Every year Expo West is bigger than ever and 2015 – its 35th year – was no exception. The Anaheim Convention Center was bursting at the seams, so much so that exhibitors spilled over into the nearby Hilton hotel. Three days was just not enough time to see everything and with over 71,000 people in attendance and 2,700 exhibitors, it was a struggle to get through the crowded halls. As NEXT Forecast estimates that the natural and organic products industry is expected to grow to $252 billion by 2019, we can only expect that Expo West will just keep getting bigger!
We attended a keynote presentation from Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, FACN, ABIHM, board-certified Neurologist, fellow of the American College of Nutrition and New York Times bestselling author of Grain Brain. With a new book soon to be released, Dr. Perlmutter focused heavily on the brain gut connection. His information, though interesting, was not new to those in the industry who have been trying to get this message out for decades. However, he may be able to get enough media attention for people to really look at the issues of ADHA, Alzheimer’s and cesarean births in a new way.
A fashion show hosted by Whole Foods to raise money for Whole Planet Foundation was a special event in many ways. The mission of the foundation is to alleviate poverty through micro-lending programs in communities that supply Whole Foods Market stores with products. Their focus is on women in the developing world where a small loan can help an entrepreneur build a home-based business that creates an opportunity for a better life for her family. The event raised $100,000.
Some trends we noticed that have and will continue to influence the marketplace included:
• Transparency advancements:
With consumers increasingly more conscious about where their food comes from, brands are responding by using technology and other innovations to provide greater transparency and traceability for their products.
• Packaging Innovations:
New and novel packaging could be seen everywhere, from edible cups to packages featuring famous cookbook authors, there were innovations and advancements in sustainability, consumer education and shelf stability.
• Proteins Packed a Punch:
Move over Gluten-Free make way for protein! Consumers insatiable hunger for protein showed up everywhere in every conceivable form of natural and organic brands.
• Paleo 2.0:
Paleo-positioned products were even more prevalent. The newest Paleo offerings are popping up in every product category, from English muffins to chocolate.
So, never ones to shy away from a challenge, the eco18 team pushed through the crowds, snacking, sampling, eating, drinking and interviewing for three days —to bring you our18 best and some favorites we just couldn’t leave out!
Coconut water was everywhere, but there were some new waters including birch water, artichoke water and even maple water.
Snacks were huge particularly popcorn and bars and energy drinks (thank goodness we needed them) were very prevalent and really good.
Our particular favorite was Uptime:
Uptime – Positioned as “Energy to Excel”, Uptime contains as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. Both versions—with and without sugar—are equally refreshing with a sparkling blend of orange, lemon and lime. The sugar free version has no after taste—we know, we tried it! With ingredients like ginseng, ginkgo biloba and coenzyme Q10, the product is designed to deliver a balanced energy boost without an intense rush. It also helps promote clarity and focus. The lightweight aluminum container with a re-sealable cap was really well designed. This is a new product offering from a brand that has been in the supplement space with premium balanced energy formulas for 30 years.
In the supplement area, we found some innovative brands including:
Mushroom Matrix – Ancient wisdom for today’s lifestyle is how we would describe these products. Harnessing the incredible health benefits of mushrooms in a powered delivery that is easy to use. These Certified 100% organic mushroom powders are available as single species or mushroom blends to add to juices, smoothies or recipes. Cultured on organic oats, they use the full-life cycle mycelium and fruit body. Single Species include Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, Reishi and Turkey Tail and Mushroom Blends are Beauty, Critical Care, Fit and Immune. Available in stick packs and bulk powder. All are raw, gluten-free, non-GMO, organic, Kosher with no preservatives or artificial ingredients. A very accessible way for consumers to be introduced to the healing and wellness potential of traditional medicines.
Oregon’s Wild Harvest – Oregon’s Wild Harvest is a family-owned, whole plant herbal supplement company committed to growing and procuring the very highest quality fresh, whole, certified organic herbs, which are tested for optimum potency and prepared in small batches the way nature intended. It took them two years to transition into a Demeter® Certified Biodynamic® farm. Today, the farm not only grows certified organic herbs, but Certified Biodynamic® ones as well! Biodynamic agriculture takes in to account the forces and cosmos of the Earth, and combines them with those of the plants, animals and human beings. It works on the basis that everything is interrelated, working to harmonize the environment and ecosystem of the farm and promote sustainability within that environment. They are the kind of herbs we want to take.
YogaVeda – First the unique bottle caught our eye, then the appealing flavors (all from natural extracts) of guava, lychee, mango and passion fruit and lastly but not least the Ayurvedic herbal blends. YogaVeda’s beverage formulations are all uniquely based on the Ayurvedic theme of incorporating “Panchanga” (Five Parts), which includes herbal ingredients derived from the plant root, plant bark, plant leaf, plant flower and plant fruit. We tried all the flavors and each one was refreshing and delicious. As they say, treat your mind, body and soul to something special!
The food aisle were jam-packed with great offerings and it was really difficult to chose just a few, but these brands were real stand outs in our opinion:
Safe Catch Tuna – Safe Catch, the California game changer that is looking to bring only the purist tuna to grocery store shelves. This brand is an advocate for social responsibility, literally testing every tuna individually for mercury levels, with no additives or fillers-making it pure. It is in fact the only tuna brand to meet Consumer Reports ‘Low Mercury’ criteria for kids and pregnant women. Jon of Eco18, who is not a huge tuna lover, thought this product was excellent in taste and in flavor.
The Perfect Bite Co – With a simple mission, to make every bite a memorable one, The Perfect Bite Co. is a brand of ready-made appetizers, that are each individually prepared, packaged and shipped out-for easy baking in minutes. For the culinary impaired, this treat is a secret weapon to cementing your culinary reputation with the PTA. We found them to be highly delicious (it was hard not to take another bite, again and again).
Snoqualmie Ice Cream – It is very hard to be innovative in the world of ice cream, since literally every flavor profile has been explored at some point in time. This brand has proved that notion wrong. Named after the Washington city in the Pacific Northwest, Snoqualmie only uses local ingredients in their small batches of ice cream. This brand also produces a wide variety of unique flavors including Green Tea and Ginger. While at the show Jon had the opportunity to try his first ever, French Lavender Flavored Ice Cream, and was pleasantly surprised at how unique this flavor profile proved to be.
Chapul – As a contestant on ABC’s ‘Shark Tank’ the founders of Chapul held their own ground as they introduced a completely new food concept to the marketplace-cricket powder. Although eating insects is nothing new to the world, in the U.S. it has always maintained an ‘ick’ factor, leaving it a virtually untouched category by the food industry-until now. Chapul is a brand that integrates cricket powder into all of their bars, providing a much more sustainable source of protein. By utilizing insects as a source of protein consumption, we can reduce the huge amounts of water used to irrigate the massive farms that exist solely to feed cattle and livestock for slaughter.
The One Bar – While there were literally dozens of bar companies at the show this year, the One Bar was definitely a stand out. This bar incorporates one serving of fruit into each bar and utilizes ingredients like baobab and chicory for extra antioxidants and fiber. The One Bar is also great for people on a low glycemic index diet, formulated with no added sugars, artificial sweeteners or colors. Most importantly they taste great.
Boujie Baking Co. – Boujie Baking Co. is a California based baking company that makes delicious caramel sauces, cookies, caramel popcorn, brownies and peanut brittle using only the finest ingredients, plus craft beer! At the show we tried their Beer Kissed Caramel in flavors like Lavender Honey Pale Ale, Chipotle Citrus Black Ale, Rosemary Thyme IPA, and Coconut Vanilla Stout. We also tried their new Beer Kissed Cookies including Raspberry Lambic Thumbprint Cookies, Black and Tan Icebox Cookies, and Chocolate Stout Oatmeal Cookies, which were so amazing we kept going back for more.
PureNola – Handmade in Venice, CA, these small batch nutrient dense snacks that is great to munch on, use as a topping or in recipes. A refined cluster snack combining the healthful nutrients of organic raw nuts, organic raw seeds and other natural ingredients. Each flavor combination contains seasonal, organic add ins such as cacao, mango, citrus, coconut and organic herbs and spices. All the flavors we tried were irresistible and the unique glass jar packaging was very inventive and sustainable.
The beauty booths were where we found brands immersed in sustainability and fair trade with programs to support the communities where key ingredients are sourced. Three of our favorites were Afafia and Aduna and Shea Yeleen:
Alaffia – Alaffia produces Fair Trade, handcrafted and unrefined shea butter in an effort to help create economic opportunity for women in Africa who were denied access to education and whose skills and knowledge are undervalued. Members of the Alaffia Shea Butter Cooperative handcraft shea butter, other indigenous oils and extracts using traditional, organic methods under fair trade guidelines. Products range from facial care, Shea Butter Body Care, Shea Butter Hair Care, Authentic African Black Soaps and Africa’s Secret Multi-Purpose Skin Cream. The company’s mission is to help West African communities become sustainable through the fair trade of indigenous resources. In addition, 10% of all sales are returned to West Africa to fund community enhancement projects.
Aduna – Aduna is a brand that brings African-inspired health and beauty products into to the mainstream marketplace. Utilizing natural ingredients from across the continent, this brand’s main mission is to breathe the vibrancy of Africa into the daily lives of people across the globe, while bringing positive impacts back to the source by supporting small scale producers. Their beautifully packaged line exclusively uses Moringa and Baobab, integrating them into unique delivery systems such as powders, bars and capsules.
Shea Yeleen – Established Shea Yeleen International, Inc. is a social enterprise dedicated to empowering women in West Africa and the United States through the production, sale and use of shea butter products. A unique blend of grassroots organizing and business development, Shea Yeleen is a company that specializes in manufacturing high quality, organic, fair trade skin care products and utilizing a sales strategy that incorporates women’s’ micro enterprise development. Their natural skin care products exclusively use pure, unrefined shea butter sourced fairly and ethically from women-owned cooperatives in sub-Saharan Africa. Some call shea butter “women’s gold” because it is one of the few economic commodities women control in Sahelian Africa.
Here are some other personal care brands that caught our attention:
The Seaweed Bath Co. – The Seaweed Bath Co. was started by a man who was on a mission to soothe his dry, psoriasis-prone skin when he discovered the amazing benefits of bladderwrack seaweed. The seaweed is immersed in the nutrient rich ocean water and is a natural inflammation fighter. Now The Seaweed Bath Co. has a full line of products ranging from hair care, soaps, moisturizers, power baths and a detox line that naturally hydrates sensitive to dry skin.
Savvy Pure & Natural – This booth caught our eye with their beautiful floral display. Savvy is a 100% natural, food-grade body care company that is vegan, gluten free, cruelty-free and soy free as well as non-GMO. Products include handcrafted bar soap, body wash, body cream, body scrub, hand soap and hair care. The company was started by a husband and wife team who have a background in food, now the pair make skincare products that feed the skin! Available at Whole Foods Market.
Jack N’ Jill Natural Toothpaste – These toothpastes are designed for kids but have fun flavors like banana, black currant, blueberry, raspberry and strawberry that everyone can appreciate. Jack N’ Jill Natural Toothpaste is made with Certified Organic natural flavors and is fluoride and SLS free and is safe to swallow. Jack N’ Jill also carries children’s toothbrushes made of non-GMO cornstarch making them biodegradable and recyclable. Originally from Australia, Jack N’ Jill is now available in the UK and US.
Doctor Lip Bang’s Lip Freak – This lip balm moisturizes and leaves your lips buzzing, literally. Lip Freak is an all-natural, super moisturizing lip balm made with a combination of pure essential oils and beeswax, that make your lips feel wildly electric. Flavors include Atomic Cherry, Berry Sinister, Bubble Trouble and Clockwerk Orange. An added bonus, a portion of all proceeds from Doctor Lip Bang’s Lip Freak goes to helping organizations that help homeless children.
While that rounds-up our top 18, here are some other favorites that we have to mention:
Som Drinking Vinegar ceated by, Andy Ricker, the head chef of Pok Pok, a series of Thai inspired restaurants that started in Portland, and have expanded into cities like Los Angeles and New York City. Utilized by many cultures, particularly in Southeast Asia, drinking vinegar is said to be excellent for heart health and overall wellness. Hnina Chocolate a line of gourmet hand crafted truffles , single-origin sourced from the Dominican-Republic and made with 95% cacao. This brand contains less saturated fat and almost double the protein then your average truffle brand. Forager 100% organic beverages that are cold-pressed and an ideal fast, slow food. Four different lines are based on nuts, greens, roots and avocados. All are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free. The Naked Bee Our favorite hand lotion of the show – love it! Scotch Naturals Just launching an all-natural nail polish line. They were demoing the red and new colors are ready to roll out right after the show, wish we had had time to stop for a manicure!
We really needed three more days to get around all the booths, but we hope you like our 18 favs! Stayed tuned to our social media pages as we will be running some promotions and giveaways with these great brands.