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Surprises at Expo West

Even with more than 6,000 booths, it's not all that difficult to find out what's truly amazing, different or unique about each Expo West. People talk, gossip flies, and exhibitors debuting something really special end up crowding the aisles around them, to the chagrin of their neighbors. After a few days here, it's hard not to miss.

Such was the case this year for three companies in particular, ones that introduced products that caused head scratching, traffic jams and admiration.

Seventh Generation wowed everyone with its revolutionary new recycled paper-based detergent bottles. My colleague Michael Garry discusses this in another post, so we'll leave the details to him.

Another company isn't just expanding its current portfolio of frozen entrees, its jumping over other categories in a brand extension that covers shelf-stable cookies and chocolate bars. Amy's — yes, Amy's — will soon introduce a line of four organic chocolate candy bars, as well as three varieties of gluten-free cookies.

The candy bars are merchandised in a different fashion, based on texture. So instead of, say, a name that's evocative of the ingredients, like a Milky Way's creamy chocolate, nougat and caramel, these four are simply called Crunchy, Chewy, Crispy and Creamy. Three of the four are gluten-free. Marketing materials states that the line recalls Amy's father's love of candy, as his own father was a candy maker.

The cookies conjure memories of recipes "just like Amy's grandmother would make for her as a child." The varieties here include Classic Shortbread, Almond and Chocolate Chip.

Then, a stop at the Zola Brazilian Superfruits booth found us congratulating them on their new co-packing agreement with Jamba Juice, the smoothie chain) in the introduction of three Jamba-branded Daily Superfruit Shots, each formulated to address specific needs. Acerola+Caja is a Vitamin C booster; Acai provides antioxidants; and Cupuacu+Mango is labeled a vitality booster. The bottles are topped with a cap that doubles as a dosage cup, and each bottle provides 16 one-ounce "shots."

Zola reps told me they're actively seeking placement in the supplement aisle, and want these merchandised as supplements instead of a sports drink or lifestyle beverage. We should also note that Jamba is doing its own thing, and just starting to ship home smoothie kits of its four most-popular flavors, including Razzmatazz. Each bag of frozen fruit/yogurt base includes enough for two home-blended smoothies. Consumers only need to add juice.

Needless to say, the "Wow" factor was alive and well at this year's Expo West!