Washington, D.C.—The Natural Products Association (NPA) has found a new leader. John Spitaleri Shaw will become the nonprofit's new Executive Director and CEO, filling the void left by former CEO John Gay. 

Shaw joins the natural products trade group from a strong background as an administrator, with his prior positions including: Assistant Secretary for Environment, Safety and Health at the Department of Energy; Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the Portland Cement Association; Senate Investigative Counsel to Senator Fred Thompson and Public Policy Attorney with the Law Firm of Patton Boggs, LLP.

President of the NPA Jeff Wright said, "John is an extraordinary leader with extensive experience in the public policy arena. His background is perfect to elevate our advocacy and education both in Washington, D.C., and across the country. He has the skills, talent and vision to lead NPA into an even more dynamic future, while maintaining its commitment to provide high-quality support for our members. John is the right leader at the right time for the job."

WholeFoods Magazine had a chance to sit down with Shaw at the Natural Products Association MarketPlace trade show, held June 14–16 in Las Vegas, NV. Here, we bring you the exclusive interview:

WF: What drew you to the NPA and what aspects of your background will you draw on as the new executive director and CEO?

JS: There are two important things to discuss here. First and foremost, it is a real honor and privilege to be working with this trade association of suppliers and retailers. On a personal basis, I believe in the natural lifestyle. It’s something that I was raised with. It’s something that I approve of. It’s something that in my own family household, we only obtain products with the most natural ingredients; we actually try to run a gluten-free household.

When I go to meet with federal decision makers and policymakers, they will have the opportunity to meet someone who not only is trying to sell a particular public policy position, but also practices what he preaches. It’s not someone who just talks the talk, but who also walks the walk.

In addition, I think both our retailers and suppliers will appreciate someone who understands the nature of their products and how they help and assist Americans on a daily basis. Our products help Americans. They help them live better, healthier lifestyles and it is important that we continue to maintain an aggressive Washington, D.C. presence so that we can defend against anyone who tries to threaten the opportunity for American consumers to obtain those products.

WF: Could you talk a little about where you feel the NPA could improve and grow?

JS: The NPA needs to significantly improve its membership base. It’s not just numbers…we need to increase the activism of its current members and we’re going to aggressively pursue that through social media as well as traditional media.

The other part of it is that I’m going to go out into the regions, talk to the members about their concerns and formulate a plan to move forward. The number one thing we need to focus on in the coming months is membership.

WF: Are you mostly talking about retailer membership or manufacturer membership or both?

JS: It’s everybody. It’s also an opportunity to look into nontraditional allies. Folks in the environmental industry. Folks who work in the water industry. Folks who work in other industries that may be natural allies with natural products. I think that’s an area we can examine. Then, everyone is pulling the oars in the same direction and working together to defend our common interests on Capitol Hill and at the state level.

What’s very important is that on the supplier side, we have some great members with huge customer lists that NPA could use to reach out to customers and say, “There’s an important public policy issue that has come up. Get active and call your members of the House and the Senate.” The retailers also have very loyal customer bases that they can activate on their end…United we stand, divided we fall.

WF: In addition to membership, what else are your top priorities at NPA?

JS: A top priority is that the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA) and the framework it operates under isn’t threatened by legislation with unintended consequences that will limit the ability of consumers to get our products.

The NPA staff is very hard working. We have staffers in California, D.C., and elsewhere and we’re going to continue to work with our members to defeat legislation with harmful consequences.

WF: What is the most important thing that retailers can do to get involved?

JS: One is that I want to invite retailers to make use of our Web site (www.npainfo.org) to reach out to me, personally, on social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. They can also follow my Twitter account (@NPACEOJohnShaw) in order to stay abreast in real time of what’s going on with their trade association.

In addition, I hope retailers reach out to their friends in the industry to encourage others to join. The value in the NPA for retailers is not just strength in numbers, but also the fact that retailers are being represented in Washington, D.C. through their NPA dues dollars at the highest and most effective level. We’re going to continue to grow that.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, August 2012 (online 6/12/12, updated 6/18/12)