The Expo West That Wasn’t | The Garage Group

The Expo West That Wasn’t

(in March)

The Garage Group was in Anaheim, ready for Natural Products Expo West – for the fourth consecutive year – and eager to connect with friends and meet new ones while learning from all to deliver pragmatic and inspirational info for future innovation.

With concerns about the global coronavirus mounting, Expo West was postponed shortly before it commenced. To say we – and most of the community – were disappointed is a whisper. The noise on social media was boisterous as the conference drew near and participants began to pull out. We respect the decision of each and do believe that a collective sigh of relief was released by most who no longer had to make an independent decision around what was best for them personally, globally, and financially.  

What struck us was the courageous mindset of the natural & organic community. As participants determined their own course of action – to attend or to stay home – businesses of all sizes respected and supported one another and their respective stances. There was, and is, so much goodwill among the aspiring participants of this year’s conference. Buyers are scheduling virtual meetings with startups and emerging brands, and exhibitors – with a lot at stake – are offering show specials online. We are hopeful that each and every one of us, regardless of our role in Expo West participation, will apply the lessons learned from The Expo West That Wasn’t to curate a relevant and rewarding next conference.

One thought we have is that each of us can put coronavirus precautions into place as daily and lifelong practices: the handwashing best practices being shared and advised can become habits for each of us. And, we will think twice before coming to the office or traveling when knowingly ill.

Some of the brands we were looking forward to meeting in person at Expo West 2020 include:

Hakuna Brands, makers of Hakuna Banana and Totes Oats (n)ice creams. Both brands offer non-dairy goodness in frozen treats. 

Lupini Bean brand Brami was set to introduce the world’s first packaged hummus made from the nutrient-rich legumes. Jerky is having a moment and is no longer limited to dried meats. Fruits and vegetables are coming to market in this form. Pan’s offers jerky made from shiitake mushrooms. With vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, their jerky delivers functional benefits with a texture that resembles meat; we were eager to try it at Expo. And since, a few strips of Solely banana jerky made the trip with us, we were looking forward to speaking firsthand with their founders and representatives as well as sampling some of their other fruit jerky. 

And, we were anticipating learning much about cannabinoids as brands realize that consumers desire increasing education on the distinctions around CBD, hemp, and THC and their benefits and side effects. With entrants coming to market daily, consumers seek to truly understand what cannabinoids in all forms have to offer.

Coming up:

Leveraging information available, we are still going to dive into the trends – emerging and sustained – driving new entrants in Food & Bev and CPG and sharing. We will unpack the drivers behind offerings that are plant-based and sustainable – from source to disposal, and offerings being adopted by Gen Z-ers who are inherently entrepreneurial as a generation and whose eldest representatives are influential consumers.

And with the Courageous Minds Only mindset we witnessed this week top of mind, we intend to reach out to small businesses and ask them to share their stories – as founders – with us and our readers. 

Stay tuned…

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