Natural Impressions: The 2013 Natural Product Expo West

Posted on Thursday 11 April 2013

Crazy. If I was only allowed one adjective to describe the just-wrapped Natural Products Expo West (or, as it’s known by its friends, Expo West), that’s the one I’d use. The 2,400 exhibitors. The 60,000 attendees. The crowds. The vibe. The spectacles. Crazy.

My first experience at the show was five years ago—fairly late into the shows 32 years of existence—when it was a mix of Berkenstock-wearing hippies lugging their children in baby carriers and the straight-laced suits making the purchasing decisions for major retailers. But, now… now, this show has evolved.

Welcome to the O.C, Marketing Pitch
I walked into the Anaheim Convention Center late on Friday and was greeted by insanity. Popchips was passing out their new Katy Perry-flavored chips (note: I may not have that exactly right). Plum Organics had a second floor to their booth in which a DJ was pumping out tunes. Another exhibitor (don’t remember which), had a jam band crooning. When I walked out onto the new outdoor pavilion, I was offered snacks, drinks, vitamins, powders and Ozomatli was playing in honor of Manitoba Harvest’s 15th Anniversary. Everyone was fighting for my attention and using every marketing tool and Expo opportunity to gain it.

Celebrity Sitings
Bob’s Red Mill had a “celebriticized” Bob Moore, signing books and taking photos. Rustic Crust had Jamie Luner, an actress from Melrose Place and All My Children hanging out in their booth and touting their products (“Was she on an 80’s sitcom called, Just The Ten Of Us?,” I asked a lady in the booth. “Maybe. I don’t know. Was she an 80’s crush for you?” Turns out she was on that show and also no comment.) The heirs of Bob Marley were also there promoting their beverage products. Even Bugs Bunny and the Tasmanian Devil were at the show to promote Crunchies Natural Snacks.

No Chefs, No Problem
Despite the strong presence of food, which is why I’m there, and the use of celebrities (as mentioned above), there were, as far as I saw, no celebrity chefs. That’s a big difference from the Fancy Food Show (which usually has Ina Garten, Rick Bayless & Duff Goldman, who all have products at the show) and even last weekend’s International Home + Housewares Show (which had Paula Deen, Gales Gand and the Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro).

Favorite Tweet: Gluten Free Option
Someone who must have been to the show for the first time tweeted (and I’m paraphrasing): “Wow. Seems like every company has a gluten-free option.” That just made me laugh because, well, yeah, that’s the trend that’s been building the last few years. Have we peaked yet? We’ll see.

Can’t Beat The Networking
For my clients, this show has been a great opportunity for them to meet with customers and build relationships with prospects. For me, the reason I love coming to this show is for the connections I make with marketers, buyers, journalists and new companies looking for input. I talked and caught up with many people I already knew and met a whole lot more. In fact, just on my shuttle back to the airport I sat and chatted with a VP of a major distributor and an empire builder and investor in many of the companies at the show. Like I said, crazy.

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