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March 11, 2007


Michael Straus

I've attended Natural Products Expo for years, and while I agree that the organic and natural products industry in increasingly dominated by uninspiring "me too" products, there are still faint glimmers of (environmental, sustainable, political) hope ... more often than not, however, increasingly difficult to locate.

I was encouraged by my conversation with the co-owner of Butte Creek Brewing Company (www.buttecreek.com), whose first words were not about the taste of his products (excellent, btw), but about how his company is dedicating money and staff time to restoring the salmon to Butte Creek by supporting habitat restoration and erosion abatement programs.

I enjoyed meeting with the management team of Peace Cereal (www.peacecereal.com), who donate nearly all profits to domestic and international humanitarian and environmental causes, including helping build schools in India, and supporting social justice advocates in the USA.

Finally, a standing room only workshop announced that the Non GMO Project (www.nongmoproject.org) is developing a vast, comprehensive, industry supported program to eliminate the potential contamination of the organic food and crop supply by genetically engineered crops ... visionary thinking by leaders who refuse to let 'organic' be corrupted by the same forces that have polluted the rest of the non-organic (aka conventional) food system.

In my experience, there are plenty of hidden gems in the industry. Unfortunately, the companies doing the best work aren't communicating it effectively, inadvertently making their unique contribution all but invisible in the maze of trans fat free this, and organic that.

/ Michael Straus, President
Straus Communications
San Francisco

Shelley Zimmer

I attended the Natural Products Expo for the first time this year. I was surprised to see the lack of connection between organic/natural foods and wellness. Across the aisle, the supplement folks touted the benefits of the powders that build muscles, but the healthy foods group did not work to build any connections between better food and better fitness, for example.

Also, I was disapointed that there was no discussions about the rising incidence of obesity in children.

Susie Hewson

As a British company with an American presence, we have traded in North America for 16 years. Over the years, I have had to adapt my European hard core environmental outlook to make sense of the "variations" in what I understand as organic and as natural from a European perspective, with that of the North American market. Despite this, we continue to maintain our integrity as an organic and truely natural product range. This time at the Expo West show, I spoke with a few American companies that shared my frustrations with the "hidden little extras" that products labelled or marketed as "Natural", flourishing in the marketplace, including wide distribution on the shelves of natural products stores that claim to be upholding the ethos and ethic of the organic and natural products industry. If manufacturers and retailers do not uphold the principles of the organic and natural products industry, continue to sell products that contain formaldehyde, crude-oil derived plastics, chlorine bleached ingredients, vaguely - just a bit better than a conventional product, then the credibility of the industry will be lost to the ever more educated consumer. Stop patting yourselves on the back on how big you grow, when all that you peddle is false promises guilded with charge backs and promotions. The politic of honesty is the key here as far as I am concerned. All the other highly admirable issues come together with truth in product....care for the environment, concern for the origin and fairness in labour... doesn't it make anyone else just want to scream?

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