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Natural Products Expo West 2011 Part One

March 16, 2011 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Last Friday, Saturday and Sunday I walked the floor of the Anaheim Convention Center along with over 58,000 other members of the natural health community. I had my comfy Sanuk walking shoes on and a mission at hand: to survey the current trends in the natural food sector with a critical but fair eye. Some of what I saw left me hopeful, so that’s what I’ll focus on today. In my next installment on the Natural Products Expo West, I’ll discuss some of the more troublesome aspects of this colossal trade show.

From an industry standpoint, this years Expo West was a smashing success. Over 3,500 exhibitors, the largest turnout in its 31 year history, took part in the convention. In total, exhibits from over 35 countries spanned more than 1 million square feet of prime convention center real estate. This is most likely a reflection of the 6% sales growth in the nutrition industry reported in the year 2010. (1)

The most welcome trend I discovered while scouring through the endless mazes of booths was a slow but steady acceptance of all-natural, lower carbohydrate products. Don’t get me wrong, the words “low carb” were nowhere to be found. In fact, Atkins Nutritionals Inc., a leading player in the $2.4 billion weight control nutrition category, didn’t bother to show up at all this year, which was rather shocking to me. Last year, Atkins spent a pretty penny on a large, prime display space to show off their new line of products and to introduce their new spokesman, the actress Courtney Thorne-Smith.

Five manufacturers stood out from the pack by producing innovative products that are not only suitable for carbohydrate-restricted dieters and diabetics, but are also delicious and reasonably well formulated.

  1. Hero Nutritionals’ Slice of Life Sugar Free and Yummi Bears Sugar Free - These multivitamin/mineral supplements for adults and children come in the form of candy-like treats, but are sweetened exclusively with the prebiotic, chicory root. They’re slightly sweet and tangy, but they don’t go too far on either characteristic. These chewy bites aren’t exactly high-potency multinutrients, but they’ll surely appeal to those who prefer a capsule or tablet-free option.
  2. Steaz Zero Calorie - This tasty line of organic green tea is now available in cans and features several, flat and sparkling, sugar-free options. The sweetener of choice here is a combination of a natural, sugar alcohol (erythritol) and stevia. Added nutrients such as B-Vitamins and Vitamin C are present, as are antioxidant rich colorants including beta carotene and purple carrot extract.
  3. Epic Xylitol Gum and Mints - If you’re going to produce a new entry in the xylitol dental-health category, you need to do something different. What sets the Epic products apart from their competitors is that they contain 45% more xylitol per piece of chewing gum. Their products are all-natural with the exception of the fruit flavored gums and mints. But there are plenty of other flavors to choose from, including cinnamon, peppermint and spearmint,.
  4. So Delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream - Bar none, the frozen dessert line by So Delicious was THE most wonderful surprise discovered by Team HealthyFellow at this year’s show. This is the first commercially available, dairy-free, ice cream collection that meets most of my criteria with respect to composition and taste. There will be five flavors to choose from: Butter Pecan, Chocolate, Mint Chip, Toasted Almond Crisp and Vanilla Bean. In addition, two varieties of ice cream bars (Fudge Bar and Chocolate Covered Vanilla Bar) complete the new product roll out. They’re all-natural, have no-added sugar and use a combination of chicory root extract, monk fruit extract and Reb A (stevia extract) for sweetness.
  5. GURU 2.0 Lite - This is a 100% natural energy drink that is free of many of the questionable ingredients contained in mass market products such as Red Bull. Each 8 oz can yields only 10 calories and features naturally-sourced caffeine from guarana seed extract. They also incorporate a number of other herbs including Panax ginseng for added antioxidants and a supposed energy boost. Perhaps best of all, it passed Mrs. HealthyFellow’s taste test – a tall order.

Chicory Root Extract May Improve Arthritic Symptoms

Source: BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2010 Jul 9;11:156. (link)

The products I mentioned above are not only noteworthy for what they omit. The ingredients that replace the more conventional sweeteners do more than just lower the sugar count. For instance, the July 2010 issue of the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders reports that 1,800 mg/day of chicory root extract can reduce arthritic symptoms such as pain and stiffness in patients with osteoarthritis. A just released Korean study reveals that a water-based extract of stevia possesses significant antioxidant activity. Finally, the oral health benefits of xylitol were recently confirmed in a paper appearing in the European Journal of Dentistry. In the publication, chewing xyliol gum was found to reduce the concentrations of a pathogenic bateria known as mutans streptococci which contributes to tooth decay. (2,3,4)

The most rewarding aspect of this past weekend was attending the convention with the most trusted and valued members of the HealthyFellow family – my wife, mother and father. We divided and conquered a seemingly endless sea of distributors, salesmen, sample-givers and spokespeople. We listened, observed and took copious notes. We also did our best to share our evidence-based view of how the natural product industry could conceivably change for the better. Was anyone listening? It seemed so. But change often comes about slowly. The products highlighted today appear to be a sign that, however gradual, healthy change is indeed possible and may even be on the way.

Be well!

JP

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12 Comments & Updates to “Natural Products Expo West 2011 Part One”

  1. Gail for So Delicious Dairy Free Says:

    Thanks so much for stopping by and seeing us at Expo West, JP. We’re delighted that you enjoyed our new No-Sugar Added Coconut Milk Ice Cream, and we appreciate being mentioned in your list of Expo West innovative products.

  2. JP Says:

    It’s my pleasure, Gail. The products your company unveiled this year were truly a pleasant surprise. Very enjoyable and quite healthful to boot. I was happy to see that. :)

    Be well!

    JP

  3. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    Gail, when can one buy your products? I’m in Florida.

  4. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning, JP ☺

    ooooh, wish i have could been there too! I think it was great to see the variety of natural products there. And im jealous: you tried coconut ice cream ☻ do you think, i can do one fresh at home? what are the ingredients? really only coconut milk/fat?

    Greetings from Europe ☺
    Nina K.

  5. JP Says:

    Iggy,

    I’m not sure if Gail will come back around. I can tell you that I’ve seen their products at some of the larger health food stores in the area – Whole Foods, etc.

    It’s my understanding that the new line of “no-sugar added” ice cream may not be available until May.

    Be well!

    JP

  6. JP Says:

    Nina,

    Let me dig through my files to see if I can find the exact ingredient list. I believe I have it somewhere. In the meantime, I’ve seen some coconut milk ice cream recipes on the ‘net. Here’s one:

    http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2008/05/chocolate-coconut-milk-ice-cream-2.html <— I’d replace the agave syrup w/stevia.

    Be well!

    JP

  7. Joel Says:

    Having followed the trail of links through the ice cream recipe to the Weston Price site on Agave syrup, is the chicory sweetener mentioned in the post different from the ““chicory syrup” for hydrolyzed high fructose inulin syrup” referenced in the Price article?

  8. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning, JP :-)

    oh thanks, sounds easy :-) will try that soooon :-) let you know the results ;-)

    Be well!
    Nina K.

  9. Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP,

    Thank you for sharing with those who could not attend the Expo, your impresions! Please keep providing more highlights with your
    recommendations!
    It is a monumental task because the Expo was so large!
    Thanks in behalf of my cohorts, parents of babyboomers and babyboomers!

    Paul

  10. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Paul! I appreciate your comments and support very much! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  11. JP Says:

    Thank you, Nina! Look forward to hearing your review! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  12. JP Says:

    Joel,

    I’m not certain about the terminology. However, I believe the good folks at Weston Price do take issue with the use of chicory root and other sources of FOS and/or inulin.

    Be well!

    JP

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