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Lots to Talk About At Expo

For the organizers of Natural Products Expo East (which in fairness of full disclosure, is my parent company, Penton Media), the timing of this year’s show couldn’t be any better. Why is that? Here’s a look at some recent headlines:

• The AquAdvantage salmon hearings

• The rBST court decision in Ohio

• The first-ever Non-GMO Month

• The Wright County Egg recall

• Re-ignition of the HFCS/cane sugar debate

Each of the above has dominated dinner table conversation in the food world over the past few months, and in some cases, has garnered attention in the mainstream media as well. The Food and Drug Administration’s hearings about the bio-engineered salmon and the egg recall in particular are stories that will likely have a sequel somewhere down the line.

Indeed, it’s safe to say that the sources and safety of our food are on everyone’s mind. The exhibitors at the expo shows (East and West) aren’t just selling a new product or line extension, many include the story behind the product. That’s what sets these shows apart.

Just visit any gluten-free vendor and chances are there’s a family member or child who inspired the development of the products. Sample a licorice and you might be told that all the ingredients are not only USDA-certified organic, but fair trade-certified as well, and here are photos of the ingredient suppliers, with their stories.

That’s what makes getting down the aisles at Expo East so difficult for a food reporter. Not every booth has something new and exciting to talk about, but certainly, every single one of them shares a commitment to a vision of what natural, organic and sustainable food products should be. And so, a lot of my time is spent trying to cull the tidbits of information we get for indications of larger trends at work, new product directions and emerging best business practices. You’ll read more about all of this in subsequent entries on this blog.

While it’s a challenge, that also makes my specific job fun. This year, Expo East is joined by two additional wellness venues: the Organic Summit, formerly held as a stand-alone event in June in Boulder, Colo.; and All Things Organic, the Organic Trade Association’s annual show that used to be co-located with the FMI Show in Chicago each May. Both bring enhanced visibility to this year’s gathering, and will help put some muscle into the debate over what America eats.

Given the current food-related topics most people are concerned with, the bigger the presence the industry has right now, the better it will be able to contribute sensible, sane and safe solutions. Let’s see what’s in store for everyone this year – stay tuned.