WASHINGTON -- Some of the supermarket operators at the Natural Products Expo East trade show here earlier this month said they were looking for natural products that they could incorporate into their mainstream sets.
The show, which took place Oct. 12 to 14, drew more than 16,000 attendees to see some 900 exhibitors, including many that offered natural nonfood items. Vendors displayed everything from hemp-based lip balm to reusable tampons to aromatherapy candles on two floors of exhibit space that was dominated by natural food products.
Tim Watts, nonperishables specialist, Northwest division, Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz., said he was hoping to find products that he could use to promote Bashas' 29 Natural Choice stores, which are located inside Bashas' traditional supermarkets.
"I'm looking for things that I can promote throughout the store," he told SN.
He and Paul Howland, Natural Choice buyer/merchandiser, said Bashas' has had some success in cross merchandising products from the natural food store inside the main aisles of Bashas' supermarkets.
"We think that if it's integrated on a display with other products, people might try it, and they might try to go into Natural Choice," Watts said.
Watts and Howland, who were first-time attendees at the East Coast version of the show, said they were primarily "looking for knowledge" about the natural products industry.
Ed Mallue, supervisor, nonperishables, Norkus Enterprises, Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., said he was on a similar mission.
"We're trying to incorporate some natural products into the main mix," he said.
Norkus operates a 6,500-square-foot natural food store called Nature Unlimited at one of its Foodtown supermarkets in Freehold, N.J. The natural store has been open since June of last year.
"It's really added to the whole shopping experience at Foodtown," he said. "It's more of a one-stop shopping experience."
Mallue pointed out that most of the recent growth in the natural area has been from food products, while health and beauty care items have not grown nearly as fast.
Other attendees were simply trying to keep their shelves stocked with fresh merchandise.
"We wanted to see if we could pick up some new lines," said Jan Daniel, director of consumer solutions, United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas. "This is a great place to do it."
Among the product categories Daniel said she was exploring were cosmetics and candles.
Walking the floor on the show's opening day with colleagues Susan Alderson, whole health category manager, and Scott Malouf, director of innovative merchandising, Daniel said she noticed that there seemed to be a lot of products geared toward female consumers.
"There seems to be a lot of emphasis on women's health," she said, citing supplements geared specifically toward women as an example.
Malouf noted that in the wake of this year's terrorist tragedies and the ongoing war campaign in Afghanistan, products that soothe people's anxieties could be popular.
"A trend this year would obviously be anything that sends a message of peace," he said.
None of the retailers or vendors interviewed by SN expressed any fear of traveling despite the Sept. 11 hijackings and the subsequent threats of additional attacks.
"Right now this is probably the safest city in the world," said Stephen Kaczynski, senior vice president, merchandising, Wild Oats Market, Boulder, Colo.
Jolie Cross, spokeswoman, New Hope Natural Media, Boulder, which produced the event, said 16,844 people had preregistered for this year's show. That was 88% of last year's total of 19,133 registrants. The show suffered a 15% cancellation rate among exhibitors, she said.
It was, however, the largest trade show to take place at the Washington Convention Center since the Sept. 11 attacks.