Whenever I’m chatting with someone new and say “I’m in the natural foods industry,” I usually receive that kind of vacant nodding response followed by an ambiguous “Ohhhh.” It’s the same response that I, in turn, likely offer when someone tells me they’re in the field of, say, “computer science.” (I still really have no idea what that means – my apologies.) But for every blank stare I provoke, I wish I could arrange for an immediate tour of a Natural Products Expo. These 3 day events never fail as a huge, tangible reminder of the real “natural food business,” complete with the newest cool projects underway, as well as all the amazing people behind the scenes (and sometimes leading the scene!) that are making the healthy and green choices in our grocery stores, well, happen.
There are 2 major expos in the US each year — one on the west coast, one on the east coast. This year, the eastern expo was held in Baltimore, which I went to of course. I completely forgot to take pictures, but it’s probably a good thing considering the overwhelming humidity and my hair’s magnimous response (ever the reliable barometer). Frizzy lioness look-alike aside, I was able to gather some good info on a collection of healthy stuff — just a sampling of what to keep an eye out for.
New Products & Trends
Truly, there are new products being launched right and left at these sorts of events, including the fantastic new superfood Navitas Power Snacks that I essentially lived off of for 3 days straight (unintentional, but frankly quite successful!). I was also thrilled to watch the unveiling of Vega Sport, an extensive new line of natural products for active lifestyles – including an electrolyte formula that won Best New Product! The ready-made raw food snack category is continuing to grow, and though I would much rather make my own, I did try some tasty kale chips.
One new “trendy” ingredient that kept coming up over and over again was coconut. Between coconut water, coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut sugar (which is the same thing as palm sugar), coconut snacks and SO much more, coconut seemed to be on every company’s mind/tongue! I’m happy to see manufacturers looking to coconuts as a good source of healthy and natural fats, a healthier sugar option, or even as a way of getting nature-made electrolytes. But I’m wary of the escalating hype of coconut being a cure-all food. It’s a great natural food with some bona fide benefits, it’s sustainable to grow, and it also tastes delicious. End of story.
New People & Projects
Sure it’s fun to taste every product you could dream of finding at Whole Foods, but what’s even more fun is meeting all the people behind the products and information. Though I spent most of my time with the wonderful folks at the Navitas Naturals booth (that’s me with Navitas’ president, Wes Crain, in the photo above), it was inevitable to run into some natural food rockstars. One highlight was engaging with Chris Kilham, aka the Medicine Hunter, who is overflowing with worldly expertise about superfoods and medicinal plants, and can back that knowledge with hands-on stories about the cultures that grow them. The amazing people from one of New York’s favorite sustainable restaurants Candle 79 were also on hand, bubbling with excitement about their beautiful new cookbook due out in November. The one and only chef Jason Wrobel was also a treat to chat with, whose DVD and classes on vegan/raw foods are action-packed with awesome. And I also ran into the lovely Mimi Clark, aka the Veggie Gourmet, whose superb vegan cooking classes are practically a vegetarian household name.
Additionally, I had the great pleasure of meeting up with one of my favorite people, Gena Hamshaw, who is the founder of the highly acclaimed website Choosing Raw (and who coincidentally also helped to proof my book, Superfood Cuisine!). And I even got a bonus the day after the expo was over: after attending Brendan Brazier’s talk in the area, the good conversation was a-flowin’ with an old friend, vegan bodybuilder and author Robert Cheeke, as well as new friend, Matt Frazier of No Meat Athlete.
Maybe I’ll see you there next year?
Lastly, THANK YOU to everyone who entered the Thrive Giveaway! I loved reading all your comments! Congratulations to the randomly selected* winner Katrina (comment 17) who will receive a signed copy of Thrive Foods! Didn’t win? Chin up — I may just have another giveaway soon…
*Winner randomly generated by random.org