- New Hope Network said it will not reschedule its Natural Products Expo West event in Anaheim, California this year because of the coronavirus. The group plans to shift its resources toward its Natural Products Expo East trade show in Philadelphia in September.
- This marks the first time in 40 years that there will not be an annual natural and organic products show in Anaheim. "We’re disappointed, and we know many of you will be as well," New Hope said.
- An independent advisory council also has been formed to help New Hope establish criteria for how to best disperse its $5 million rebate fund for those impacted by the canceled Expo West show. New Hope said the council also will advise the group on how to ensure that Expo East can be the most valuable to retailers, buyers and brands.
About two weeks after New Hope postponed its annual tradeshow the day before it was scheduled to start, the group is now canceling the event all together. As the coronavirus continues to spread around the U.S. and uncertainty about events in the future grows, New Hope is not taking any risks by rescheduling the trade show as originally expected.
This is a smart move given unpredictability and the spread of the outbreak right now. The last thing New Hope wants to do is reschedule the event only to have to cancel it again if the impact of the virus hasn't subsided or people are still hesitant to travel. And moving the event several months out in hopes that the virus has abated bumps it up closer against Expo East in terms of scheduling. At this point, companies would probably want to devote their limited resources to preparing for Philadelphia.
New Hope said just two weeks ago that it hoped to host a rescheduled Expo West "by the summer" after it faced mounting pressure to postpone the event as brands pulled out of the trade show citing employee safety concerns. After making that statement, New Hope likely ran into some logistical problems in addition to the continued uncertainty around the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 90,000 people traveled to the huge convention center in Anaheim last year to showcase their products and attend panel discussions about the natural food and beverage industry. On such short notice, it likely would have been difficult to find a space that could hold this many people and for everyone to reschedule their plans while there is still so much uncertainty.
Expo East typically gets significantly less attendance than Expo West, but that may change this year since there will be only one show.
Many major events have been canceled in recent weeks as a result of the outbreak. According to The New York Times as of March 16, there were more than 3,600 cases of coronavirus in the U.S. with 66 confirmed deaths. Health experts are predicting it will continue to the spread in the coming months and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that groups and individuals "cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States" for the next eight weeks.
Many smaller brands have been concerned about the financial impact that Expo West is having on their businesses. A lot of small natural food and beverage companies invest the majority of their marketing budget into Expo West in hopes of finding buyers. According to an exhibit space contract, booths can cost thousands of dollars, in addition to the price of flying to the event and staying at a hotel during the week — which many brands were unable to cancel this year on such short notice.
New Hope said it would be in touch with Expo West attendees regarding refunds for their 2020 badge registrations, education upgrades and training and tour registrations. It also said it is in discussions with its 60 hotel partners and other event vendor partners in Anaheim and would give updates on that as they come. According to the group's FAQ page, those who were scheduled to exhibit or sponsor at Expo West will be offered a full credit for space toward future activity. That offer will likely encourage more companies to participate in Expo East.
The group also said it would establish a $5 million fund to help its "most vulnerable and impacted community members." Many companies will be relying on those funds to help recover money they spent on Expo West and to help them plan for Expo East in six months.
Outside of the trade shows, coronavirus is already impacting shelves. Major CPG companies in the U.S. said the virus already has reduced sales in China where the outbreak started. Several businesses said it could get worse the longer it lasts even though businesses with shelf-stable and frozen products could see a temporary boost in sales as customers prepare for potential quarantines or choose to limit the amount of time they spend outside of their homes.