Natural Products Expo West was back in person this year with nearly 60,000 attendees, over 2,800 exhibitors, and a cornucopia of delicious samples. Off the exhibit floor, there were inspiring and thought-provoking conversations happening on stage with industry leaders and activists alike. Here are a few of the trends and takeaways from HowGood’s perspective at Expo West 2022.
The time to act on regenerative and sustainability goals is now
Many companies have sustainability commitments, ESG goals, and net-zero by 2030 pledges. Speakers on the panel Engaging Consumers with Climate-Friendly Brands called on Expo attendees and their organizations to act as though 2030 is tomorrow, not eight years from now. As Julia Collins, Founder & CEO of Planet FWD and Moonshot Snacks pointed out: 2030 is only 100 months away.
Moving forward with commitments to improve your company’s environmental and social impact can be daunting, HowGood’s VP of Growth and Innovation, Nova Sayers says,
“My advice for brands, CPGs, retailers is: don’t wait. Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress, start now. We need to make a really rapid shift and that means that brands need to think of their product as an instrument of change.
When you use your sourcing and your product as a change agent, you can invite in suppliers, you can serve as a lighthouse, an example, or mentor to other brands, and you can invite the consumer into solving this problem as well and empower them to make a difference on climate which is a part of their lives where they often feel powerless.”
Reciprocal partnerships between buyers and producers
Companies need to move forward and leave behind the extractive buyer-producer model that has long dominated the food system. Consumers are demanding transparency and want to know that the people who grow their food are being treated fairly. It should no longer be a one-way street of benefit for the buyers at the cost of the producers and their land.
One way that companies are tackling this is to enter into longer-term contracts with farmers and producers. This allows the growers to invest in more sustainable practices without fear of losing the market for their crop if it is less consistent during a transitional season.
“There’s no one solution for all of the different types of producers and farming communities that we have”, said Sarela Herrada, Co-Founder of Simpli Foods during the Regenerative Supply panel, “some are small farmers that have 1000kg of product and you’re going to have to go pick it up in order for that product to become commercialized because they’re not able to come to you. It’s really important to work with the communities to assess where they are today and how can we support them to grow alongside each other.”
Collaborative industry partnerships
It was abundantly clear gathering in person this year that the people who make and value regenerative products are a community and that’s one of our biggest strengths. It’s amazing to see the regenerative movement gaining so much momentum – let’s not waste it.
Knowledge sharing is one of the most powerful tools in the regenerative toolbox, and it was more evident than ever at Expo this year. As we all work toward the collective goal of making delicious products while protecting people and planet it will be critical to hold spaces where we can facilitate each other’s growth for the benefit of all.
According to Zachary Angelini, Senior Manager, Environmental Stewardship, Timberland during the Partnerships for Resilient & Regenerative Supply panel, we build our collaborative knowledge sharing, we can also build cost-sharing partnerships that allow us to effectively scale regenerative supply, “Collaboration helps solve some of the biggest challenges in building regenerative supply. Timberland sources leather for our boots, and Applegate is sourcing the meat so we can align our requirements around regenerative and work together to build supply. We can cost-share those premiums and if there are opportunities to fund a farm in transition we can co-fund that. We can share the risks and the costs associated.”
Carbon and regenerative labeling
This year we saw more regenerative and carbon claims on the floor and on-stage than ever before. During the Partnerships for Resilient & Regenerative Supply panel Ethan Soloviev, Chief Innovation Officer at HowGood pointed out,
“Retailers are realizing that it’s not the packaging, it’s not the transportation, it’s not the operations–it’s the raw materials and where they are produced that accounts for anywhere from 70-95% of the impact of any product they sell, especially on carbon.”
As regulations come down in the EU regarding carbon and eco-labeling, more retailers will be seeking products that meet and communicate the environmental and social impact goals laid out in their ESG commitments. Brands that measure their impacts and label their products will have a serious leg up when it comes to getting picked up by sustainability and regeneratively oriented retailers.
“It’s a new idea that retailers can meet their ESG goals through the procurement of regenerative products.”, said Gina Asoudegan, VP of Mission & Regenerative Agriculture at Applegate.
It’s in the best interest of brands, retailers, and producers to move toward regenerative products not only to take advantage of consumer preferences but to have a more resilient supply system in the long term.