OSC at Expo West 2024: Key Areas of Promise

With 60,000 attendees, 2,200 exhibitors, and a healthy dose of star power, Expo West has taken on a Times Square quality over the years. But while brands compete for buyers’ attention with the glitz and glam of a Las Vegas casino, the heart of the natural products movement steadily beats toward positive change.

As one of OSC’s keystone events of the year, ExpoWest brings our community together to ignite passions and activate impact. And this year, once again, we were blown away by the energy and fellowship of this community. There was so much to be excited and hopeful about, but four key areas of promise stood out:

Stronger Together: Looking for hope, inspiration and a collective sense of potential to make change? There was no better example of the collaborative power and possibility of our industry than this year’s Climate Day. And over 1000 Expo attendees agreed. While disagreements still exist about how to address the climate crisis, there is consensus that we are stronger together. Case in point: At our “Regenerative Agriculture Roundtable” on California Policy, we saw companies on different sides of the table consider how Organic and Regenerative can work together toward a common goal. Regenerative Organic Alliance, Kiss the Ground, Organic Trade Association and a number of brands and other passionate stakeholders discussed their diverse perspectives while remaining committed toproductive debate that moves the conversation toward action.THE SHIFT: Even among some passionate disagreeing, there is shared focus on an outcome that does the most good; a move toward more regenerative and organic agriculture.  The differences came in the process of “how” to get there.YES, AND: When it comes to climate-smart agriculture, there are strong opinions inside and outside of the public discourse — and they all need consideration.
(Pictured – Big Tree Farm Team and Friends)

The Future is Female: According to Project Drawdown, “advancing gender equality is central to ensuring that our global community thrives and addresses the climate crisis.” This idea is germane to OSC’s focus on strengthening support and development of our female leaders. From embedding climate resilience into their sourcing strategies to uplifting communities in which they work and live, female leaders aren’t just leading change, they’re passing it on and lifting up the women around them. I had the privilege of witnessing this over and over throughout Expo: From Climate Day to OSC’s “Cultivating Lead(her)ship: The Ripple Effect of Uplifting Women in Natural Products,” to celebrating and supporting each other at a dinner I co-hosted with Julia Collins of Planet Forward and 35 female CEOs and influencers.We were thrilled but not surprised that we had an incredible turn out at all the women’s leadership gatherings we hosted and there was extensive demand for our Womens’ peer mentoring circles  – so we have re-opened the Women’s Peer Mentoring circles application period for one more week!
THE SHIFT: Women have gone from feeling overlooked to confidently stepping into their power as changemakers. They are animating their brands with purpose and the industry is catching fire.
YES, AND:  Research indicates that by 2028, women will be responsible for 75 percent ofconsumer spending. Yet, according a recent study, just three of the top 50 CPG CEOs are women and only 23% of Top 50 CPG C-suite leaders are women.

Positive Packaging Progress: Packaging continues to be the #1 climate commitment among our member brands, yet progress can be slow and complicated when working within such a complex system. To help brands make progress on their commitments, we hosted three in-depth sessions that explored multiple aspects of the system: policy, innovation, and how brands can bring their consumers along for the ride.
THE SHIFT: Longtime OSC members Sambazon and Traditional Medicinals shared that sometimes the product needs to match the packaging innovation vs. the other way around!
YES, AND: Currently, the lion’s share of recycling lies on the shoulders of local governments, which have neither the resources nor the expertise to tackle the massive challenge. Packaging manufacturers and brands need to work together to lead change and educate consumers, especially as prices may rise to accommodate increased costs

Seeding Growth: OSC and our industry have talked for a long time about changing who we invest in and including more underrepresented and female founders in our portfolios, but this year the work was around much more. The big theme: Changing HOW we invest and WHO is doing the investing. Founders, advisors and investors packed OSC’s “Wheel of Funding” session to share learnings on a diverse suite of funding options, capital considerations and ownership structures, including debt, crowdfunding, angel funding and more.
THE SHIFT: As a funding community, we are prioritizing longer time horizons and the potential for impact that a lasting company can make. We are learning from how our OSC member companies who have been in business for 50-plus years have financed their growth, rather than being distracted by the new kids on the block raising millions on a future promise.
YES, AND: Capital continues to be a boysclub, as evidenced by the fact that I was the only Female GP in the network of 6 organizations we featured. Now is the time to make space for women at the table where the money decisions are being made.



 Some of our fabulous members:

Left: Jordan Moncharmont of Kuli Kuli
Right: Heather Terry- Good Sam