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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Alive! Expo: 15 Years of Natural Products and Green Living

Patrycja Towns, founder of Alive! Expo, Atlanta’s oldest and biggest “natural products and green living” event, has seen many fads come and go over the years, as well as long-term natural trends that are here to stay.

Both new fads and old favorites will be at this year’s event celebrating the expo’s 15th anniversary on May 18 and 19 at the Cobb Galleria. Scheduling conflicts caused Towns to move the expo from the week of Earth Day, it’s traditional time.

Towns has seen many fads come and go but some are here to stay—the most recent one being gluten-free diets. In Town's estimation, the most significant long-term area of interest is natural and organic foods.

Other fads, from Towns’ perspective, evolve. “I remember low carb being it! Then Dr. Atkins' ... morphed into Keto, now ‘Paleo’ as we know it.”

“When I launched the company, Atlanta was not ready for a natural and green event,” she says. “Today there are many Whole Foods, Sprouts, Earth Fares out there. Even Walmart and Target have expanded their natural and organic aisles.”

This year’s big thing will be CBD-based products; more companies with CBD offerings have been signing up for the show. In addition, in recent years more food companies participate in the expo, whereas in the past, there were more vitamin/supplements and body care products companies.

The dynamic that works for Towns and her exhibitors is that consumers want to try before they buy. “You just can’t open products in retail stores and try them out,” she says. Moreover, for vendors, it’s more economical to see thousands of consumers over a weekend than to send reps into retail stores to conduct samplings.

An abundance of information

Towns had worked in the wellness industry for seven years—with a supplement company, a body care products manufacturer and then with Better Nutrition magazine—before starting Alive! Expo.

When Better Nutrition was sold and moved to Los Angeles, Towns refused to move with it. Preferring to continue working at home, she figured she might as well work for herself.

In her many years in the industry, she observed that an abundance of great information about natural and green products was not being shared with consumers. Thus, the idea for Alive! Expo.

Even now, Towns believes that a lot of the great information that is out there is not getting to consumers. Alive! Expo “has always been about educating and exposing the consumer to products that are natural and organic,” says the fair’s founder.

In recent years, attendance at Alive! Expo has ranged from 7,500 to 12,000, and Towns has rented 45,000 square feet of space. The first year, attendance was 2,500 in about half that space. Corporations used to sponsor their employees’ attendance at the show, so at one time the attendance peaked at over 20,000, but “companies have changed direction over the years,” Towns says.

After so many years at it, Towns is still going strong, even as she grows a young family. Perhaps that’s because every now and then she is reminded of the difference she makes.

“There was a woman about 12 to 13 years ago. Betty was her name,” says Towns. “She came to the show, searched me out and thanked me for saving her life. Apparently, all the info she’d learned at the show that she incorporated into her daily life had helped her get over cancer! She gave me a huge hug and kissed both my cheeks, thanking me for a second chance at life.”

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