Trends, Highlights, and Food News from Natural Products Expo West 2018

By / Photography By Rachel Hommel | March 28, 2018
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Natural Products Expo West

Started in 1981, The Natural Products Expo West is the world’s largest natural and organic products trade show. Over the last 38 years, the expo, produced by New Hope Network, has become the nexus between industry and innovation for the natural foods and wellness world. From their first show at 3,000 attendees, it is now the leading show of its kind, with this year seeing a record breaking 85,000 attendees. I was among them, and was blown away, yet again, by the amazing array of innovations and insights from presenters and vendors.

Here are the Highlights


Philanthropy Through Food

In the last ten years, millennials have helped fuel the rise of mission driven companies. Technology is rapidly increasing the demand for organics, with the online grocery industry forecasted to be a $100B industry by 2022. In a world of data, savvy shoppers are not only demanding trust but also quantifiable impact. How does this product make the world better?

“Brands need to stand for something. The customer is changing, the customer is informed. You have to be brave.”

Rose Marcario – Patagonia, CEO

New Jersey based Soulfull Project’s motto is “you buy one, we give one,” a company that has stayed true to their brand voice. As former Campbell employees, a site visit to a family home turned into a mission project, after realizing the true face of hunger. For every product sold, they give a serving to a regional food bank. Innovating products alongside need, the company ensures everyone receives a nutritious meal.

Annie’s Organics

Farming Heroes on the Box

Farmers are the true heroes of our food system. Connecting brands to farmers, the conference looked at how we can empower and support our local growers. Wanting to “undo” food back to its source, we heard from Annie’s Organics, who have come out with a new line of “Farm to Yum” products, which put the farmer front and center.

Well known for their bunny grahams and mac & cheese, the farmer’s name and crop variety will now be featured on their boxes. Instead of reducing hard earned crops to commodities, they are heralding the farmer narrative, a story that needs to be told for the future of our food system. As Annie’s stated, they are creating a “two-way love fest” between consumer and producer.

Keep an eye out for the new boxes later this year.

Forager Project

Innovating to Reduce Food Waste

Waste not, want not. Right? With food as the #1 product entering our landfills, that is nearly 141 trillion calories lost (, upcycling is no longer just for clothing. And you know what? It tastes great.

SF-based Forager Project’s vegetable chips are tortilla chips re-imagined. Taking the pulp from their pressed juices, they have saved over 278,000 pounds in waste diversion. disruptive innovation at its finest.

Sprouts Farmers Markets are also leading the commitment to end food waste, recovering more than 155 million pounds of food and recyclables in 2017 in the form of food, feed and field (think compost!). With their mobile pantry program, 23 million pounds of food are donated, equivalent to 19 million meals for our communities.

It was exciting to see food waste at the center of social and sustainable responsibility conversations for emerging companies.  

Upcycled Water

Asari – Pure Water From Living Trees, will make you rethink your drink. This sparkling beverage is sourced from maple tree sap, yielding incredibly pure water. With regards to water conservation, maple producers’ use only about 3% of the sap, with the remaining 97% of water content discarded. This renewable source is great tasting and an amazing example of upcycling.

Biodynamic Baby Food

White Leaf Provisionswas one of the first adopters of the Regenerative Organic certification. Owner Keith Rowe, a native of Ireland, is a classically French-trained chef and concerned parent. With purity and transparency built into their business model, they hope to showcase biodynamic products and biodynamic farming methods to the U.S. market – bringing “the farm to eComm” in the form of farm fresh baby food.

Farm-to-Bar Bitters

King Floyd’s Bitters is leading the way in farm to bar mixology with the simple  one, two, three of percolate, macerate. repeat. This North Bay company handcrafts botanicals in small batches, letting the freshly ground herbs and spices work their magic for up to two months to ensure a robust flavor. The end result will ignite the creative mixologist in anyone. Try the Cardamom with a dry gin, a winning combo.

Organic Mushroom Nutrition 

Immunity. Vitality. Energy. Behold the power of the mushroom kingdom, located right in sunny Carlsbad. Founded by local mycologist Steve Farrar and heath and wellness expert Sandra Carter, Om powders harness powerful single species and functional mushroom blends for whole health nutrition. 

San Diego-Grown Babyfood Goes National

Nothing is quite as encouraging as a local company making a huge impact in the natural food industry. Backed by humanitarian Jennifer Gardner, Once Upon A Farm, based in Carlsbad, is bringing baby food to the source. Sourcing 80% of their ingredients from local farms in California, partner farms include Sutherland Produce in El Cajon and Rancho Organico, seven miles from Chaca La, Mexico.

How to Save the Planet

The most important panel of the expo basically told us we need to farm like the world depends upon it. From over tilling to chemical pesticides and deforestation, we are driving our own extinction. In the “Regenerative Earth Interactive” workshop, attendees learned how to become stewards of the soil (and the economy). The workshop offered a collective call to action to rebuild our damaged soil and reset the ecosystem through Regenerative Organic Certification practices.   

In the group workshop, attendees were paired with the industry’s biggest thought leaders and companies, including Thrive MarketKashiPatagonia ProvisionsDr. Bronners and Kiss the Ground to brainstorm pathways to enrich rather than degrade the soil. To cool the planet and feed the world, we look to the farmers to end factory farming and restore the soil.

Article from Edible San Diego at
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