March 13, 2010

Adventures at Natural Products Expo West, 2010…Friday

For important background info, make sure to read my earlier post entitled “Expo West…Ready or Not, Here I Come!”

Getting Acquainted

Today, I got a sampling (actually and figuratively) at Natural Products Expo West. It was my second time attending and I was so glad to go in with experience this time around! My game plan was to get the “lay of the land”, check out one section at a time (rather than trying to get it ALL in one day) and spend a few hours getting acquainted. Basically, dip my toes in with the idea of spending more time on Saturday and Sunday.   

A Casual Observer

If you’ve been following my adventures in journalism, the last one being about the Conscious Life Expo, you’ll see that my style of reporting is very experiential. I want to bring you along on my journey, be your eyes, ears, all of your senses. I’m interested in the casual interviews that just “happen” naturally, more or less organically, I suppose you could say. I’m sure Waylon is convering the more official business, with a jam packed schedule and lots of meetings planned. 

I thought I’d take a different approach, so as to mix things up a bit. Besides, I prefer a more casual approach. I want to know what it’s like to experience the show, and that’s what I want to share with you. Rather than waiting for the PR people or taking press kits, I was able to get interviews, on the fly, with the people working the front lines. Sure, not everybody was comfortable with that, but most of the ones I spoke to were. I’m pleased with the authentic connections that I made earlier today. I think that people generally felt comfortable in my presence, and that felt great. There are definitely some connections that I’d like to follow up on after the show. I think it’s fair to say that I have at least one new BFF.  
Some Notable Changes

Last year, I was surprised at the weight and bulk of the official literature on the show. This year, I was very pleasantly surprised to be given a fold-out map with all the exhibitors listed. It was lightweight, MUCH less bulky, and it had enough info to use for the purposes of visiting the show. It also showed more consciousness in terms of saving resources, including trees, fuel, ink, time…it was a much more efficient way of going about things. Granted, the book version was a bit easier to use because you didn’t have to unfold it, but I never even really used mine last year because it was so darned heavy! I think I remember checking it with my bag, planning to check it out fully after the show, and never really getting around to it.  So, in my experience, it went to waste. This time around, I’ll be sure to break out the map every now and then to formulate a game plan over the next couple days. 

Another notable change is that I remember being given a bag to put my samples and literature in last year. This time, I found out that those are only being given to retailers. Fair enough. It’s a more sustainable approach, being more selective about who gets what. It does make sense. Fortunately, I had brought enough bags from home to make it work, if need be. Shortly after going in, though, I was offered a heavy-weight canvas bag by a rep from Mary’s Gone Crackers and that helped considerably. I’m sure I’ll be getting plenty of use out of it, otherwise, as well.


One of my favorite organizational things about this show is the display cases in front (seen prior to entering) with sample products from every company represented. I think I’ll take a look at that tomorrow before consulting the map, even. It’s sheer brilliance, really. Of course, this show has been going on for thirty years and the people behind the scenes have had plenty of time to work things out. Still, I’m very impressed. 

As mentioned in my previous post, I also came in with a camera this time. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I figured that I’d up my game and get some pictures of the show so you could SEE what it was like, along with reading about my experiences. I got some great ones as there was so much to see and certain things that jumped out for me visually. Being a very visual person, an artist & designer, I made sure to get some super snappy shots! I’ll make sure to include those once I’ve had some time to upload and edit the pics. 
I heard some very important questions and statements, just being amongst the crouds. One of them was “I wonder where that pizza came from?”. Very important for a pizza enthusiast or someone wanting a more substantial sample after snacking on crackers. Although, there were definitely crackers with substance. Mary’s Gone Crackers had their “Sticks and Twigs” line of gluten-free crackers with substance. Lots of munching and crunching coming from that booth! 
On a more serious note, many interviews were being held, some very official business transactions being made…as an observer, I definitely overheard some deals and offers of collaboration happening.  


Since I just had a few hours, this time around, I decided to focus on the food aspect of the show. Ok…I was hungry! You would be, too, if you had a brisk walk and a two and a half hour journey on the bus since last eating.  I followed my nose through the supplements section (unwise to take those on an empty stomach), past the body care stuff…and finally, to the food. Now, I have to admit this is an area of special interest to me because a) my love affair with food began at birth b) I’ve been a chef and appreciate foods of different types c) as someone interested in health and sustainability, organic and otherwise natural, close-to-the-source food is especially notable and d) I like to know what’s new in the food industry. 

It’s late and I have a full day ahead of me, so for now, I’m going to give you the lowdown on my experience today. 

I learned that Mary’s Gone Crackers (my first interview) now has cookies. Of course, they’re “gluten free”…there’s that buzz word again! They’re also made with palm sugar (?) which is, apparently, low-glycemic so as to keep the blood sugar levels from spiking. I do appreciate that. 

Next was one of my all-time favorite healthy snack companies, Larabar. Taking a slight detour from their traditional approach of only sweetening their products with fruit, Larabar gave in to their multitude of customer requests for chocolate. So, they decided to relax that rule by adding chocolate chips to some of their new bars, such as chocolate chip cookie dough. The bars still have only seven to nine ingredients each. And, most of the sugar in the bars (80-88%) still come from the dates and other fruits used.

Eden Soy had a rather large area to themselves. They have a ton of products to represent, so that makes sense. The thing that drew me in was an old-fashioned pop corn machine. The popcorn was organic, if I remember correctly, and was quite tasty! A satisfying and slightly salty snack. 

I must admit, my eyes zoomed in on the “sexy” sign at Atkins Advantage. Not one to normally try such a thing (I think the no carb approach is dangerous and extreme, really), I was willing to give one of their bars a try after having a sign with one of their sexy representatives. I guess sex really does sell! Ok, and the bar was fairly tasty, too. It had far too many ingredients for my taste. I don’t think I’ll be repeating that experience, but it was all part of the grand adventure.

I LOVE yogurt, but had never tried soy yogurt before taking a sample at Whole Soy & Co. The plain was a bit sweet for my taste, but I appreciate the option, and I’m sure vegans everywhere do, too. 

Peas of Mind is definitely going to be considered for my “best of” picks in the names category. Their pizza was quite satisfying. The “fries” maybe not as much, but these foods are geared towards kids. I appreciate the innovative approach. I also appreciate that Peas of Mind used convection ovens to heat their products rather than microwaves. As someone that works with energy (feng shui) I feel strongly that microwaves are unnatural and dangerous to our health. Anyhoo, Peas of Mind mixes ground broccoli, cauliflower and carrots into their pizza dough, so the kids never even know! Unless they’re old enough to read the boxes…

Nicole Smith gave me the skinny on  Tribe, along with a nice little package of hummus and crackers for later. 

Monterey Foods had quite an array of spreads. My favorite, of the few I tried, was the white cheddar chive dip. Yum! Probably laden with sodium, but it was very tasty. 

On my way out, I figured that I had to end things with something sweet. So, when I saw Dagoba (chocolate), I stopped for a sample of the chai chocolate bar. Good, if a little bit sweet for my taste. I have a very delicate pallate…

After the show, I munched on the hummus and crackers from Tribe…a bit spicy with very complex flavor (I’d hope so with the forty spices used). I washed it down with a peppermint water from Metromint. Very refreshing!

Overall, I think all of my tastebuds were satisfied. And, my thirst for knowledge was quenched with all the juicy tidbits I was able to squeeze, ever-so-gently, out of the exhibitors and fellow attendees. 


A sign at Stoneyfield, a yogurt company, really caught my attention. It indicated that the entire booth was made consciously, with things such as recycled paper and FSC Certified wood. I stopped to get the skinny and was told that the whole display fits into half a trailor. Since this company was coming all the way from New Hampshire, they wanted to start their environmental efforts at the source as well as buying offsets for their CO2 output. Very cool! They also have partnered with Preserve, a company that makes razors and toothbrushes from recycled yogurt containers. And, one of my favorite companies, Terracycle, upcycles their containers into innovative products geared towards kids. Awesome! The yogurt was tasty, too : )

Whole Soy & Co. had a sign that read “We support the non-GMO project”. Soy yogurt, being a plant-based product is, arguably, more sustainable than regular milk-based yogurt. In addition to going the non-GMO route, Whole Soy & Co uses domestically grown, single-sources, organic soybeans. 

Trade fixtures had a sign that read “Bulk is the ultimate green packaging”. True, but what of pthalates and other toxins in plastics? Recycled materials? Fortunately, Trade Fixtures started offering BPA-free plastic containers, as an option, about eight months ago due to popular demand. 

To Be Continued…

Right now, it’s 1:34 a.m. and I need to catch some zzz’s before tomorrow’s adventure. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get there in time for a good five to six hours of coverage. Thanks for reading and stay tuned! Also, be sure to check out Waylon’s funny, edgier perspective of the show. Click HERE to read his post. See you tomorrow!

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