Expo West or Coachella (Weekend Zero)
By Brandin Cohen, Liquid I.V. Co-Founder
Hi guys!! Excited to be writing my third ever blog post… let me know what you think!
What is Expo West you ask?
Great question if you were thinking that… I had never heard of it until a year ago. Natural Products Expo West is the largest natural, organic, and healthy products event in the world. It took place this past weekend (March 4th-8th) at the Anaheim Convention Center with over 71,000 attendees and over 2,700 exhibiting companies. The event is not open to the public, so it really is the place to mingle with the who’s who of the natural products industry. This massive trade show features the hottest new products, retailers, distributors, and investment groups in the industry.
When you walk into the convention center, you are faced with what seemingly appears to be miles and miles of extravagant booth displays. These pop-up displays are spacious, ridiculously luxurious, and some even have multiple stories (I swear I would pay rent just to live in the second story of the Vita Coco booth). Then you go up to the second floor of the convention center… hundreds more exhibitors. Then you go up another floor, yet again, more new product displays. One booth after another with the coolest new health fads on the market. Walk across the street to the Hilton or Marriott hotel to listen to CEO’s of the biggest natural food companies speak as they host seminars throughout the day in gigantic conference rooms. And just when you think the day is over at 6pm… great bands hit the outdoor stage, the bar opens, and the off-site private parties begin and go through the night. Expo West is infinitely and exponentially more immense than you can possibly imagine (yeah I know that doesn’t make sense but that’s how big and endless it really is HA!).
Is this starting to remind you of a festival coming up next month… if you weren’t thinking Coachella, this place has an eery resemblance to the bi-weekend music festival coming up in April. I have now been to Expo West and Coachella two years in a row, and although they are seemingly at opposite ends of the event spectrum (if you will), with one focused around music and the other around healthy products, they actually have a lot in common. For starters, the sheer number of people in attendance of both events mirrors each other. Celebrities are everywhere… both events bring the most insane combination of people and brands together at an awesome venue. And best of all… everyone is running around at both events jacked up on performance enhancing supplements HA! We now joke that Expo West is Coachella Weekend Zero (with the real event, Coachella Weekend 1 and 2, starting in a couple weeks).
Annnnnnnnyway, sorry for the Coachella tangent. I tend to write how I talk and talk how I think which means I might wander onto topics (eloquently of course) that are barely connected to the original point… oops! (Hopefully it’s somewhat entertaining to read at least!)
Last year, Hayden and I went to the expo because we were told by a lot of people in the natural products industry that it was an event that we had to check out. We hear that often, and 99% of the time, it’s not worth it, but Expo West is the real deal. Masses of healthy, active lifestyle people from around the world converging on one place to do business with the most innovative new products in the food/beverage industry… perfect place for us to connect with the right people to scale Liquid I.V.!
Take a deep breath… Get ready to walk and talk all day:
We added a new member to Team LIV for the day, our good friend and healthy lifestyle blogger, Jordan Younger aka The Balanced Blonde. On the car ride down to the OC, we decided we were going to stick together for the day of chaos ahead, no matter how many meetings each of us had. We figured it would be more fun and beneficial if we stuck together. Team #TBB (Two Bros and a Blonde) was armed and ready for battle!
Our original plan was to show up at 10am when the doors opened, roam the floor, check out all the products, hit our scattered meetings throughout the day, and leave by 4pm. Let me be the first to tell you, that plan failed miserably. We completely underestimated how many meetings we all had and how many people we would run into that we knew!
No joke, the first person we saw when walked in the doors was Channing Tatum. Then 5 minutes later, John Salley (he’s cool if you’re a die hard Laker fan like me) was trying Mama Chia right next to us…. ummm okay, didn’t know this place was going to be crawling with celebrities. This is when I had a feeling the day might not go exactly as planned. Somehow from 10am-6pm we never stopped running from meeting to meeting… seriously, wall to wall. Some of our meeting highlights included:
– A world-renowned product scientist that we hope to partner with moving forward.
– A few distributors that we will be working with later this year.
– A demo marketing company that will support us as we scale some of retailers nationally.
– The founders of Suja Juice and their top PR and marketing people (Jordan set this one up and it was especially cool for me because I have always idolized the model by which they have grown their brand).
– Kimberly Albright, our Whole Foods Market Forager (pictured), who believed in us and our product from the very beginning and worked with us diligently for 6 months to get LIV on Whole Foods shelves.
– Listened to a fantastic panel discussion on our nation’s food systems led by Walter Robb (Whole Foods Market CEO) and had a great meeting with him afterward. He has been so instrumental in our progress since I met him a year ago.
The great thing about having free samples of anything and everything you can imagine, is that we didn’t have to plan time for lunch… you’re eating the healthiest stuff ever, on-the-go, all day long.
There is an interesting dynamic that arises when starting a convo with a new person at Expo West. For the most part, you are either speaking with an older business executive that runs his/ her own company or a younger person in their 20s that is demoing a product and works for one of the brands. Team Two Bros and a Blonde doesn’t really fit that mold… we are a weird hybrid of both groups which makes for a curious start to most conversations…
“So what do you do for LIV?”
“Uhhh… well… we are the guys who started it.”
Still trying to figure out how to respond to that question properly without sounding stuck up (that’s my worst nightmare). So I literally say it just like that… “Uhhh… well…” Hahah. Please let me know if you have any pointers there.
So we stayed for dinner too…
It is now 6:30pm, my legs feel like Jello, and my voice is almost gone. Right as we were about to head out, Vani Hari, more famously known as “The Food Babe,” invited Jordan (and consequently Hayden and me lol) to dinner. Vani is the author of a best selling book about the secrets behind the food industry (and she has nearly a million followers on Facebook… unreal).
Next thing we knew, we were at True Food Kitchen at Fashion Island with about 20 of the most influential healthy lifestyle bloggers in the country! Despite being delirious at this point, it was an incredible experience to meet all these prominent young leaders and talk about the health food industry and where LIV fits in!
The Car Ride Home at midnight:
After consuming endless amounts of healthy food, organic beverages, and energy supplements throughout the day, our car ride home after a 16 hour day was absolutely hilarious. Arielle of the blog “Be Well with Arielle,” (pictured) hitched a ride with us back to L.A. because she had flown in town from New York.
I was driving, Hayden was sitting passenger playing DJ, while Arielle and Jordan sat in the back singing along to every song… it was amazing lol! Theme songs for the day were “Stolen Dance” by Milky Chance and “4 or 5 Seconds” by Rihanna, Kanye, and Paul McCartney (despite thinking Kanye is a complete clown after experiencing his latest Grammy’s outburst in person). Most entertaining car ride I can remember.
By the time I got home and unwound from the heinously long day, it was 2am and I had promised Jordan I would go with her to film a fitness video the next day. I was absolutely exhausted at the shoot, but the ocean view on the Palisades coast made it all worth it
For us, Expo West is a perfect storm of awesomeness… a combination of feeling great physically and mentally because of all the healthy crap (oxymoron?) you are consuming, the incredible people and industry leaders you meet at the event, and the excitement surrounding the future of Liquid I.V.
To quote a text sent to me by my esteemed business partner (Hayden please don’t get mad I put this in the blog bro)…
“I f***ing love Expo West. I am never leaving.”
Well said my friend!
Hearing from a world-renowned consumer products scientist that we are working to partner with, that Liquid I.V. truly can be a revolutionary delivery platform for hydration and that we are really onto something special, affirmed the excitement we have been feeling from consumers over the past year. Additionally, having our Whole Foods Forager tell us that we remind her a lot of how Suja Juice started (the fastest growing beverage company in the country) with our leadership team in place, our product, and our work ethic… gave me the chills.
I can honestly say, I have never been so excited about the future of LIV. It’s pretty cool to think that a year ago when we were at Expo West 2014, we were praying that we could somehow get into Whole Foods Market, by far the leading natural and organic retailer at the trade show and in the world. Fast forward to this year at Expo West 2015, we are now carried in Whole Foods and have one of the fastest moving products in the Whole Body section. Who knows where we’ll be next year when this event rolls around, but one thing I do know, LIV will have an epic booth space at Expo West 2016. See you there! #LIVitup!