If I Had a Crystal Ball

June 28th 2020

by Abigail Harris – Executive Director, Provender Alliance

If I had a crystal ball, I’d know the future landscape of the natural foods industry. But even without one, it is “beyond obvious” that we are now navigating through a rapidly changing society with dramatic industry ramifications.  We are seeing that sudden and seismic change is possible, in all directions.

Within the natural products trade, I’m noticing the confluence of three pressing issues:

  • The continuing impact of COVID-19 directly on our businesses (stresses on staff, customers, supply chains, bottom lines)
  • Black Lives Matter movement highlighting systemic racism and social injustice (extending deep into our food systems)
  • Accelerated consolidation in the natural foods industry (via the influence of the pandemic)

What is needed for small or independent businesses to thrive? Can a more equitable and just food system prevail amidst this shakeup? Will production and distribution systems continue to concentrate or is an unexpected turn-around feasible?

Facing these challenges, Provender community members are connected together to flexibly meet the newly emerging marketplace with an ethical compass in hand. This is why it is so valuable to share our experiences and make our collective voices heard. It points out how important our community is. Indeed, Provender members make a difference through their ongoing efforts — and their very existence — in the industry.

Over here at Provender’s office, we are also actively adapting to the new landscape with our virtual conference, new programming developments, and committees/working groups. Here’s a sampling of what we’re up to:

Conference Committee
This collection of dedicated folk is excitedly preparing for October’s virtual event, our 44th Annual Educational Conference (October 21-23). We’re using this opportunity to offer up some potent programming: knock-your-socks-off keynotes, impassioned panels, and transformative workshops. We’ll be addressing racial and social justice within our industry and workplaces, staying competitive in the marketplace, and financially flourishing while staying true to one’s values. We’ll have successful business strategies for the continuing COVID situation. Plus, we’re mixing in LOTS of networking opportunities, warm connections, and fun surprises. It wouldn’t be a Provender Alliance Conference if it weren’t fun!

Sponsorship opportunities still abound and make a huge difference – we have a number of options from which to choose. Many member businesses have stepped up, and their support helps make the conference possible. Please join us! Contact me here for more information.

Community Conversations
This new program started in June, with gatherings of peer-to-peer community conversations. At the start of each meeting, we start the discussion with a particular subject and broaden it into additional topics. Participants learn from and share what they know with other members of the Provender Community during a lunchtime gathering. These are informative, stimulating, and an excellent opportunity to connect with both new and familiar faces. Have a pressing topic you’d like to see addressed? Let us know here.

Stewardship Fund
As announced this spring, Gavin McComas, founder, and owner of Sundance Natural Foods, is spearheading a Provender Stewardship Fund to ensure that the spirit of the natural foods movement is vibrant for the next generation of leaders. We appreciate his help, generosity, and commitment to what we stand for. His generous monthly financial seeding starts July 1st (instead of 2021) and will grow with your support! Interested in getting involved? Connect with us to find out more.

Membership Committee
As for the future of Provender – at our core, we embody important relevancy in the industry. We believe membership is not only about immediate ROI but an investment in a values-based vision for a better tomorrow. Meeting bi-weekly, this working group is currently starting its preliminary outreach. We welcome more participants. Please contact me to find out more.

As you can see, we have our work cut out for us fostering the well-being of the Provender community and navigating its future. Looking outwardly, I want to personally thank you for your work in upholding the core values of the natural foods movement and steering the industry in the right direction through your daily, integrity-based business endeavors. Every single action counts. Every single one.