A few months ago I went to visit my friend Suzy from The Scenter of Town and she asked me if I was going to Expo East. When I responded that I had no idea what that was her face made all sorts of weird angles and she finally asked me what the heck was wrong with me. So apparently it’s a big deal.
I signed up and made plans to head up with Suzy and Karyn and left the shop in the able hands of my husband, Richard. We departed at 5am towards Baltimore to get ahead of traffic although I am still sure it was largely to torture me. We arrived in Baltimore by 7:30 am, a good hour and a half until things really got started. We putzed around a while, I removed
my IV of coffee and finally the expo began.
The Baltimore Convention Center, home of the Natural Products Expo East, is almost 14 acres in size. That, my friends, is really big. The largest area, the first floor, was split into two main sections foods and personal care/supplements/home care. Shortly after arriving we split up, me heading off to the food of course.
I’m not gonna lie, my first day was a wash of tasting gluten-free things, seeing tons of people, bright lights, music and more. I think I only made it through about 1/16th of the actual food area before Suzy said it was about time to head out. Thankfully Reed’s does indeed set up an intense music and bar booth, just the ticket when your brain is fizzled by overstimulation. I did head over at one point to the Garden of Life “booth” (more like a small planet) and met Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain. He is an amazing person and doctor on the cutting edge of research into the effects of our nutrition on our brain and body function.
At 5am, Friday morning armed with my clip board and expo map, I made my way with the gals back to Baltimore. Friday morning was the Boulder Brands breakfast, which I had been skeptical about until we walked outside. There was only one section that was glutenful and it was totally separate from all the gluten-free. Glutino and Udi’s are Boulder Brands, and that was what the majority of the breakfast entailed from fresh made pancakes and French toast to bagels and bread with several dedicated gluten-free toasters. There were fresh fruit and veggie smoothies being blended and a table set up with just about every spreadable Earth Balance product. Oh, of course there was also platter upon platter of potato hash, scrambled eggs and bacon. Since we were there early we got first pick and didn’t have to fight for a plate, which is apparently a thing later in the morning. I took a big Udi’s everything bagel, some bacon and eggs, a smear of Earth Balance coconut spread and made a breakfast sandwich. We all ate probably way too much food, but headed off to start the day. I sat and waited for Joel Salatin’s morning lecture and the ladies headed out to the main level to get busy.
If you ever have a chance to hear Joel Salatin speak or meet him, just do it. What he talks about is not exclusive to farmers or foodies, it applies to everyone in our society. Joel’s talk Friday morning was about the orthodoxies of our society, or those things that we have historically considered normal and acceptable and looked back and found how wrong it was, like slavery. He posed a question to the guests: what will our children and ancestors look back on as orthodoxies of our current time? Will my children look back on what we did and ask how and why we did the things we did to our food systems?
Because one of Joel’s largest points was that a system of electronic distribution of food (ie Relay Foods type stores online) make accessibility not only possible but more affordable, my question for him during the book signing was how a market like mine could still remain relevant though we cannot possibly compete with the low prices they offer. His response was that a system like Relay is something that is replacing the large chain grocery store, but offering many foods, natural and local products at a lower cost. He said that a market like mine really needed to focus on education and support to make a difference as well as offer a line of unique products that can’t be found on any store shelf. I felt very reassured by the direction that we have chosen for Kickshaws and the mission of the store given our current climate in the national food systems. Lastly I asked him if I could get a picture and he stood up, leaned over the table and squished next to me so we could get a selfie- he said THAT is how it is done. I do have much more to share about Joel’s talk, but that will come in a later post.
The remainder of the day I buzzed through the expo (minus a few moments of silliness as Carlson Calamari) finding those I needed to talk to and securing products I would be testing with our customers. I met so many awesome companies and employees that are so passionate about what they do and who they do it for. It really rejuvenated my passion for stocking our little market with these incredible products. Of course, now you are wondering what goodies really are coming out of this expo for the shelves of Kickshaws? Well, here we go:
- Chosen Foods– Winner’s of the Expo East Best award this year for their new Avocado Oil Mayonnaise! We will be getting their mayo and a few oils
- Smart Flour– Smart Flour is a great small company that makes wonderful gluten-free pizza crusts with antient grains like teff, sorghum and amaranth. Also- oober tasty. Cheese pizza NOW IN STOCK!
- So Young Bags– An awesome small business with a hot following, maker of beautiful and durable lunch and diaper bags as well as backpacks.
- Epic– We started carrying Epic bars last month and can’t keep them in stock. We will have a handy dandy new display coming to fill with bars and harvest packs soon.
- Fatface– Winner of my personal favorite deodorant with their “Stank Stop” which works beautifully. We sampled many, many deodorants this week- with some yard work being the deciding factor! We will get Stank Stop as well as a few other Fatface products.
- Manitoba Harvest, Hemphearts– Maker of clean, high protein, high omega 3/6 bars and snacks which you all tried Saturday and loved. Tasty, vegan and gluten-free.
- Tiny But Mighty Popcorn– Heirloom popcorn, 100% non-gmo, delicious and plentiful! Tiny But Mighty’s owners and staff are amazing and dedicated to what they do and you can tell by the product!
- Vital Proteins – Very popular among the paleo community, we got a few samples of gelatin and collagen peptides to try. I hadn’t tried them before, but other similar products. Both are an awesome healing addition to your diet that is super easy to blend in. We will get both items as well as pastured beef live capsules. If I haven’t ever mentioned it, organ meats can be so instrumental in healing the body and gut, and with caps, there is no excuse not to add them in.
- Lumi Juices– A local fresh pressed juice company located in Charlottesville, Va. A small, but growing company dedicated to an amazing fresh and healthy product.
- Cultures For Health: Makers and resellers of just about every product you could possibly require for all your fermenting and culturing needs. We will finally be stocking kefir grains, rennet and a few other goods to get you on your fermenting and cheese making whey. (See what I did there?)
- Lotus Foods: Gluten-free Ramen! Need I say more? NOW IN STOCK!
We will also be stocking up on great products we already carry but got the opportunity meet last week including:
- NoBull Burgers– Another great Charlottesville area company with incredible vegan and gluten-free burgers which will be part of Kickshaws Kitchen’s offerings! NOW BACK IN STOCK!
- Sweet Note Bagel– The lovely bagel gals knock everyone’s socks off with their amazing bagels, I swear you could never tell are gluten-free.
- Health Ade– We just started carrying Health Ade’s Pink Lady Kombucha and it is very popular! We will be expanding our selection to include some of the awesome new flavors they were sampling this past week.
- Califia Farms– Maker’s of great nut milks, juice and cold brew coffee. By the end of this year all stabilizers will be removed from every Califia Product!
I am pretty sure there are some I am missing, but suffice it to say that there will be lot’s of new and exciting reasons to stop in and see what is new at Kickshaws Downtown Market! Till next year Baltimore, Expo East Natural Products Expo, you rocked my world.