The 2014 Natural Products Expo West was, quite frankly, the best food show Eat This Review has ever been to. Taking place in Anaheim, California, the show featured nearly 3,000 exhibitors (it was their biggest year yet) in the natural, organic, gluten-free, vegan, eco-friendly, hippie-worthy, cavemen-would-have-eaten-this-if-they-were-rich-and-shopped-at-Whole-Foods divisions.
Aside from food, companies selling vitamins, massage chairs, skin products, pet foods, camping items, and more were there. To give you an idea of just how large this show was, pre-registered and approved press stood on a line for 45 minutes just to get in. Press! We're talking big. And they ran out of press bags on day 1.
Established companies such as Stonyfield, Annie's, and Naked were there, along with massive displays from companies we were less familiar with: Daiya, Luvo, Derma/e Skin Care, Van's Gluten Free, and Nature's Bakery--just to name a few. While most companies exhibited in the main hall, overflow products also expanded into the arena next door, the main downstairs hall, the ghost room on the 3rd floor (it was fairly empty), and the awesome mom-and-pop main hall near the press room on the 3rd floor. This is where many of our favorite products were, because these were companies that were newer, were startups, and were truly innovative.
Though there were education sessions and product innovations seminars, the sample floor was still the main draw. Two standout items that immediately caught our attention were products created by wife-husband pairs, while other products we loved were well-established companies with new products to announce.
-Bee-Free Honee, which makes a honey-type treat from apples, had an impressive and delicious line of interesting flavors while being completely vegan.
-Neat quite impressed us by offering a meat substitute made from almonds. You add eggs, sautee, and serve what taste delicious--and convincingly like meat!
-Though there were quite a few yogurt companies at the show, few captured our tastebud-influenced hearts like Noosa. They had solid flavor profiles (strawberry rhubarb, anyone?), attractive packaging, and friendly staff.
-Speaking of friendly staff, it's hard to beat the guys at Wiley's Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil. This family-owned business is passionate about making sure you get your sustainably harvested Omega 3s--and the team is pretty darn funny, too.
-Blue Avocado's recycled, durable "plastic" baggies and totes are laundry washable and pretty cool looking. Bye-bye, Ziploc.
-JC's Pie Pops gave us a delicious, albeit inappropriately sweet, breakfast of ice cream in pie flavors on a stick. I'm not whining.
-Beanitos chips came out with a new chili & lime puff that's really fantastic. Then again, their chipotle BBQ ain't shabby, and neither is...well, come on, all their flavors are delicious! You can smell that they're made o' beans, but the taste is 100% awesome (and decent for you!).
Cold-pressed juices, "garden" proteins, glass bottle gear, and bean-based noodles were all popular items at the show, and while there were quite a few losers, there was also some darn good food that would almost make me feel less bad for those with Celiac's Disease.
Bob from Bob's Red Mill was there, Amy and her company-founding parents were there (with perhaps the most delicious vegetarian sausage pizzas, Thai curries, new breakfast sandwiches, and more), Cat Cora worked her booth, and others from the food world showed up. It was truly a food show to remember, and I have to think that aside from the awesome international flavors available, the Fancy Food Show will pale a bit in comparison. So enjoyable, so much innovation, so many delicious new products to review, and so many days until the ETR team can do it all over again.
Photography by Victor Vic Photo and Kathryn Cooper Photography