Natural Products Expo East
September 25, 2011

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Twice a year, makers of healthy, organic, and natural foods, supplements, and personal care items meet and greet at the Natural Products Expo. This trade show—which meets once on the west coast, and once on the east—is a carnival for the healthy-food obsessed. Like strolling through Whole Foods? Imagine that experience multiplied tenfold: that about sums up what the Expos are like.

Yesterday was my first Expo experience, and it was just as overwhelming as I had expected! My main purpose in going was to support my friend Brendan at the Vega booth at Expo East:

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And pay homage to the publication of his new book, Thrive Foods:

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I’ll be reviewing the new title soon, but for now I’ll just say that the book looks fantastic (and very classy). I snagged goodies from Brendan’s new Vega Sport series (which includes prep, fuel, and recovery steps), then made my way to the personal care section of the event, where I picked up some fun new skin and body care items and checked out a few new brands I hadn’t seen:

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After collecting quite a few samples of natural deoderant and muscle balm, I got to my real destination: the food.

I began with chocolate. Lots and lots of chocolate:

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I had never tried this brand (Salazon) before. They’re all dusted with sea salt, and they’re all totally outstanding. Chocolate for lunch has never tasted so good.

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Next up, I paid a visit to my friends at Coconut Blissthe people who prove to the world that vegan ice cream can put the idea of “the real thing” to shame:

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While I was there, I sampled two of the blissful new flavors: graham cracker caramel, which was just about as good as it sounds, and mocha maca, which is my new favorite way to eat maca without thinking that it tastes like feet.

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As I yanked myself away from the ice cream booth—and it wasn’t easy, believe me—I stumbled on one of my favorite raw snack companies: Two Moms in the Raw.

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I’ve been supporting this company since its inception, but I hadn’t ever had a chance to shake hands with its inspiring founder, Shari. When Shari heard that I’m a pre-med student, she told me all about her health story (Shari received an MS diagnosis before discovering raw foods and founding her brand), and told me to call her in ten years when I’m practicing. What lovely words to hear! Shari, a fellow New Yorker, doesn’t hesitate to share her passion for raw foods and mindful living. It was fun to connect.

Soon enough, I’d found another raw company—this time one I hadn’t heard of before. Just Pure Foods is a line of raw, dehydrated veggie stacks that was nestled into the Ojio booth (which was itself selling an impressive collection of raw vanilla, oils, yacon, maca, and hemp). 

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I’m a little bit in love with the Just Pure Foods snacks now! Best dehydrated onion rings I’ve ever tasted, hands down, as well as some wildly innovative heirloom tomato chips. Impressive stuff; be sure to check out the company’s Facebook page!

Now, Expo East is a natural/healthy food event, and not an AR/vegan event. This means that there were plenty of non-vegan foods in the house, ranging from yogurt to beef. I took a moment to cheer on the Whole Soy and Co yogurt stand, which was nestled among a ton of kefir and cow’s milk yogurt booths:

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And I also said hi to the good people at Vegenaise, who were showing off a pretty amazing vegan cheesecake:

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Averie, I thought of you!

Next up was a visit to Natural Zing, makers of superfoods galore:

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And Blue Monkey coconut water, which is hands down my new favorite coconut water, rivaled only by Nirvana (my all time fave).

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These guys were located conveniently close to the Brad’s stand.

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Hi, Brad! Your kale chips are just as delicious as ever.

And finally, I strolled by the Justin’s stand, just to pick up a sample of the amazing new peanut butter cups:

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The day ended with a visit to the Navitas booth, where I was so excited to finally meet my friend Julie that I basically forgot to take a single photo. Ooops! I did leave, however, with some chia, hemp, and camu powder. Not bad for a day’s work.

Later that day, I managed to squeeze in an hour at DC VegFest. I was a little too tired to take advantage of the food vendors, but I did manage to see some friends (including Matt and Valerie!) and I enjoyed the change of scene. Expo was all about health; VegFest was more focused on animals and on community.

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A few people asked me if I’d seen anything new and groundbreaking at Expo, and the answer was no: it was pretty much the same assembly of products and featured items, peppered with a few new flavor options and snazzy packaging. But, if you’re someone who likes to fetishize food (and I do), it’s awfully fun to walk the aisles and see what’s happening in the world of healthy snacks and treats.

Today, I’m paying a visit to my buddy Hamlet at Poplar Springs. A recap of that, and more food, to come this week!

xo

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    31 Comments
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  3. […] I went to DC VegFest in 2011 and again in 2012.  In 2011, I can only characterize my time there as a micro-stop, though I did get to see Isa Chandra Moskowitz present and  I ran into Gena who was there late in the day as well. […]

  4. Thanks for sharing your pics of NP Expo East. I’ve been meaning to tackle the West here in Anaheim, but keep thinking I’ll be a bit overwhelmed since its grown SO much! And Brad’s chips…I’ve been meaning to try. They have so many great flavors I want to try. Note to self: order Brads.

    Looks like fun. Think I will take a gander at West next year.

  5. Ah, this is one of those posts where I forget for a second that there are people with serious sadnesses and problems in their lives, and instead shake my fist at a world in which I can’t access any of these. Oh, self-indulgent woes!

  6. That expo looks heavenly – I’m so jealous you got to try all those awesome treats! I drive my friends and family crazy walking around health food shops for hours so I just know an expo like this would be my kinda scene. You’ve inspired me to check out if there are any similar events like this in London – thanks for sharing! 🙂

  7. Gosh, so many delicious sounding foods, and great independent companies to be supporting! I’m glad you had such a fun and positive day. Your post has made me very hungry 🙂

  8. I just LOVE walking through expos like that, particularly if they’re health-related! It looks like foodie heaven. I’m excited for Boston VegFest, though I’m sure it can’t rival DC’s!

  9. Thanks for the wonderful recap. Do you know of any VegFest style expos in Orange County, California? I’ve seen Portland, Washington, and now this one. But where are the LA ones? Is there a list or website that lets you know the schedule of all the health expos. I would love to go to one!

  10. This Expo sounds like my dream! Thank you for sharing.
    Taste Nirvana is my favorite brand of coconut water too– just about as close to cracking open a coconut as you can get. Guess I should keep an eye out for Blue Monkey as well.

  11. I cannot even tell you how jealous I am that you got to attend this. Just…just…not fair. Although, it’s probably better I don’t eat my body weight in Coconut Bliss. Or is it? 😉

  12. Wow…what an amazing spread!! Products I’ve tried are Justins, Coconut Bliss (& the graham cracker caramel sounds fab!), Two Moms, Navitas, Brad’s and of course…Vegenasie. Thanks for the shout out 🙂

    I would have loved to see Brendan, try all these great samples, and just be there..wow, looks incredible!

    Hope you had a good trip to Poplar Springs today and have a great week!

  13. I was debating on going to the expo! We went a few years ago, loved it! Hopefully we will attend next year. Looks like you got to try some great stuff!

  14. Gena, you mention the difference in the two events: vegan/AR vs. natural and healthy; do you have a preference on which to frequent?
    I enjoy going to and supporting vegan food events but too often I get over-excited and leave with samples of un-healthy but vegan foods I’d never otherwise eat. Conversely, at a “natural” food event, I’d be more at ease but constantly have to inspect foods for non-vegan ingredients (Although I have to say, I’m not sure coconut based ice cream or veganaise are completely healthy or natural. I wonder what their criteria was for “natural.”) Either way, glad you made it out and seemed to enjoy yourself!

  15. Wow! That did look like Whole Foods times a million, because you actually get to sample all of the amazing foods! I am glad that you got to go out and show your support, whilst indulging in some of the best the health food world has to offer. Looks like you had an amazing time.

  16. What fun! I keep hoping something like that will come to my area, but I haven’t seen anything yet. Walking around Whole Foods is like a night out for me so you can only imagine what the Expo would be for me! I’m most curious about that chocolate. Looks divine!

  17. probably poor planning on both conference’s part to have the same weekend. you can’t do them all. sounds like a cool festival and fun samples. seems like there was a fair amount of raw stuff and vegan eats.

    good for you taking so much time on the weekend to get out and do fun stuff. do you have any tips for the chronically overworking on how to make down time?

  18. I think you are right, Gena-with the excitement I get walking around Whole Foods, it would be outright dangerous for me to be at that expo 😉

  19. I just moved to DC this past week, but my new roommate told me about VegFest, so we went yesterday as well! It was very animal-focused, but the food was quite delicious! I’m so glad to finally be in the city you talk so much about these days 🙂

  20. Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve been to an event like that–they are so much fun! Thanks for the memory-trip updated.
    Two expos in a single day sounds like a lot, though! Impressive stamina, girl!
    love
    Ela

  21. What a fun event! I usually avoid tastings like Foodbuzz or other events because I figure there’s so little I could actually try it’s hardly worth the trip, but I heard gluten-free was a big trend at this year’s expo. And of course anywhere with chocolate and I’ll give it a shot.

  22. That is so great that you made it to both Expo East and Vegfest! I’m sorry we missed each other at the later. I went with my roommate and thoroughly enjoyed it. Vegfest was more animal focused than I anticipated but it was great to see such a sprawling vegetarian community here. I just love it!

  23. That looks like a cool expo! I recognize so many of those products because I see them in my local natural grocery store, and I have bought several of them. I was just looking at Two Moms in the Raw at Whole Foods last night! So awesome. I’d love for Follow your Heart to come out with a soy-free, safflower/sunflower-free eggless mayo that uses either extra virgin olive, palm, EV avocado, or coconut oil. I’m doing my best to avoid refined nut/seed oils that are high in PUFAs, but it’s not always easy. 🙂

    And that graham cracker caramel Coconut Bliss sounds heavenly!!!