Coming from an over-20-year career in the alcoholic beverage industry, I never had opportunity or cause to attend Natural Products Expo West. In my current role as Director of Brand Strategy at Smith Design, I have been diving deep into the natural products category and learning about the various trade shows that service the industry – but nothing could have prepared me for the magnitude of this show!
Natural Products Expo West is the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products trade show, with this year’s event drawing almost 90,000 attendees from 136 different countries. The show, which is hosted by New Hope Network, was held at the Anaheim Convention Center and ran from March 5-9, 2019. This was their 39th annual show, and it included more than 3,600 exhibiting companies; as a testament of the show’s annual growth, 600 of them were first-time exhibitors.
If you think back to 1981 when the Natural Products Expo first launched, natural and organic products were only available in small-scale specialty shops that sold items like wheat germ, tofu and incense. Fast-forward to today: consumer health awareness and changes in lifestyle created the demand that helped balloon the US Natural and Organic Products industry into an over $207 billion industry (according to the New Hope Network’s Nutrition Business Journal). There is no disputing that natural and organics products have taken the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry by storm. A few years ago I don’t think any of us would have imagined eating cauliflower pizza crust from Green Giant®, or a dairy free yogurt, yet now these innovations are starting to feel almost mainstay.
The breadth, depth and speed of innovation in this category can feel daunting but here are a few of the top trends that stood out for their understanding of consumer needs, innovative approach and potential for long term sustainable growth.
Plant-Based Products Rule
From plant based foods, beverages, supplements and skin care, plant based alternatives were everywhere. Brands such as Phyter™ Plant Based Food Bar, Plant Fusion™ Meal Replacements, and Worthington™ Plant Powered Meat Alternatives have been among those leading the charge, bringing a variety of products to meet eager consumers’ demands and tastes.
With the growth of allergies, food sensitivities, diabetes and other health conditions, the demand for products free of certain allergens or ingredients has skyrocketed and companies have certainly heard the call. There was a full array of products to meet virtually every specialty need, with many labels boasting certifications of Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free, Allergen Free, Sugar Free, Carb Free, Fat Free, and more.
Products like Malk™ Organics and Planet Oat™ Milk stood out for their taste and product offerings free from dairy, gluten, soy, lactose, artificial flavors, artificial colors and artificial preservatives.
Responsible Sourcing, Sustainability & Plastic Free
The war on plastic was very evident at the show, with several new products like PathWater™ offering alternatives to plastic bottles and promoting reusable packaging.
Brands like Truly Grass Fed™ promoted the fact that their cows are 95% grass fed, roam free, are antibiotic free and are pioneering an Animal Welfare Approved certification, with the most rigorous standards for animal welfare and environmental sustainability in the world.
Digestive Health, Pre and Pro-Biotic
The days of only managing your digestive health with a capsule are fading fast. Brands debuted gut-healthy foods, designed to be as digestible as they are delicious. Brands like The Cultured Snacking Co.’s™ Probiotic Snack Bars, which were made with yogurt and almonds, and sweetened with maple, offer gut health in a convenient, on-the-go bar. I loved Bakery On Main’s™ Organic Oats & Happiness which offered Oats and Ancient Grains with Probiotic Cultures in a convenient cup, and it’s an excellent source of fiber (6 grams per serving) and whole grains (50 grams per serving).
CBD & Hemp
The growing popularity of CBD and Hemp was on full display with all types of products found in booths across the convention center. While this is a relatively new industry, the future looks promising as a wide range of hemp and hemp-derived CBD products were on display. Balanced Health Botanicals offered different oils and capsules, while Hemp Production Services’ product line included powders and hempseed. Some of the more interesting concepts were hemp granola and hemp protein powder provided by Hemp Yeah!, truly pushing consumers’ perception of hemp products further than ever before.
Looking for a convenient snack that won’t wreck your diet? You’re not alone – and brands have listened. Blue Moose™ is a now offering the first and only organic hummus snack pack, with no preservatives or added flavors. While other on-the-go hummus offers pretzels or chips for dipping, Blue Moose™ keeps it healthy by including organic carrot sticks. Another product line that caught my eye was Grain Trust’s™ frozen rice, which came in a convenient microwaveable pouch and was perfectly portioned.
Health & Beauty, Personal Care Products
While the majority of products featured at Expo West fell into the Food and Beverages category, I learned about and sampled some very impressive personal care products as well. Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day™ line of hand sanitizers are phosphate and paraben-free, with a lovely scent. Mason Natural offered natural, tasty gummies to help support healthy skin, hair and nails, and Biotene H-24’s™ shampoo & conditioner touted the benefit of having thicker, fuller hair by utilizing all-natural ingredients. Boost Oxygen™ was one of the more intriguing product lines, with a variety of oxygen canisters meant to improve health and wellness, receive a boost to combat stress and anxiety, and allow for quicker recovery from workouts.