Supplement Perspectives

Me and My Trade Associations

<p>Suzanne Shelton is a member of four trade associations. She wouldn&rsquo;t have it any other way.</p>

My new full time job is being a member of four industry trade associations. Just kidding, but sometimes it feels that way. That definitely explains why I’m so well informed, though.

I didn’t mean to join four trade associations. For years, The Shelton Group was a member of “just” two, AHPA and NPA. But then CRN launched an Associate membership level, so after thinking it over I decided to drop NPA, because they were going through an irrelevant phase, and join CRN. Then Dan Fabricant left FDA and took over running NPA so we had to stay because members would have access to the industry’s best information on regulatory compliance.

A few weeks later, Loren Israelsen called to invite The Shelton Group to join UNPA, and I jumped at the chance because, well, it’s Loren and having access to his insights is not something a smart girl like me would turn down. I would never drop AHPA because I do so much work in the herbal sector, and no one knows and advocates for herbs like AHPA. Boy, it’s a good thing I’m not working with Omega 3 products as much these days or there would be five because GOED is a really good organization.

So, yes, four trade association memberships. That’s two for each of the people who work here, a (relatively) big wad of cash, and a heck of a lot of information to process. Am I crazy? Yup, crazy like a fox.

Each of these trade associations has different strengths and advantages, all valuable if your business depends upon this industry. The information they provide, the access to experts, and the opportunities to participate in member-only events both in person and online are extremely beneficial. And there is some overlap but often from a different perspective with different participants.

It’s interesting to see how the associations handle similar things. I’ll use a comparison of CRN’s and NPA’s Washington DC lobby day events as an example. Both of them provide issue background, training on how to lobby most effectively, and promote the Dietary Supplement Caucus. With NPA they set appointments for you with the members of Congress from your home district, give you packets to leave behind outlining the positions we are asking them to take, and a map detailing the jobs in the area they represent created by our industry, which is very cool. We also leave them a well-organized directory of the updated Congressional offices, which they are not issued and always appreciate. The day ends with a reception that the staffers we met with that day are invited to attend, and a few members of Congress show up to speak briefly and get awards. CRN sets up appointments with those Members on significant committees that are likely to impact our industry. Some attendees are the Government Relations person for industry companies, because CRN tends to have really large businesses as members. There was a nice reception at the end of the day just for CRN members.  

Both events are well-organized and executed, important for industry sustainability, valuable to attend, and they are different.

The material point is that I get far, far more in value from the trade associations as a member than the dues cost. Just yesterday I got extremely helpful clarification from NPA on an issue I’m working on to insure the FDA doesn’t take umbrage to a client’s marketing campaign (boy, Dan and Corey Hilmas’ FDA experience is just the gift that keeps on giving to their members who are focused on regulatory compliance.) If my client had needed to bill a regulatory attorney for that information it would have cost as much as our annual NPA dues, and the value of my firm providing work that complies with regulatory agencies is significant. Each trade association in which The Shelton Group is a member is helpful on a regular basis, above and beyond their everyday advocacy on behalf of the industry from which my livelihood is derived. 

And yet less than 50 percent of industry companies are members of a trade association. Seriously? Why on earth would a company not see the value of advocacy, information, networking opportunities and the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the channels from which their income is derived? At the very least, every single company in this industry should be a member of at minimum one trade association to support their advocacy, because your livelihood depends upon things staying pretty much status quo, right? When you derive benefits and don’t contribute, that is parasitic. Plus, you miss out on the opportunity to hang out with some very smart, highly entertaining people.  

It is possible that membership in four trade associations is excessive, but I love my work, and would hate to have to get a real job. 

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