By Anna Soref
Editor in Chief
As part of my job as editor in chief of Calmful Living I get to attend Natural Products Expo West each March in Anaheim, California—the largest natural products show on Earth. If this sounds a bit like a famous circus slogan, it’s apropos. Expo, as it’s referred to, is indeed a circus; but with more than seventy thousand attendees, it’s got a lot more than three rings.
Ostensibly Expo is for retailers to learn about new products and nutrition and shop for their stores; and with over three thousand booths offering food and beverage, personal care, cleaning and textile products, the shopping is top-notch. But Expo is as much about community as it is about shopping.
Bands play all day outside the Anaheim Convention Center’s plaza in front of the convention halls. Coming in from Cleveland, I was one of thousands soaking in every moment of sun I could as music played. An artist drew a huge chalk drawing on the pavement as attendees met up with longtime friends and colleagues and caught up while tasting a new flavor of kombucha or chia-seed pudding from the outside booths. Earlier that morning hundreds gathered here for yoga alfresco.
Inside the convention halls the palpable energy pulses in the air as the three-day indoor natural city thrives. A ragtag but earnest marching-band line of Bob’s Red Mill employees snakes its way through the show floor; at one booth you can get your aura read. While many of the veteran natural brands like Twinlab, Natural Vitality, Celestial Seasonings and Kiss My Face hold court in large impressive booths on the upper level, down below hundreds of newbie companies enthusiastically tout their products from much humbler setups in the basement.
The educational sessions range from a keynote from the New York Times’ Mark Bittman to how to label-read more effectively and why authenticity is so important. You can never fault the naturals industry for lack of passionate discussion.
Having been in the natural products industry for my entire twenty-one-year career, it’s been fun to watch the show grow and morph. Many people complain that it, and the industry, isn’t what it used to be; they point to all the “suits” and diminishing scent of patchouli on the show floor. But if our ultimate goal is to promote healthy eating, organic farming and awareness of issues like GMOs, then bigger is better in my book.
Here are some standout products from among the hundreds I glimpsed at the show:
Maple Water www.drinkhappytree.com
I loved the delicate earthy and sweet flavor of this water that flows from maple trees each spring. The companies making it claim it contains myriad vitamins and minerals, although one maple expert I spoke with was dubious. But I would certainly sip on this tasty water.
Blossom Flax Mill www.spiceratchet.com
We know that to get the benefit of flaxseed it needs to be ground before eating, so these nifty seed grinders caught my attention.
Purple Frog Patches www.purplefrogpatches.com
Each of these one-inch stickers contains a capsule with a blend of aromatherapy oils. You simply pop the capsule by pushing on the sticker and you get about a day’s worth of scent. The blends include Insect Shielder, Snooze Button and Air Awakening.
Garden in a Can www.backtotheroots.com
These cute cans contain organic soil and seeds to easily grow basil and cilantro on your windowsill.
This delish nut butter combines seven seeds and nuts—peanuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, cashews and almonds—for a balanced blend that can be used like peanut butter and comes in a variety of flavors.