Things I learned at the Natural Products Expo
This was my first year experiencing the Natural Products Expo West and it was pretty amazing. Natural Products Expo West is a huge Annual SoCal Expo held at the Anaheim Convention Center. I absolutely loved the seminars, speakers, expo hall exhibitors, the eclectic group of people, and really just the all over energy of this expo. No matter what your reason for attending; business, pleasure, education – there is plenty to check out. I complied a couple takeaways from my experience at Natural Products Expo West that might be helpful for first timers in the future……
* You have to make a game plan. No matter what your purpose of checking out the Natural Products Expo – you have got to make a game plan. Even if you plan on attending all four days there is no way you can possibly see everything there is to see. Go through the website first and decide what speakers and sessions are most important to you. Plan to check out the Expo hall during down time – and check out the Expo floor map online before diving in. The Expo floor is massive, decide what time of products are most important to you and start there. I had only 1 day to check it all out. While I feel I learned a lot and accomplished what I wanted, I know there was so much more I could have experienced if I had mapped myself out a little better.
* Vegan cheese recently became awesome! I am not vegan, I am not even vegetarian. I like animals to be raised humanely and with dignity – but I don’t want to live in a world without cheese, ice cream, and the occasional real live steak. I have sampled many vegan items in years past and I the general thought was “This is not *insert whatever the product was trying to mock*.” Let me tell you – there have been some major advancements. Dairy cows are gonna need to start looking for work elsewhere because based on what I sampled this past weekend, their jobs are becoming increasingly less necessary. Skeptical? Try a Daiya pizza or a grilled cheese sandwich with their version of cheddar – it kinda blew my mind. This goes for several other things out there too! I tried mock chicken, beef crumbles, sausage – all really really good! I found this to be really exciting for vegans, those considering making the switch to veganism or vegetarianism, and even just families like ours that are simply trying to cut down on the amount of meat we consume.
* This isn’t really the best Expo to find work as a blogger or online publication. I’m not at all saying this is a bad thing, I just perhaps went with the wrong expectation. If online campaigns and sponsored posts are one of the ways you work, regardless of the size of your audience – you aren’t exactly the connection most exhibitors want to connect with. I was really looking to make a face to face connection with brands I have worked with over the years or would really like to work with in the future. I made a few connections, certainly enough to make even that aspect of the expo worth while for me, but not nearly as many as I would have expected at an Expo of this size. I was brushed off, I was told the marketing person ‘just ran out of cards’ like 10 times, and just got the general idea that overall, this was an Expo to sell, not work on marketing campaigns. That being said, I was alongside a good friend who has an online publication that is much larger than mine with a huge vegan following that got the same results at several companies she was hoping to connect with too. Again, I felt it was worth the trip overall, I think my expectations were just different than what they should have been – it simply isn’t that kind of Expo, which is really fine, because it was an excellent Expo for so many other reasons.
* The pre-popped snack popcorn market is entirely too saturated. Seriously, I don’t care if you have developed the most amazing kettlecorn on the planet; 85 other booths had the same thing and honestly – even if yours is better, it would be a hard sell for people to try it. There will be a lot of competition for sellers. My kids were super excited to sample a couple flavors that were handed to me as I walked around, but they all kinda blended together after a while.
* Even if you tell people “No thank you.” to samples, you will somehow still find yourself bogged down with samples in a big giant reusable bag. My advice, be picky about what you say ‘sure!’ to when offered samples of a product and wear comfortable shoes. I honestly had no intention of bringing home goodies on Friday, I planned on sampling a few items at lunch time, but that was about it. Much to my kid’s excitement I still happened to come home with a bag full of mostly organic fruit squeezes, crackers, cookies, pretzels, popcorn (seriously, so much popcorn), gummy supplements, sunscreen, and more. I brought home supplements for the hubs and I, makeup, soap, and a lot of other cool things too…. at some point I just started saying “Sure!” way too often. I will get to try out several products I otherwise didn’t know about, so that is really great. Sadly, I wore heels, so so stupid. They were short heels with a wedge, so not typically uncomfortable, but as I sit and write this the morning after, my feet are not only blistered but my arches feel bruised. Wear comfortable shoes, be prepared to lug around some stuff.
* The most popular seminars and speakers will have a full house – even if it is an extra fee to attend. Make sure to get to these events with ample time to grab a seat. I watched giant ball rooms fill up as much as half an hour before the scheduled start time. Give yourself time to get there early!
Natural Products Expo West was certainly one of my favorite Expos I have ever attended. I cannot wait to attend Natural Products Expo West 2015 to see what is new! Learning about ways to enjoy a healthier and more natural life in such a setting was incredible and I would highly suggest it to anyone who would like to learn more.