The world’s largest industry trade show for natural, organic, and healthy products is coming to Baltimore, Md., on September 12-15. We checked in with ForceBrands’ Chief Progress Officer, Sean Conner, to get an inside look at some of the best ways attendees can leverage Natural Products Expo East to build their brands and grow their careers.

“It’s an incredible time for entrepreneurs to connect with other innovative entrepreneurs,” Conner said. “It doesn’t matter if the brand’s just getting started or has already gone through significant scale, Expo East offers a great opportunity for networking.”

Conner advises attendees to actively tap into others for anything from advice within sales, e-comm, marketing, finance, or operations, to exploring meetings with new strategic advisors.

“It should be on the CEOs agenda to connect with at least 5-10 CEOs from other companies,” Conner said. “You can potentially meet your next board of advisor here.”

Attendees should also be mindful of the event’s timing.

“Expo East takes place toward the end of Q3 when a lot of brands will be planning their hiring strategy for 2019,” Conner explained. “The ForceBrands team is on the ground to offer you industry insights, organizational design, share hiring trends, and help you navigate your 2019 hiring goals. Based on the discussions we have at the trade show, we can see what new innovation might be valuable to your portfolio and that can give us perspective on how you’ll continue to grow and scale in 2019.”

Expo East is not only a great time to explore team building tips, but it’s a great opportunity to strengthen your existing team culture.

“A lot of brands use the event for team building activities. The event is organized in such a way that it allows for group workouts in the mornings and happy hours in the evenings.”

This year will be Conner’s ninth visit to the annual trade show and each year brings exciting new product innovations and insights into future food trends.

“Cannabis — more specifically CBD — is heating up in the food and beverage world,” Conner said. “Plant-based items continue to gain momentum. Expect to see a lot of functional beverages and food items that focus on fiber, collagen, hydration, meat substitutes, and of course, protein.”

Other trends people can expect to find at Expo East include plant-based seafood alternatives, which have been making waves amid concerns about overfishing and ocean pollution.

Expo East is more than a trade show showcasing the latest hot products. While there are great team and culture building activities, it’s a great time for brands to explore business development opportunities.

“Think more long-term than short-term,” Conner said. “And whatever your hiring needs may be, ForceBrands is fluent in the CPG space and on the ground to help.”

Building your field marketing programs? Connect with the PINATA team on the ground at Expo East.

PINATA is a flexible, data-driven platform where brands, agencies, and freelance talent collaborate to create elevated consumer experiences.

“PINATA makes it easy for brands to find brand ambassadors to execute field marketing activations across trade channels and geography on a regional and national basis,” Bob Ziegler, Director of CPG Brand Partnerships at PINATA, said. “In addition, the PINATA platform tracks metrics to deliver a deep understanding of how activations impact their business while providing ROI analysis.”