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Natural Products Expo West Full of Goodness

What if nearly ever booth at Comic-Con gave away a free comic book or other piece of cool swag? And what if it was nothing but food that you’d also feel good about eating?

Well, you would get the Natural Products Expo West, held at the Anaheim Convention Center March 7-10, 2013.

My first time at the mega show, I was instantly amazed by the expanse of the show. Shows that I’ve been to at the Anaheim Convention Center haven’t used the entire acreage, adjoining hotels, and outdoor areas. During the OC Auto Show and the upcoming WonderCon, other unrelated events are occurring at the same time. Even D23 Expo 2011 didn’t utilize all the real estate available.

As the attendee walked toward the convention center, a flurry of outdoor pavilions offered free product samples. Many were not the skimpy bite-size samples that dissolve the instant it hits one’s tongue. Companies were putting their best foot forward so even before stepping inside, stomachs were getting filled with Naked Juice and Go Raw.

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In the lobby of the convention center, one couldn’t walk very far before coming upon a table or pop tent offering food. French’s Mustard debuted its Natural Truth mustard just outside registration while Odwalla and Natural Factors Nutritional Products offered free samples of PGX. I overheard several attendees plan to return to the bowl at regular intervals to stock up on their supply.

While there were clear signs stating that the show limits attendees to one bag of samples to take home, there was no one enforcing the rule. And with over 2400 exhibitors, stomachs would be engorged after several hours. There were actually pavilions that encouraged attendees to spend a significant amount of time in their space to learn about their multitude of different products, and some companies even served a full lunch.

Some attendees set up a camp in front of booths, tasting away. Daiya was a popular pavilion especially for those frozen pizzas which are sans gluten, soy, and dairy. But they were anything but delicious free.

The exhibitor floor was a daunting, but oh-so pleasurable paradise for those abstaining from an allergen. Those who were gluten-intolerant were met with bars, baked goods, pasta, sauces, breads, and snacks that were certified gluten free. For those who have gone on so long without, to have that many choices brought on a deep emotional gratitude.

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After much snacking, I had to cease stuffing things in my mouth and concentrate on booths that had take-home samples. Because nearly every booth had health bars of some iteration, one’s mouth tended to get very dry in sampling them.

And even though there are plenty of beverages, there were very few companies offering drinks not imbued with vitamins or nutrients like probiotics. This, and the possibility of some gluten free items not being entirely gluten free or being cross contaminated in the demonstration process, led me to spend a lot of time in the restroom.

Exhibitors without the time to navigate the exhibition floor frequented the concession stand which sold pricey food that was not very analogous to the expo’s focus. Stamina is an issue, no matter if the samples turn the stomach the wrong way or not. Even though sustenance was available, albeit in small portions, another booth’s offerings quickly grabbed one’s attention.

How can one turn down Non GMO, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, casein free, nut free chocolate chip cookies specked with nutrients that help hangovers? But oh wait, there’s Grass Fed beef, and it’s right beside smoked fish.

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Spoiled by all the events at the LA Convention Center, the jaunt to Anaheim wasn’t too much of a hassle. The show offered free parking at Anaheim Stadium with transportation to the show on Disneyland shuttles. It was disappointing that it was further away from me as I discovered I completely missed several venues including the Hot Products Pavilion and the Fresh Ideas Marketplace which was in a tent at the adjoining Marriot. Free breakfasts and nighttime parties complemented conference sessions, tours, award ceremonies, and networking events.

With a full plate of events and food offerings, a day was not enough to enjoy oneself. The Natural Products Expo West is definitely worth spending more time at.