Natural Products Expo West 2011 - My Nutritional Mecca Print
Written by Dee McCaffrey, CDC   
Friday, April 22, 2011

NaturalProductsExpoBannerImagine walking the aisles of your local Whole Foods Market and being able to taste and take home sample-size packages of every product in the store, especially if it's organic, gluten-free or "natural" energy bars, fresh fruit, dried fruit, protein powder, green drinks, breads, snack foods, ice cream and chocolate, coffee, tea, waters, beer, wine, yogurt, cheese, books, supplements and essential oils, beauty products, clothing, cookware, and even pet food, pet supplements, and pet products!  Now imagine being able to do it for three days in a row! - That's what the 2011 Natural Products Expo West was all about last month at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. It is the industry's largest trade show, where nearly EVERY company that produces anything resembling a "natural" product convenes for a weekend of tastings, educational seminars and networking events.

This was my fourth time attending the Natural Products Expo. As a nutrition educator, I consider it my "nutritional duty" to attend, so that I can scrupulously scope out, taste, read the ingredient lists, and talk to the company representatives (who are sometimes, like myself, also the company owners and creators of the products) of all of the new natural food products. This is how I am able to intelligently answer your question when you ask, "what is your opinion of....".

NaturalProductsExpoShowFloorI first must say that walking the floor of the Expo is both thrilling and daunting. Even in three days, it was not possible to visit every vendor booth, as the exhibits covered more than 1 million square feet spread over 5 halls that span larger than a football field each. I was one of over 58,000 industry members from over 35 countries in attendance, and this year the Expo had the largest number of exhibits (3,533 to be exact) in its 31-year history.

Being at Expo is like Halloween on steroids, and this kid walked away each day with goodie bags full of samples so heavy that my shoulders hurt for days afterward. I filled up my bags with samples to take home so that I could remember all the samples I ate and drank while walking around!  It is the one time out of the year when I break my eating rules in order to serve the greater good!

Despite the extensive lineup of educational seminars and tours, by and large this event is all about the food.  And by and large, the food is all about catering to the needs of time-strapped consumers who want healthier choices while also being able to indulge their taste buds in sweet treats and snack foods. The aisles were crowded with attendees who seemed to be more interested in the organic ice cream bars, beers and chocolate than the convention's educational offerings.

There was also some fun competition among vendors to draw the most visitors to their booths. From the faux green pastures at the Odwalla booth to acoustic guitarists at the LaraBar booth to an appearance by Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser at the SoDelicious booth to horse rides provided by Organic Valley, it was a no-holds-barred contest for the most outrageous exhibit display.

Dee and Patricia Bragg Expo 2011One of the best parts of being an industry member is that I get to meet some of the big names in nutrition in an up close and personal setting.  Once again I had the opportunity to rub elbows with the very delightful Patricia Bragg of Bragg Live Food Products fame.  She is a true living legend, just like her father Paul, and definitely a woman who walks the walk.

But enough about that, let's get to the point of this article! Below are my highlights of some of the show's noteworthy products. Give them a try the next time you go shopping:



BraggBerryDressingBraggberry Organic Dressing and Marinade
Braggs has added a new variety to their line of vinaigrette salad dressings, and this one is truly delicious. It's made with the signature Bragg Organic Apple Cider VinegarĀ® and flavored with a special blend of organic berries creatively selected to produce a memorable acronym:

B= Blueberry
R= Raspberry
A= Acai Berry
G= Goji Berry
G= Grape

It's fat-free, salt-free and gluten-free. No sugar added, sweetened only with organic stevia herbal extract and natural fruits.  Bragg has several other salad dressings: Hawaiian, Ginger & Sesame, and Original Vinaigrette.

So Delicious No Sugar Added Coconut Milk Ice Cream
I am a huge fan of coconut milk, so I was thrilled two years ago when I first tasted the coconut milk ice creams by So Delicious at Expo. Their original coconut milk ice creams are sweetened with agave syrup and have upwards of 10-12 grams of sugar per serving. Now they are offering a low-sugar option with only 1 gram of sugar per serving. Keep your eyes peeled for these six mouthwatering flavors:

Mint Chip
Toasted Almond Chip
Vanilla Bean
Butter Pecan

These varieties are sweetened with erythritol and monk fruit. Although I am not a big fan of erythritol, I think an occasional indulgence in this ice cream would be an acceptable exception. It's yummy!

Alvarado Street Bakery
Fundamental Fiber 100% Sprouted Whole Wheat Flourless Bread

FundamentalFiberBreadThis is the only Flour-less High Fiber Sprouted Wheat Bread available anywhere. Made with certified organic sprouted whole grains, this deli-style wide loaf offers a whopping 5 grams of dietary fiber per slice. There are also 5 grams of protein per slice. The ingredient list reads as follows: Sprouted organic whole wheat berries, filtered water, wheat gluten, oat fiber, organic dates, fresh yeast, organic raisins, organic vinegar, cultured wheat, sea salt, safflower oil, pure barley malt.

Eden Foods Beans

Eden BPA-FreeSince April 1999 Eden beans feature cans with a baked-on c-enamel lining that does not contain the endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A (BPA). Eden is the only company that pays the 14 percent premium to avoid bis-phenol When originally planning to make canned beans, they were told it was necessary to add at least two chemicals: calcium chloride to harden the skins so they wouldn't fall apart in cooking, and calcium disodium EDTA to hold the color. Eden tried them with just beans and pure water and they came out perfectly. Due to the vital soil that produces these beans, their much higher mineral content and stronger skins allows them to be cooked without need of these very undesirable chemicals.  Most of their beans are cooked with a bit of kombu sea vegetable. You don't taste the kombu, but its valuable amino acid profile smooths their mouth feel and enhances their flavor.


KelpNoodlesSeaTanlge LogoSea Tangle Kelp Noodles
If you're looking for a gluten-free, low carbohydrate noodle, these could fill the bill. Kelp Noodles are a sea vegetable in the form of an easy to eat raw noodle. Made of only kelp (a sea vegetable), sodium alginate (sodium salt extracted from a brown seaweed), and water, Kelp Noodles are fat-free, gluten-free, and very low in carbohydrates and calories. Their noodle forms a neutral taste which allows for a variety of uses including salads, stir-fries, hot broths, and casseroles, while their healthful content provides a rich source of trace minerals including iodine, which kelp is well known for. Their unique texture completes the package, making Kelp Noodles a one-of-a-kind healthful and tasty alternative to pasta and rice noodles. Best of all, no cooking is required. Just rinse and add the noodles to any dish and they are ready to eat!

Mary's Gone Crackers "Just The Crumbs"
Toward the end of last year, I was in need of some gluten-free bread crumbs, but couldn't find any in the health food stores, so I decided to buy some of the Mary's Gone Crackers "Sticks and Twigs" and grind them up in my Vitamix. They made a perfect alternative to a traditional bread crumb, and were actually much more flavorful. When I went to the Mary's Gone Crackers booth at Expo this year, I saw that Mary had stolen my idea! She has a new product called "Just the Crumbs", made from the crackers. They have a fantastic flavor in addition to being gluten-free. The crumbs are also a great replacement for croutons on salads. Try sprinkling them on top of any salad and they will liven up your food and add a nice crunch and seed flavor. Once you have them you will find a ton of great dishes to add them to!The crumbs come in three different flavors: Original, Savory Blend and Caraway. I'm hooked! By the way, my first time attending Expo West in 2007, I met Mary. She is a fellow health crusader who turned her own health challenge (gluten-intolerance) into a purpose-driven, altruistic enterprise.

teeccinoteebagsTeeccino Now in Single Serve Tee-bags
Pronounced Tea-Chee-No, this is the best way to kick a coffee habit. Naturally decaffeinated, Teeccino is a blend of herbs, grains, fruits, and nuts that are roasted and ground to brew and taste like coffee.And it does! Teeccino tastes so much like coffee that people think there must be coffee in it! Although the company has been around for quite some time, they now offer individual tea bags for easy brewing of just one cup. Choose from all 10 varieties of Original, Hazelnut, Java, Mocha, Vanilla Nut, Chocolate Mint, Almond Amaretto, Maya Caffe, Chai and Chocolate.

NibMor Organic Dark Chocolate
I really enjoyed talking to Heather Kenzie and Jennifer Love, owners of NibMor. They firmly believe in using their chocolate products to teach a bigger message: that the food we eat should be as simple and delicious as possible. That means using ingredients made by Mother Nature, not someone in a lab coat. They kicked refined sugar, dairy, gluten and GMO to the curb (bye bye off you go!) without sacrificing taste. What I really like about their products is that they use a variety of different sweeteners in the different products, so they are not all the same. The chocolate bars contain agave and the hot chocolate drink mixes contain coconut palm sugar (my new favorite sweetener that was big at Expo two years ago). Their chocolate is more delectable just knowing how pure it is!