Natural Products Expo West 2012

Quite possibly the best expo I’ve ever attended. All my favorite foods and skin care products under one roof and a bunch of new brands I’ve never even seen! It was a playground for a health nut like myself.I really had no idea how many great vegetarian and vegan meat options there were until I attended Natural Products Expo West this past weekend. I was extremely happy to see the new trend is going NON-GMO. I didn’t even need to pack a lunch I was so full from sampling everything from drinks, snacks, appetizers, entrees, desserts and even vitamins. I definitely have a more clear idea of things I would like to try next time I visit the grocery store.
Lucky enough to score a pass for all three days, I skipped Friday, went yesterday, and am staying home “recovering” today instead of attending the final hours. My boyfriend is better at this stuff than me & that’s why he’s there right now without me. I’m more on the quiet, reserved side with strangers, and don’t generally make eye contact unless I have a specific question. Some people would look at walking down an aisle crammed with hundreds of vendors all hawking their wares as an incredible opportunity to try samples and have conversations about products; I looked at it like a scene out of a nightmare…trying to navigate carefully down a narrow strip of carpet absolutely thronging with people, each and every vendor shouting, reaching for you and grabbing to get your attention to spout the virtues of yet again another natural product with “no SLS”, “100% vegan”, “made by Eskimo nuns under the full moon only every 600 nights from virgin yak blood”…whatever the natural trend du jour might happen to be.If you try to imagine 10 enormous Whole Foods stores laid together end by end, you’ll get the picture. I was only able to closely connect with a few companies that I either really cared about, or was so forcefully pulled in that I had no choice. Most of the samples were SO teeny-tiny…I am not a professional, so tiny samples are ok with me…but if you’re really trying to be memorable enough to get a business owner to consider stocking your product, you’re going to need to part with a full-sized replica, as did MetroMint, Reed’s, MegaFood Vitamins, Penta, So Delicious, Hi-Ball Energy, Bench & Lee Pet Treats, to name a few. Several more companies did, but most offered such scant samplings of their product that it was impossible to remember one 1oz energy drink in a plastic cup from another.Also, judging by the amount of job listings in the past month on Craigslist for Brand Ambassadors to represent these companies at this Expo, it’s clear that MANY of the people hired to explain the products to the potentially purchasing masses are but briefly trained and have NO idea what they are talking about. As someone looking for work, I resent this, because such a majority of the ads specified that their Brand Ambassadors be 18-28, “sexy, gorgeous model-types”, and… that’s it. I can’t blame every company for this, but I am a reasonably attractive model-type myself who happens to have vast medical and product knowledge both Western and “natural”…but also happens to be (gasp!!!) over 30!!!
My POINT is…why would I, the consumer, support a product being represented by a chirpy, implanted blonde automaton who has only the most rudimentary product information, informs me that a product is SLS free, but then cannot tell me what foaming agent is used instead? Does she even know what SLS is, or why it’s purported to be bad? And p.s….putting him or her in a lab coat doesn’t help.This is quite a tangent I’ve gone on, and I didn’t mean to. However, your company will stand an exponentially higher percentage of encouraging me to purchase and tout your product if you have some smart, knowledgable reps that can truly talk the science with me. I saw everything from shirtless men jumping rope to tanned blondes in booty shorts and cleavage to companies lighting maxi pads on fire (I wish I was kidding). We were told that “peppermint is a known calming agent”, that using a certain tooth powder would make receded gums grow back, that a competitor’s ginger product was “garbage”, and at one booth I was lucky enough to be able to tell the cutie-pie girl exactly what herbs were in the vitamin supplement she was selling (she didn’t know).Now, vendors, I’ve got your back, too. Many, many of the “professionals” strolling these aisles were virtually attacking these booths and their samples as if they offered the last microwaved food on Earth and it was every man for himself. Example: the lovely ladies at Amy’s. People pushed, shoved, took four or five at a time, and as I stood there meekly, waiting for ONE broccoli cheese sample (never got it), a man behind me actually said, “Ex-CUSE me!!!! You’re STANDING between me & my food!!”. Without even turning around, I simply smiled & walked away.I’m sure this is a useful and helpful expo for many people, and that the majority will consider the weekend an enormous success. And I’m happy for them.

About Erwin Glaub

Erwin is the founder of the Experience Magazine (

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