A peaceful-looking blue nylon tent stands amid the Natural Foods Expo, a four-day gathering here of 5,000 food manufacturers who are hawking everything from soy- burgers to no-sugar candy bars to rice cakes to Muscle Fuel protein powders to black peanut butter.

Inside the tent is Vital Body Marketing Co., which is selling the art of relaxation.

For $9, harried professionals can buy calming musical tapes with peaceful names such as "Slumberland," "Rainbow Ray," "Sound Health" and "Quiet Moments."

"Our business is antifrantic alternatives," company president Jeff Charno said as the hall in the massive Washington Convention Center resonated with the din and clatter of a thousand sales messages searching for orders.

The tapes are sold to hospitals, employers, exercise salons and just general-issue frantic Americans.

Commuters are a big market and they have made "Driving Stress Free" a best seller. Shades of the experimental soft-drink ads of the 1950s, it plays a subliminal message under the music, telling you to stop honking, swearing and getting aggravated over terrible traffic. Your ears don't get to hear it, but your subconscious does.

"People's workdays are getting longer, and they're spending more time in their cars," said Charno. "At the same time, they're getting into self-improvement. This seems to meet both needs."

Charno, 27, started the Manhasset, N.Y., firm eight years ago. "I just got out of school, cut off my ponytail and started the business."

His biggest trouble yesterday was weaning the hordes of out-of-town health-food store owners away from the handouts of tofu hot dogs and sparkling ciders to focus on nonedible items.

"We're convinced that healthy eaters are the same people interested in slowing down the tension in their lives," Charno said, as strains of harp, violin and piano music wafted from his tent.

The tapes were among a few items in the hall that could not be swallowed. Greenpeace, the antinuclear group, was there, as were a hair remover, cosmetics and a new, time-saving toothbrush called the Collis-Curve.

But at least in the early hours of the exposition, store buyers seemed intent on roving from food basket to steam table, exchanging business cards for noshes aisle after aisle.

The smell of cooked rice permeated the air.

One of those responsible for the aroma was Susumu Mizukami, the 70-year-old creator of a process to speed the cooking time of brown rice. In an encouraging reverse of Relaxation and Rice It's Body Over Mind At Natural Foods Expo By Margaret Engel Washington Post Staff Writer

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A peaceful-looking blue nylon tent stands amid the Natural Foods Expo, a four-day gathering here of 5,000 food manufacturers who are hawking everything from soy- burgers to no-sugar candy bars to rice cakes to Muscle Fuel protein powders to black peanut butter.

Inside the tent is Vital Body Marketing Co., which is selling the art of relaxation.

For $9, harried professionals can buy calming musical tapes with peaceful names such as "Slumberland," "Rainbow Ray," "Sound Health" and "Quiet Moments."

"Our business is antifrantic alternatives," company president Jeff Charno said as the hall in the massive Washington Convention Center resonated with the din and clatter of a thousand sales messages searching for orders.

The tapes are sold to hospitals, employers, exercise salons and just general-issue frantic Americans.

Commuters are a big market and they have made "Driving Stress Free" a best seller. Shades of the experimental soft-drink ads of the 1950s, it plays a subliminal message under the music, telling you to stop honking, swearing and getting aggravated over terrible traffic. Your ears don't get to hear it, but your subconscious does.

"People's workdays are getting longer, and they're spending more time in their cars," said Charno. "At the same time, they're getting into self-improvement. This seems to meet both needs."

Charno, 27, started the Manhasset, N.Y., firm eight years ago. "I just got out of school, cut off my ponytail and started the business."

His biggest trouble yesterday was weaning the hordes of out-of-town health-food store owners away from the handouts of tofu hot dogs and sparkling ciders to focus on nonedible items.

"We're convinced that healthy eaters are the same people interested in slowing down the tension in their lives," Charno said, as strains of harp, violin and piano music wafted from his tent.

The tapes were among a few items in the hall that could not be swallowed. Greenpeace, the antinuclear group, was there, as were a hair remover, cosmetics and a new, time-saving toothbrush called the Collis-Curve.

But at least in the early hours of the exposition, store buyers seemed intent on roving from food basket to steam table, exchanging business cards for noshes aisle after aisle.

The smell of cooked rice permeated the air.

One of those responsible for the aroma was Susumu Mizukami, the 70-year-old creator of a process to speed the cooking time of brown rice. In an encouraging reverse of American trade relations, this Japanese citizen has established a Yuba City, Calif., company to process California-grown rice. Mizukami bought his equipment from an Oakland company, has hired 25 American workers and is trying to export the finished "5 Minute Brown Rice" to Japan.

"We can make it better and cheaper here," said Yoshi Sawada, a consultant to the firm. "This is a Japanese idea with American product because rice is cheaper here than the one set price we have in Japan."