Exploring NATURAL PRODUCTS EXPO WEST 2017
A few weeks ago I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the 37th annual Natural Products Expo West, the world’s largest natural, organic, and healthy products expo. I was among the record-breaking 80,000 attendees perusing 3,100 exhibitors, including more than 500 first-time exhibitors, at the Anaheim Convention Center and extending into the Hilton and Marriott ballrooms. I excitedly counted down the weeks for this multi-day event packed with delectable tastings, educational seminars, and meeting innovative companies. As a healthy lifestyle and skincare enthusiast (and serious snacker), I’m always scouting out new natural products, learning about upcoming trends, and chatting with brands that have a mindful mission. As my sophomore year attending, thank goodness I came prepared with a good night’s rest, comfortable shoes, and a big appetite because I logged some serious miles and ate to my heart’s content.
trends & What I Discovered at the Natural Products Expo
- Charge Up with Superfoods – Superfoods are powering up everywhere, including products for your skin and hair. At the expo, I’ve seen these super ingredients–turmeric, coconut, avocados, and charcoal–incorporated in many products. My favorite discovery is Gaia Herbs’ Golden Milk. With turmeric as the star ingredient, this is a drink that isn’t only tasty and creamy, but satisfying and good for me. It’s the perfect drink to wind down and enjoy in the evening. Aside from seeing charcoal consumed in pressed juices or used in a face mask, it’s another ingredient I’ve seen incorporated into body care. The folks at Schmidt’s gave me their Charcoal + Magnesium mineral-enriched natural deodorant to put to the test. I look forward to trying this product that uses plant-based powder to naturally absorb wetness. It’s also free of aluminum, propylene glycol, parabens, and phthalates and has a refreshing scent reminiscent of fallen rain. Earth Science’s Olive & Avocado Deep Conditioning Hair Masque has been a favorite of mine for quite some time now. I color my hair and this sulfate-free, paraben-free masque, deep conditions and nourishes my over-treated hair. It always feels silky and smooth whenever I use it. Naturally, when I met those at the brand’s booth, I couldn’t stop raving about their product.
- The Versatility of Coconut – As my favorite ingredient, coconut oil needs a section of its own. Coconut was everywhere at the expo because it’s such a versatile ingredient. Coconut oil’s uses are limitless–it can withstand higher cooking temperatures, a healthier alternative to butter in baking, natural makeup remover, intensive moisturizer for dry skin, DIY hair masque, and so much more. Aside from those uses, I’ve tried a plethora of coconut-based products–coconut milk, coconut milk yogurt, coconut ice cream, coconut water, coconut chips (so addicting), coconut oil mayo, coconut oil butter, and even coconut jerky. (I’m starting to sound like Bubba from Forrest Gump.) I had a field day at the Nutiva booth. This company offers a plethora of products made with coconut. I’ve been living off the Costco tub of organic coconut oil and was so excited to learn about their other products. I sampled popcorn their Organic Buttery Coconut Oil and couldn’t get enough. On a different note, I look forward to trying their Organic Hazelnut Spread.
- Alternatives for the Intolerance – As food intolerances are on the rise, companies are finding creative ways for consumers to still enjoy their favorite foods. I ate a delicious Daiya Strawberry Cheesecake (free of dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, peanut, fish, shellfish) and wanted seconds. It was creamy and not overly sweet.
- Protein Power for Dinner and Dessert – Brands are using plant-based ingredients as peas, beans, edamame, and chickpeas to create protein-rich, gluten-free snacks, and pastas. I tried Explore Cuisine’s Organic Edamame Spaghetti. Don’t be fooled by the green-colored noodles, it was mighty satisfying and high in protein! Protein is usually associated with savory foods, but what about protein for dessert? I’ve seen a few products that incorporate protein into ice cream, cookies, and bake-at-home dessert mixes. The Amazing Grass Protein Superfood Chocolate Peanut Butter is my new favorite plant-based protein shake. It’s is a win-win for me because not only does it pack 20g of complete protein, it combines farm fresh greens and nutrient-dense fruits. Best of all? Their new flavor tastes decadent. I’ll definitely incorporate this shake as my post-workout refuel.
- Get Your Fermentation On – Bubbling with natural probiotic benefits, fermented foods and drinks are in the spotlight. Asian cultures already knew what’s up when they incorporated kimchi, natto, and fermented black beans as part of their daily diet. Kimchi and kombucha have gained popularity and are touted to contain good bacteria, similar to what’s in yogurt and promote gut health. I’m a fan of kombucha and feel like it aids in my digestion. Many kombucha companies sampled their fizzy drinks on tap and I enjoyed taking “shots” of various flavors. I discovered new probiotic-infused products as chips, crackers, hummus, and powdered drinks at the expo. I enjoyed chatting with the folks at Ora Organic and tried their Ora Trust Your Gut organic and plant-based probiotic drink. This apple and raspberry fruit blend promotes digestive health, immune function, mood balance, hair & skin health, and pathogen-fighting support–which is right up my alley.
- A Purposeful Philosophy – The today consumers have conscious living woven into the fabric of their lives and make informed decisions by keeping the environment in mind. Companies are going beyond and innovating brilliant ways to meet their needs for being socially responsible. It’s the “buy one, give one” business model, fair trade practices, and donating proceeds to non-profits that allow us to make an impact with each purchase. Pioneers in this philosophy are TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker, where with a purchase of their product, the company gives their product to a person in need. I met a few companies that not only provide jobs but housing and resources to their workers on the farms. It was a joy meeting President and CEO Melissa Kushi of HimalaSalt. She has such a lovely presence and is truly passionate about her company. Unlike other salt companies, HimalaSalt is the only Himalayan Salt manufacturer that produces all products in-house, located in a facility that is 100% powered by onsite Solar, and is Certified Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, and Kosher for Passover year round. It is also woman-owned certified and gives 5% of profits to sustainable agriculture.
- A Passion Story – There are a plethora of new companies emerging every year in this industry and, yes, it can be because they want to make money, but I’m learning there’s a deeper sentiment to their passion. The highlight of this expo is meeting the individuals behind the brands and hear their vision to change and improve people’s lives through healthy foods. I enjoy reading the “Our Story” or the “About Us” section of companies because it provides me context to understand the heartfelt purpose of the founders’ mission. I feel more connected to their brand and more inclined to want to support their mission. I learned that Daily Greens‘ founder, Shauna Martin, discovered her passion for green juice and its benefits following her battle with breast cancer as a young mom. She dedicates her life to helping people live their best lives with cold-pressed juices made with green veggies that are packed with rich nutrients, flavonoids, and fiber. As a fan of Bob’s Red Mill products for quite some time now, I geeked out when meeting Bob himself at the booth! He is truly a generous and kind-hearted visionary whose passion shows through his entrepreneurial spirit and brand. He was at the expo all day, every day, meeting and chatting with everyone. Truly an inspirational man.
- Trash to Treasure – Companies are upcycling waste from food production into nutritious products. Look out for brands like Barnana who use imperfect organic bananas previously tossed at farms to create potassium-rich snacks. I was first introduced to Barnana by a friend and been addicted to their Peanut Butter flavor ever since. Another company, CocoBurg, developed a vegan jerky using the meat typically discarded in the manufacture of coconut water. A delicious discovery is Pork Clouds. In an effort to improve the Chicharrón, they created light, fluffy crisps resembling clouds on a Summer afternoon… hence Pork Clouds. Their Pork Clouds are cooked in 100% olive oil and when it’s spent they filter it and turn it into soap. Their cinnamon ceylon reminds me of a light and airy churro.
- Certifications -Savvy brands are stepping up to show the consumers who they are, what they represent, and why they’re right for you. Through their products they’re creating an “open door policy”–showing the public they have nothing to hide. You may notice products containing certifications from the right organizations (like the USDA Organic and Fair-Trade labels) or a brief description of business practices (like grass-fed beef). This breathes trust and tells us what their product represents and why we should choose them over countless of other brands.
- Clear labeling – Having a certification label or a clear marking of certain ingredients are wonderful for those who either have a food allergy, are health conscious, or have an opinion of the products they use. We vote with our dollar and now food companies are required to identify trans fat on the nutrition label. On another note, I’m making a mindful effort to use paraben-free face products and it takes the guesswork out when brands make it clear of certain ingredients that are “made without” on the actual item. Keep in mind: It’s best to understand your own values, where you stand, and educate yourself on companies’ labeling and business practices. Not all labels are created equally, though. It blew my mind to learn that when it comes to buying eggs it can be quite confusing! The terms “cage-free” and “free-range” don’t mean the same. Even “organic & free range” doesn’t necessarily mean the hens have access to the grassy outdoors. Learn more about what makes happy hens at The Happy Egg Co.
It’s a trick-or-treater’s dream to attend this expo. I received loads of food, snacks, drinks, and skincare samples to try. Over the next several weeks I’ll be sharing my tried and true favorite products and brands.