Those who peddle so-called natural products frequently say they are looking to produce healthier and more environmentally sustainable products.

Those presenting their wares at this year's Natural Products Expo East – which serves as a preview to the items that are likely to end up on some more eco-minded store shelves – seemed to go a step further this year.


Representatives from the $91 billion industry, comprised of big and little companies from across the country, said they were looking for innovative ways to give back. Here are a few examples:

There is Boulder Brands, which includes names such as Evol and Earth Balance, is working with Baltimore-based Real Food Farm, a non-profit that aims to help people in urban areas access healthy foods.

The company sold $20 water bottles at the expo put on by New Hope Natural media, held at the Baltimore Convention Center Sept. 19-22, with proceeds going to Real Food Farm. It also was looking for ways to expand on their relationship and develop relationships with other non-profits in other cities.

"They are trying to help people on federal assistance, who have children in deep poverty, who don't have a car," said T.J. McIntyre, executive vice president and general manager of natural brands at Boulder, who expects the fundraiser to bring in around $5,000. "Their choices now are mainly snack foods they get from the corner store. We'd like to see them get fresh produce."

Another expo company, Hydro Flask -- which makes "double wall vacuum insulated" bottles to keep liquids cold and hot longer -- gives 5 percent of proceeds to charity. But consumers get to pick the charity by logging on to the company website and entering a product code.

Choices include the American Cancer Society, American Red Cross and World Wildlife Fund, among others.

And then there was Method Products, makers of soaps, which has produced a hand and dish soap container made from plastic salvaged from the ocean – plastic that its own employees collected.