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California Dreamin!

California Dreamin!

The title says it all, because right now here in New York, it is such a winter’s day: There’s about 6 inches of snow on the ground and a few more are expected before it’s all through. So, let’s talk California and Expo West.

There’s been a lot of talk leading up to the show this week at the Anaheim Convention Center on how the economy would impact attendance, both in terms of exhibitors and attendees. The latest update from the folks at New Hope Natural Media (the show’s producer and, like Supermarket News a member of the Penton Media family, report that registered retail buyers are tracking 3% ahead of last year.

west2008.JPGNow, we all know the natural/organic/specialty categories have taken a big hit in the recession. According toMintel, the number of Americans who say they almost always or regularly buy green products (including organic) remained unchanged since last year, at 36%. This comes after tripling the previous year (from 12% in 2007 to 36% in 2008).

High prices are primarily to blame, but the industry — well known for innovation — continues to demonstrate real staying power and resourcefulness. A number of new organic promotions are launching this spring, and March is National Nutrition Month. Manufacturers and retailers looking to remind wallet-weary shoppers about the benefits of eating healthy have a lot of promotional material to work with.

Then, there’s the show. Last year’s record-breaking event attracted 52,000 professional industry members to Anaheim. This year will feature more than 1,900 exhibiting companies from 30 different countries and 300,000 square feet of natural, organic and specialty foods, supplements, health and beauty, natural living, organic and pet products.

Stay tuned. If nothing else, shows like Expo West show us how companies can re-invent themselves. During the next week, my colleague David and I will be on the floor, looking for highlights and examples of this how-to attitude in action.