The Natural Products Expo West, which took place this past week, is one of the largest conventions in the US. It’s a high stakes dating game between retailers and food, cosmetic and supplement producers. This year I promised myself that I would not sample every power bar and gluten free pizza thrust into my hands. I failed and paid unmentionable consequences later. Imagine the center snack aisles of Whole Foods dumped into a funnel and shoved down your throat.
It will be no surprise to most readers of this blog that the “natural” (whatever that means) food industry suffers from the same problems that plague our food system as a whole. Most of the products at the expo are highly processed and high in sugar. Just because something is labeled “gluten free” or “GMO free” does not make it healthy. Getting beyond the nutrition issues most of these “natural” processed foods also taste, frankly, terrible.
Out of the hundreds of products I tasted and reviewed at the expo there were a only a few interesting items–literally one out of a thousand. Most were made by small independent entrepreneurs willing to take a risk on something new.
Genki-su Japanese drinking vinegar
A tasty and healthy alternative to soda. Basically a shrub, Genki-su sells drinking vinegar in concentrated and ready to drink versions. You could homebrew this, of course, but Genki-su is well made.
Popular in the Philippines, the Moringa tree produces a delicious, edible seedpod. The leaves are also useful as a vegetable, tea and are being marketed as a nutritional supplement. Will moringa be the new kale? That’s the hope of the Philippine Moringa and More Corporation. They sell morniga in tea and powdered forms. Easy to grow, they hope to find a larger market for moringa in order to support farmers in the Philippines. Right now you can find it in Filipino markets in the States. Californians take note–morniga is a drought tolerant tree that thrives on neglect. Plant one, like we did.
Pemmican is a Native American food made with protein (often buffalo) and some kind of fruit or berry. Tanka is a Native American owned company that markets a power bar version of pemmican made from buffalo and cranberries. Tanka can be found at health food stores and some REIs. It’s a snack that would work well on a camping trip.