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Going Mobile, Naturally

The natural and organic products industry may have its roots in small natural foods shops espousing a simple back-to-nature philosophy, but these days it’s taken on some sophisticated high-tech trappings. A good example is the new iPhone app that attendees of the Natural Products Expo West/SupplyExpo can use to navigate what has become a gargantuan event with dozens of education sessions and more than 2,000 exhibitors filling four exhibit halls, not to mention more than 55,000 attendees.

In preparation for Expo West, which starts tomorrow at the Anaheim Convention Center and runs through Sunday, I took the liberty of downloading the free Expo West app from the App Store on my iPhone. I must say, it’s a great app – easy to use and indisputably helpful. It’s got a list of speakers, including yours truly and my SN colleague Bob Vosburgh; we will be moderating, respectively, “Sustainable Packaging,” Saturday at 12:30 pm, and “Designating a Food Safety Manager,” Friday, 2:30 pm.

The app also features a list of exhibitors and a schedule of sessions; a planner that can be populated with exhibitors and sessions; a map of the four exhibit halls; local info; a Twitter feed and a few other tidbits. And, of course, you can sync it up with your expo plan/itinerary on your PC. If you don’t have an iPhone, you can access show information on other smart phones at expowest/mobile.

The mobile phone app is not the only high-tech aspect of Expo West. There’s also an education session on Retail Mobile Apps, including Ricardo Rabago, social media specialist for PCC Natural Markets, Friday at 2:45. Other education sessions focusing on digital solutions will feature speakers from Google talking about reaching customers at the digital shelf, and Entrepreneur magazine talking about advanced social media tactics.

As a non-technology aside, I’d like to put in a plug for a session on a subject in which I have an abiding interest – food deserts. Check out “How to Flourish in a Food Desert: Retail Success Stories,” Saturday at 11:45 a.m. Speakers include Brahm Ahmadi, co-founder of the People's Grocery; Khanh Nguyen of the Colorado Health Foundation; and Maren Stewart of Livewell Colorado.