Simple Palate: REPORT: Natural Products Expo West

Competitor’s Cielestia Calbay reports on three days worth of the latest and greatest from the natural, organic and fair trade foods industries.

Written by: Cielestia Calbay

Picture this: Costco Sample Sunday on a health buzz.

That’s what the 2011 Natural Products Expo West encompassed last Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., where it was home to three days worth of the latest and greatest from the natural, organic and fair trade foods industries.

This year showed the largest number of exhibits in its 31-year history, as it attracted more than 58,000 attendees and hosted 3,533 – a 6 percent increase from last year – from more than 35 countries.

It was everything I expected in a health and wellness trade show – a melting pot of gluten-free everything, foreign-sounding food products claiming to be the next superfood (which could possibly be a whole post in itself) and just about every supplement dedicated to make you leaner and faster.

Upon arrival, guests were treated to a sparkling wine bar and greeted by a flamboyant jazz band – fittingly, since the Magic Kingdom was just across the street.

Sustainability was a key factor as the convention shined a green light a number of exhibitors including WhiteWave Foods, whose “Green Means Go” initiative educated attendees on proper energy use and waste reduction. Even New Hope Media, the company that runs the expo, had gone green – with its paperless press room and the discontinued use of plastic badge holders.

Aside from the standard competition of who can draw in the most visitors, vendors like attempted to outshine in each other in booth display. From the faux green pastures at the Odwalla booth to acoustic guitarists at the Lara Bar booth to an appearance by Jillian Michaels at the SoDelicious booth to horse rides provided by Organic Valley, there was no shortage of gimmicks and costumes in the contest for most outrageous exhibit display.

Courtesy of GlutenFreeVille.com

Despite its extensive lineup of seminars and tours, crowds seemed to be more interested in the organic ice cream bars, beers and chocolate infused stations than the convention’s educational services.

Regardless, the expo was a great source for expanding current consumer knowledge and putting industry myths to rest.

** Follow the next Simple Palate post for trend highlights from the show. **

This year’s sister trade show, Natural Products Expo East, returns to Baltimore, Md., Sept. 21-24.

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Cielestia Calbay is the associate editor of Competitor Magazine. If she’s not at the office, you’ll probably find her outdoors or scouring the area for the nearest juice bar. She can be reached at ccalbay@competitorgroup.com or @ccalbay

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