March 8, 2009

an elephantjournal.com report: Natural Products Expo West ~ Saturday (and eve) ~ via Claire Burstein.

Today I re-visited Natural Products Expo West.  The first day was fascinating, if a bit overwhelming (this expo is huuuge). I felt a bit under-the-weather, but made the trip to Anaheim regardless—it’s the must-be-at eco event of the year.  I normally prefer public transportation, but was grateful to have the use of my mother’s car for the day and evening. My original plan was to pace myself by getting a later start so I could attend Sambazon’s after-party this evening at the local Marriot. 
Driving took a fraction of the time that I spent travelling by bus yesterday, I have to admit, and the freeway was relatively empty.  Seeking nearby street parking rather than pay $10- $15 for the lots at the event, I found a spot just a couple blocks away, across the city border of Garden Grove.  On my way in, I came accross Susan Langlois from Granola Gourmet.  When I asked her about her experience of the Expo thus far, she said “It’s really crowded—in a good way. There are a lot of people. With the economy the way it is, I didn’t anticipate it.”
Deciding to take a rather “organic” approach (less formulaic), I decided to dive into the action and keep my eyes open for booths that caught my attention in addition to making a few pre-scheduled stops.  It seemed more crowded today, for sure.  I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned and saw a familiar face: Dr. Siva Hari of Jarrow Formulas, a local “supplier of superior nutritional supplements.” He is a close family friend that I came across at the show yesterday.  He encouraged me to seek out Tom’s of Maine and show them the piece that I’d written for elephant journal.  It was comforting to be greeted by a friend and I hope to do an interview with Jarrow tomorrow. 
There were so many different ways that I could have gone—the expo is massive and well-represented by all the big and small natural products businesses.  I noticed an approachable lady standing at a nearby booth and decided to stop for a chat (I’m a sucker for a smile).  Her name is Beki Cohen and her family has been repping their brand, Natural Value, at the show for the past 16 years (!).  Since she had product examples, rather than samples available, most attendees seemed to be breezing past in search of more (immediately) fruitful fare.  When asked how her experience of the show had been, she said “I think this is one of the best shows for the money.  People who really want to do business come in early.  Everyone walks by twice (since it’s near the entrance) and it’s great exposure.”  Her perception, having done the show for so many years, is that there seem to be many more “guests” (general public) with badges this time around than at previous NPEW events.  Despite appearances to the contrary, this has been a very productive show for Natural Value, a family-owned business that provides lower cost alternatives to the national brand. 
Also worthy of attention was Blake’s, who had samples of their comfort-style food, such as chicken pot pie and frank and beans.  All of their products are organic and hand-made, with as few ingredients as possible.  They use heirloom recipes, handed down for generations.  Plum Organics also caught my attention with kid-friendly line called “Tots” (I plan to write more about this innovative company and others later).  I got some great information about them and they were already familiar with Elephant Journal, having had their products reviewed, as well as being a part of a baby/momma-focussed ecofashion shoot and spread in the magazine a few years back, before it went online 100%. 
At the massive Blue Marble booth, I sampled some turkey wraps and white bean and vegetable soup, stopping to say hello to an attendee that I had met yesterday, Gabriel Widman.  Still in the food category, I came accross Ciao Bella as I worked my way towards the back.  I’ve had their gelato before and felt the “need” to stop for a sample of malted milkball (I’m glad I did!)
I was surprised to see that composting efforts were clearly lacking from this event, and much-needed, in my opinion.  There is so much waste created from this event and I felt bad tossing as much garbage as I did in the trash bins.  Recycling bins were readily available, but not as pertinent to this event as composting bins.  Perhaps I need to make a suggestion to the event coordinators, or inquire as to Anaheim’s waste management capabilities. 
Next, I interviewed Victoria of Citrus Magic about their natural cleansing products and very popular veggie wash.  Like Elephant Journal, they are located in Boulder, Colorado, and I was pleased to make the connection.  Victoria said that they haven’t really felt the effect of the economic downturn, fortunately.  Ahead of the game, Citrus Magic says they were the first company to have a veggie wash on the market twenty-two years ago! 
At Chico Bag, one of my pre-planned destinations, I was told about their new line, called rePETe.  Each re-usable full-size shopping bag is made of 7 recycled water bottles and fits into a palm-sized bag (sewn onto the bottom) with a handy clip.  I have seen Chico Bag at various green events, including Green Festival in San Francisco, and I feel encouraged by the fact that they are so well-represented.  This rePETe bag is their most user-friendly line that I have come accross, personally. 
Being an artist and designer, my attention was drawn towards Starshine Arts’ booth.  An artist’s collective, Starshine Arts represents 40 to 50 artists at one time.  I saw beautiful postcards and patches on display.  All the printed materials are made consciously with soy inks and recycled stocks.  They harness wind-power for their production when possible.  Starshine Arts plan to introduce a cellulose sticker line at some point in the near future, in addition to their eye-catching array of gift-sized products. 
I’ll touch briefly on the rest of my experience today before heading off to the after party.  I saw Ron Alcalay from Vital Hemptations, another familiar face (Green Festival, Green Business Conference, Go Green Expo), was drawn towards Arcadia Home’s booth with their recycled cotton products that are made to look like leather-made goods. 
Ah!  I meant to write more but am getting the boot by the security.  Having the use of these computers has been very handy, though.  Still to come, my interview with CTN Green, represented by Robin Rudoy and CEO Neal Gray.  Now, I must make a hasty Cinderella-like exit and change for the afterparty at the ballroom.  Sambazon, here I come!
This morning, I bounced out of bed feeling so much better than yesterday at this time, despite losing an hour to the clock gods and getting less sleep than anticipated.  Is it possible to dance a bug out of one’s system?  I’d like to think so, and much prefer that method to others! 
After changing into more party-like attire, I found my way over to Marriott, where the after parties were reported to be.  Having only sampled sporadically at the expo, I needed to rest and get some nutrients in my system.  I decided to splurge on the Mediterranean buffet at Cafe del Sol, near the main lobby of the Marriott hotel.  At the next table over, I overheard a lady talking about having recently moved to Boulder, Colorado and I introduced myself.  That lady was Andrea Anderson of All Phases Event Group, a company that provided “greening consulting” for the NPEW.  Small world! 
By the time I got to the after-party, San Diego-based band Delta Nove was rocking the house!  And, they had dancing ladies dressed up in what I’m guessing is Carnival-inspired tailfeathers.  Someone near me said “someone’s getting dollar bills stuffed into her belt.  I was dancing like that earlier but nobody was paying attention!”  I was impressed by Delta Nove’s versatility.  I was anticipating pure reggae, of which I’m not much of a fan, but they were definitely mixing it up.  A drumcore piece brought me back to my marching band days (go Irvine High School Vaqueros..!). 
There’s much more to report, but I better boogie on to the Expo, as it ends earlier today (4 p.m.).  As before, I plan to make some scheduled stops and otherwise wing it.  Off I go!
Claire Burstein is a California-based writer, environmental advocate and feng shui consultant.  She is whimsically named “the feng shui fairy”.  Her other writings and info about her services can be found at www.thefengshuifairy.com.


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