Not to be confused with the crazy, out-of-control keggers you’ve seen in Hollywood films, Expo West is like a three-day party where those who attend may start off as strangers but everyone leaves feeling like family. Sure, people are there for business. It’s all about fostering connections, making sales, telling people why your products are the best in town. But at the heart of it, Expo West is a celebration of the thousands of natural and/or organic companies who are dedicated to making the world better by sourcing, growing, or manufacturing in as green and sustainable manner as possible. If you’re there, you’re a part of this bigger, grander picture, and like any large family gathering, you leave tired but uplifted and stuffed to the gills.

At a show like this, you learn very quickly exactly how comfortable your “reasonably comfortable” heels are. You find yourself mentally mapping where each and every type of beverage can be tried, from organic horchata (a drink made from rice, milk, and cinnamon) to ionized water to an iced tea beverage promising to sober you up when drunk and save you from the next day’s hangover. You realize there are only so many types of power bars you can taste before you brush up against the line between doing fine and uncomfortably full. And you appreciate just how large the 815,000 square foot Anaheim Convention Center is after a day spent walking its floors. Trust me, it’s a monster!

So where were whole grains in this party, you might wonder? Simply put, all over the place! With about 70 WGC Members exhibiting at this year’s Expo West, there were plenty of whole grain and multigrain tortilla chips to sample, endless whole grain breads to taste, whole wheat pizza crusts to savor beneath the soy cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, and enough whole grain brownies, cookies, and sweet breads to satisfy even my seemingly limitless sweet tooth.

?To top things off, more than 100 other companies were present and proudly touting their whole grain products, which I of course couldn’t say no to trying. Gluten-free bread toasted and topped with all-natural honey peanut butter from the next booth over? Don’t mind if I do! Whole wheat wonton wrappers cradling sweet and spicy free-range chicken? Yes please! Preservative-free lime chili tortilla chips with organic mango salsa? It sounded a little odd, but trust me, the tangy and sweet combination worked to perfection.

As a final note, the picture I’m using with this blog post was taken at the Annie’s Homegrown pavilion on Friday as the Annie’s team celebrated the company’s 20th anniversary. This amazing cake with its realistic frosting pasta shells was easily three feet by two feet and had to have been six inches tall. Foot traffic stopped as the cake was cut, plastic cups of champagne were passed out to the crowd, and everyone joined in a chorus of “Happy Birthday” to Annie’s. It turns out this was yet another company party, having officially celebrated the anniversary back in February, but you can’t really blame them for wanting to stretch it a little bit longer. After all, it’s Expo West, and it really is one big party! (Kara)

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