Expo East Video: Investing’s Past, Present, and The Long Term

Jeff Klineman

Natural food investment keeps growing and the opportunity to meet a potential growth business is one of the biggest opportunities drawing private equity and strategics to events like Natural Products Expo East, which concluded last week.

But those businesses aren’t all instant money-makers for investors, and for some, the increase in valuation for even raw, unproven concepts is causing second-guessing of the overall market.

Especially with newer pools of capital competing with the consumer goods focused funds, there’s an increasing value in discernment between brands that might be merely trendy and those that are representative of long-term shifts in consumer behavior.

That, at least, is the opinion of at least one veteran investor, Wellvest Capital’s David Thibodeau. Interviewed in the press room at Expo East, Thibodeau discussed the progress of the natural and organic food business through the lens of decades, rather than years. In the video above, viewers will come to understand that in the 1980s, Expo East could have fit in a small room of the Baltimore Convention Center.

Even now, in Thibodeau’s view, many of the companies showing their goods on three floors, and receiving — and returning profits on — investment dollars are different from those that may represent plays in long-term shifts in protein sourcing and cleaner production methods.

“It happens every time,” he said. “Whether dollars come in as investment or outsized M&A transactions where a strategic must have one of our companies and is willing to pay through the ceiling for it.”

But paying for incremental change doesn’t mean reaping long term gain, he added. Some of the companies playing to the long term have products that may not even match up to where those that work in incremental gains were 10 years ago, he said. But that doesn’t mean they never will. After all, it’s that long term horizon that has allowed the growth of the natural products industry itself by thousands of companies. Hear more ideas from Thibodeau by watching the video, above.

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