Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lotsa Fun At the Natural Products Expo West!!

Today, I ventured to the Natural Products Expo West and had so much fun!! It was tiring and a bit overwhelming, especially trying to visit so many booths in such a short amount of time.  For those of you who don't know, the expo is a tradeshow for natural/organic brands to market their products to potential retailers. It is strictly limited to businesses and not open to the general public. So how did I get in, you ask? By volunteering for one of my favorite organizations, Compassion Over Killing. In exchange for sitting at their booth for a couple of hours this morning explaining to people why they should become vegan, I got free roam of three massive rooms filled with booths handing out free products. This consisted of food, beauty products, health supplements and even pet items. Not all of it was vegan, but there was still so much my brain went on overload. I got to sample everything from vegan pizzas, to ice cream, to various fake meats and even chocolate mousse whipped cream! My stomach is aching right now but it was so worth it! Here's some free products I took home and tips on how to maximize your time at an expo:

I got a bunch of travel sized natural beauty products ranging from conditioner to anti-aging eye treatments. This is great for when I want to go on vacation but don't want to lug around a ton of beauty products.  Especially with security measures at airports prohibiting liquids on planes, this is easy to carry on, especially when I don't want to check any baggage.

I also got some sample bags of chips. There were so many different types of chips at the expo, ranging from sweet potato to kettle chips, to veggie chips, to chocolate chips. Of course they aren't the healthiest, but they sure tasted good! There were so many different textures, with some being really crunchy to others being more dried out.

There was also so many different types of faux meats and tofu dishes, from gardein's burgers to korean vegan tofu dishes. One place even had a buffet of vegan chickens, beefs and lambs coated in various sauces. They really went all out. My favorite place was a soy brand that actually gave away boxes of tofu! I love that they are indirectly encouraging people to be creative with cooking tofu after sampling such a wide array of products.

In addition, there were so many different types of beverages being served. There were self-serve coffee and tea machines ranging from household names, such as Starbucks, Coffee-bean and tazo, to smaller, local brands trying to make their way into the marketplace. There were also bottled beverages on every corner to drown down all the food being consumed. I downed iced teas, fresh squeezed juices, smoothies, shakes and even coffee and tea flavored sodas. My body has never felt so hydrated, yet full of sugar. 

Expos are a great way to get products for way cheaper than they sell at the store.  The products are greatly discounted, usually about 20-40% off.  It's a great way to discover new products and stock up on your favorites. I also learned it is best to stay around at the expo after everyone has left. A lot of venders need to get rid of their products, so they will literally hand out the goods that didn't sell so they don't have to trash it. My friend and I sat outside and a woman came by handing us her leftover bags of quinoa and lentils.

So, you ask, how can you go to an expo like this? It's easy, of course! Find an organization that will be there and volunteer to help them out for a bit, like I did. You can also make friends with people who work for retailers that will be there. These people have extra passes and can get you in and you don't even have to sit at a booth all day! There are also some expos that allow consumers to attend for a small admission price. This expo took place for four days, but I was only fortunate to go one day. I would have loved to explore more of it, but I paced myself well, visiting a lot in such a short time. The key is to not allow yourself to spend too much time at one place. The vendors will try to engage you in a lengthy discussion of their product, but you are not obliged to stand there and talk to them for too long. Keep your conversations brief and also do not visit too many similar booths. You don't want to fill up on chips and trail mix only to find yourself full when you discover the tofurkey pizzas, do you? I can't wait for what awaits me at the next expo.

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