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I spent last weekend at the natural product industry’s largest trade show, Expo West. I spent most of my time in the Seventh Generation booth greeting customers, consumers, friends and anyone else who wanted to stop by. Our new booth has a homey porch, and it was wonderful to see people hanging out wherever they could find a a free space to sit. But it wasn’t until I got home (well, not actually home… I’m on my way there now after a Greenpeace board meeting) and read Joel Makower’s take on the event that I realized we were an industry in jeopardy of loosing our heart and soul. Joel’s article talks about some of the reasons:
- Activist groups are hard to find. Fifteen years ago when I started going to these shows, the edges of every hall were packed with animal rights, environmental, vegan, women’s rights and just about any progressive non-profit you could think of. They’re gone, chased out by the high cost of space, the business-only mood of the visitors, or maybe they’ve just given up on us. This is a shame, they are an integral reason why our industry has succeeded and we need to support their continued participation.
- Today, virtually anyone or business is allowed to exhibit, this lack of quality lowers the standards for our whole industry. At Bio-Fach, Germanys international organic show, the guidelines are strict and you won’t see as many barely clad bodies or products claiming to do things that are better left to magic or bad dreams. Bio-Fach has created an experience of quality that is so strong it lingers for days after you leave the show. Most people I know were eager to escape the Anaheim convention center as quickly as possible.
- The educational tract at Expo West is not too shabby, but what’s missing is the political dialogue and debate that tackles the toughest challenges we face as an industry and a society. More on the impact of venture capital, small companies selling out to multi-nationals, lobbying for things other than those that benefit our bottom lines, whether to sell to Wal-Mart and Target, the impact of Whole Foods purchase of Wild Oats, to name a few.
I could go on, but you get the point – Joel has more details. Let me know what you think if you were there!