This past weekend was the Utah Gluten Free Expo, now stated to be the nations largest gluten free expo. I get the opportunity of reviewing the expo every year and have seen it grow and develop over the years. This years expo was exactly what I expected it to be. Read on...
If you are new to the gluten free world, this is a great expo to go to. There are TONS of samples and coupons and vendors that you will be able to try and then run out to your local grocery or health food store to find and eat. It's a win win there. Anyone who's been involved in the gluten free world knows those first few months are torture on the checkbook. You will spend hundreds of dollars buying products you may not like. It's the most frustrating part of the gluten free process. I've had so many people recommend products to me, I spend money on them, and then end up not liking them. An expo like this really helps because you can spend $8-10 to enter the expo and come home with hundreds of dollars of savings and samples.
Come hungry (and early), leave happy. It's the only expo where you go leaving stuffed! There are so many samples I had breakfast, dinner, lunch and dessert by the end of the first aisle. It's delicious and Kinnikinnick you made me donut happy! I ran extra long later that day and am still not quite sure I burned off all the food that I ate there.
It's all about the Selection: Eleanors Bakery has been there every year I've gone and I love that they have evolved with the expo. They now have their bakery samples in individual cups in a grab and go format, making it easy for me to go home and munch on their products later. They also did a great job of including some of their dairy free options too. I loved that Udi's was there and also had a lot of samples of their different products. they were also giving out awesome prizes. I went home with a full sized bag of their salted caramel pretzels after spinning the wheel. They also gave me a stack of $1.00 off coupons instead of 1 or 2 coupons. I LOVE Udi's! Enjoy Life also did a fantastic job of having samples of a lot of their different products (even my favorite the vanilla honey graham cookies!) and their new products coming out (individual portions of their chocolate chips...my hips will thank them later!) To balance it out they are coming out with their own line of protein balls which will be great for gym days!
But There's Always the Bad: The expo was well laid out this year. Coupons were plentiful. Vendors had enough help with them at the booths so there wasn't a holdup for samples. All pluses! But to me, a veteran of the expo besides the coupons and samples there wasn't a huge draw for me to come back next year. I worry that the expo might be trying to grab the attention of newcomers and failing to continue to draw us old timers.
We old timers to the expo and gluten free world want to see some variety. We know all the company names and are familiar with all the products because we've eaten them for years and years and years. For us, the most difficult time of the year are birthdays, holidays and seasons where we want to enjoy seasonal flavors like pumpkin and peppermint but find that bakeries and companies don't cater to that. The nearest Whole Foods is 30 minutes away and I cried! when I went into the store because I found Mi-Del had gingerbread cookies and Glutino had peppermint white chocolate pretzels. I was saddened that my local grocery store failed to have any seasonal gluten free products available for me. I also want to try some of the bakeries seasonal items. It's my draw back to your store as an old timer.
We as old timers want to see what innovative and new things are available to us in the gluten free world. It's why companies like Bella Gluten Free and Crafted from last years expo appealed to me. they were different, great gift ideas and unique. I was sad to not see these types of companies there.
And the U-G-L-Y:
The ugly was Smith's. They had a whole display of samples. The problem was they wanted you to line up to get them. 40 minutes in line. The line was out the door. For me, it wasn't even worth it to wait in the long line. I appreciate the samples and coupons, but for me 40 minutes and I could spend half the time on my computer printing out the same coupons they were offering. I opted out. Something needs to be done for next year, because the lines have NEVER been that long. It really was frustrating and it turned a lot of people away from their display. Cool concept, bad execution.
And the Best in Show Goes To:
As always I look for innovative, new and exciting products to feature for you guys. These were my top three favorite for this year:
Lincoln's Pantry: One of my favorite innovative companies, Lincoln's Pantry offers a Keto-Aid for those on a ketotonic diet as a supplement and MCT flavored oil to help boost ketone levels. The drink for those of us NOT on a ketone diet was delicious and full of great vitatmins and minerals. I had mine with almond milk and it was delicious!
Brooke and Bradford: I love that gluten free is going single serving. I often grab Bob's Red Mill oatmeal cups for lunch. At $1.88 it's much cheaper than the $3-7 lunches. Brooke and Bradford offers some delicious single serving soup cups that are gluten free. Great as an inexpensive Christmas gift or a warm lunch for the fall and winter. I love it. The fajita steak was amazing! And it's only $2 per cup.
RP's Pasta: Gluten free pasta is plentiful but gourmet gluten free pasta is pretty hard to come by. The spinach fettucine pasta from RP's was delicious! It doesn't taste gluten free and I love that it is consider a more upscale gourmet pasta. And, get this they even have frozen heat and serve fresh pasta. HURRAY!! I'm hoping that they will create a really good gluten free frozen ravioli soon too. Hint!!
What were your favorites and not so favorites from the expo?
Get more information on the National Gluten Free Expo here.
Read my 2015 gluten free expo review here.