The 2015 Natural Health Expo finished on a high note, with participants eager to attend again in 2016. Phil Costigan reveals what to expect this year.

We here at the Irish Health Trade Association (IHTA) are absolutely thrilled at the success of our inaugural Natural Health Expo, which took place at the RDS last September.

Noting a gap in the market, the IHTA recognised that it was important to have a national-based event where natural health suppliers could showcase their products and interact with existing and new customers, and consequently we launched the Natural Health Expo.

We are enthused and delighted that our intuition was correct and that our very first venture was a huge success.
The excitement and buzz over the two days was apparent to the impressive line-up of exhibitors (almost 100 in number) and the enthusiastic visitors (health store retailers, pharmacy retailers, natural health practitioners, beauty therapists and health coaches, all who availed of the unique opportunity to attend our one-stop-shop to source new products and learn about the latest trends and developments).
Independent research on visitor feedback from the event revealed that 82 per cent of visitors identified new suppliers, 91 per cent declared attending the event was worthwhile or very worthwhile and an amazing 92 per cent stated they looked forward to attending again in 2016.

What can everyone expect from 2016?

For starters, we plan to expand the size of the event; our inaugurated 2015 Expo attracted more interest than expected and many disappointed exhibitors were unable to secure a pitch for showcasing their products. This will be redressed in 2016 with greater exhibitor capacity, leading to a memorable showcase fitting for a broad and diverse array of the best of what the Irish natural health trade can offer.

An identified valuable benefit of attending the 2015 event for a retailer was the opportunity to maintain or establish a good line of communication with the suppliers present, and we noted many visitors commented on this in the feedback form. Indeed, many suppliers were keen to offer visitors one-to-one practical advice and information on the health benefits of what they offered, together with assurances of after sales support and assistance.

For 2016, we plan to work with our exhibitors to capitalise on this aspect of the trade only Expo, which provides a valuable opportunity for both industry partners to interact successfully and optimally.

We also learnt that there was greater interest than anticipated in the New Product of the Show entries, so consequently we will expand the categories for the awards to ensure all serious contenders are afforded a chance to gain show coverage and, if successful, accompanying acclaim.

The Natural Health Expo 2016 will attract retail buyers open to enticement from suppliers of new and innovative products not only in the VMS and botanical range but in the growing nutraceuticals market. Ireland is no different to other European markets when it comes to recognising the popularity of wholefoods, free-from, nutritional boosts etc and we expect an increase this year in the showcasing of healthy food products, together with a wide variety of natural cosmetic and bodycare ranges. With a larger exhibition space, we will have room for ancillary service stands also.

With so much EU driven regulation stymieing innovation and product placement within our industry sector, it is hugely important to highlight that, despite these challenges, our industry sector is vibrant and healthy, with new entrants coming on stream to meet the growing demands of consumers who want to look after their own health and wellbeing.

Restrictive regulatory dictates make it difficult to advertise the merits and benefits of individual products, which in turn inhibits educating the consumer. Suppliers and retailers need to support one another to ensure that consumer choice is not restricted, they need to ensure that they continue to supply an ever-growing and innovative stream of quality product to the market.

Working together will assist in curbing the growth of unregulated internet sales, which not only poses serious threat to consumer health but creates a commercial disadvantage for responsible stakeholders.

The IHTA continues to be motivated to assist at a practical level in sustaining and maintaining a vibrant market for the benefit of our members. By hosting the Natural Health Expo, we make good on our determination to visibly support the key interested parties of the natural health industry in Ireland.

The 2016 Natural Health Expo takes place on Sunday, October 2 and Monday, October 3 in the RDS Industries Hall, Dublin. It is a fitting event to showcase the vibrancy of the natural health trade here in Ireland and it provides an ideal venue for suppliers and retailers to work in tandem to fill the market with high quality product.

The floor plan is now online and our Expo partners, EventHaus, are available to assist with enquiries and take bookings. So please visit www.naturalhealthexpo.ie