Natural Products Expo East opened in Baltimore on Thursday, a younger sibling to the exponentially larger Expo West in California each spring, but still fiercely attended by all seeking the latest and greatest organic, natural, better-for-you and socially conscious products in a category that has expanded well beyond food to personal care items, clothing and even mattresses.
The Washington, D.C.-based Organic Trade Association used Expo East as the platform for its own “All Things Organic” program, with specially tailored sessions held during the larger conference that focused on key issues important to organic industry players.
OTA hosted trade media at an invitation-only breakfast Thursday morning to deliver an overview of the event and hit on the group’s key initiatives. “Organic is becoming a bigger part of our daily lives,” said Laura Batcha, OTA’s executive director and CEO, “from organic’s huge role in the farm-to-table movement valuing the freshest and safest ingredients in our diet, to more consumers wanting fabrics, household and beauty products to be made from environmentally friendly organic ingredients.”
In fact, it’s ingredient production that’s actually keeping the organic segment from fully meeting double-digit demand, Batcha said – current farm capacity is insufficient. “It’s all about supply,” she said. “The only thing holding us back is lack of ingredients.”
Promoting the benefits of organic products versus those identified as natural – a term with which recent surveys have indicated most shoppers are more familiar and comfortable with – is also a challenge, one the industry hopes to address through a checkoff program for organic producers. Batcha noted that the latest Farm Bill removed barriers that previously did not allow multi-commodity checkoff programs (compared to those focused on one product, such as beef or milk).
OTA is currently studying how checkoff money would be allocated from members, who could choose whether to direct its checkoff funds toward organics or its current product-specific program.
Ultimately, the aim is to drive more people to grocery retailers in search of organic products in the same fashion as “got milk?” and “Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner.”