ReGen Brands Recap #76

Jessica Rubino & Douglas Brown @ New Hope Network

Newtopia Now Preview With New Hope Network

On this episode, Anthony speaks with Jessica Rubino and Douglas Brown from New Hope Network. Jessica serves as the Vice President of Content and Douglas serves as a Senior Retail Reporter & Analyst.

New Hope Network’s purpose is to cultivate a prosperous high-integrity CPG and retail ecosystem that creates health, joy, and justice for all people while regenerating the planet. New Hope Network is at the forefront of the natural, organic, and conscious products industry. The organization offers a robust portfolio of content, events, data, research, and consultative services

New Hope is perhaps most well known for their annual Natural Products Expo West event (which ReGen Brands covered on Episode 66). Now they are gearing up to host a brand new tradeshow, Newtopia Now, which will happen in Denver from August 25-28. In this episode, Anthony, Jessica, and Douglas dig into the unique design and new offerings at Newtopia Now and chat about some of the hottest topics in the world of regenerative CPG. 


What is new about Newtopia?

After sunsetting their Expo East event last year, New Hope had an opportunity to gather feedback from brands and buyers, and completely reimagine a new trade show. What they found from feedback was that buyers were not only looking to find new products, but they were also looking to network on a deeper level and build stronger relationships with brands. New Hope has taken that feedback to heart and intentionally designed Newtopia Now to facilitate connections through a new event layout and a variety of interactive components. 

The Newtopia Now event space is designed to enable buyers to discover brands intuitively and facilitate an environment conducive to relationship-building. Instead of the traditional pavilion format of Expo West and East, Newtopia Now is designed around four distinct “neighborhoods” centered on areas of interest that unite natural products. The four neighborhoods are:

  • Regenerate 🙌🏼 - Products and business models making a positive environmental impact.
  • Thrive - Products and innovations shaping the future of human health.
  • Represent - Diverse products, founders and ideas to celebrate.
  • Glow - Brands focused on natural beauty and holistic wellness 

“The number one thing we want to do is be able to deepen relationships between buyers and brands as well as brands and investors and brands and others in the industry. We wanted to create a space that was more curated, more focused networking opportunities, matchmaking, some of those things that are really complimentary to all of those big dynamic experiences that people have at Natural Products Expo West.” - Jessica 


New Experiences For Brands & Buyers

New Hope wanted to make sure that brands participating in the event would have numerous opportunities to share their stories. Booths come pre-furnished so that exhibitors can set up easily and spend more time demoing their products and engaging with attendees. Exhibitor packages include various activation opportunities such as stoop talk interviews with buyers and demos at the event’s central kitchen and salon. Brands also have their products stocked on the shelves of Newtopia’s marketplace where buyers can explore the aisles and scan products to see where they are on the store floor. 

“For companies that are exhibiting at the show, it's not just about being there at your booth, but it's about telling your story and having a different activation – demoing your product, sampling, doing all these different things that allow you to deepen those relationships with buyers.” - Jessica

Newtopia Now also features facilitated networking events for brands and buyers to get to know one another and have actionable conversations. Buyers and brands can participate in one-on-one matchmaking services and receive personal invitations to side events. For example, New Hope is organizing “dine-arounds” where they curate small groups of brands and buyers to get together over a meal. 

“It’s about getting all the right people together and infusing some of that energy and excitement back into the industry… the things that really built natural and organic, like being super innovative, creative, resourceful, and challenging the status quo. So I think a lot of those core values that the industry is built on are coming back through Newtopia Now.” - Jessica 


The ‘Regenerate’ Neighborhood

Of course, the neighborhood we’re most excited about is Regenerate! The neighborhood will feature events that create more dialogue between retailers, brands, certifiers and other industry actors on what is needed to catalyze regenerative CPG. 

In addition to featuring booths of our favorite regenerative brands, the Regenerate neighborhood will include events that highlight restaurants and retailers’ perspectives on how they support regenerative agriculture. There will be a stage event hosted by two Michelin Star chefs, Erik Skokan of Black Cat Organic Farm and Kelly Whitaker of The Wolf’s Tailor, alongside Claudia Bouvier of Pastaficio who will showcase how they create markets for regenerative farmers, how they utilize regenerative ingredients, and why their food tastes even better because of it. 

Anthony will also be on the main stage, hosting a session entitled “Cultivating Change: Retail Practices for Supporting Sustainable Brands & Agriculture”. The panel will discuss best practices for retailers to support sustainable brands what tools can be leveraged in-store to move mission-aligned products off of the store shelves and into customers’ baskets. 

Events in the neighborhood will enable brands to gain deeper insights into how retailers are thinking about regenerative products. Sprout’s Forager team will be stationed within the Regenerate neighborhood and other retailers will host “buyer-side chats” to share what they are looking for when making purchasing decisions and how they are merchandising regenerative products in-store. 

“We talk to retailers all the time who are asking those questions like: How do we do this? How do we educate our customers? We care about [regenerative] and our brand partners care about it, but what does it look like in the aisle? To really start building that understanding and recognize the work is not done when the product makes it onto the store shelf. Retailers [need to] to really dig in and see some case studies of how [regenerative] can come to life in their stores. That's so important. And there's no single right way to do it, but we need to start developing some industry-wide standards on how we educate and how we talk about these issues in the store.”  - Jessica 


What’s Next For Regenerative CPG?

Douglas highlights how exciting it is that regenerative has already emerged as a key topic of interest to be highlighted at industry-wide events like Newtopia Now. However, he and Jessica also agree that there is a lot of disagreement around the definition of regenerative and much more work to be done to educate consumers and translate the hype into actual sales. 

In a world with multiple certification bodies and increasing regenerative claims, Anthony, Jessica and Douglas discuss how retailers play an important role as gatekeepers. Anthony explains how natural grocers often take the extra step to validate a product’s claims, bringing in a level of assurance even if a product isn’t third-party certified. 

“In the natural channel specifically, there are almost no non-third-party-validated claims because these retailers like Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Thrive Market, are making people validate claims to their own standards [team]. So I do think we actually have done a relatively decent job as an industry holding the line even though it's very messy. I think people forget that even your non-third-party-certified claims are still third-party-validated a lot of the time by a very robust retailer process.” - Anthony

Moving forward, Jessica and Douglas both highlight how whether or not a product carries a third-party certification, storytelling will continue to be the most important driver of sales for regenerative brands. Especially in a world where younger generations don’t trust third-party certifications, marketing that shows the customer what regenerative farming looks like for their products will have more impact on the consumer.  Douglas uses Lundberg Family Farms as a model example of telling a rich and colorful story about regenerative agriculture. Their marketing campaigns around the protection of ducks clearly demonstrates what regenerative rice farming looks like in Lundberg’s unique context while being memorable, and fun for the consumer. He thinks every regenerative brand can take a note from Lundberg’s playbook and find their colorful story to tell. 


This ReGen Recap was written by Katey Finnegan

The illustrations were created by Stacey Shaller

You can check out the full episode with Jessica Rubino and Douglas Brown @ New Hope Network HERE

Subscribe to future episodes of the ReGen Brands Podcast on your favorite podcast platform using the buttons below. You can help support our mission of growing regenerative CPG brands with a 5-star rating!

Stay engaged in the conversation by subscribing to our weekly newsletter, The ReGen Brands Weekly, and connecting with us on LinkedIn (Kyle & AC).

Your support of the show and these brands truly means the world to us. Thank you!