Is the Future of Health Food Packaged? (Expo West Recap) : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Wednesday Mar 14 | BY |
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donna gates expo west
Ann and I with Donna Gates at the Expo West in 2009.

As promised, I wanted to share with you some insights that I gleaned from this year’s Expo West…

Expo West, for those who don’t know, is the largest natural product trade show. Somewhere between 60,000-70,000 people walk the floor at the Anaheim Convention Center over the period of 4 days.

It’s big. It’s intense. It’s definitely sometimes overwhelming.

This is the 5th show in a row that I’ve been to (maybe even 6th) and I have to tell you it’s always an experience.

We go to see trends, new ideas, meet people, network and hang out with our friends and no matter how put together you are mentally and physically, we always end up leaving completely worn out.

Maybe that’s why I waited to share these takeaways with you — so I didn’t have to revisit the drain a huge event like this can put on you.

But today, I’m ready to go and I’m going to share the good, bad, interesting and exciting from the event and our pre-event activities.

I’d like to start before the event…

1. A great place to go for healing in Southern California…

Before the event, we took the time to meet with Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy and some of her team at her Center for New Medicine in Irvine, California.

For me, it was an opportunity to tour their facilities, meet Dr. Connealy and confirm that I would be able to strongly recommend their services and treatments.

After our visit, I can definitely say this is the case.

Their facility is state of the art, decorated beautifully and they some of the most cutting edge treatments available. This place is serious and run by serious people who want you to get better.

At the center, they work with all types of people and all types of diseases — not just limited to cancer. The have a complete hyperbaric chamber room, IV treatment lounge, holistic dentist’s office and a day gathering area for their North American wing of the Oasis of Hope Cancer Center. This sister center follows many of the protocols — under Dr. Connealy’s guidance — of Dr. Francisco Contreras.

Meeting with Dr. Connealy, Kitty and Dana assured me that what they are doing at their facility is top of the line — and I strongly recommend if you’re in the area (or not) to check them out.

We’ve been to many different healing centers around the U.S. and this one is in the top tier.

Here’s where you can read more about what they do and what they offer. I’d strongly recommend you get on their newsletter — don’t worry, they don’t send as much as we do, LOL — to keep up with what they’re doing.

Of course, all facilities have they’re pluses and minuses…

The only negative about the Center is that it’s a day only clinic. So you can’t stay overnight here if you need that type of care.

They do, though, work with a local hotel to get you a really good rate and if you’re very sick, they may recommend for you to go to Mexico — Oasis of Hope — to get overnight care.

So, this is definitely not a show stopper.

2. Expo is not a “health” food expo.

Despite it’s billing as a natural health expo, the Expo West is not really so healthy.

I actually have a lot of gripes about the Expo, but I don’t want to turn this into a very negative post, so I’m not going to dwell too long on this point.

Of the food vendors, about 99% of them are selling boxed or bagged goods.

Some of these foods are good for those transitioning — so it’s not all bad — but the focus of the industry is taking really good, organic and healthy foods, processing them and then putting them into boxes.

Again, great for transitioning, or if you want a treat, but you would get fat, diabetes and heart disease if you were to only eat the foods that were contained within the Expo’s walls for a lifetime. Funny, that it’s still called a Natural Health Expo when this is the case.

3. The positive side of the health food, junk food movement.

I was talking to Sproutman Steve Meyerowitz at the Tribest booth about how the Expo used to be and how it is now.

He’s been around the industry for years, so he’s been coming for almost 2 decades.

In the beginning, he says it was a collection of health renegades and on-the-fringe-ers. Now it’s big business.


He was quick to share that he doesn’t believe that’s a bad thing. What it means to him, and I agree, is that as the industry grows and there is more money spent to market these products, people will get healthier.

There are multiple levels of a health journey.

I’m sure you’ve been through some.

If you start with eating organic packaged foods, then that’s OK.

The reason why is because after some time, you’ll likely end up running into someone who teaches you about green smoothies. Then you’ll learn about coconut kefir. Then you’ll end up at a healthy food potluck. Then you might get barefoot shoes and start exercising again. Then… I think you see where I’m going here.

If organic junk food is the gateway drug to better health, then I have to condone it to some degree.

I’m OK with this.

3. I can’t trust any skin care any more.

After being in the natural beauty product industry now for a few short years — and after seeing what goes on behind the scenes — I just can’t trust the skin care industry any more.

There are dozens of skin care booths at the Expo, but as I was scanning the labels and asking questions I couldn’t help but disbelieve.

Products with long shelf lives (particularly lotions and creams) have chemicals in them — even if they don’t have those chemicals listed on the label.

The trend in the industry now is to not put the nasty stuff on the labels, because consumers are wising up. So instead of reinventing their products in a more natural way, they’re just being lazy and taking the ingredients (or continuing to leave them) off the label. Don’t be fooled. I’m sure there are nasty ingredients in about 97-99% of all skin care products you see on the shelf.

Please believe me when I say this. I will share some more of our experiences in the next few months that will make you as skeptical as I am now.

I really want to trust, but I can only trust our team and what we’re doing — because I oversee it on a daily basis and we’re not too big to forget about you — the customer who wants the best and most (completely) natural.

Oh yeah, and we also really value honesty.

4. Can’t trust the food either?

I know food is more heavily regulated than the skin care industry, but it’s hard to think that everything is rosy in the world of packaged foods.

We live in a culture where our food industry doesn’t have any respect for the true meaning of certain words.

I’m sure you’re aware that “natural” just means that it resembles something in our world. “Organic” is a word that can describe a product that is 70% organic, 30% crap. And “fresh” just means that it’s perishable.

This slight of hand makes me wonder what else “squeaks” by the regulators.

I’m sure it’s a lot.

5. Anaheim is… interesting.

Again, this is not a negative post, but…

Anaheim is not where I’d choose to have a Natural Health Expo. California is the cultural hub of health food, so I’m cool with good weather and a quick flight, but why not bring the Expo to a place a little further away from Disneyland? The restaurants close to Anaheim are a who’s who of American cookie cutter dining. There is one grocery store about 10-25 minutes away, depending on traffic, that has organic foods and that’s about it.

We always end up driving at least 20-45 minutes to shop or eat in LA, Newport Beach, Fountain Valley, Venice, Santa Monica or elsewhere.

The weather is nice. I want to walk!

New Hope, the company who produces the show — and do a fantastic job, BTW — are based out of Boulder, CO. Why not have the show in Denver — real city with a really cool vibe (and good places to shop and eat too)?

(Yes: Anaheim is a real city, but if you’ve even been to Disneyland, you’ll know the area I’m talking about. The Convention Center is right next door.)

We do appreciate the access to Mother’s Market when we are in town — there are about 5-6 of them all around Orange County so no matter where you are, you’re only about 15 minutes away from a location.

6. This year I barely ate anything at the Expo.

And it was a good choice.

The last few years, I’ve either eaten too many date and nut bars (gassy), too much chocolate (spazzy), or too much maca tincture (anxious and paranoid.)

This year, I ate nothing at the show except one delicious chocolate covered dried banana, one bag of dried spicy tomatoes and a shot glass full of organic soy yuba (it’s the stuff skimmed off the top of soy milk and it is really good.)

That was it.

No spaz, no gas, and definitely no paranoid anxiety attacks.

7. The future of natural health…

It’s good, guys. Have no fear.

Like Steve and I agreed upon — there’s more money coming into health food.

This means more awareness.

That’s great, because the food companies will continue to reach a larger and larger audience — they have to or else they won’t be able to sell their product.

So, the more we keep on doing what we do, the more people will be turned on to it. All positive.

And if you’re looking for new trends…

  • Boobab powder is getting hot. High vitamin C content. Tangy, like camu camu. I don’t think you need to bring it up from Madagascar when you can get other great C sources closer, but that’s a personal decision for me. Last year it was maqai berry.
  • People are finally catching on to cold-extracted herbs — like our Holy Basil and Ashwaganda. These are basically concentrated tea extracts that use little to no heat to extract a wide nutrient profile.
  • Date and nut bars are losing steam — I think the market is saturated. Plus, how many of them can the public really eat?
  • Coconut water is super-hot, but not many people are doing it sustainably. What else is that it seems like at least 50% of the companies are selling a product made from concentrate or powder.
  • Kale chips are everywhere. It’s a hot, flash in the pan type business though unless you learn how to diversify — and get good pricing on kale! For the consumer it’s a good time though because they’re getting cheaper than the $8.00-9.00 a bag they were a few years ago.

That’s about it!

Your Question of the Day: What trends have you seen in the natural health over the last few years?

Live Awesome!

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.


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  1. Darlene says:

    Grocery stores are finally getting more ‘organic’ produce & ‘packaged organic’ foods in. That’s a great trend for awareness!

  2. Velda says:

    Exciting article, Kevin. I have seen more availability of good foods from different sources besides the grocery stores. I have found a guy that raises his own beef, lamb, chickens and goats right here in my town, grass feeds them, and does not give them antiobiotics or hormones. Also, there are farms around I can go directly to, or Farm Fresh to you will deliver in-season fruits/vegies once a month. Also, more places online are springing up that you can find healthier choices, like I don’t always trust the “organic” food selection in the grocery stores, but will go there if I have to.

    This is a great “movement” and I hope that it will begin to raise the awareness of consumers before they get sick and die from the “foods” they are consuming, and the cleaning products they are using (home and personal).

    Also, with all of this, I have noticed more lies going on in the marketing of foods and cleaners, and skin care, more “cover ups” and more duplicity on the governments part to allow dangerous things on the market. So, some of the changes I have notices are good and some are not so good.

    Thanks, Kevin!!

  3. Bryan says:

    Unfortunately Kevin my experience is that when a healthy food item becomes “hot” the price cutters come in. The most typical way the price is cut is by hiding behind the food rules that were supposed to keep food safer for the consumer, not hide what a manufacturer is doing to the food. As Velda mentions above, it is critical to develop relationships with people or companies that you can trust and hope that they will continue to maintain their integrity.

    Example the “organic” fertilizer dealer that messed up all those farmers to make a buck you shared recently. Again, farmers are tempted into the “Organic” market for the superior price point and work with the fertilizer companies to cut into the integrity of the organic rules by lobbying so that a mass produced “natural” ingredient like liquid can be applied to the crop. Organic farmers spend more time farming soil than plants. As soon as someone is selling an “organic plant fertilizer” alarms to be extra careful should be going off. Like when Maca got hot and suddenly there were a ton of on-line ads for the next “Herbal Viagra” 🙁 Uggg.

    Thanks for the heads up and the reminder about packaged foods, and body care products.

  4. Thomas says:

    I think the consolidation of the “health food” industry has been greatest trend. It’s amazing to see who actually owns these food producers.
    See Cornucopia’s chart and video at:

    It will surprise you! Did you know that Cargill and Heinz own Hain? This has been the largest trend . . . the big fish gobbling up the little fish (just like with the banks). The big fish don’t seem to have the same integrity as to the purity of the ingredients, just a concern with the ‘bottom line$’. 🙂

  5. Kat says:

    I’ve been notcing greenwashing for years. My first experience was about 8 years ago after using some so called “Organic” lotion. It burned the hell out of my skin and I ended up with some big fat welts. Not to mention my eyes were so red it looked as though I’d been smoking a field of pot. That’s when I read the label and realized how dummed down I’d become. If something is organic, adding chemicals negates that property, at least as far as I’m concerned. Not to mention, in the United States, it is perfectly legal to have trade secrets which essentially means they can put anything they want in a product and we don’t have a right to the information.

    I no longer buy or use ANY personal care or cleaning products. I dry brush my skin which negates the need to use lotion and use water for everything else. Occassionally I use a good quality olive, sesame or coconut oil on my skin. I’ve been doing that for more than 8 years and it works well for me. My skin is baby soft and my hair has never looked better. Not to meniton it’s absolutely LIBERATING to be freed from using products!

  6. chusmacha says:

    You can’t make cardboard out of compressed air.

  7. TaraBianca says:

    I am also seeing a growing trend of small organic businesses being bought up by large corporations and introducing chemicals into previously chemical free products!

  8. sharon says:

    Yeah, you’ve got to go natural with all the bad stuff out there in the skin care and cosmetic industry. On my skin I only use coconut oil/cacao butter, or AnnMarie’s products. For my hair I use 1 T. of baking soda in a cup of water for “shampoo.” And 1 T. of ACV in a cup of water for rinse. Try it! It works and nice to be free of having to buy “products” you’re not sure about.

  9. June says:

    Hi Kevin
    I tried to order one of your e (electronic) products and was asked at checkout for my address and phone number when I live in Australia!! You have no need for this information as I think it highly unlikely you will telephone me or come round for coffee one morning! I gave in and, after putting all the excess information in, the ordering form asked for my address again even though it was sitting there. (Pay back time!) I couldn’t resolve it so didn’t bother to order, which is a shame. Why do you need foreign physical addresses for download products, please?

  10. Nichole says:

    I am excited for the “Harvest to Home” produce program with the Green Polk-a-Dot Box. I am watching this company closely and think this model has potential to deliver fresh quality food to people. Hopefully it will streamline the grocery buying process and reduce fuel burdens on the suppliers and demanders and our great mother 🙂

    Good insights Kev!

  11. Kuru says:

    The bodywork business has gone gangbusters too. I have watched immense changes since I started doing massage in 1984. It used to be an amazing therapeutic tool for healing what was believed to be unhealable and for opening consciousness. It was a cutting edge health tool.

    Since the inception of spa world and the endless menus, and the trendy spa goers thinking they know everything, it has all become diluted and sadly standardized. Even though it’s great that so many people avail themselves to the service, as least as a stress reducer, people hardly really know the profound nature of addressing the body through specific touch. It is a wonderful thing when someone on the table has a epiphany through understanding the connection of body to spirit through the breath. Or when we come in the back door and “fix” someone’s injury they’ve been saddled with for 10 years. Will we ever collectively wake up???

  12. LynnCS says:

    Every time health food gets better, someone is going to try to make a buck by trying to package it. There is still no better fast food than a piece of fruit. IMO!

  13. Kuru says:

    Btw, Annmarie looks like she could be with child. Could it be?

  14. Deena Lynn McKelvey says:

    Great pic!! Is it an optical illusion or is Annmarie preggers?

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