The Natural Products Association reached an important milestone in 2011 ̶ celebrating its 75th anniversary. Founded in 1936, NPA has established itself as the oldest nonprofit association dedicated to serving and preserving the rights of natural products industry retailers and suppliers.
Throughout its history, NPA has worked tirelessly to promote and protect its members, their businesses, and their important role in the health of all Americans. In fact, barely two years after the formation of NPA in 1936 (then called the National Health Food Association), Congress passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. This important law, which the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act amended more than 50 years later, would form the basis from which various regulations were issued governing the natural products industry.
NPA has come a long way in 75 years and is stronger than ever. Social changes, economic periods of hardship and prosperity, technological progress, and changing leadership in the federal government have contributed to the evolution of the natural products industry. But what has remained constant is the dedication of NPA members. NPA represents over 1,400 members accounting for more than 10,000 retail, manufacturing, wholesale, and distribution locations of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids.
An Association is Born: The Natural Products Association's Beginnings
In 1984, the book More Than One Slingshot: How the Health Food Industry is Changing America, written by Frank Murray, was published by NPA. Although the book chronicles the impact the natural products industry has had on the health of America, it also tells the story of NPA's evolution. The following is based on and excerpted from Murray's book, as well as other sources, and describes the birth of the association and the industry it represents.
"It wasn't long after the first vitamin was isolated in 1911 that the health food industry began to emerge. By the 1920s and 1930s many of the pioneer companies in the industry, some of whom are still in business, were in full operation. In fact, the 1930s have sometimes been referred to as the "Golden Age" of the health food industry.
In 1936, Anthony Berhalter, a baker located in Chicago, Ill., began organizing a group that would 40 years later be called the Natural Products Association. This group, which initially had a consumer membership, was named the American Health Food Association.
In the spring of 1937, Berhalter set up a convention of some 10 to 15 booths at the old Auditorium Hotel in Chicago. Some among the 150 people attending the meeting felt that a new organization should be formed that included retailers and manufacturers, but excluded consumers. Although not everyone agreed, an organizing committee was elected to form the new organization. After working all night, the committee presented a constitution and bylaws the next day to those who wanted the new trade association. It was approved and the new organization, the National Health Foods Association, which is now the Natural Products Association, was born."