For the natural foods connoisseur, the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim is a fascinating look at an industry that has soared from fringe to mainstream. Yet the Anaheim Convention Center, across the street from Disneyland, was a Fantasyland of organic, fair trade, ethical and innovative food and beauty products.
Last year Greek yogurt and coconut water were ubiquitous throughout the exhibit halls and they had a presence this weekend, too. Energy bars and breakfast cereals of every imaginable flavor were on display, many of which were plunked in my bag by reps eager to tout their products. And depending on how you define celebrity, that element was among the booths, too: Fabio (pictured) pitched a protein supplement, and Bob Marley’s relatives promoted coffee products with the late reggae icon’s image all over its product line. So what were some of the more fun and interesting products among the hundreds and hundreds of companies who had ventured to Orange County? Still recovering from sensory overload, here are a few that come to mind.
- Tea oil. Arette Foods has an alternative to other vegetable oils that could provide additional revenues to tea farmers in Sri Lanka and other countries where tea production is the backbone of local economies. Rich in all those nutritious fatty acids, tea oil has a light taste you would expect from a high quality olive or grapeseed oil. And yes, this is tea as in the seeds of the plant that provides us that comforting brew.
- Sea buckthorn berries. Years ago when I visited Armenia, our host gave us a fruit juice make from what locals called chichkhan that was a brilliant orange color and tasted slightly tart. Little did we know we were indulging in a fruit that is loaded with Omega 7 acids. Move over, goji berries, Sibu Beauty is going to give Cindy Crawford and her melon extract informercials a run for its money.
- One for one marketing. You know you can buy a pair of shoes that in turn score a pair for a poor child abroad. For those on more limited budgets, Sir Richard’s Condom Company takes the buy one, give one cause marketing schtick a cause for those who want to expand family planning globally.
The big winner this year, however, was the probiotic. Probiotic gummy bears. Probiotic candy. Probiotic chocolate. Probiotic protein bars. Energy drinks. Gummy bears. Chewing gum. All of the above would be odd to anyone raised on the best probiotic of them all: yogurt.
There was some silliness evident in Anaheim as well. Gluten-phobes, for example, will be relieved to know that buffalo meat and salad greens are gluten free. But overall the show is impressive for how far these more healthful food options have come in the last few years. The event is also a sober reminder for how competitive the specialty food industry really is. Personally, I am curious to know how many will return to Anaheim next year.
Photo courtesy Leon Kaye.