Expo West is an event in and of itself. It's been super crowded and there is a line everywhere (the morning line for coffee at the Starbucks in the Hilton adjacent to the convention center stretches until lunchtime).
The show technically ends tomorrow but we're learning that the natural products industry has a number of events planned that will keep the excitement and interest in healthy foods alive through the rest of the year. A couple of thm are completely new initiatives.
Timed to coincide with Mother's Day, the Fair World Project is sponsoring World Fair Trade Day  on May 12. For the first time, more than 600 retail food locations (including most, if not all, 316 Whole Foods Market stores) are signed up for the event, along with the seven-store New Seasons Market chain and member retailers of the National Cooperative Grocers Association. Some 90 SKUs will be promoted, spanning multiple categories like coffee, cocoa, beverages, HBA and even clothing. In-store events include sampling and discounts, as well as a contest entry for a 17-day fair trade learning experience to Sri Lanka.
First, though, mark down Wed. April 4. That's now Whole Grain Sampling Day , created by the educational non-profit Oldways Preservation Trust and its Whole Grains Council are launching the first annual National Whole Grain Sampling Day. Major restaurant chains such s McDonald's, Arby's and others have been enlisted and supermarkets are being actively recruited. Incentives ranging from free samples and coupons to a whole grain gift with purchase are planned, according to organizers.
Hemp is also on the calendar. The third annual Hemp History Week  is moving from its old slot in May to early June. This year, the week of June 4 will find more than 700 food stores promoting hemp products and the plant's health benefits. The first two years largely attracted only natural products retailers, but this year, organizers are hoping to enlist the support of mainstream supermarket chains. The goal of the week is to promote support for legalizing hemp farming in the U.S., which remains banned by the federal government due to the plant's association with marijuana. This year, too, restaurants and foodservice venues like coffee shops are being asked to add a hemp food item to their menus.