Natural Product Expo leaves consumers hungry for innovations in all things natural

Every year, the Natural Product Expo takes over the Anaheim convention center. It has 3600 exhibits and 700 are newly featured this year.

"This is the 39th year for Expo West. We have nearly 90,000 people, another record breaking year. Basically we're building an entire city it's here for four days and then we tear it down," said Jessie Shafer, director of influence for New Hope.

Of course there's food. Lots of it. But there's also a lot of other things like: pet products, supplements, beauty care and environmental packaging.
Plenty of mom and pop start-ups, but natural is big business, $220 billion dollar business to be specific, so it's not uncommon to see dramatic displays by big retailers, hoping to lure buyers in.

"It's an epicenter for all the latest innovations in terms of the healthy food space," said Max Lugavere, author of Brain Foods.

Lugavere loves coming to the expo, but says consumers have to be smart and really look at labels, no matter what the claim.

"Often times I leave events like this feeling overfed and under nourished," Lugavere said.

Probiotics was the darling of last year's expo and it's still ever present.

"Everything from probiotic pills to probiotic shampoos to probiotic skin creams," said Lugavere.

Biochemist Shawn Talbott is impressed with the direction probiotics are taking as science is looking at this beneficial bacteria for gut, brain and now skin health. He does suggest however those wanting benefits look toward supplements rather than drinks or bars.

But this year, CBD oil took center stage. And again the experts say, buyer beware.

"It's still very early days, the dosing is questionable and you'll see CBD marketed for every possible condition. And it also tends to be very overpriced," said Lugavere,

Talbott says in terms of hemp product, there's more to be aware of beyond CBD.

MORE: CBD oil's pain-management benefits leading to wider distribution in stores

"I want people to realize it's not just about CBD. There are turpines there are flavonoids, other phyto cannabinoids in the plant, and you want to really get a full spectrum extract because it's not just CBD," said Talbott.

Whether it's bars, supplements or beauty, keep in mind when it comes to "natural," there's little in the way of regulation.

"Ultimately the healthiest foods don't make any health claims. You're not going to find a health claim on an apple or an avocado," said Lugavere.

A good amount of what you see here is packaged, which means there's some processing. So the experts remind us no matter what natural foods you buy you still want to look at that label.
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