Trade Organization Overload?

By James J. Gormley

The above headline comes from the provocative question I was asked for this article: Are there too many trade associations?

“The question is not whether we have too many trade associations, or not enough, but whether they are getting the job done,” notes Jarrow Rogovin, founder and president of Los Angeles, CA-based Jarrow Formulas.

Rogovin, who might be regarded as a one-man trade association himself, has a point. Every trade association has its strong suits and its specialties, and so, once again, the answer to the ultimate existential question, “Who am I?,” should serve as a signpost as to which organization might be best suited to your company’s needs.

If you are heavily involved in herbals, AHPA might be the right organization for you; if OTCs are your bailiwick, then CHPA is the right group for your firm.

On the other hand, if you make or sell a variety of products, CRN, NPA or UNPA might be well suited for you, and if you want to reach retailers as well, that’s where NPA comes in again.

There are also associations that specialize in certain categories, such as GOED and the IPA.

Keep in mind, however, that you can join more than one association, and probably should consider doing so if your company is able, since in that way you maximize your firm’s chances of being on the front lines of promoting and defending the natural products industry, whoever is leading the charge.

Also remember that the most strategically minded trade associations are able to forge powerful collaborations with credible consumer groups on important or watershed issues.

A perfect, recent, example of this was the coalition of all of the natural products trade groups, plus consumer organization Citizens for Health, which together successfully campaigned for the passage of the Dietary Supplement and Nonprescription Drug Consumer Protection Act (the AER Bill) in June 2006.

Another, more recent, example is Citizens for Health’s push in support of AHPA’s initiative.

There are other credible consumer organizations out there too, including, but not limited to, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), the National Health Federation (NHF), and Your Voice for Health (YVH).

Get these questions answered before you join any trade organization:

  1. Is this organization mainly focused on my channel of trade or type of business?
  2. Does the organization have a “1 member, 1 vote” policy for full members (it should)?
  3. Is the work the organization does focused on rubber-hits-the-road areas I want it to focus on?
  4. Is the organization more concerned about “having a seat at the table” than shaking up regulators and Congress?
  5. Does the organization provide ample opportunities for all voting members to serve on the board and committees?
  6. Is the organization respected and feared on Capitol Hill and in College Park, MD? (The first is great, but the latter is even better!)
  7. Does the organization plan to collaborate more with credible consumer organizations so that we, as an industry, can present a united front, one that cannot be dismissed as “industry only”?

And depending on how satisfied you are with the answers you get, along with recommendations from colleagues who are already members, you will be able to choose wisely.

A Trade Associations Primer

  • AHPA (American Herbal Products Association) is comprised of more than 300 domestic and foreign companies doing business as growers, processors, manufacturers, and marketers of herbs and herbal products.
  • CHPA (Consumer Healthcare Products Association) represents more than 75 manufacturer member companies and 150 associate member companies. Manufacturer members manufacture or market OTC medicines and dietary supplements, including contract and private label manufacturers.
  • CRN (Council for Responsible Nutrition): a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing 100+ dietary supplement manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, and companies providing services to those manufacturers and suppliers.
  • GOED (Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s) is a trade association whose goals are to increase consumption of omega-3s to adequate levels around the world and to ensure that the industry is producing quality omega-3 products that consumers can trust.
  • IPA (International Probiotics Association) is an international organization with members equally divided between industry and academia and its goal is to provide a unique forum for the exchange of research and the latest breakthroughs in probiotic technology and new product development.
  • NPA (Natural Products Association): NPA is the largest and oldest organization representing the entire natural products industry, with more than 2,000 members in all 50 states and internationally, accounting for over 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products.
  • UNPA (United Natural Products Alliance ) is an association representing many leading dietary supplement, functional food, natural products and analytical and technology companies that share a commitment to provide consumers with natural health products of superior quality, benefit and reliability.[Note: Adapted from an article which originally appeared in Natural Products INSIDER Supplement Perspectives]
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