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September 2, 2014
There are thousands of trade associations in the United States. There are trade associations and organizations for every industry imaginable
Trade associations are made up of members of an industry who are working toward a common goal of promoting and improving a particular industry. They advocate for the people who work in the industry as well as for the consumers who buy the industry’s products. The objective is to improve the delivery and quality of natural products. The association provides members with information, perks, and opportunities they might not otherwise have.
More than a decade ago, I helped Jarrow Rogovin, Founder of Jarrow Formulas, launch the International Probiotics Association (IPA). At that time, the IPA was only a fledgling association. Initially, we wanted to get regional exposure. We decided to host events for Registered Dietitians in Seattle and Portland. These events created opportunities for attendees to share best practices and fresh ideas. Additionally, networking provided a forum to talk about emerging health trends that could impact their business in any number of ways, including their bottom line. Networking also provides a sense that members are not alone in the challenges presented by the industry. And today, there are many challenges. Opportunities to learn about new compounds, technology, and compliance are invaluable benefits to group members.
Trade associations also bring competitors together, turning one small voice into a persuasive, collective body. People and companies who work together as part of an association can have major impact. This is where competitors set aside adversarial relationships under the umbrella of the association. Instead, you are now true allies. You work together with members of your association for the betterment of the industry.
Additional benefits of belonging to a trade association typically include opportunities to work in leadership roles within the association; having access to various subscriptions to newsletters and magazines; access to seminars, conferences and association events; and access to members-only offers, among many others benefits, depending on the association and your particular membership within the association.
Associations also extend various educational, training, and certification opportunities to its members. For example, the Natural Products Association (NPA) was the first organization to offer a third-party GMP certification program for the manufacturing of dietary supplements and dietary ingredients. NPA established its GMP standards for dietary supplements in 1999 and updated the standard in 2000. These GMP standards represented the industry's best practices and served as the basis of the NPA GMP Certification Program.
For many, a trade association has drawbacks. A membership can often be cost prohibitive. The cost of joining a professional organization can be significant. This is often a deterrent. However, all association dues are tax deductible. Some people just don’t see the value in joining an association.
Many claim members don’t have common objectives. For example, many in the industry believe that Pharma interests dominate many of the industry associations. I can’t intelligently comment one way or the other on this. Nonetheless, there is a perception that conflicting statements come from Pharma under the guise of vitamin trade associations resulting in confusion on key issues from these conflicting positions.
Nonetheless, the pros far outweigh the cons. Perhaps the most important consideration for joining a trade association is the statement it makes about your personal commitment to your industry. It shows that are willing to put in the extra work for its advancement. It shows that you care about natural solutions to health and about the people who take your products. It shows that you care about science and innovation. It shows that you truly care.
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