I’m finally able to sit down and write about the Chicago Gluten and Allergen Free Expo ! I’ve been slammed between another endoscopy (at least my body is finally healing from going gluten-free a few years ago!), another expo, and life! I’d like to thank the amazing people that put on this massive collection of vendors (thanks Jen!).
Without these expos, I have no idea how people learn about gluten-free products! That’s part of the reason why I started this website, to showcase the awesome selection of GF products that are in market. If I find it interesting, tasty, and/or new – I hope you enjoy it!
First, massive doesn’t even describe it. It was something over 125 vendors giving away amazing samples and coupons up the wazoo. Let me be the first to admit that I could only make it to like 80% or 90% of the tables – it was just that busy! I thought it would only take me an hour to get through – wrong. It took me like 4 hours to meet all the vendors, eat a ton of cookies and cake, and collect samples like it’s my job (okay, it’s kind of my job now). There were vendors that sold everything you could imagine – food for toddlers and kids, protein shakes and vitamins, sorghum popcorn, soup, cookies, cakes, bars, and several different ciders and gluten-free beers (hooooooray!). Everything.
Apparently they also had over 4,000 people attend – FOUR THOUSAND! That’s insane! It was a huge room, or else it probably would have been suffocating having that many people and that many vendors in one place. It was well-spaced out and organized. The lines were pretty heavy throughout the day, but people managed to still talk to vendors, get samples, and collect literature and coupons in a timely manner.
They even had a separate area for nut allergies with nut-free products (Home Free and Enjoy Life were the ones that stick out in my head), how great is that? Seriously, this expo had it all. It was amazing.
As a blogger, it was especially nice to see so many vendors that were responsive to someone who reviews GF products. I love working with brands that love working with the gluten-free community. For once, I’m the blogger working with brands, and not the other way around (like my old job at an ad agency). It was really heartwarming (insert “awwww” here).
One beef? No free water stations! I got super dehydrated and had to go purchase a water from the hotel vendor out of the main room. Between walking around and eating salty and sugary snacks, I was falling hard without my own bottle of water. The only drinks there were alcohol -and believe me, that was ah-ma-zing. But that’s it. That’s all I would change about this great expo. PS I’m personally bummed that I didn’t get to attend the blogger conference before the expo, I feel like such a jerk for not attending. I wish I could have met my fellow bloggers and hope that if you see this and you were there, that we can connect now!
I posted some of the great product samples handed out at the expo on my CATB Tumblr. Here are only a few brief highlights of the tasty products!
I encourage everyone to attend a gluten-free product expo in your city if one comes to town. I even brought a non-gluten-free friend and she had a great time! I promise you that you’ll find a food product that you didn’t know existed. You’ll meet other Celiacs and feel part of a community. And you might even learn some new facts about the gluten-free lifestyle! If you didn’t get a chance to go to Chicago, I hope you get a chance to go to Dallas in September, or any of the other cities that this expo is visiting (hopefully something close to me again pretty please!).