The Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, CA is the West Coast’s largest health foods trade show. It’s been referred to as “CandyLand for adults,” and after attending, I agree heartily with that descriptor. We went Friday and we were planning on going back today, but unfortunately little Bill is not having a good weekend so we decided to stay home.
On Friday we visited only a fraction of the booths (it’s way too much to take in in one day), meaning my review here is missing the great bulk and majority of exhibitors, and merely highlights some of what stood out to me, both good and bad. I could have spent the entire day just in the basement, where they keep new products, as those were some of the most interesting ones. We are all familiar with Amy’s Organics (they had an entire cafe set up) and Zico coconut water, so it was much more interesting to me to see smaller and newer companies. It was also fascinating to learn how little or how much the demo reps for the brands knew about the people they were hired to present! Some were incredibly well-versed in their brands, while others didn’t have even a minimal clue about what they were trying to sell and couldn’t answer even the simplest questions.
My favorite new finds:
Comvita was sampling their manuka honey and olive leaf extract. They sell manuka honeys with 20+ umf levels, which are the highest you can generally find. Umf stands for unique manuka factor, and represents the level of antibiotic properties in the honey. Manuka honey is used by the Maori tribe of New Zealand, and has been used historically for its antibiotic, antibacterial, and antimicrobial qualities. It was even approved recently for use in hospitals to treat antbiotic-resistant MRSA, a terrible form of staph.
Comvita’s olive leaf extract liquid is unique in that it is made of fresh olive leaves, not dried like the capsules I take to keep Lyme in remission. It was peppermint flavored and while not tasty, was palatable. I plan on ordering it because it is more bioavailable than capsules, as well as more potent.
Inner-eco sells coconut kefir, which in the past I have found too awful tasting to ever get used to. I made it myself for a spell, but could never get past its vinegary smell and flavor. Through the addition of stevia and natural flavors, Inner-eco has rendered the very healthy probiotic beverage delightful. While I am not a fan of natural flavors in general, if they make coconut kefir tasty, I’m completely on board.
One brand I’d been looking forward to trying at the Expo was Swerve Sweeteners, which is a form of erythritol that they claim tastes as sweet as sugar; erythritol usually never gets beyond 70% sweetness. Alas, I never noticed their booth, but I did find Eco-BeeCo, a blend of erythritol, stevia, maltodextrin and honey with a pronounced honey flavor. I’m not very well read on maltodextrin, so I don’t have an opinion on it, but it’s good to know that there are options for cup-for-cup baking, especially with honey flavor. However, I couldn’t find any info about where they source the honey from on their site, so I am unlikely to buy this and am more just throwing it out there for people looking for other sugar free options besides the commercially popular TruVia.
Brands that I got fun samples from and enjoyed speaking with:
Redmond RealSalt, unlike Himalayan salt, is an American product. It comes from what was an ancient sea in Central Utah, and was discovered by Native Americans in 1959. It contains over 60 trace minerals, and I’ve been using it quite happily for about two years. When I say “Himalayan salt” in recipes, I mean RealSalt, I’ve just never bothered discussing it before. The adorable little shakers they gave away of it should be able to sway anyone! It’s cheaper than Himalayan salt, supports the American economy, and is equally healthful. And pink. Because, really, pink is important.
SunWarrior raw vegan protein powder is something I’d wanted to try for awhile, so the ability to both sample a pre-made shake as well as take a packet for later was fun. I enjoyed their shake a lot, and not just because it had banana in it and I’m completely sugar-starved on a candida cleanse. Yesterday morning I used the packet at home in a shake along with sugar-free So Delicious coconut milk, baby spinach, and ice. It is the first raw vegan protein I’ve found that isn’t chalky at all, and I definitely plan on ordering it from iHerb once I’m running low on my current powder. Pictured on top is an “ancient grains” granola that I unfortunately threw out the packaging for before photographing. And, of course, that’s Chessie giving it her seal (or, well, mouth) of approval.
While I’ve never used Mountain Rose Herbs before, now that I’ve scored a slew of awesome bumper stickers from them, I’m inclined to give them a try. Other ones I got where the typical “Support Organic Farmers,” “I <3 Herbs!” and “The Best Things in Life Are Organic.” The reps were friendly, and I wish they’d had some actual product samples.
Companies that would’ve been better served having reps who knew their products:
The first question that I, and several other attendees at this booth at the same time asked, was, “How is this product different from almond milk?” The reps for Victoria’s Kitchen had no idea what almond milk was, or how it was made. In fact, they didn’t even seem too sure what “almond water” was, either. The employee kept stating, “It has no milk,” as if almond milk contained dairy. This product is sugar water with almond flavoring. Not a health food in the slightest, this beverage contains 30 grams of sugar in a 16 oz bottle and has no nutritive value of any type.
We stopped at the futurebiotics booth wondering if the white kindey bean extract they had on display was for kidneys. (It isn’t, it’s a carb blocker.) We use this brand’s probiotic, and I recognized the packaging so I asked her a question about that product. The rep had no idea they even sold a probiotic supplement. Shouldn’t people at least be given a list of all the company’s supplements, even if only a few are on display?
These people were sampling their ActiveX protein bars they said were, “raw, vegan, and organic.” I looked at the ingredients after tasting a sample bc it seemed very not-raw, and the first ingredient was peanut butter. I asked, “Do you use jungle peanuts, since there is no such thing as raw peanut butter?” Peanuts contain aflatoxin, a mold that can only be removed through roasting. Jungle peanuts are the only type of peanut that don’t have that mold, and are therefore safe to eat raw, but you rarely find them in protein bars. The rep asked what a jungle peanut was, and I explained. He then said he didn’t know, but that I could ask the manufacturer. Upon closer look, the second ingredient was brown rice syrup, which is also a cooked ingredient. These bars may be organic, but they are certainly not raw in the slightest and should not be marketed as such. To make me dislike them further, their website just crashed my browser and I nearly had a heart attack when I got logged out of wordpress and thought I lost everything I typed so far on this blog. Aside: thanks, wordpress, for being so on top of auto-saving. You rock.
Whether or not these reps knew their products, I can’t say, because they were too busy ignoring us to even say hello. I tried interacting, but both women just stared at me blankly and didn’t speak. Though I have bought their products plenty in the past, I am a bit less inclined to do so now. They were speaking to one another when we walked up, but stopped as I stood there glancing at samples, so it wasn’t as if they were too engaged in their own conversation. The lack of response to my mentioning that I bought their crackers, and asking if it was ok to take a sample, was the opposite of how a business should behave. They did not say a single word in reply, though they looked right at me. I am your customer. Don’t you know that being too cool to do your job by interacting is going to make me choose a different brand of food next time I’m at the store?
The FrankenFood Award goes to:
I feel the same about this stuff as I do meat from a test tube: progresive idea, but creepy. EarthSpring Foods has found a way to get the estrogen out of soy, which is great, but again, creepy. They claim they also remove the phytates, or anti-nutrients, that regular soy is full of. I don’t personally eat soy, except in small doses of its fermented forms, because of both the phytates and estrogens it is so full of. So, if you are looking to feed the world soy, this may be a better alternative, and they have numerous forms of it including powder, paste, butter, milk and flour. But if you are just looking to eat food- regular, real, unadulterated food- you are probably best served avoiding this (as well as most other soy products).
My crowning jewel of the day:
Dr. Andrew Weil was a staple in my 1980s holistic home; my parents had his books, watched him on PBS, etc. He, along with Dr. Mercola, was one of the first medical doctors to publicize the need for integrative medicine. I’ve eaten at his restaurant as well, so seeing him there was a total starstruck moment. Ace insisted I get a photo with him, even though she and I both feel like hell lately and weren’t much in a picture mood. I also saw Cat Cora, but she was on her way out and the last thing I wanted to do was be invasive and stop her for a photo.
Because my brand wasn’t exhibiting this year, I feel like my attendance was a valuable lesson in how to properly exhibit and interact with customers. Next year I look forward to Rawk-n-Roll Cuisine hopefully being a vendor at ExpoWest, and plan on doing everything possible to emulate the brands I most enjoyed here.