Healthy living and eating grows ever popular as evidence by the throngs of people from all over who crowded into the Anaheim Convention Center to learn about the products featured at Natural Products Expo West, March 8-10.
The 33rd year old expo that started out small but has blossomed along with the industry of organic, healthy and natural products, welcomed around 63,000 visitors to review products from 2,428 companies, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year. More than 600 of those companies were first- timers – a strong, compelling number that reflects continued interest in the industry, said spokeswoman Heather Smith. The Nutracon and Engredea trade show for ingredients, packaging and equipment shared space with the expo and reported a record attendance with 275 exhibitors and 9,000 buyers.
“Originally we were in the main convention center halls,” said Smith. “Now we’ve gone down into Hall E, which is hot products, and this year we sold out of that space in record time so that we have this whole next new product pavilion in these ball rooms. We’re taking over more and more space because of these new brands and new products.”
The afternoon before the expo launch, fledgling vendors had a chance to display their certified organic products at the Fresh Ideas Organic Marketplace tent set up outside the convention center.
One popular booth featured taste testing of Chilean wines “I’m all out of wine,” said a smiling Jakob Pippin as he stood behind a tasting area splattered red with wine stains. The booth had seen a lot of foot traffic just two hours into the event. California is a huge market for Chilean wines, noted Pippin.
A contingency of vendors from Chile filled one row of the venue to promote products such as tea, herbs, wine, olive oil and baby food. Some are just starting out, others like Hernan Peralta’s company Garden of the Andes is well established. The family-owned business exports its premium organic teas to 27 countries around the world, including Japan, where the No.1 favorite flavor is peppermint, Peralta said.
Heavy hitter Whole Foods Market announced its commitment to full transparency by 2018 for genetically-modified organism (GMO). “This compelling news is an important next step for the industry, possible legislation and ultimately consumers,” said Fred Linder, president of New Hope Natural Media, the event’s owner.
A major target of new product development at this year’s expo incorporated digestive health, immunity and probiotics. Paleo diet and plant based diets are also trending right now, according to Smith. Also big this year were gluten free and other allergen-free products that seek to meet the growing demand among consumers who have mild to severe reactions to some food ingredients. Other vendors showcased a spread of sprouted and fermented foods, healthy snacks, vegan products and child-conscious items.
“People love our frozen yogurt,” said Kathy Kim, owner and founder of Cloud Top Yogurt as she handed out samples of the chilly desert.
Kim pointed out key selling points for her product. It is certified organic, has a nice texture and tastes good, she said. The company also has a vegan coconut version that is dairy-free and soy-free.
Evidence of the rising popularity of coconuts was everywhere. Vendors touted their nutritional value and taste and displayed products such as coconut water, oil and cookies. The water is great for hydration, oil can be used to smooth your skin or cook your dinner and cookies satisfy a sweet tooth. For celebrity watchers, there was even sample popcorn flavored with brand new Ziggy Marley’s Coco’mon flavored coconut oils in lemon ginger, curry or orange almond. Expo West is with no doubt a west coast showcase for innovative food products.