Anaheim, CA — Another Natural Products Expo West has come and gone. Bigger every year, Expo this year saw over 85,000 attendees and 3,521 exhibitors, 600 of which were first time exhibitors, according to New Hope Network. This means that the industry continues to grow. According to preliminary 2017 estimates from the Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ), the supplements industry has grown 6.1%, reaching $43.5 billion. This is steady growth, with vitamins retaining the lead in market share at 31%, though this is down from 34% in 2014, making room for other categories gaining traction.
Most of these categories should be no surprise as they are staples of the industry at this point. Proteins for example have experienced 9% growth to reach $5.1 billion in sales according to NBJ. Indeed, protein, plant protein in particular heavily saturate the show floor, from powders to bars and RTD beverages. New brands like OWYN continue to innovate in this space, producing not only plant-based protein products such as powders, bars and shakes, but also setting themselves apart by placing particular emphasis on being allergen-free, making it central to their campaign, drawing not only plant-based consumers but also those suffering from food allergies.
Probiotics also grew, by 8.5%, but this growth is slower than previous years, potentially with the greater emphasis being placed on prebiotics and enzymes, an appropriate shift. That is not to say probiotics are losing momentum. Just Thrive, for example, saw a good deal of traffic from major retailers and has made clinical trials a major priority. A peer-reviewed research study on leaky gut syndrome has already seen positive results, namely a 42% reduction in endotoxin associated with leaky gut. The firm plans to study this further, increasing the size of the study and also researching other health benefits, such as acne. There are plans to conduct nine new clinical trials in all.
Circling back to prebiotics, one unusual innovation seen on the show floor was a fiber-infused water. In fact, functional beverages experienced 16.1% growth to $84 million in sales. This reflects an overall shift away from traditional supplement formats to more convenient delivery formats such as functional beverages as well as powders, stick packs and effervescent tablets. When it comes to new delivery formats, collagen has been leading the pack.
This is because consumers have become more interested in beauty from the inside-out and putting less stock in topicals alone. According to NBJ, nutraceuticals have grown 7.2% to $1.1 billion of which collagen is the hottest ingredient, experiencing a third consecutive year in double digit growth. This year collagen saw 30% growth to $98 million. From collagen powder, to collagen coffee creamer, to bone broth, collagen is one of the biggest functional ingredients in the supplement space, even infiltrating bars, which were also ubiquitous at the show (more on that later).
One of the most talked about categories and most controversial is phytocannabinoid, more commonly known as hemp-derived CBD. It continues to forge ahead despite regulatory and legal pushback from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Drug Enforcement Agency, with two major brands, Barleans and Nature’s Plus launching their own CBD oils at the show to hop onto the greater than $150 million and growing market. CV Sciences, which manufactures PlusCBD has been hosting educational sessions about the breaking the stigma and the health benefits of phytocannabinoids for several years, each session growing in size as awareness and acceptance increases. In this year’s session, Aimee Gould Shunney, ND, and medical adviser for CV Sciences discussed the use of phytocannabinoids for “radical self-care” to fight stress in everyday life.
Stress-relief is another important trend in the supplement space with awareness growing about adrenal fatigue and the effectiveness of adaptogenic herbs such as ashwaghanda for helping the body adapt to everyday stressors. Therefore, phytocannabinoids can straddle categories, though more education is required for consumers to understand the ingredient’s possibility, made more difficult by the fact that phytocannabinoid manufacturers can’t legally place any claims on their bottles.
In the food space, it was bars overload, with the emphasis being on plant-based and functional bars, including protein and collagen. Meat bars, while trending in previous years, don’t seem to be holding on as well. While the number of plant-based bars seen on the show floor has certainly increased, the same can’t be said of meat bars. Meat sticks and jerky definitely still have their place, but manufacturers trying to break into the “bar” category with meat haven’t been as successful. In fact, one company which came on the market with a meat bar is phasing out production of that product and moving into chickpea chips, a different trending snack category that also provides a good dose of protein. One interesting product from Power Bar attempts to find a middle ground, combining the granola/nut bar with jerky. We’ll see if that takes off or not.
Microwaveable foods that are either shelf stable or frozen is another trend. Many of these foods were of the East Asian variety, noticeably Korean food, perhaps seeing an opportunity from the fresh-in-people’s-minds Winter Olympics in South Korea. Past years saw greater emphasis on South Asian flavors.
In beverage, it continues to be about function. A few brands showcased caffeine water and innovation continues in fermented/probiotic-rich beverages that try to piggy-back the success of kombucha as well as differentiate. More manufacturers also seem to be opting to sweeten their products with monk fruit instead of stevia.
One major theme of the show appeared to be mothers and babies, with new baby food products as well as baby-safe lifestyle and topical products.
In personal care, oral health products were everywhere. Xylitol-based toothpastes and mouthwashes as well as whitening products are a huge potential market, with there being few alternatives to conventional brands for consumers to choose from.
Click the arrow to listen to more perspective on the show from Laurie Petersen and Sebastian Krawiec.