Natural Products Expo West Explodes Organically

For those of you who think of organic foods and products as a small section in the supermarket frequented by vegans, the lactose intolerant, and otherwise sensitive individuals, I’ve got news for you. I attended the Natural Products Expo West and it was huge! Aisle after aisle of the Anaheim Convention Center was packed with organics, minimally-processed products, and companies that care about their footprint on this earth. This year, the crowd for the multi-day event was estimated at 85,000—a new high.

I’ve been switching to organic foods for a while now. I inherited good genes, I plan on living a long time, and I don’t believe eating processed food with extra preservatives is going to increase my lifespan. Quite the opposite. The more I know about chemicals in food and personal care items, the more I realize why this trend is not a trend at all, but necessary for our health and that of our planet.

As I explored booth after booth, I saw sweets and savories, spices and teas, lotions, oils, equipment, and new products. I tasted samples of energy bars, chocolate, coconut water, hemp drink, vindaloo, fruit concentrates, and fresh squeezed carrot drink with ginger. There were small companies I did not recognize, and some I knew. I came across Rogue Creamery, a cheese-making business I had visited once during a trip to Medford, Oregon. Their creamy blue was as delicious as I remembered.

Among prominent companies I saw were Kind Snacks, So Delicious, Julie’s Organic, and Cascadian Farm. Last summer I went through a case of Vita Coco’s coconut water—a restorative drink perfect for hiking. This time, I tried their coconut milk, a drink that can substitute for cow’s milk. I preferred the plain to the vanilla, and it tasted good in my morning tea.

There were a staggering number of products containing coconut. Another coconut water I tried had a different flavor than most. Eliya sources their coconuts from Sri Lanka, using the fruit of the King Coconut. Its fresh, smooth, rich flavor won me over. Unlike many of the products at the show, it was bottled in glass.

Besides the multitude of granola-style bars, there was abundant use of old-world grains: kamut, spelt, farro, and teff. I sampled bread with amazing chew and mouth-feel, bread that tastes like bread should taste—full of flavor and deep undertones, as if the goodness of the soil in which the grain was grown could be documented as it filled my taste buds with happiness. I bake my own bread and so naturally I stopped at the Bob’s Red Mill booth. There, Micah Danielson showed me a wall display full of product, including buckwheat flour, which I will surely pick up with the free product coupon he gave me. Then I waited in line to meet Bob himself and to receive an autographed copy of his book of lunch recipes.

There is a reason why Europeans eschew white bread and ban chemicals we allow in the United States. One taste of real, unadulterated bread tells you why. They know you are what you eat, and they protect their citizens from farming practices that harm the end user.

What you put into your body is of utmost importance—and the same goes for what you put on your body. I was educated about the use of ear oil, a product new to me—by the knowledgeable folks at Wally’s Natural. I stopped in at Dr. Bronner’s, a long-time favorite, and received a bar of their fabulous All-One Peppermint Pure-Castile Bar Soap.

I split my day by attending a 5-member panel discussion on Regenerative Organic Certification led by the Rodale Institute, where the topic was how to move beyond sustainable practices and move into restorative ones. Imagine farming that improves the health of the soil, encompasses pasture-based animal welfare, and fairness for both farmers and workers. It can be done.

The early days of Euell Gibbons hawking granola with accompanying comments about how that kind of food tasted like cardboard are far from reality. Today’s organics and natural foods show consumers how yummy eating is healthy eating. We know that what you put on your skin is another way products enter your body. Be kind to yourself. If you are only now considering organic and minimally-processed foods and products, you are late coming to the party. But I’m so glad you came! Come on in! Not only is there still plenty on the table, but the more you demand, the more there will be.

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