Ads, Ventures at the 2009 Natural Products Expo West

The Natural Products Expo West was held in the Anaheim Convention Center across the street from Disneyland. The Natural Products Expo is billed as the world's premier trade show for natural, organic and healthy products. 52,000 industry professionals are estimated to attend the event every year. Treehugger was there. The Natural Products Expo is a Colossus.
Entering the center, I was dizzied by the sheer size of the expo. Sack-wielding industry professionals roamed down seemingly endless rows of sales booths. Smiling salespeople stood attentive at their tables. They hawked their wares, handed out samples and made shoptalk with the other vendors. The event was so large, I often felt like a cartoon character being chased through an endless house. Although I kept moving, the background never seemed to change.

Free Food ( but not Guilt-Free?)
Tremendous amounts of toothpick-harpooned natural food was available to passersby in the centrally located food section. Vegan cakes, vegan and non-vegan pies, cheese, crackers, chips, pizzas, pastas and candies of all sorts were available for the plucking. I watched people take this food. The samples were obviously free, but before someone would take the food, there was a moment of hesitation, a moment where the politeness of such an action was questioned.

And I noticed this behavior in myself. Before I would seize a chip or a cracker or a hunk of bread, I would look around, instinctively, as if checking for competitors or authority figures. And when a salesperson would catch me snatching a morsel of food from their sample tray, I would smile sheepishly at them and kind of shrug.

Best In Show
At one point, I found myself at a booth that sold dog food. The brand was called Organix. There were bowls of dog food on the table, but their weren't any dogs in the building. I took a biscuit from the bowl.

"Are these for dogs or for people?" I asked.

"They're for dogs, but you can eat them," the sales lady told me.

So I ate it. The woman smiled at me in the way a nun might smile at a madman. I suddenly felt really embarrassed about eating dog food in front of another human being. I just sort of nodded at her, like I really liked the biscuit, as if it were what I came to Anaheim for. I walked off, looking for a table with some juice to wash away my shame.

(Honestly, not that bad. Tasted like Corn Nuts.)

Best-Tasting Food Award
The Best-Tasting Food Award goes to Amy's Kitchen. When I arrived in the aisle dedicated to Amy's products, the smell drove me into a ravenous eating frenzy. I became a parody of Garfield the Cat during a lasagna feast. I scarfed down sample after sample in haphazard fashion. But, you know, it was for science.

Unique Marketing Award
The Unique Marketing Award goes to Immaculate Bakery. Carl Dixon, an artist from Jackson, Mississippi, painted on the steps of a faux bakery. He created portraits of historical figures: JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr, Robert Kennedy, Barack and Michelle Obama.


Mr. Dixon with his art.

Most Innovative Way to Make Bread
The Most Innovative Way to Make Bread Award goes to the Central Milling Company. They power their bread mill with water. They make 66% of their energy on site with a turbine and water wheel.

Worst in Show
A horde of bottled water salespeople were out hawking their "natural" product in an unnatural package. There was even one booth marketing bottled water for kids. Pint-sized waste for pint-sized people.

What-the-Hey? Award
The What-the-Hey? Award goes to the retailers of the vibrating massage chairs.

As far as I can tell, these products aren't natural or organic.They are probably touted as a health product, but vibrating chairs are not something I often associate with natural products. I mean, you don't go on a nature hike and say, "Hey! Behind this bush, it's a vibrating massage chair, a glacier must have formed it."

More on Organic Food
Organic Food : Healthier for You and the Planet
7 Foods You Must Eat Organic : Food Miles Fruit
Is Organic Food Safer? Or is Processed Food More Dangerous
All Natural Recipes Cooking : How to Go Green: Eating
7 Great Green Baby Foods

Tags: Consumerism