The Natural Foods Expo held yearly at the Anaheim Convention Center has become one of the food industries biggest events - both in number of exhibitors and number of attendees. Shari and I walked around, nibbling and schmoozing for 6 or 7 hours. The level of entrepreneurism is very high at this show... many start-up companies vying for a piece of the pie. Enthusiasm and energy run high and it's hard to get by a booth without someone handing you a sample or stopping you to talk. I came home with 40 or 50 tea samples but there must have been 100 or more tea companies selling every flavor and variety of tea imaginable. Tea companies were only second to the vitamin supplement people who dominate the show.
My favorite at this show is a not-very-subtle chap who sells colon cleanser. In the early days of this show, he displayed an outrageously large toilet that filled his entire booth space. The toilet made him look about 1/2 normal human size, a Lilliputian deftly maneuvering his way around this mammoth fixture, passing out his information and fielding questions. Over the years, the toilet has gotten smaller and smaller (presumably his business has gotten larger and larger) and this year, it was about normal size. No doubt he's been encouraged by the good taste (?) of the show managers to tone down the toilet a bit. For 2010, he's added to his show staff, a contingent of girls in shorts and tight T-shirts who no doubt have very clean colons and attract a slightly different kind of attention particularly from the male passers-by than did the giant toilet.
We usually check out the Chinese exhibitors to see if they've finally caught on to the show culture. Nothing seems to have changed - each booth has a table and chairs with a skinny little Chinese guy usually with thick glasses, sort of cringing behind the table. Products are lined up on a display table or case behind the table so you can't really see what they've got. If you enter the booth to speak with them, they retreat even further behind the table. Why do these manufacturers send the most introverted people in China to the shows, wasting gobs of money to gain very little? Maybe 2011 will be the year we finally see them spend some promotional dollars on the real money makers - mammoth toilets and scantily clad girls. The American way.