Natural Products Expo West: Lessons from Outside the Classroom

In the United States the natural foods and products industry is never more celebrated that it is at Expo West. Natural Products Exposition West is an extravagant display of the veterans, the staples and the startups in the natural products world. Every March, the Anaheim Convention Center floods with over 85,000 attendees and all the product samples that you could ever wish for. As an event that is built for CPGs (Consumer Packaged Goods) and retailers, it is not often that students interested in the natural products space get to take advantage of the networking opportunities abound at such an event. Luckily for myself and a few other UOMBA students, MBArk has emerged as a program that not only sponsors MBAs from across the country to attend the conference, but also arranges meet and greets with C-suite executives of some of the biggest brands in the industry.

The Natural Products Industry has grown exponentially in the last decade as consumers become smarter and better informed. From plant-based sausage to the first cold-pressed baby food to hit the market, companies are answering consumer calls for better food, safer products, and more brand transparency. The call for brand transparency is something that I took from Expo West and turned into a project with a baby food company. Myself and a colleague are conducting a brand audit on this company’s sustainability messaging and we recently ran a focus group to deep-dive into consumers’ most pertinent concerns with personal health, planet health, and product transparency. We’ll be reporting on our findings and recommendations to the company and our branding class in just a couple weeks.

Ultimately, Expo West and the MBArk program was an enlightening experience. It was inspiring to see how many fellow MBAs from across the country are hoping to leverage their career to make better products to support a healthier population. Beyond creating and supporting brands and products, my cross-country peers are also considering the social, cultural, political, and economic barriers that keep many consumers from accessing healthier options in the first place. Within the Center for Sustainable Business here at the Lundquist College of Business we are challenged to think critically about the forces that contribute to inequality and how businesses and interdisciplinary partners can use their voice and power to change the status quo. Within the traditionally competitive environment of business school, I have found an immense eagerness to collaborate within my own program and across schools.

Written by Daryl Mogilewsky

Daryl is a 2019 MBA in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a values-driven marketing and communications professional who is inspired by the complicated landscape of making the business case for doing good while doing well.