My product picks, impressions, and standout moments from Natural Products Expo West 2014.
I’ve been to a lot of Expo Wests over the course of my 16 years with New Hope Natural Media, but I have to say, this one really took the (gluten-free) cake. Here’s a recounting of 8 things that made it special, memorable—and, in fact, my best.expo.ever.
1. The We.Blog team. Oh my gosh – this group was fantastic. In case you hadn’t heard, we recruited 12 wonderful natural food and lifestyle bloggers to help us cover the biggest show ever. And they knocked our socks off with enthusiasm, knowledge, social-media savvy, energy, creativity, patience (it was our first time trying something like this), and pure old-fashioned hard work. Thanks to sponsor Luvo, we got them together for lunch on Saturday, which was a blast too (and delicious). Be sure to check out deliciousliving.com and newhope360.com for their product picks as well as blogs about the events they attended. I feel like I made 12 new friends for life!
2. The Bhakti Chai yoga session. Words just about fail me on this one. The Bhakti team brought out musician Michael Franti and L.A. yoga teacher Mary Beth Larue to put on a pre-show yoga event Friday morning outside on the Grand Plaza. The energy … the music … and, there’s no other way to say it, the love and joy that came out of this 90 minute session was absolutely magical. I truly believe it set the tone for the entire weekend as one of mutual commitment to a higher, healthy purpose for people everywhere.
3. The Specialty Diets workshop. I had the pleasure of moderating this Thursday session, and I learned so much—new things about the gluten-free world (since I cover this regularly, that’s saying something), a whole new appreciation for halal and the Muslim consumer (an enormous and growing market), and several ah-ha moments from Chad Sarno, the keynote speaker, whose passion to teach people to cook whole, plant-based foods was beyond inspiring. I’m psyched to check out Chad’s new partnership with the Rouxbe Online Cooking School, which has the potential to change the way we deal with food in this country; in his view, doctors will soon actually prescribe real food—and how to cook it—for their patients. And the gourmet vegan lunch he made for workshop attendees … wowza!
4. Hall of Legends. As we New Hopers divvied up jobs before the show, I volunteered to help with interviews for the 2014 Hall of Legends honorees. What I didn’t realize was that I’d get one-on-one time with some of my all-time heroes: David and Ralph Bronner, Nell Newman, Margaret Wittenberg, Cheryl Hughes, and more. They were delightful, authentic, and of course inspiring. Pinch me!
5. Introducing Raj Patel. This was another last-minute opportunity (thanks, Fred). I had interviewed Raj for NewHope360 and the March/Expo issue of Natural Foods Merchandiser, but we’d never met. I deeply admire his soulful work regarding food justice, so I was profoundly honored to introduce him as the show’s keynote speaker. I also loved his energetic and entertaining talk, especially the takeaway message for changing our broken food systems: Break Some Rules!
6. Hanging out at the Delicious Living booth on Saturday afternoon. At every show, I try to set aside two hours to sit at our little booth. That time is precious to me—I get to meet and talk with people who tell me the most wonderful stories about their passions, their products, and why they do what they do. (That's me with Kent Zeller from Queen Bee Gardens, a family business in Wyoming that makes honey products.) It never fails to energize me and remind me how lucky I am to work in an industry with such heartfelt, real people.
7. Inspired products. Every single year I think there’s no way I’ll see anything particularly innovative again. Can there possibly be something novel in snacks or bars? Could water ever be interesting or creative? Isn’t gluten free done yet? Once again, I was proven wrong. Check out these galleries for a few of my favorites.
8. Last but not least … just in case my heart needed one more crazy pump of love … My son got engaged on Friday afternoon during Expo! I got a text from him during a short break I was taking outside, and I literally screamed—and then accosted the first stranger passing by to show him the photo of my soon-to-be daughter-in-law with the ring, and my son beaming at her side. A happy day indeed.