AUSTIN, Texas -- The Organic Trade Association's first show, held at the Austin Convention Center here May 18 to 19, did not attract many retail food buyers, but the conference surrounding it brought people from all over the globe.
Retailers such as Massachusetts-based Big Y and Star Market; Whole Foods, which has its headquarters here; and even Wal-Mart sent buyers. Kroger, which plans to expand its natural and organic sets this year, according to a vendor, reportedly sent one senior person.
Distributors and brokers were there in numbers and the show attracted more than half of the total universe of North American organic food processors.
There were between 800 and 1,000 attendees, according to David Gagnon, director of operations for the OTA, which is based in Greenfield, Mass.
"We met our goals," Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the OTA, said.
"This industry is in transition, so questions of identity are being discussed, as well as what impact the conventional food industry will have on our industry," said Gene Kahn, president of Small Planet Foods, Sedro-Woolley, Wash. He is also a vice president of General Mills, which bought the company and its two organic brands, Cascadian Farm frozen food and Muir Glen tomato products, in January 2000.
"I have lots of enthusiasm for the mainstreaming of organics, although some people have concerns. I have news for them: This is what we've been working toward for the last 30 years."