Natural Products Expo Update


When I first attended Natural Products Expo West 14 years ago, I was moved by the realization that such a huge industry had been germinated by my generation as we figured out how to lead a natural life in the sixties and seventies. That industry is even bigger now. In fact, The Natural Products Expo West is one of the biggest trade shows in the world; 50,000 people attended the first day.

One exciting trend I saw at the Expo was the move toward labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) food. Ronnie Cummins and the Organic Consumers Association has been working on this issue for years and it’s finally getting some momentum. People at the show were gathering plenty of signatures from California voters to put a GMO labeling bill on the California ballot in November. Just this week, 55 members of Congress asked the FDA to label GMO foods. Here’s an Infographic from Just Label it that gives background on GMO Foods. If you want to find out more about the California Ballot Initiative, see California Right to Know.

As the natural products industry grows, I wonder how one can tell what are the best quality products. How can you differentiate between a good product and simply a well marketed one?

A banner at the B Corporation booth addressed my question. (see at right) 500 Certified B Corporations have voluntarily met high standards of transparency, accountability, and performance. They hope to redefine  business success to include not only high growth, but also high impact.

I tend to trust a company with a long history and a commitment to an educational mission and/or a social cause. Melinda Olson of Earth Mama Angel Baby has long been committed to truth in labeling and to purity of ingredients. Her products are literally good enough to eat. Suzanne Siemens and Madeleine Shaw of Lunapads help to support Pads4Girls, an African charity that provides cloth pads for African girls.

Lightlife is partnering with the non-profit, Urban Farming, to help end hunger. Gaia Herbs, grower and manufacturer of organic herbs, just introduced an industry-first program called Meet Your Herbs. Each product has an ID number by which you can track the story of your herbs from “seed to shelf.”

Nordic Natural (NN) continues to be the leader in the industry with their superior standards of safety, purity and sustainability. NN has research supporting their claims on their website; they host a separate website entirely for research,, and research on third party sites supports their claims. This type of redundancy is something to look for in a top company.

Blueberries and hemp were big at the Expo. Elderberry looks to be the next big immune booster. Coconut was everywhere and especially great mixed with peanut butter, which is expected to be at a premium this year. Here are a few products that stood out to me.

Artisana has a raw, superfood called Berry AntiOxidant Nut Butter made from raw organic cashew butter, raw organic almond oil, raw organic goji berry powder, raw organic blueberry powder, raw organic agave, and raw organic stevia. It comes in packets that can be mixed together before spreading and would be perfect for lunch boxes.

ChildLife has a new product called Toothpaste Tablets for children. Instead of a tube of toothpaste, one chews a tablet, brushes one’s teeth and rinses. I think children would like this product and it was named the Most Innovative Dental Product in 2011. ChildLife products are developed by Dr. Murray Clarke,ND, D.Hom, LAc, the author of Natural Baby–Healthy Child: Alternative Health Care Solutions from Pre-conception Through Childhood.

Maggie’s Naturals are natural food colorings that come in Pink, Green, Blue, Orange, Brown and Yellow. The colors look bright and rich and the ingredients are vegetables, seeds, extracts, glycerin, and citric acid. Green, for example, is made from gardenia extract, spinach, parsley, organic vegetable glycerin, citric acid. The food colorings are organic and gluten free. I would have loved these for holidays when my children were small.

Even though I’m scent sensitive, I can’t stop smelling the samples of Zum Bar goat’s milk soap. The colors and scents are extraordinary. They use goat’s milk, 100% pure essential oils, veggie oils, herbs, natural glycerin, and natural mineral pigments.

I hope to write a series of blogs on how to read a label and what qualities to look for in a top natural products company. Labels can contain the word “organics” and not be organic at all, for example. New labels come into the marketplace every year. This year Gluten Free was popular, sometimes with companies that were never full of gluten in the first place. It makes sense for us to reduce, reuse, recycle and when we buy new to buy the best products from the best companies. I hope I can help us figure this out.




Peggy O’Mara  (101 Posts)

Peggy O’Mara founded in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.

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