Natural Products Expo: Enough Goodies To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse


A record setting 67,000 people attended the Natural Products Expo West this weekend. The Anaheim convention center could barely house the 3,000 exhibitors and getting through the whole expo was pretty much impossible (even if you arrived when doors opened and stayed all day).

If you’ve never been to Expo West, it is basically a giant arena for companies — specializing in organic products, non-GMO foods, gluten free foods, vegan foods, paleo foods and any possible sub-genre of these foods — to present their products to distributors, the press, and general consumers. It’s basically a foodie’s wet dream, especially if you are a foodie with food restrictions (like me — I’m gluten free and vegetarian). But the show isn’t only about food, they also had beauty products, pet products and endless rows of supplements.


This year’s show featured nearly 700 new attendees according to event host New Hope Natural Media. The group summarized the weekend’s events in a March 10th press release.

“The move toward natural, organic and healthy products is not a fad, but a societal shift that is poised to grow to $226 billion by 2018 with an annual growth rate of 8.6 percent. New Hope Natural Media, a division of Penton, today announced Natural Products Expo West concluded a record-breaking event March 6-9 at the Anaheim Convention Center in CA. The event grew five percent bringing together over 67,000 industry members, more than 2,600 exhibiting companies and the most first-time exhibitors in the event’s history. From food and beverage to supplements and beauty to household and pet products, the event provided a window into the many categories driving the growth of the global natural products industry.”

I was among the new attendees, this year happened to be my first time at Expo West, and let me just say — I went nuts. I will give you guys full disclosure and let you know I did not attend as a member of the press. I worked for Nature’s Bakery as a brand ambassador. Basically that means since I was an exhibitor and not a journalist, I spent most of the weekend passing out Nature’s Bakery fig bars to people outside of the convention. My goodie snatching time was relegated to breaks and after work, but that did not stop me from walking out with four bags full of amazing products. Luckily my shifts ended before the actual convention closed so I got a decent amount of time to explore. Unfortunately it was nowhere near enough to see the entire show, but others really did walk out with enough product to survive a zombie apocalypse. I saw cars piled to the top with recyclable bags full of stuff.


Since I didn’t get a chance to see everything I can only tell you about the products I tried myself. I’m sure there were plenty of great (and on occasion really bad) products that I missed, but if I didn’t see it, then it doesn’t get a mention. Sorry.

Here are some items I liked (in no particular order):
1. Boom Chick-A-Pop: It seemed like people were handing out bags of popcorn left and right, but this brand really stood out. If not because of the popcorn itself then it was because of the girls driving around on mopeds handing the bags out. They literally had girls dressed in bright pastel uniforms doing drive-bys with popcorn. The kettle corn was my favorite, it’s the perfect mixture of sweet and salty. I came home with four different brands of kettle corn and this one was the best by far.


2. Vegetarian Plus Meals: This company specializes in frozen meat substitutes. They were sampling everything from vegan tuna to vegan lamb vindaloo. The tuna salad was the standout for me. It was the first time I’d tried vegan fish that didn’t have a weird rubbery texture. But really all of their “meats” were really tasty. The only downside is, almost all their products contain wheat so it won’t work for people with Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. I didn’t know about the wheat until after I’d tried four different samples. Needless to say, things did not end well for me.

3. Silver Hills Gluten Free Bread: I’m very picky about packaged gluten free bread. Most of the time they all taste like really thick cardboard, but the Silver Hills bread actually tasted like regular bread. The samples they had out were topped with coconut oil, which turned the bread into a nice light dessert. I fell deeper in love with this bread when I saw that it is certified organic, non GMO, vegan, and only 80 calories per slice.

4. Shasha Co. Lemon Snap Cookies: Cookies with prebiotics and probiotics? Nothing like eating cookies to help your digestion. The company also has two wheat free flavors made with spelt flour. I fell in love with the lemon snaps.

5. Vega Protein Bars and Powders: Vega is plant based and all their products are vegan. They are not non-GMO verified yet, but the labels do say they use non-GMO materials. I like them because the powders are gluten free and taste much better than most protein powders. The Vega One line also incorporates other essential vitamins to help maintain a balanced diet. For example, the Vega One smoothies have two servings of vegetables in each serving.

6. Black Bear Energy: This company uses B12 instead of relying on caffeine to give customers an energy boost. The concentrated B12 spray got me going in 20 minutes. I felt energized, but not jittery like when I have too much coffee. The creators of this line boast that they use the best forms of B12 (hydroxycobalamin & adenosylcobalamin). Apparently most B12 supplements use Cyano-B12, which contains trace amounts of cyanide. I can’t really verify how true their claims are, but I do know the spray and drink taste a lot better than the typical B12 supplement (have you ever tried the pills? They taste like vomit).

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