Exploring Natural Products Expo West 2018
Last month, we had the delightful opportunity to attend the 38th Annual Natural Products Expo West, the world’s largest natural, organic, and healthy products event. As always, we excitedly countdown the days to this mecca of whole foods and healthy lifestyle products. We were among the record-breaking 85,000 attendees perusing 3,521 exhibitors, including more than 600 first-time exhibitors. We sure logged in some serious miles during this multi-day event packed with tasting delectable foods, getting our learn on with educational seminars, and meeting innovative brands and their founders during March 7th-11th at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Trends & Highlights at Natural Products Expo West 2018 // Part 1 – Food Edition
The rise in superfoods has been powering up everywhere for the past several years. Some trendy superfoods come and go, but many are integral ingredients and are here to stay.
- Acai – This antioxidant-rich OG superfood is still going strong. I’m still addicted to making acai bowls topped with cacao nibs, sliced bananas, granola, and a touch of honey.
- Charcoal – I’m not a fan of charcoal drinks, but as of late, people have been ingesting charcoal in other forms. Known for its detoxifying properties and absorbing toxins, people take charcoal pills after a night of drinking or alcohol-fueled celebratory weekends. I prefer to use it in the form of a face mask.
- Chia seeds – Another OG to this category, this powerhouse ingredient is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. We add chia seeds to our smoothies and coconut milk pudding (adds to that jelly texture).
- Coconut – Coconut is seriously, E V E R Y W H E R E. I’m not complaining because I love this stuff for my daily cuisine and beauty regimen. You’d commonly see coconut in the following forms: coconut water, coconut milk, and coconut oil. This ubiquitous product has so many life forms now. On the Expo West floor at Nutiva and Carrington Farms, we’ve also seen coconut sugar, coconut flour, coconut protein powder, and coconut flakes. Just a note: Coconut is rich in saturated fats and may not be for everyone. So continue to educate yourself to find what forms, if any, works with your lifestyle. (Also refer to the ^ note below.)
- Fermented Foods – Bubbling with natural probiotic benefits, fermented foods and drinks are in the spotlight. Asian cultures already knew what’s up when they incorporated fermented foods like kimchi, natto, and 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. As a fan of kombucha and kimchi, I feel it aids in my digestion and tastes delicious. Crazy to think probiotic-infused products have also expanded to hot sauce, bars, chips, crackers, hummus, and powdered drinks.
- Hemp seeds – Aside from hemp seeds being exceptionally rich in essential fatty acids, we like their mild, nutty flavor. Expo West introduced us to Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts and we’ve been sprinkling them on cereal, oatmeal, yogurts, and smoothies for years. We love some spice in our lives and look forward to trying their Toasted Hemp Seeds Sriracha flavor.
- Matcha – An antioxidant powerhouse, matcha boosts metabolism, calms the mind, detoxifies the body, enhances mood, and aids in digestion. I sampled Tea Riot Matcha Rise and it’s the perfect union of organic cold-pressed tea, fruits, and veggies. It gave me a boost of balance energy and nutrient wellness.
- Premium ramen – Although we still love us some Nong Shim Instant Shin Ramyun, we’re curious to try premium ramen brands like Koyo Ramen. This is not your typical packaged ramen–their noodles are organic, vegan, and no MSG added. We have a couple camping trips planned and this premium ramen will be the perfect item to add to our convenient campsite meals.
- Seaweed – Thanks to their impressive nutritional profile, seaweed is packed with minerals, fiber, and vitamins, while being low in calories and fat. It’s also the secret umami ingredient in a lot of Asian cooking. Seaweed comes in various forms and I enjoy it most in soups, as a salad, and a crunchy snack. I just had to stop by the SeaSnax and C-Weed Snack booths to check out their new products.
- Turmeric – A mainstay in Ayurvedic medicinal healing, turmeric is touted to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. We use turmeric in soups and curries, but lately, I’ve been digging them in my drinks. When I travel or go camping, I often like to wind down with Turmeric Tea Drops. This no-fuss, convenient way of drinking turmeric is perfect for on the go individuals because each Tea Drop contains turmeric and coconut sugar. Just add water and stir. My other favorite discovery is Gaia Herbs’ Golden Milk, as mentioned in my Expo West 2017 recap post.
Waste Not – From Trash to Treasure
Over the years, an increasing number of companies have been creative with upcycling excess food from production into nutritious products. At this year’s Expo West, we discovered Wildbrine, a revolutionary company that not only makes fermented krauts, kimchi, salsas, and sauces that are tasty and beneficial to gut health but concentrate on utilizing the entire food product. Speaking with Owner Rick Goldberg, he explains after they make kimchi, they puree the excess cabbage core to make their sriracha hot sauces. They also make probiotic shots from the leftover brine of the ferment batches.
Alternatives for the Intolerance
As food intolerances are on the rise–whether it’s a health condition or lifestyle choice– companies are finding innovative ways for you to still enjoy their favorite foods.
My family first introduced me to Jackson’s Honest after they saw the company on Shark Tank. They even went out to Whole Foods to buy a couple bags of their organic potato chips cooked in coconut oil. We made sure to stop by Jackson’s Honest booth at Expo West and ended up talking with Founder Scott Reamer. His passion for educating the consumer and creating nutrient-dense foods while bringing back sustainability shows through the brand and our conversation. As a lover of chips and anything crunchy, I tried Jackson’s Honest Grain Free Puffs, a classic snack made with cassava flour, sweet potatoes, peas, and coconut oil.
Explore Cuisine uses plant-based ingredients as peas, beans, edamame, and chickpeas to create protein-rich, gluten-free snacks, and pastas. Ever since my dad had to change his diet to low-carb, high protein foods, we’ve been cooking Explore Cuisine’s pastas and he loves them!
Munk Pack Protein Cookies come in decadent flavors and keep you fueled and feeling good on the go. Each protein cookie contains no sugar alcohols, no gluten, no soy, no dairy, and no eggs.
Companies are in-tune with eco-conscious consumers and are responding with focusing on regenerative agriculture and other measurable actions to protect the environment.
Patagonia Provisions (of Patagonia clothing fame–they make food now!) pledge to “heal the harm” by supporting regenerative agriculture by reducing the carbon footprint, building soil health, and crop resilience. Watch the Unbroken Ground trailer, a compelling Patagonia Provisions film, explaining the critical role food will play and efforts to combat climate change.
We attended Friday’s keynote seminar featuring founders Jennifer Gardner and John Foraker of Once Upon a Farm. Their mission is to provide nutritious “farm-to-family” foods to kids of all ages, especially focusing on child nutrition education in rural America. They also shared their focus and goals of holistic and regenerative farming practices.
More Natural Products Expo West Shenanigans
^ Just a Note: As the saying goes, one size doesn’t fit all. We write from our observations and experiences. We’re enthusiasts of all things healthy and strive to educate ourselves in this industry. So continue to educate yourself to find what foods and products you like and what works for your lifestyle.
– ICYMI –
Read our Top 10 Healthy Snack Dupes to Your Favorite Junk Foods, here.
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