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The authenticity imperative

The authenticity imperative

Year after year the natural products industry deals with this problem, but it never really seems to get solved.  Not even close.

How can the industry maintain the trust of consumers in the face of confusing and conflicting information that shakes confidence.

A case is point is the use of the world "natural" itself by product manufacturers. With the FDA declining to define natural, the field has been left open for  lots of interpretation by all kinds of suppliers.

This challenge was addressed in an interactive "town hall" session at Expo West.

"I look at natural as being organic light," said Mary Mulry, president, Foodwise, a natural and organic specialty foods consultancy, who has worked for retailers including H-E-B and Wild Oats Markets.

"I believe it has a place in stores, but you need a written standard and educate people on exactly what that is.

She pointed out that she's seen a lot of products in supermarkets that say natural but have artificial ingredients.

Cheryl Hughes, owner, The Whole Wheatery store and restaurant, said that retailers bear a special burden in this debate.

Read more: SN's coverage of Natural Products Expo West

"Retailers are the gate keepers," she said, because they have control over what goes onto their shelves.

"It's all on our shoulders as retailers. We can force the hands of a manufacturer."

There was other talk about authenticity at Expo West, including in SN's own educational event Thursday. Speakers said consumers are smarter than ever and won't stand for lack of honesty and transparency, whether about natural, organic, GMOs or any other topic in the health and wellness arena.

If anything, it seems the pressure is greater than ever on retailers and suppliers to be upfront, because a misstep can be very costly to relationships with shoppers.

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