By: Nidhi Sapra and Rick Weis
Being the newest members of the GHJ Food and Beverage team, we had yet to experience Expo West prior to the 2015 show. As a result, we had no idea of what we were in store for. The veteran team members tried to prepare us by giving us suggestions such as to rest and drink plenty of water before you arrive at the show and wear comfortable shoes. They warned us how big the show is and that no matter what you wear, your “dogs will be barking” after a few hours and you will want to sit and not get up again. We thought, “Sure, okay; we are young. I’m sure we can handle it.” We had no idea what we were in for.
Before you even get inside the show, there are exhibitors lining the sidewalk and in the lobby of the convention center. Once you step inside the main hall of the show, you gasp, “Wow, I can’t even see the other side.” We had created a strategy before arriving to ensure that we visit particular exhibitors. We did our best to stick to this plan, but it was hard not to get distracted. There were so many new and innovative products; it was enough to make your head spin and stomach full, of course, from all the samples.
There was every type of water you could imagine, from olive to artichoke, or if you ate a bad combination of samples, there were numerous probiotics to help settle you down and give you balance. If you wanted meat alternatives, there was no shortage. In particular, Beyond Meat poked fun at one of the most famous fast food chains, as you can see from the photo below. But if you wanted to eat real meat, there were plenty of options as well, including Epic Bar, which kept to their Austin origin with very appropriate setup (see below).
Caffeine lovers had plenty to choose from at the Expo. Organic Coffee Company, a family owned gourmet coffee business stood out because of its biodegradable pods. Although America is largely a coffee drinking nation, we saw many upcoming tea brands for people looking for interesting tea experiences. Zhenas tea served generous portions of its aromatic tea to all stopping by at its booth. With its reasonable price points and variety in flavor, this brand is an excellent tea rehab for coffee drinkers.
Another segment that caught our eye was that of innovative organic dairy (and fake-dairy) products. Popular for its vegan offerings, Follow Your Heart was one of the busiest stops. Its well-designed counter and fabulous Vegenaise seem to be a huge hit (see below). The next exciting booth that we saw was Redwood Hill Farm, which produces cheese, yogurt and kefir made of grass-fed goat’s milk. Nutritious and delicious on the pallet, this could be an interesting alternative to cow’s milk.
Natural, organic, non-GMO and gluten free came across as some of the main themes at the expo. After walking 8,900 steps or close to four miles (as our pedometer told us), we had enjoyed listening to product stories from some owners, seen plethora of creative displays and new trends in packaging, and screened hundreds of products. At last, it was time to say goodbye to one of the best trade fair experiences of our lives. Would we back next year? You bet!