During the first week of March, I attended the largest trade show for all things related to natural, organic and healthy products. With over 60,000 attendees and more than 3,000 companies displaying the newest products and innovations, the Natural Products Expo West Conference in Anaheim, California, is a smorgasbord of tasty treats, healthy bites and cutting-edge trends on the grocery horizon.
While roaming the miles and miles of vendor exhibits, I took the opportunity to catch up with a few former Local Producer Loan Recipients and see how things were going since they received their loan.
My first stop was to visit the always-enthusiastic team from Thunderbird Energetica, who received a Local Producer Loan in June 2012. They’re an Austin, Texas-based company creating fruit and nut energy bars without wheat, soy, dairy or refined sugars.
Founders Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest were sampling out their creations and displaying the ingredients of their energy bars on the table in front of them. Carrots, dates, lemon, almonds…your grandma would recognize them all. As an additional coup, Thunderbird bars are also going through the process of becoming Non-GMO Project certified! They can now be found in Whole Foods Market® stores in the Southwest, Southern Pacific, Northern California, Rocky Mountain and Midwest regions and the Mid-Atlantic and South regions by this June.
Thunderbird Energetica’s newest product, EPIC, a 100% grass-fed animal-based protein bar mixed with fruits and nuts was awarded the Natural Products Expo West Next Award, which is presented to just 40 companies out of the 3,000+ attending the show. EPIC bars will be available in the Southwest Region starting May1st, and trust me when I say you definitely want to try it out – especially the Bison Bacon Cranberry flavor.
I also stopped by to meet the folks who run Hope Hummus. Hailing from Boulder, Colorado, Hope Hummus was founded by former Whole Foods Market team member Ryan Weilert. They received a Local Producer Loan in 2012. Popular for their organic, vegan and kosher hummus, their booth was bumpin’ as convention goers tried out their six different hummus flavors. I was excited to sample a few because I had never before gotten to try their unique Thai Coconut Curry Hummus. It was delicious!
Fortunately for me, Hope Hummus can be found in the Rocky Mountain, Southwest and Northern California/Reno stores. I bought a tub as soon as I got back to Austin and I ate it all in one day. I am going to pick up their Organic Green Chili Lime Hummus next. Let’s see if I can keep it around long enough for my husband to try it.
CB’s Nuts is a 2011 LPLP “alumnus” out of Seattle, Washington. Tami and Clark Bowen are a husband-and-wife team who started roasting organic, US-grown, small-batch peanuts in 2006. The nuts became so popular that they now sell their products in three Whole Foods Market regions – Pacific Northwest, Northern California and Southern Pacific.
They set up a beautiful booth filled to the brim with bags of their roasted peanuts, pistachios and pumpkin seeds and containers of fresh-ground peanut butter. I could smell the roasted-in-shell peanuts from four booths away! Tami let me try out a prototype sample of their soft peanut brittle candy, which tasted like an amped-up version of the inside of a Butterfinger candy bar, only this treat was all natural.
My last stop was to visit 2010 Local Producer Loan recipient’s CORE Foods, and it’s a good thing I did, because founder Corey Rennell was kind enough to give me one of his Warrior Meal bars for the plane ride home. Seeing as I had no time to stop for dinner, his fresh, organic protein bar held me over nicely during the three-hour flight home. Depending on the type, these bars use five to seven raw, organic ingredients and are equivalent to a full, hearty bowl of oatmeal.
I was especially glad to finally meet Corey face-to-face because he built Core Foods around socially responsible principals, including a commitment to educate people about healthy living and eating, source as locally as possible, reduce or offset carbon emissions, cap executive pay and reinvest 100% of profits in the food and the community. That’s right – a 0% Financial Return Company. CORE’s mission-driven business principals are simple yet revolutionary, and it was a pleasure to get to meet the team behind it.
As you can see, attending Expo is an onslaught to the senses in the best way possible. I met many vendors – some of whom I have worked with before, some new friends for the future. Most importantly, I got to spread the word about the Local Producer Loan Program and to increase the pipeline of mission-driven companies with whom we are so privileged to work.
What new or innovative products have you discovered recently?