The 36th annual Expo West Trade show had more than 70,000 attendees this year in Anaheim, CA.

Unwrapping Expo West

Natural Foods Industry Report

As Walter Robb from Whole Foods Market said, “This is no longer the natural foods industry. This is the food industry. The 36th annual Natural Products Expo West pushes that message further by hosting the leading trade show in the natural, organic and healthy products industry.

This conference is for the change makers and trendsetters who are leading the movement in the natural foods industry. It is about the “un-doing” of processed food, bringing it back to its natural state (away from the chemicals and artificial additives), where food can be food again.

As a former exhibitor myself, this conference has truly changed my life’s trajectory. It opened my eyes to organics and eco-living. Most importantly, it’s the foundation for living a healthier lifestyle. I found my tribe at Expo five years ago, and I never looked back.

Here are some of my highlights from this year’s trade show.

Community and Connection

Optimism, purpose and passion were the three takeaways of the conference. In the whirlwind 48 hours I attended, I did outdoor yoga with Michael Franti, attended panels with leading industry executives and enjoyed vegan food alongside Gardenburger founder Paul Wenner. The expo is about connecting with more than 70,000 industry professionals who understand your passion (and geekery) about healthy, organic food. I can’t think of anything better.

Musician Michael Franti strummed the guitar and sang while dozens of people practiced yoga on-stage.

Musician Michael Franti strummed the guitar and sang while dozens of people practiced yoga on-stage.

 

The event featured panel discussions and a variety of speakers including Adam Melonas, the chef and founder of Chew. Here he is talking about his organization and his vision for the future of the food industry.

Adam Melonas.

“Junk is Junk. Food is food. Here beginneth the lesson”
– Adam Melonas, chef and founder of Chew

Adam Melonas also coined the term “discovery eating” at a panel discussion about the need to humanize and normalize food so that the worlds of gastronomy and grocery work together. Because when food becomes food again, we eradicate the need for a health food industry.

Market Trends

At Expo West, there were several key trends that emerged. Tech and food is big. I saw a lot of companies that were direct to consumer. In 2016, I predict a shift to more direct-to-consumer and e-commerce brands, like the healthy snack delivery company NatureBox. Snacking has evolved, with a clear demand for higher quality food. Another big trend I see is a shift to pre-industrialized foods, with a “closer to nature” approach (think of the paleo diet as an example). Probiotics are also on trend and fueling the industry, with recent food science studies looking into the microbiome and gut-health connection.

Favorite Products

From tasty to quirky, here is a list of my favorite products from the more than 3,000 that were featured at the event.

Cultured & Saucy—With prebiotic and probiotic benefits, these fermented sauces and spicy umami onions are not only delicious, but are also great for your overall gut health. They’re also produced locally in Santa Barbara.

Writer Rachel Hommel getting cultured and saucy with company owners Simone and Lauren Temkin of Cultured Cuisines.

Writer Rachel Hommel getting cultured and saucy with company owners Simone and Lauren Temkin of Cultured Cuisines.

Belicious—Campers rejoice! Belicious aims to bring nutrition and fun together by offering real food in a pouch for on-the-go meals. The squeezable products are savory (not sweet) and are minimally processed.

Mama O’s Premium Super Spicy Kimchi—I love kimchi, and kimchi loves me. This spicy kimchi offers a real kick with ghost chilies. Mild kimchi lovers need not apply.

Numoo by Juisi Nut Milks—We get it. Nut milk is big business. But have you tried pistachio milk? One of the most nutritious, this product is free of junky additives and sweetened with dates.

Nümoo is a brand of nut milks that range from pistachio to cashew.

Nümoo is a brand of nut milks that range from pistachio to cashew.

Raw Food Central’s Curt’s Classic Super Food Seasoning—Great for pizza, potatoes, and salads, it’s packed with ingredients like kale, cashews, sunflower seeds, and onions.

Fire Cider Tonic—I think this tasty tonic will kick any bug out of your system. This tasty tonic will kick any bug out of your system. It includes horseradish and habanero pepper.

Chapul Cricket Bars/Powder—Crickets + Chocolate? With its high Vitamin B12 content and twice as much protein as beef, crickets could be the next big powerhouse protein.

Addictive Wellness Chocolates—This raw, unsweetened chocolate is a winner, made with the highest quality ingredients, 89 percent cacao, and it’s dairy-free. It’s also chemical-free and diabetic friendly.

Future of the Natural Foods Movement

As the Natural Products Expo West demonstrates, we are becoming a nation of food tribes. We are not only bound together by what we eat, but also by our personal values, beliefs and behaviors. Expo West creates educated food tribes through creativity, transparency and (of course) fun. Food should be fun, and I can’t wait until next year’s celebration of organic, healthy food.

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Summer 2019

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