This conference is a beast.

Want to know what’s new and noteworthy in the exploding universe of consumer products and services all geared toward the health-minded shopper? Me too. And not just because I’m one of them.

I spent last weekend at the famously gargantuan Natural Products Expo West out here in Anaheim, CA–I’ve been coming here more years than not for the past eight. Which means I should have known better than to wear heels the first day. Anyway. Moving on.

This place is like five airplane hangars long. It’s hall after hall of food, beauty, supplements, ingredients, gadgets, remedies, hype. It’s geared to industry folks: retailers, buyers, marketers, sales reps, journalists, editors, etc. Big decision makers, big characters, even some big celebs, have walked its endless carpeted floors.

It’s essentially an organic products Disneyland (which is about right given it’s in Anaheim),

Dr. Andrew Weil caught unawares outside the show floor.

where the products you know and love from the shelves of Whole Foods come to life: You might spy Annie Chun of the just-add-water boxed noodle soups, in the flesh, or Burt of Burt’s Bees in a sales meeting. I spotted Dr. Andrew Weil in a low profile moment, just standing amongst the crowd with his totebag of stuff. I even got my pic taken with Bob of Bob’s Red Mill in his standard red jacket. There are models and fitness pros and people dressed up like pandas. Don’t even ask.

Rather than overwhelm YOU now with too much info, I wanted to distill down some of the interesting products and trends that caught my eye.

I have also rated some of the newer products according to my totally made-up rating system of 1-10, 10 being great.

Here’s a quick visual tour of some of the stuff I saw:

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Gluten Free Everything

Gluten free was THE buzzword in food (even in some beauty products) this year. I mean, I’ve seen the g-free train coming, but man, did it roll through in flying colors.

Two brands worth noting:

Purely Elizabeth, a brand I like and a woman I like! I’ve had Elizabeth on my show and am a big fan of what she’s doing. Her products, quite simply, rock the g-free house.

 

 

 

1-2-3 Gluten Free Family owned–a g-free family that is. I was impressed with taste and texture of their baked goodies.

 

Water, Water Everywhere

Coconut water? Please–that’s so two years ago. Though the heavies and the newer coco brands were there in force, they made their biggest splash in previous shows and we are all saturated in it. Moving on from that.

A few other new brands are really working the water angle, though–big time. I mean, not just any old water, but water infused with everything from antioxidants to other vitamins and minerals like potassium as well as electrolytes. A few were crazy enough to get a second look–either in their approach, or in their branding. Including:

Blk water (pronounced, as you see it B-L-K), touted as “The Dark Side of Water.” Oooh. Sexy. And the packaging IS sexy and intriguing. And while it looks like it’s going to do crazy things to your tongue, well, don’t get too excited. What makes this water the color of Coke, essentially, is its infusion of electrolytes, antioxidants, and 77 trace minerals, which, I’m told, change the color of the water naturally. Even the guy working the booth admitted that it was a buzz kill. You raise the liquid to your lips and you can’t help, from years of soda-instilled training, to think it’s going to be sweet and zippy. It’s water. You just have to take them at their word that there’s something special there.

Cool factor: 8

Reality factor (would I really buy/use this): 4

 

Victoria’s Kitchen Almond Water I appreciate a no-gimmicks, straight-up approach to product. (Though I also appreciate a good gimmick.) This does play up the “trust me my grandma made it” feel, but I liked it–and think the taste was quite refreshing. The company says it’s just almonds, pure can sugar, and “100% pure Grandma love.” If you’re not a fan of coconut, or want something different, I’d recommend checking it out…also think it’d be FAB in cocktails.

Cool factor: 6

Reality factor: 8

 

Mayesa All Natural Premium Cacao (drinkable chocolate). You may think this is some kind of chocolate milk, but it’s not chocolate flavored anything. It IS chocolate–in drinkable form. Lactose, dairy, and gluten free, and loaded with antioxidants, magnesium, theobromine, even fiber. AND the tetra paks they use are constructed of cardboard from a managed forest, making it more sustainable than most. This is about as guilt-free as it gets.

 

Cool factor: 8

Reality factor: 8

 

Crazy Woman Water The only that stopped me cold was the name–of course. Who wouldn’t. There’s absolutely nothing I can say that made this water any better than any other, except that it’s good tasting water, named for the mountain in Wyoming’s Big Horn National Forest where the water comes from. And that the charming piece of folklore behind the name is one in which a woman watched her family murdered by Sioux warriors, murdered four of them with an ax, and then put their heads on stakes to keep the others away. Isn’t that sweet? I also found it interesting that their booth at the show was manned solely by men.

 

HOT GREEN HOME PRODUCT

Common Good and Co. This simple, beautiful line of housecleaning products was started by former prop stylists (one of whom turns out had worked with at Martha Stewart) with a passion for eco-friendly goods. Their goal: to help people pare back on plastic and toxic chemical use. So the mission of this brand is quite apparent: Clean, simple, waste-free, biodegradable packaging and house cleaners that are free of toxic junk. What makes this whole system special is that it can be dispensed in bulk from the place where you buy it. Meaning: Once you use up your soap, you bring the bottle back where you bought it to fill it up again. LOVE THIS.

Cool factor: 10

Reality factor: 8

 

COOL NEW BEAUTY LINE

Broo Shampoo A line of smart-looking, all-natural personal care products created by a sweet Asheville, N.C. couple, Brad and Sarah, who wanted a better all-natural shampoo. At first, they poo-pooed the idea of brew for their do’s, but have created what I thought was one of the most interesting beauty products at the show–not just in their approach but in their striking brand look and appeal. It’s not girlie, and it’s not gross–it doesn’t smell like a barroom (and neither will you). But it has all the good-for-your-hair ingredients without the pthalates, sulfites, and preservatives of conventional shampoos.

Cool factor: 8

Reality factor: 7

 

HOTTEST PRODUCT. PERIOD.

ON: Natural arousal oil for her This stuff is bound to set people abuzz in more ways than one. A proprietary blend of natural ingredients gives On its unique sensation. It’s not one of those warming lubes–and in fact, is not a lube at all. It’s meant to increase a woman’s sensitivity in her sweet spot and stimulate natural lubrication–and you only need a tiny drop, which I put on my tongue, as instructed (since for obvious reasons you can’t try it out the way it was designed to be use, right there at the booth). And holy banana. My entire mouth began to tingle and, as they say, buzz. Don’t ask how they do it. I am kicking myself for not buying a bottle at the show. But you can buy it on their site. I believe it’ll be available at GNC soon. (In fact, my only concern is that their website could use some work–the content, the voice isn’t quite there yet, and doesn’t capture or resonate with what an amazing product this is.)

Cool factor: 10

Reality factor: 11

 

NATURALLY NEUROTIC

Travel Bed Bug Spray from Nature-Cide. Paranoid travelers, set your hearts and minds at ease. An all-natural, nontoxic solution for killing AND warding off bed bugs, wherever you may be. The question is, if you find yourself in a hotel with bed bugs, are YOU going to feel fine just spraying them and laying back down or would you rather have a steam cleaner at hand to deal with those bugs? And if you spray as a preventive measure, well, will it matter if you’re only there a night or two and the only one who could bring them in is you? That’s a practical issue that I haven’t had answered. Suffice it to say, I imagine that you just feel good knowing you go in armed. (If you want to really gross yourself out, watch this demo video of bed bugs killed on contact. )

 

Cool factor: 8

Reality factor: 6


STRESS SOLUTION

C3 For Stress C3, which stands for Calm, Cool, and Connected, is a supplement powder that you add to water and it effervesces into a very drinkable tonic to help you soothe and support your stress-addled body and mind (note: it does create a slight numbing sensation on the tongue, but this is perfectly natural and subsides). This herbal cocktail contains a range of vitamins and minerals, as well as kava root, jujube seed, white peony, and milk thistle to name a few. We’re just starting to get the idea that we need to actively support our systems to become more resilient against stress–and while I don’t think the answer to coping comes in a pill, bottle, or packet, I do think that tools like this can help enforce other positive lifestyle choices.

Cool factor: 7

Reality factor: 7

 

TV NETWORK LAUNCHES BEAUTY LINE

Veria ID Innerdosha Natural Hair, Skin & Body Care I checked out the new line of personal care products from–and this is interesting–the lifestyle channel and site Veria Living (and Veria TV). I liked the clean, friendly look and feel of the line–they smell and feel great too. The idea behind Ayurveda, which hails from India and is the oldest system of health care on the planet, is that we all have a dominant dosha or type, (vata, pitta, kapha). When we know it, we can then take measures to help balance our constitution–through food, exercise, and yes, personal care. I thought the kapha line in particular smelled divine. Take the quiz to find out your dosha.

Cool factor: 7

Reality factor: 6

Natural Products Expo East will be held in Baltimore in September and Expo West, in Anaheim usually in March.

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