This year we got the opportunity to attend Expo West —the largest natural products expo in the country. With over 90K people and 3,000 vendors there's a lot to see (and taste)! It takes place in the convention center in Anaheim, LA.
Why'd we go ?
Well, even though there are mostly food companies attending, this kind of event is great for networking, market research and learning. While ANATO is a skincare line, we started it because we were passionate about sustainable agriculture. We, however felt there was more room for innovation and differentiation in the skincare industry. The natural skincare and food industries are very much related, especially when it comes to packaging and ingredients (perhaps less on the marketing side).
Nonetheless, there were plenty of skincare companies: to name a few — Dr. Bronner's, All Good Skincare, Schimdt's, and... soooo many CBD companies!
Here are the highlights of our attendance.
Regenerative Agriculture front and center!
Oh yes, regenerative agriculture (the kind of agriculture that sequesters carbon and regenerates the soil) was the hot topic of conversation this year. We got to hang out with Patagonia provisions (the food branch of Patagonia) and discuss the Regenerative Organic Agriculture certification. And we got to sip on their delicious beer — Long Root Ale. Can you guess why it's called that way?
It's made with Kernza (a perennial version of wheat) that has much longer roots than the annual wheat.
What blew us away was General Mill's poster indicating that they plan to convert 1 million acres of land to regenerative agriculture. They had an awesome display of soil and plants, explaining how regenerative agriculture can help retain water in the soil.
"At first I was very suspicious, I stood there listening to the sustainability rep, quizzing her about her regenerative agriculture knowledge. She passed the test!" - Céline Jennison. In digging a little deeper, we discovered that since acquiring Epic Provisions — the Buffalo Jerky that is sourced from regenerative agriculture farms— Epic has really helped General Mills make a transition towards regenerative agriculture and getting this farming practice mainstream.
Packaging and Reducing Waste
At a place like Expo West, all the companies are handing out samples of their food (and many packages): cricket chips, matcha tea, CBD salve, dried fruit pouches... All in all, there isn't much effort to come up with better alternatives. There was a tiny bit of movement in the right direction: companies handing out samples in little leaf floats or bamboo cones as opposed to plastic containers.
But all the food samples to go were packaged in plastic. All of them.
Two other beams of light: the kombucha company Revive kombucha handing out their booch on tap in mini glass jars, and some cereal company encouraging consumers to buy in bulk (they also sold bulk jars).
As a start-up, it's really important to attend these types of events to be 'in the now' about the latest and greatest marketing strategies, and really establish your business as a leader in a particular niche (in our case — regenerative enterprise). So we attended some marketing, capital raising and regenerative agriculture lectures. All fantastic. Someone who really struck out is a woman named Robyn O'brien. She spoke up about regenerative financing and is an exceptional public speaker. This further encouraged Anato's emphasis on a regenerative business model.
Mushrooms & CBD
Mushrooms are sexy this year. With Foursigmatic (a coffee substitute made with mushrooms) getting all of Silicon Valley to fuel themselves up with a mushroom drink in the morning, mushrooms are getting center stage this year. We got to taste some mushroom jerky and hang out with the team at Host Defense Mushrooms. They make a phenomenal immune boosting tincture (My community) that works every time.
CBD (derived from the hemp or cannabis plant) is the new superfood in all sorts of drinks, pastries, cookies, creams... And for good reason. It works exceptionally well topically and internally. Here at ANATO we don't use it because hemp is an annual plant.
A few other highlights include getting to hang out with two awesome CEOs : Rose Marcario of Patagonia and Gary Erickson of Clif. Both super down-to earth leaders with great visions for their company. Clif bar was actually handing out free cards to essentially pay for other food companies to get an organic certification.
If you're interested in seeing were the natural food and skincare industry is headed, or you're always keen to know about the latest and greatest superfood, we encourage you to attend. You might even see an Anato booth at Expo West in 2020!