Saturday, September 24, 2016

Natural Products Expo East '16

I have to first explain that here in my part of the world, something like 15 or 20 years ago, Whole Foods found that we were not educated or wealthy enough to support a store.  So we have never had them, Trader Joe's, or even a Wegman's.  Next year we'll have WF and Wegman's.  As time went on, we found that we have plenty of great healthy food options available.  I hope they are not injured financially by these giants.

But I digress.  Yesterday we set out for the Expo, first driving to Hunt Valley, MD, and jumping on the Light Rail which took us directly across the street from the convention center, thereby allowing us to skip the city traffic AND the parking hassle and expense.

This was Molly's first Expo.  Maryanne and I attended the first east Expo when we were just preparing to open our fulltime shop back in the early 90's.  People starting businesses since the world wide web came into being have NO idea how difficult it was to find new and innovative products back then.  The only way was to travel to shows.  We'd attended several gift type shows looking for "our" products, but weren't finding the right stuff.  The Expo almost brought us to tears!  Aisles and aisles of hippy families with their own products.  Larger businesses with tinctures, essential oils, supplements, and incenses.  It was Nirvana.

Just a couple years later, it was changed.  The atmosphere is much different.  Few and far between are the hippy families. But so goes the world, I suppose.  Just happy to have been there in the beginning.

As we approached the center, there was music, and one vendor selling a joint supplement based on turmeric (HUGE this year, and in many products, beverages, foods, etc.) and collegen had people in gold lame jumpsuits dancing energetically.  It was an interesting welcome.  Unfortunately, we didn't take nearly enough pictures.

Inside, there are glass cases filled with tiny displays from many of the vendors, to serve as an appetizer. 
There are 3 floors of vendor booths.  Between us, we hit them all, and walked most of them.  Molly did most of the second floor herself, and we did the top and bottom.  I am glad we're not stocking an herb shop right now.  They didn't really have much that would have interested us for that, although there were 2 or 3 things I might still want for the website.  It is about 90% food and drinks.

Speaking of which, drinks are really, really big.  Mostly water flavored or with nutrients or probiotics added, we sampled at least a dozen.  Some of them were pretty good.  The blackberry chia was tasty, but we couldn't help calling it "goo."  My favorite of them all was Caribe.
A TINY sampling of the drink companies.  There was also an excellent natural soda company, but I missed getting their paperwork.
 We spoke to the people at Pop Lab, who gave us little popsicles made with fresh fruit.  I had pineapple basil.  It was delicious, but reminded me of when we first started adding patchouli to the patchouli soap and were informed that it was sticking to our brother's skin.  Less, or finer bits of basil would be better.

Next we wandered off to talk to the people from the Wisconsin Ginseng Co-op.  There, I learned that Chinese ginseng is being brought to the US and then re-shipped back, claiming to be American Ginseng.  Because of that, they have a seal that lets you know.
Display of ginseng roots and various value added products at the Wisconsin Co-op booth.
 Wisconsin is (I think) the largest American producer of cultivated ginseng.
Later, at a different ginseng business, a man in a giant ginseng costume kissed my hand.  Another missed photo op.  It's not every day ... Of course we didn't get pictures of the 2 (separate) men in banana suits either, so there's that.
A variety of manuka honey candies.

The people from Jelly Belly were there with their new organic line.  There, we discussed the fact that, at 4 calories per bean, it was almost a negative calorie food... like celery!  We left laughing, but I have to say that the new line of jelly beans aren't as good.  Kind of gritty.

I also want to give a shout-out to Superseedz, a gourmet pumpkin seed company.  The man who was passing out packet of seeds found a way to flirt sweetly without being obnoxious, and at my age that's worth something.  Really tasty dry roasted pepitas, too!
There were too many cold brewed coffees to sample (Molly said they were overly milked so you couldn't taste the coffee), and there was chocolate in many forms everywhere.  We steered away just out of habit.  I'm sure it was great.  Those two items were ubiquitous at the show.  Teas, particularly matcha were also everywhere.
Some of my favorite places.  Chimes has several new flavors of ginger treats.  There go my teeth!

I found it very interesting.  There were a few booths dedicated to new kinds of sweeteners - especially monk fruit.  There were a couple of companies devoted to Jackfruit because of its nutritional and health benefits.  It is prepared mostly as a savory snack (that we saw).

Molly's impression:  "Definitely interesting, all the paleo, gluten free, organic, sustainable natural products.  I thought it was really neat that they were inclusive to everyone's needs but also loved that there were still simple products as well.  As much as I loved the grass fed, organic empanadas I was thrilled to pick up a regular black coffee and bagel.  Oh and the crackers made with cricket flour - Chirps - were pretty good!"
Maryanne (and I as well) was sad to see that it was now almost entirely a grocery show.

So aside from the stack of bright new tote bags (and my old ones really have started to wear out...), I have some pretty nice swag to wade through. 

A truly fascinating way to spend the day! Without exception, we were greeted in a friendly and welcoming manner.
Just a week or so earlier, I'd spent the train ride between Philadelphia and Atlantic City chatting with a man from Cocoatown who was on his way to the Fancy Food convention there.  I'd hoped to see him or the company at the Expo, but I may have missed them if they were there.
We were so glad to be able to get on the train back to the car, rather than schlepping with our bags back to some distant parking lot.  Molly was asleep almost as soon as we were in the car. 


IrisWeaver said...

Thanks for sharing your comments and experiences about this expo. I am really sorry you missed a photo of the banana men!

Boy, I am sooo sorry Whole Foods is coming your way. They are rapacious and shark-like (my apologies to sharks, they shouldn't be so dissed).

WF has had it as a mission from their beginning to take over and eliminate the competition. They tried getting rid of our food coop in Boston and Cambridge a few years ago, but failed, yay. There was a memo they had passed around about it, and we got a copy of it.

Tina Sams said...

Yeah. I'm not happy. They are sort of the WalMart for hipsters, and just like WalMart, I won't shop there. Wegman's might see me though. I love our markets and family run stores.

Maryanne said...

I just keep thinking about what seemed like every other bar - er, counter - set up with shots of various fruit flavored pro-biotic drinks. I'm sure, since we sampled almost every one, that I drank much more than the generally suggested amount for a day. Then the next day I experienced some of the worst GERD I have had for some time! Maybe the various brands fought with each other.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin