Natural Products Expo West is like an adult Disney World — if your own personal version of Disney includes supplements and healthy freebies. Lucky for me, it does. This was my very first Expo West and boy was it an experience.

Apart from the goodie bags and vitamins, the expo weekend also included a stage for amazing live music all throughout the day, morning yoga, and that perfect California weather, but that was all just the icing on the cake because most importantly of all, it featured thousands of booths showcasing supplements, health and beauty, grocery and supplier products, both start ups and established, big or small. Even more interestingly for me, were the moments in which I was able to meet the doctors and executives that represent these products and the industry.  I was welcomed with open arms — literally everyone seemed to prefer a hug over a handshake. People were so eager to invite me into their world and allow me to be a part of it. Perhaps it is because they already know how great of a world it is.

This year’s expo may have been my first, but for veterans in the industry it was their 25th or 30th even. WholeFoods’ president Howard Wainer went to the very first expo in 1981 when only 3,000 people were in attendance. He recollects memories of the beginning and the evolution of the expo — and the industry. Meanwhile, Heather Wainer, publisher of WholeFoods Magazine, has also been to countless expo’s and because of this effortlessly navigates around the labyrinth that it is and seems to know every single person there.

For years, the Expo was confined to the Anaheim Convention Center as it only needed 478,264 square feet to properly host the event, but has since spilled over into the adjacent Hilton and Marriot Hotels where they now house exhibitions, educational seminars and networking events, in order to hold the 80,000 attendants.  An expansion of the convention center is currently under way, and thus, changes in layout are anticipated for the 2018 Natural Products Expo West, which is sure to draw an even bigger crowd than this year.

Most people I met during the show knew this was my first one and would immediately ask what I thought of it all. It was always hard to put into words. As the editor of WholeFoods Magazine, I found myself a part of something so much bigger than myself, or even my job title. The halls and rooms were absolutely packed with professionals who passionately advocated for their products and the years of hard work and research that came along with it. I truly wanted more time to visit every single booth, to absorb as much as I could. Back at home I find my family and friends and coworkers who didn’t attend the event asking me the same question and I am still having trouble putting it into words. Along with Disney, words like “Super Bowl of the natural products industry” come to mind as well as “sensory overload” and “deer in headlights.”

I am beyond excited to have made so many new relationships at the show and to experience another year at Expo West! Oh, and a special thank you to all who advised me to wear comfortable shoes — this may be the most important piece of information for an expo first-timer!WFjcheadshot

Julissa Catalan Editor