Natural Products Show, Like the Category, Shows Growth

Natural Products Expo East grew four percent in attendance to more than 26,000

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Somewhere amidst the hemp milk, the chia sprouts and various suppliers’ claims on the next superfruit, it hits you: This show is very busy, and it’s growing.

Natural Products Expo East, like the natural and organic food sub-industry it represents, is growing at a healthy clip. According to the show’s sponsors, the natural products industry grew 9.8 percent in 2007 to more than $62 billion in sales. The show itself grew four percent in attendance to more than 26,000 — that’s considerably larger than the past Institute of Food Technologists’ food expo — and featured more than 2,100 exhibits Oct. 15-18 in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

Food and beverages account for maybe two-thirds of the show, the rest of the booths hawking everything from nutritional supplements to health and beauty aids to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Food and beverage does appear to be the star attraction, however, and a good place to start is the annual New Products Showcase Awards.

Food and beverage winners were: Peaceworks Holdings’ Kind Plus Mango Macadamia Nutrition Bars (winner in the food category); Undercover Vegetable Co.’s Yotta Bars (most innovative); and Gourmé Food Co.’s Gourmé Mist vinegar and oil sprays (best packaging). In the newly introduced “New England’s Best” category, Putney Pasta’s Chicken Alfredo Skillet took top honors.

Judging from interest and number of products at the show, some things that might be coming down the natural products highway:

The next superfruit: Could it be maqui, the 4,000-ORAC-value berry from the Patagonia region, and imported by Novelle (www.novelleinternational.com)? Or coffeeberry from O.N.E. (www.onenaturalexperience.com)? Or one of several exotic fruits (goji, camu, lucuma and mulberry) in the portfolio of Navitas Naturals (www.navitasnaturals.com)?

Supergrain: Chia, a grain from Latin America that’s nine times higher in omega-3s than salmon, was pushed by Advantage Health Matters (www.healthmatterscanada.com). Salba, closely related to chia, was offered by Core Naturals (www.salbausa.com). Good old flax was in the portfolio of Navitas Naturals.

Hemp: Rather than smokin’ it, it was made into milk by both Manitoba Harvest (www.manitobaharvest.com) and French Meadow Bakery (www.frenchmeadow.com).

Stevia: Not everybody is waiting for the FDA to anoint the next great sweetener. It’s already in the four-flavor (cola, ginger root beer, twist and orange) Zevia carbonated soft drink line from Zevia LLC; as well as Virgil’s diet sodas from Reed’s Inc. How so? Both products are labeled as dietary supplements (for which stevia is approved) not as traditional soft drinks. Stevia sweetener packets also were handed out by Whole Earth Sweetener (www.wholeearthsweetener.com) and Sweetleaf (www.sweetleaf.com).

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