NPEW: Natural Products, Unique Vibe

Joe Montgomery

23 March 2017

Crash. Boom. Bang.

 The sound of 3,100 exhibitors setting up simultaneously can be overwhelming. But at the Natural Products Expo West (NPEW), which wrapped up last weekend in Anaheim, Calif., the effect was anythingIMG_0305-1.jpg but. That’s because there’s a unique vibe at this show that makes the combination of hammering, forklifts, music and voices invigorating and inspiring—even before we were joined by 80,000 attendees.

People from all over the world come to NPEW to network, learn and be the first to see products and trends in the food, beverage and natural product industries. This was my 11th NPEW, first as an exhibitor and now as Star’s Account Director and I continue to be amazed by the vibrancy of this market and the companies that comprise it. In fact, with increasing consumer demand, this industry’s ecosystem is definitely healthy—and this year’s show did an excellent job of making space for both large industry players and up-and-coming companies.


But here’s what makes NPEW’s vibe so special:

  • Community. Despite the size of this show—or perhaps because of it—there’s a strong sense of community on the show floor. Sure, there’s competition…but also a palpable comradery that comes with being part of a thriving industry. Exhibitors helping exhibitors, brands interacting with competitors and everyone trying to push harder and do better. It’s inspiring and invigorating to be a part of it, and part of it, we were; this year, Star supported more than 10 companies at the show.
  • The DIY ethos. This year’s show attracted more than 500 first-time exhibitors, including many new or young businesses. For them, it can be challenging to make the significant investment of time and money it takes to exhibit at NPEW. As a result, and to my great pleasure, you see a lot of DIY: people finding innovative and interesting ways to showcase their products and brands in an effort to attract and engage attendees. This show is one of the most colorful and creative; you never know what you’ll see. 
  • Authentic is everything. Authentic brand, authentic product, authentic people. In other words: true passion. At NPEW, entrepreneurs and industry leaders are not shy about showing their passion for their businesses and products—and sometimes that’s all it takes to engage an audience. You can cram a lot of energy into a 10x10 exhibit—and attract a lot of attention—just by talking enthusiastically about your cricket-flour chocolate bars and how they’re changing the world. (Of course, it helps that they’re damn delicious!) A good story helps, too: Kashi Foods didn’t even have product in its booth, instead opting to focus on showcasing their commitment to expanding organic farming in the US.
  • Partners are key. With the size of NPEW, you need a good crew and a strong on-site partner that can make decisions in an instant, solve problems on the fly and lend a helping hand when no one else is around. As we know all too well, it’s not if something goes wrong, but when….and then, what matters is who you have on your team to manage the hiccups. Thank goodness Star has excellent partners in Southern California and around the country, and these teams were absolutely invaluable this past week. 

If you’re interested in learning more about what I learned at NPEW—from best practices to new products to hot trends—give me a call. I’d love to share. Also, as someone who is passionate about natural foods and other products, I’m eager to hear your take on the industry whether you were at the show or not. You can reach me at 763.569.9007


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Joe Montgomery



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