Finding Your Tribe at Expo West 2016

“Passion is oxygen of the soul…” – Bill Bryon

JUNK IS JUNK. FOOD IS FOOD. Here beginneth the lesson… – Adam Melonas, Chef & Chew Founder.

In its current 36th year, Natural Products Expo West continues to be the leading trade show in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry. As Walter Robb from Whole Foods Market said best, this is no longer the natural foods industry. This is THE food industry.

As a former exhibitor myself, this conference has truly changed my life’s trajectory. I found my tribe at Expo, my heart full each year with inspiration and passion to change the future of our food system. This conference is for people not simply walking the path, but blazing the trail. This is about “un-doing” food, where food can be food again.

Community & Connection

Is there a typical schedule at Expo? Hardly. In the whirlwind 48 hours I attended, I did outdoor yoga with Michael Franti, attended panels with leading industry executives, and enjoyed vegan food alongside the founder of Gardenburger, Paul Wenner. It is about connection, networking with over 70,000 industry professionals who understand your passion (and geekery). There is nothing better.

Speaker Highlights

Coining the term “discovery eating,” Adam Melonas spoke about humanizing and normalizing food, where the worlds of gastronomy and grocery work together. A place where food becomes food again, eradicating the need for a “health food” industry. Citing the front line as the playground, his innovative company hopes to challenge everything – lead by example, blaze a trail, and move away from kale chips!

Further illuminating the “un-doing” of food, Saturday’s case study discussion included an A-list panel of speakers, including CEOs of Whole Foods Market, Annie’s Organics, NatureBox, and Back to the Roots. The key theme was overcoming the impossible, creating new business models that focus on experience and community, highlighting the need for conscious capitalism. Optimism, purpose, and passion were the three takeaways, empowering consumers to take back control.

Adam Melonas, CEO of Chew. Discover his transformational work at 

Market Trends

Tech and food is big, I mean big. In 2016, I predict a shift to more direct to consumer brands and e-commerce, such as NatureBox. Another big trend is a shift to pre-industrialized foods, with a “closer to nature” approach. Snacking has evolved, with a clear demand for higher quality food. Probiotics are in, with the role of food science and gut-health connection fueling the industry. From algae to insects, companies are giving new life to the foods of our future.

Top Products

From the tastiest to the quirkiest and beyond…a sampling of the 3000+ options.

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Cultured & SaucyPrebiotic and probiotic benefits?! Local hometown heroes, their fermented sauces and spicy umami onions are great for overall gut health (and taste).

Belicious – Campers rejoice! Squeezable products that are savory (not SWEET!), minimally processed, and bring nutrition and fun together. Pick your mood – Energize, Revive, Strength, or Vitalize.

Mama O’s Premium Super Spicy Kimchi – I love kimchi and kimchi loves me. This HOT kimchi offers a real kick. Made with ghost chilies, mild kimchi lovers need not apply.

Numoo by Juisi Nut Milks – We get it. Nut milk is big business. But have you tried pistachio milk? One of the most nutritious, this product is free of junky additives and sweetened with dates.

Raw Food Central Kale Superfood Seasoning – Think pizzas, potatoes, salads. Packed with nutrients, this is a truly unique take on seasoning.

Fire Cider Tonic – Great for flu season, this tasty tonic will kick any bug out of your system. This take on the age old tonic includes horseradish and habanero pepper. WOW.

Chapul Cricket Bars/PowderCrickets + Chocolate? With 2x the protein of beef and rich in Vitamin B12, crickets are the next big thing in powerhouse protein.

Addictive Wellness Chocolates – Okay, so unicorns do exist! (see photo). This raw chocolate is a winner, utilizing adaptogenic herbs, 89% cacao content, and diabetic friendly.

Future of the Food Movement

As New Hope Media put best, we are becoming a nation of food tribes. We are not only bound together by what we eat but also by our personal values, beliefs, and behaviors. Expo West is about this movement, the creativity behind it, and most importantly, about transparency. And yes, it is about FUN. Food should be fun. Until next year…

Taste. Trek. Travel.



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