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What is the Future of Trade Associations?What is the Future of Trade Associations?

Officials with AHPA, OTA, and elsewhere provide some answers.

Pete Croatto

October 6, 2014

5 Min Read
What is the Future of Trade Associations?

As part of the original questionnaire I sent to various trade association officials, I also asked the question that serves as this post’s title. I figured the answers would make for a fitting conclusion to this topic. Enjoy!

Laura Batcha, CEO and executive director, the Organic Trade Association

Trade associations such as OTA are vital to the well-being and growth of their sectors. Speaking with one voice through a trade association is critical to fostering leadership and coordinating efforts for the good of the whole. However, trade associations must be innovative and embrace forward-thinking initiatives, products, and services to stay relevant and be effective.

Haley Chitty, director of communications, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA)

AHPA’s goal has always been to serve members and this will not change in the future. However, the ways AHPA serves its members will continue to evolve as new technology creates opportunities to provide more value to members. AHPA is often called upon to mediate or effectively resolve emerging issues through members’ collaborative efforts and technology makes it easier for AHPA to facilitate this collaboration and disseminate resolutions to its diverse membership. AHPA will continue to leverage new technology to act as a coordinated voice of the botanical industry to effectively develop and promote best practices and effective public policies.

Jeff Crowther, founder and executive director, U.S.–China Health Products Association (USCHPA)

Associations need to know their strengths and be clear about their role in assisting industry. As developing markets begin to mature and global competition increases, industry will need associations to become more specialized and/or make strategic alliances with other global/regional organizations that have the expertise they are lacking. Spreading an association too thin is never a good idea and is of no benefit to membership.

Another area that I believe may have an affect on association’s in the future is e-commerce. 

E-commerce is an exciting and fast developing channel for the dietary supplement industry. However, it is notorious for being difficult to regulate. So I’ll pose my own question, “Will e-commerce change the role of association’s regulatory advocacy services?” If global players begin shipping from overseas directly to consumers as personal shipments, regulations may become insignificant.

Karena K. Dillon, president, Consultants Association for the Natural Products Industry (CANI)

It is our belief that trade organizations provide the impetus and support to create an environment of fundamental growth and direction for the Industry, to ensure that this endeavor is guided by the ethics, values and standards that create an ongoing milieu moving forward. They also act as the watchdogs of the heart and soul of the industry to sustain the platform for maintaining those valued principles.


Dr. Daniel Fabricant, Ph.D., CEO and executive director, the Natural Products Association (NPA)

Providing value for the next generation. The trades can no longer be relevant doing things the way they used to do them. Take, for example, the focus on responding to negative press. While it is important, it cannot be the sole focus. We need to think about how we can change and disrupt the conversation. That requires people to focus on what they really want for the industry, which can be a tough question for some. Questions like, how many Americans does the industry want to use natural products? What kinds? And so on. These are exciting discussions to me. Also, trade organizations have to spend more time on the campaign trail; that’s just a fact of politics these days. Lastly, for this industry, I think eventually there will be one—and only one—trade association.

Adam Ismail, executive director, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED)

I do expect to see more product-specific associations formed, but the key is for them to have defined initiatives to work on that will advance the space. I also see more pressure from industry members for the trade associations to achieve specific deliverables. This is going to be a challenge because it means associations will need more funds, but there will also be more organizations competing for those funds.

Loren Israelsen, president, and Frank Lampe, VP of communications & industry relation the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA)

Currently, only around 10 percent of companies in the industry belong to a trade organization, which limits the collective industry’s ability to execute on a number of initiatives, including, to name just a few: legislative engagement, regulatory compliance, support of science, product quality initiatives, and a comprehensive media campaign. As the industry continues to mature and new, younger entrepreneurs, who have not been through some of the legislative and regulatory battles of the past, move to center stage, the role of and need for trade associations will only grow.

Simon Pettman, executive director of the International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA)

IADSA has set a benchmark across the whole food sector in its work as a partner with government to build better regulatory systems rather than an industry voice. This approach has produced many significant results and we believe that, at least for our association, taking this route is the right one for the future.

Jane Wilson, interim executive director of the International Aloe Science Council (IASC)

Trade associations must continue to adapt to the current needs of their members to maintain relevancy. Some of the historical functions of a trade association have been to allow members to more easily exchange information and make industry contacts, both of which can now be done directly by individual companies through other communication channels and social media. Associations can continue to be the key source of information for the industries they serve, but we must recognize that information needs to be disseminated at a much quicker pace and in the forms most preferred by their members, whether that is a traditional press release or a 140-character tweet. 

Ed Wyszumiala, president, Natural Algae Astaxanthin Association (NAXA)

Personally, I see more ingredient specific focused associations cropping up to meet the needs of the suppliers. These needs will be focused on protecting market integrity and threats, as well as building better awareness of the science and research for a particular ingredient category. These smaller associations will play an vital role in the industry’s self regulation and policing the market.

About the Author(s)

Pete Croatto

Contributing Editor

Pete Croatto is a freelance writer in Ithaca, New York. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Grantland, SI.com, VICE Sports, and Publishers Weekly. 

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