RODALE NEWS, ANAHEIM, CA—The last few months have been a bit of a bummer for consumers who care about their health. The USDA's approval of genetically engineered alfalfa and sugar beets was a blow to consumers seeking food grown without toxic pesticides or understudied genetic manipulation. Also, research continued to find that plastics and conventional personal-care products are loaded with chemicals linked to serious health issues. But all is not lost for those of us who want food and products that don't threaten our health: Innovation is alive and well among makers of health, organic, and natural products.
THE DETAILS: That innovation was on grand display at Natural Products Expo West over the weekend, where nearly 60,000 members of the natural products industry gathered from all around the world for the largest trade show of its kind. Buyers for major retailers came to find the latest and greatest in organic food and innovative green products of all kinds. The sold-out show featured 3,533 exhibits, with about 600 of them certified organic. "The record number of booths at this year's Expo West is proof positive of industry growth and translates to healthier food choices on store shelves," says Adam Andersen, show manager. "Year after year, we continue to offer businesses within the healthy lifestyle marketplace a premier place to launch new products and the opportunity to build community."
See some of the products and other Expo sights on our NPEW blog.
Bottom line: if you're looking for options that will help you live healthy and organic, there are plenty of marketers who want to fulfill your requests. And despite a traumatized economy and rising food and gas prices, consumers are boldly voting with their dollars for healthy, organic choices. The natural products industry experienced a growth of 6 percent in 2010, compared with 2009 numbers. Nutrition industry sales totaled $115 billion in the United States in 2010. The organic industry alone rings up $26 billion a year. With that in mind, you can see why the Expo West floor was a mob scene this year. Rodale editors walked nearly a combined 40 miles to find the best of the best at the show, and yeah, our feet are still tired!
We found organic powerhouses like Nature's Path, Stonyfield, and Organic Valley, companies that have made it a mission to sell food free of toxic pesticides and GMOs. But along with the big names in organic, we were introduced to the wares of first-time entrepreneurs—from moms who created healthier ways to pack kid lunches to investment-bank–bound frat boys turned urban mushroom-growers—who are taking matters into their own hands in order to provide nontoxic options to the public.