As I made my way to the Nestle Happy, Healthy Family Gathering in Pasadena, California last week, I was so excited to be attending my very first blogger event! I have read many “event round ups” from other gatherings such as General Mills and iRobot, and was always impressed with companies that wanted real opinions from real Moms and Dads. But, I never anticipated the difference that a handful of bloggers can make to a huge corporation in a few short days.
The night of my arrival, Nestle hosted a reception at our hotel so we could meet the Team and the other bloggers in attendance (I even got to meet the NESQUICK Bunny!). The hotel surprised us with a kitchen tour and conversation with the head Chef of The Dining Room at The Langham, Michael Voltaggio from Top Chef! It was great to meet the attendees and begin to learn what Nestle had in store for us.
The first day of the event was a busy one! After a delicious breakfast featuring Nestle products (check out this Blue Monkey Smoothie), we were led to a beautiful conference room designed to resemble a living room complete with sofas and comfy chairs (I restrained myself from taking off my shoes and curling up in the big chair I chose!). We were welcomed by the Nestle USA CEO, Brad Alford, who was more laid back and friendly than I pictured a CEO of such a large company. He spent more time with us than expected as we had a very open and frank question and answer period where bloggers were encouraged to share ideas, suggestions and concerns with Nestle.
It wasn’t long after this portion of the event that I started looking around for the CANDY! I mean, I was at Nestle…where’s the chocolate?!? Just in the nick of time, we were escorted to the Candy Lab where we learned about (and got to taste) some of the new Nestle initiatives including Cranberry Raisinets, a new and improved Crunch Bar and my favorite prototype….the Extroodler! This machine makes chocolate ribbons dispensed into a dish similar to soft-serve ice cream! I got to sample some chocolate and caramel chocolate “ribbon” and it was heavenly! The Candy Lab also featured products by Wonka and as you can tell, I fit right in!
Off to the Nestle Kitchens for lunch! I was on such a sugar high that protein was a welcomed addition to the days food intake! Chef Christine Garboski demonstrated some wonderful recipes (check out this Pumpkin and Black Bean soup that I LOVED) using Carnation Evaporated Milk and Libby’s Pumpkin.
One thing that I took away from this event was that I may actually be able to do some of these recipes! You all know that I am no whiz kid in the kitchen, but since arriving home from the Nestle event, I have been inspired to try some of the tips and techniques I learned. For example, I made the “3 for 100” mini pumpkin muffins today with my daughter, Lily. We had a great time together and they came out REALLY good! Because I am on the Weight Watchers program, I was relieved to find healthy, low calorie recipes during the event!
After lunch, we met with Nutritionists and the Team from Juicy Juice, Ovaltine and Boost Kid Essentials. An informative meeting led to a productive question and answer session. Did you know that Nestle partners with health professionals to provide tools for parents in order to help avoid obesity in children? Or that Juicy Juice is developing juice in a can to appeal to older kids as an alternative to soda?
Next we headed outside (this Louisiana girl is not used to the mountainous scenery of Glendale!) for an ice cream social with Edy’s and Skinny Cow. If I were not married already, I would seriously marry a Skinny Cow Ice Cream Cone (only 3 points if you are on Weight Watchers)! Check out the latest Skinny Cow product, the Truffle Bar! This ice cream bar is drizzled in chocolate ribbons and only 100 calories!
Day Two began with the yummiest chocolate chip pancakes EVER! Our first session taught us how Nestle gives back to the community (they are coming to New Orleans in 2010 to help the rebuilding effort!) followed by an expo-style session where we learned about several other divisions of Nestle including Jenny Craig, Purina, Haagen Daz and Nestle Waters.
All that talking made me hungry! Fortunately, Stouffers served lunch and provided us with tips for making easy and nutritious meals. One of the suggestions I loved was to “spice up” your mac and cheese by providing several condiments to add to your dish. For example, adding bacon bits, bread crumbs or salsa will take your mac and cheese to the next level!
Unfortunately, I had to head to the airport after lunch and miss the last session. I had such an incredible time not only learning about Nestle, but connecting with the amazing attendees. The bloggers were a true inspiration and I am proud to say that I believe we made a difference!