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Vow to make Expo West 2012 one for the (natural) history books

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Until you’ve actually attended Natural Products Expo West, you really can’t understand how powerful, fun and exhausting it can be to share a convention center and its surrounding area for four days with an entire industry. If this will be your first Expo West (or even your 15th!), you’re in luck because Natural Foods Merchandiser has created a guide to help make Expo West 2012 your best show ever.

My first day working for New Hope Natural Media took place on March 13, 2008—which just so happened to be the first day of that year’s Natural Products Expo West. I had recently signed on as the new editor-in-chief of Nutrition Business Journal, and my boss at the time thought Expo West would provide the perfect introduction to the natural and organic products world.

Um, you could say that again.

As a Boulder, Colo., resident and regular contributor to New Hope’s Delicious Living magazine, I had heard about Expo West and knew it was a pretty massive event that brings together the entire natural products industry. Still, really nothing could have prepared me for what I experienced that first year—and have continued to experience each March since—at this annual gathering of natural and organic brands, retailers, insiders and observers.

At the end of my first show, I headed back to Boulder after four days in Anaheim, Calif., with a three-inch stack of business cards (many of which belong to people I now consider friends), a supply-to-shelf preview of the most important and innovative natural brands at the time, and a foundational understanding of the important role natural products retailers play in the growth and development of this industry.

Now, I’m gearing up for my fifth Expo West—and feeling more prepared than ever, in large part because of the March issue of Natural Foods Merchandiser (which will hit mailboxes this week and is now available on newhope360). This was my first time pulling together NFM’s annual Expo West show issue, and I hope you’ll agree that it is one of our best yet. Along with detailing the new features planned for this year’s show, this issue previews the education seminars we think will benefit retailers most, offers tips from retail show veterans and more.

We also give a sneak peek at 15 new products debuting at the show, as well as a deep dive into the trends and leading products shaping eight categories, including vegan snacks, mushroom supplements and natural skin care. One of my favorite parts of the issue, however, is where we talk to nine entrepreneurs bringing fresh passion and innovation to the world of natural, organic and healthy products.

NFM underwent a pretty significant relaunch this year, and I would love to hear your feedback—the good, the bad and even the wacky. My staff and I aim to make NFM as useful and thoughtful as possible for natural products retailers large and small, and your input can help us achieve that goal. Please e-mail me your thoughts at carlotta.mast@penton.com—or better yet, tell me what you think in person at Expo West. See you in Anaheim!

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