2010 Natural Products ExpoCalifornia Dreamin’…  Coincidentally enough, this was the song (a funky hip-hop version) blasting in my spin class the night before I left for the 2010 Natural Products Expo and it was indeed “such a winter’s night” in Boulder, with spring snowflakes the size of cotton balls floating around.  Checking in at the airport, a group of girls – spring breakers, perhaps – were figuring out how quickly they could get to In-n-Out Burger once we landed, and a very Western-looking couple, who may have been driving for a long time to get to the Denver airport, were concerned about where to find the McDonald’s (at 8:30 AM?!).  Have any of these people seen Food, Inc.???  The line at Einstein’s Bagels was longer than the one at security, leading me to wonder if, like my vegetarian daughter, these folks depend on bagels as their primary source of protein.  Sometimes it takes a foray out of Boulder to realize that “natural foods” are, in fact, niche.

The Tea Spot boothBut for four days last month, just as it has for each of the last 30 years, the neighborhood around the Anaheim Convention Center was transformed into a granola megalopolis.  This year, the world’s largest natural and organic products trade show – hosted by the Boulder media powerhouse, New Hope Media – set an attendance record of over 55,000 attendees.  The Tea Spot was one of over 2,000 exhibitors.  Even from our 10×10 spot in the “New Products” section, we were able to connect with a few thousand industry professional passersby with our loose-leaf teas and new Steepware products, including some previews of exciting developments launching later in 2010.  We had a lot of interest in our Custom Steepware® program – from companies ranging from kitchen products manufacturers to corporations enhancing their employee wellness programs who are now branding our Tuffy Steeper and ceramic Steepware® with their own logos.

Our newest product in development dovetails perfectly with the strong Going Green initiatives that New Hope has taken with CO2 emissions reductions initiatives at the show this year.  For example, there were no more printed show guides – information has indeed gone mobile, even for navigating one’s way through the gargantuan halls filled with natural products vendors ranging from skin care and sunscreen, to teas – bottled, brewed, and bagged – to chips, bars, supplements, pet food, pizza, olive oil, cheeses, and ice cream (the sweetest of which, and 100% organic, was served up by our neighbors – Three Twins).

teabag chandelierThere were about 30 of us tea companies committed to the natural foods sector exhibiting at the Expo.  A few tea-related observations from the show that stood out included:

–  Matcha – Here it was AOI Tea Company’s certified organic matcha from Japan.  AOI looks to be the real deal.  Their marketing literature says “Matcha supports digestion, weight loss, energy, and cancer prevention”…things many of us ladies hope for!

–  Lots of buzz surrounding the kombucha controversy – Dr. Andrew Weil, always a big presence at the show, recently recommended not consuming kombucha, even though he is a strong proponent of many alternative remedies.  As you might imagine, this has created quite a stir.

–  And a big booth right in front, from a Macedonian company with marketing money, who showed what I think was the most innovative use of tea bags I’ve yet to see – a luxury-laden booth with enormous chandeliers.