It comes as no surprise that the Organic & Natural Health Association’s (O&N Health) 8th annual conference was jam-packed with hot issues once again. We tackled topics ranging from deception with Amazon sales, synthetic biology, supply chain, ESG issues in politics, and employee recruitment and retention strategies. Here’s a top five recap of some of our biggest takeaways from the conference.
No. 5: Recruitment and retention strategies
Recruitment and retention were big topics during the conference as many companies continue to face uncertainties around whether they should be allowing more virtual hours or enforcing more in-person time and how to keep employees motivated in the long term.
I ran the session, along with Sandra Lee of NJ Labs and Amy Summers of Pitch Publicity and INICIVOX. Some ideas that emerged included how to properly request something as opposed to demanding it, learning your leadership communication style for best outcomes, and the advantages of going remote while creating a highly productive team.
No. 4: Innovations in supply chain
We talked a lot about supply chain transparency and innovation, a central focus of our discussion at our retreat last year in San Miguel, Mexico. Speakers Jordan Wood of Redleaf Biologics, Tess Barr of Bright Pharma and Terence Welby of Botalys illustrated the innovations their companies were creating regarding the following:
- regenerative farming for unique plant varieties;
- the impact of the first organic capsule in the market;
- and growing herbal roots indoors to prevent pests and keep everything in a controlled environment.
No. 3: The Inevitable ESG Step
One topic that created considerable discussion was the importance of following ESG (environmental, social and governance) standards. ESG serves as a mechanism to articulate how quality, environmentally conscious companies in the industry can document supply chain sustainability and differentiate themselves from companies that are content with “green washing.”
Our panel included Elisa Turner of ImpakIQ and Lauren Puffer of Cowan, who emphasized companies that value the financial impact of ESG on business finances are 30% more profitable when they follow the standards. Ernesto Carrizosa of WM Partnership provided examples of how businesses are utilizing ESG standards as a competitive strategy, and he signaled a warning that all companies will eventually be required to comply with ESG.
No. 2: Communicating findings on synthetic biology
We spent last year delving deep into investigating the potential dangers of synthetic biology, and this year made it a focal point of the conference. Speakers on the topic included Alan Lewis of Natural Grocers, John Fagan of HRI Labs, Renee Wicklund of Richman Law & Policy, Debra Short of SENPA and Pitch Publicity’s Summers.
They highlighted potential strategies on how to address synthetic biology from a communications perspective, discussing it through the lens of the science, the law, and the retailer and consumer perspective. It was a poignant conversation on how synthetic biology is being used today and how it might affect us tomorrow.
No. 1: Addressing Amazon consumer deception
O&N Health is collaborating with reputable supplement companies that are increasingly worried about fraudulent products being sold on Amazon’s platform. This was demonstrated by the keynote presentations of O&N board member Dan Lifton of Quality of Life Labs and Dan Richards of NOW Foods.
Lifton addressed Amazon’s current APEX (Amazon Patent Evaluation Express) program and how its underlying tenets could serve as the basis of a program that ensures consumer access to FDA-compliant dietary supplements. O&N Health is currently evaluating a new proposal—called “Amazon Supplement Claims Evaluation Program” (ASCEP)—that would enable brands to activate a formal complaint process and prevent sellers from mislabeling their products.
Richards shared NOW Foods’ test results, measuring differentials in the potency of supplements on a variety of products sold on the Amazon platform, which reinforced the need for such a program.
These conversations continued with a presentation by Elan Sudberg of Alkemist Labs.
As he noted, testing labs play a major role in our effort to remove fraudulent products from Amazon. And all brands should trust, but verify, everything their manufacturers are doing.
Ryan Boland of Mercola reinforced how quality brands are adversely impacted by the sale of fraudulent products to consumers. Chris Burkhart of Nutrasource concluded the discussion by proposing Amazon utilize established industry certifications that ensure regulatory compliance and consumer access to guaranteed quality products.
My favorite quote from this discussion came from Sudberg who said, “It’s a jungle out there with so many choices; it’s almost limitless. That can be off-putting to consumers who are not yet sure what to buy and why. While limitless choice is a critical asset of Amazon, that and unparalleled convenience—and I mean unparalleled convenience—of the online experience lacks the careful curation found in brick-and-mortar stores.”
Indeed, it is a jungle out there, so we need to keep the conversation going and keep pushing the envelope in all that we do.
But I am encouraged most by the passion and intention in the room during our annual conference to do something meaningful on all these issues. When we can come together as an industry to address and confront them, we are stronger and better for it.
Karen Howard, CEO and executive director of the Organic & Natural Health Association, has spent more than 30 years working with Congress, state legislatures and health care organizations to develop innovative health care policy and programs. She has held a variety of executive positions, including serving as professional staff for a congressional committee, and has policy expertise in the diverse areas of integrative and complementary medicine, managed care, health care technology and mental health.