I just got back last night from another pilgrimage to the Natural Products Expo West show, where the natural foods and natural health industry converge annually to stop traffic in Anaheim. Well, obviously, the purpose was not to stop traffic, but the size and scale of the show was and is such that traffic was, for all intents and purposes, stopped on Katella Avenue. My maiden voyage to Expo West was last year and it was…mind-blowing.
So I determined to make my way there again this year – even if it meant leaving my little girl behind for a weekend – and I think I will make it an annual pilgrimage. I went booth to booth in the “Hot Products Pavilion,” tasting gluten-free, organic, healthy, vegan, eco-friendly, (insert the natural buzzword) snacks, chips, crackers, cookies, cakes, (insert the food), drinking gallons of energy drinks and healthy beverages (and some not so healthy), slathering on “pure” and “synthetic-free” Mom & Baby creams and balms, and of course, collecting samples of all of the aforementioned.
Some of my favorites from last year were there this year: Soothie Suckers, maker of throat-relieving herbal popsicles, has a new formulation by an herbalist that tastes about a million times better – truly! NurturMe dried organic baby foods has two new flavors: Carrot and Banana. And Back to the Roots has an upcoming announcement about a new product built in partnership with Paul Stamets, mycologist and mushroom author extraordinaire (can’t wait to find out what it is!).
I noticed a TON of popcorn-based snacks this year, as well as a plethora of aloe drinks and also ones infused with chia seeds. (Did I miss something? When did everything become about suspending floating pieces of plants and seeds in your liquid?) Energy drinks were in abundance, as they were last year, as were gluten-free foods. Like last year, this year had a crop of new mom & baby lines that are 100% natural, pure, gentle, yada yada yada. The laundry list of adjectives in the natural foods/health/beauty business continues to burgeon exponentially – it seems every year it becomes desirable to be “free” of yet another thing. We start with words like “organic,” “pure,” and “natural.” Then of course, they have to be kind to animals, so you see “cruelty-free” and “vegan.” Then they have to be kind to the planet, so you will see “green,” “eco-friendly,” “earth-friendly,” “environmentally-friendly,” “sustainable,” and “compostable.”
On top of that, you have “soy-free,” “allergen-free,” and “gluten-free.” The joke is, at Expo West, you will see one booth offering, for example, “gluten-free” pastries, and the next booth will offer whole wheat snacks (which obviously do contain gluten). One booth will have “organic” ice cream, and the next one will have “gluten-free” ice cream. (I didn’t even realize ice cream contained gluten, to tell you the truth.) One booth will be “soy-free,” and the next will have soy-based “vegan” meat alternatives. One booth will have an energy drink that is “caffeine-free” (based on guarana), and the booth across the way will have the “all-natural” energy drink based on yerba mate and green tea…which both contain caffeine. It’s all very confusing. It really is.
Despite this, I did find several new favorite products out of the explosion of good-for-you offerings that I am literally turning cartwheels over, and I will come back to share them with you later this week. So stay tuned!