Natural Products Expo West!

As a blogger of parenting and organic and natural products, I had the opportunity to attend the Natural Products Expo West at the Anaheim Convention Center on March 11, 2011. The Natural Products Expo West is the largest expo of natural and organic products that is opened only to the natural products industry. At the Expo, virtually every company in the organic and natural products and food industry were presented and each had their own booth to showcase new products as well as introduce their flagship products to attendees.

I visited some of my favorite companies and wanted to touch base with them and meet some of the folks personally. Popchips, Stonyfield Farm, Earth Friendly Products, Seventh Generation, Organic Valley, Attune Foods, Honest Tea, Amy’s Kitchen, Earthbound Farm, and Snikiddy to name a few were all there and they had some really fun booths and samples to try. I was also excited to meet some new companies and see what they had to offer. Most of the companies at the show displayed all of their current products as well as any new products that they were introducing yet not out on the market. It was pretty exciting to see all of the newest products debuting at the show as well as talking first hand to the marketing and sales group about their latest gems. And let me just say, some of the companies were pretty generous with their samples – they were giving out full size samples as well as little gifts if you were lucky enough to be there when they were handing them out.

But as generous as some of the companies were with their samples and prizes, I saw way too many freeloaders grabbing up bagfuls and handfuls of free samples and gifts.  By the time anyone else got to the booths, all of the samples were gone or the companies pulled them off the shelves for fear of losing their entire stock. A couple of instances I saw some ladies grab boxes full of cookies and bread off the shelves not even pondering if maybe those were just display items and NOT samples. I mean, hey, it’s okay to take one or two but if you’re grabbing them by the handfuls, I wonder – what are you planning on doing with all of those samples? Are they going to eat all of them, give them away, or sell them on the Black Market? Buyers beware: be on the lookout for illegally-obtained organic crackers and cookies.

And yet, it was still nice to see some of my favorite companies generously doling out full size products such as chips, drinks, tea, shampoo, etc. It made me believe in their motto – that they just wanted to spread the good word of their naturally-made products. Although I didn’t have time to visit every single booth(I was there with my son) and he and I had too much fun playing games at some of the booths set up at the hall entrances, it was definitely worth the time seeing all of the new products that will be out on the market in the coming months.

Some of the highlights of the show were a visit from some of the characters from Yo Gabba Gabba and a tossing game with gel-like balls from the folks at Revolution Foods.  At the Revolution Foods game booth, if your ball landed on a point, you get a prize such as yogurt drops, beads, and my son got a big bouncy ball because he landed on a high number. There was also a 1978 Volkswagon Van (Transporter) that was fully decorated as Rudi’s Organic Bakery’s mascot. And at the Happy Family booth, a grown-up man dressed in a onesie went around passing out their snacks. That was a little disconcerting to see, but I was told that the owners of the company orginally had their young children as mascots but they were too tired from the day before so it was replaced by a grown up. At Stonyfield Farm, they were debuting their newest Greek yogurt and my son got a cute little bib and an Eric Carle growth chart. And then at the booth of Nana’s Cookie Company, perhaps my son’s favorite stop,  was seeing “George” from Curious George. He and George spent a great amount of time shaking hands, high-fiving, and taking photos. In fact, they seemed almost inseperable, like long lost friends! It was indeed a fun and educational experience.

Perhaps one of the great things about the Natural Products Expo West is the fact that the companies who attended donated all of their remaining food and samples to the local food bank – Second Harvest Food Bank. So in light of that, it makes me even more disappointed that folks would greedily take the good stuff from other folks who are less fortunate than them and who probably very rarely have the chance to enjoy organic and natural foods.

However, on the last day of the show, as we were walking out, I did ask to take a full size bag of natural potato chip(from a company I just discovered and wanted to try) and I was told rather sternly, “just take one bag”. Perhaps the companies caught on to all the other folks sneaking away with their goods? 

But overall, the Natural Products Expo is a wonderful opportunity for store owners, vendors, wholesalers, and anything relatable to learn about the organic and natural products and food industry. So for those of you who find joy in eating and purchasing organic and natural products, pay attention to your natural food stores and supermarkets as the newest products from some of your favorite companies will be out soon.

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