By Stephanie Rayburn, Sales Trainee for High Quality Organics
I had a “lightbulb on” moment as our marketing manager and I pulled up to the Natural Products Expo West; dropping off gallons of our HQO-special lucuma ice cream. As we drove into an organized chaos of cars, people, fork-lifts and pallets piled high with products and equipment I said, “Ohhhh… Now I get it…!”
Expo West was bigger, better and more awesome than anything I had previously envisioned! The next several days were a whirl-wind of high-energy excitement and hard work. As I passed out samples of the ice cream and our crowd-pleasing Organic Masala Chai tea, made contacts and scanned badges, I also observed the art of networking, as showcased by our ever-on-point sales team.
I quickly learned to carry a stack of business cards around as I hunted for the best snack samples — almost everyone uses organic spices and vegetables in their products and many companies are growing and looking for new suppliers. I met several of our current customers and got to taste for myself what they did with HQO ingredients; products that I had only known by item number, like “24 decorticated cardamom,” took on a new life for me in the delicious treats I sampled.
Since I shamelessly frequent the organic and bulk (read “yuppy and hippy”) sections of grocery stores, I was surprised to find so many products at the show that were not yet on my radar. How about Numi’s vegetable teas? Carrot curry tea… “Not quite soup, but more than tea!” Yuba, a tofu alternative with amazing texture and an appealing, less-processed and more natural look. Also, coconut everything! Coconut oil, nectar, butter… coconut dried, pressed, spreadable, drinkable, crunchy, creamy, hot, iced… YUM! Chia seeds were huge, both the black and white types that HQO brings in. New crackers and chips were around every corner, featuring flax, sesame, and hemp seeds. Powdered greens and dehydrated vegetables were popular in bars and raw snacks, some made with HQO-created proprietary spice blends. Interesting new botanicals, such as the mineral-packed South American root “maca,” the tropical super-green called Moringa, and kava, a South Pacific drink known for its relaxing effect. There was quite a bit of interest in and knowledge of lucuma, our showcased ice cream flavor- good job HQO for being ahead of the curve on that new trend!
The Expo was, at times, over-whelming and exhausting- but most of all, FUN! We have the best industry, full of people who love to exchange ideas, care about the health of their customers and their planet, and who look at buying and selling as simply creating win-win situations. I came away from the Expo understanding that the most important thing HQO does is fulfill a need for our costumers, allowing them to in turn serve their customers with delicious and healthy products. As we packed up the booth, our marketing manager was already analyzing, reflecting and scheming about next year! Onward and upward!
Stephanie (often referred to as Steph) is from many beautiful places, including East Texas (she still lets the occasional “ya’ll” slip), Oregon, Arizona and West Africa, where she served in the Peace Corp. She is most in her element when traveling and exploring, and is loving her current adventures in ‘The Biggest Little City’ she’s ever lived. She is passionate about organics and the sustainable agriculture practices that the industry encourages, but her favorite part of being on the High Quality Organics team is the wide range of fun characters she gets to work with! Steph has a twin sister (fraternal) and an older brother who live in the area; her mom is a self-taught herbalist, and HQO’s biggest Facebook fan. On weekends you can find her hiking in the pines of Lake Tahoe and enjoying the music and craft beers of Reno.