New Product Trends Spotted at Expo West

Natural Products Expo West posted its largest-ever attendee count to date with more than 77,000 attendees coming to the event, March 9–13 at the Anaheim Convention Center. Show organizers say this marks a 6.9% increase in attendance over last year’s numbers.

More than 3,000 companies hosted exhibit booths at the show, including more than 600 first-time exhibitors.

The attendee volume made for a great experience for many exhibitors. Stated Sanjay Panchal, general manager of Quorn USA, “With over 77,000 people at the show looking for new and different foods, we were pleased with the great response to Quorn and the traffic at our booth. We gave out over 2,000 samples and everyone loved trying our food.”

Also speaking about the traffic was Sandra Carter, MPH, Ph.D., founder of Om Mushrooms, maker of 10 organic mushroom powder blends. She states, “Expo West is always one of our busiest shows…With the tremendous growing excitement around mushroom supplements we never got a chance to catch our breath.”

This enthusiasm was also seen at the Vitalah (maker of Oxylent) booth. Said Lisa Lent, founder, “Most often, we were six people deep at any given moment throughout the weekend.”

New product launches were abundant at Natural Products Expo West. Dan Fox, senior director of marketing at Wally’s Natural (maker of Wally’s Natural Ear Candles, Organic Ear Oil, Organic Body Oil and Aromatherapy Essential Oil Blends) was impressed with the innovation that the natural industry continues to put out. “From the use of natural and organic coloring to the work that some have been doing with konjac sponges, I have been really impressed at the array of different personal care products that the natural industry is creating,” he stated.

Added Jenna Arkin, product development director for Earth Friendly Products, “While the natural market has always focused on environmentally friendly products, this year’s Expo West showcased the continuing trend of natural products that focus on health and safety benefits. Consumers expect natural products to be good not only for the planetExpo West, but also for their families and homes.”

Beth Lambert, CEO, Herbalist & Alchemist, saw a new pattern among attendees: “A huge number of people took photos of our products. Perhaps they are using them as a visual record to follow up on products they want to check out after the show—this may be a new way people are coping with such a massive show they can’t possibly get through completely.”

In all, some companies say this year’s event was one of the best to date. “Expo West 2016 was deemed one of the best shows yet by the Aker BioMarine team,” stated Becky Wright, marketing director at Aker BioMarine Antarctic US. “The booth traffic was steady and the interest level was high across the board.”
Here are several trends noted by WholeFoods editors on the show floor:

1. Plant-based proteins. Plant-based protein, both in the supplements and in the grocery aisles, was hot on the show floor. Panchal reported that attendees were very interested to learn about his company’s newest Quorn vegan mycoprotein offering.

In the supplements aisles, Solgar debuted Spoonfuls Vegan Protein Powder in three flavors. The supplement not only offers a greens blend, a plant enzyme blend, a fiber blend, omega-3s from chia and high-ORAC concentrates, but also a blend of five plant proteins: pea, rice, hemp, pumpkin and flaxseed.

Meanwhile, Nature’s Plus not only surprised attendees with a completely redesigned booth, but added to its protein offers with Organic Pea Protein and Organic Sunflower Protein powders. Naturade expanded its line with a new high-protein Vegan Slim weight-management shake, delivering several ingredients including 25 grams of proteins from pea, quinoa, chia, chlorella and potato. Genesis Today has a new plant-protein–greens combination product. And, Vega has a new Vega Sport Protein sourced from pea, alfalfa, pumpkin and sunflower seed.

In the grocery aisles, Ips Snacks launched Ips Chips recipe made with whey protein; Enjoy Life showed off its new ProBurst Bites with at least six grams of plant-based protein per serving; high-protein Raw Rev Glo bars from Raw Indulgence are now on the market with a blend of pea, rice and hemp protein; Arctic Zero debuted new flavors of its whey protein frozen desserts; Chapul launched a new Cricket Flour & Protein Powder;  and Bob’s Red Mill was on the scene with plant-based Nutritional Booster Protein Powders made with pea protein.

Said Panchal of all these launches, “To us, this trend of plant-based proteins illustrates that the space is increasingly becoming a focus for consumers.”

2. Hemp. Dovetailing on the plant-based proteins trend, exhibitors also launched several new hemp products. Nature’s Plus has come to market with an Organic Hemp Protein powder, while North American Herb & Spice launched NAHS Therapy NutriHEMP Raw and NutriHEMP Raw Blueberry Extreme, both blends of organic hemp seed and brown rice proteins.  The company also showed off several new NAHS Therapy hemp products including Hempanol Cream, Hempanol SuperStrength Capsules and Oil, and Hempanol PM Capsules and Oil. New CBD oil launches were noticeably absent throughout the show.

In the food aisles, Tempt launched Tempt Coconut Hemp Milk and Tempt Hemp Yogurt; Nutiva showed off its new Nutiva Organic Superseed Blend with flax, chia and hemp in one package; Angel Fire Hemp Company debuted ChongWater, a hemp water in flavors like Hemp & Honey and Hemp & Mint–Lime; and EVO Hemp exhibited several new U.S.-grown hemp snacks, bars and seasoned hearts.

Stated Matt Mograbi, vice president of Matt’s Munchies, “I noticed a lot of hemp seeds, which I was very interested in. Matt’s Munchies debuted two new flavors at Expo West: Grape and Tropical Punch with Hemp-seeds. Both were a big hit! The most common thing I heard was ‘hemp-seeds are all over the show!’”

3. Meat bars. This next trend is partially in response to interest in low-carb paleo-friendly foods: meat-based bars, often with sweet and savory blends. New launches spotted by WholeFoods Magazine included Organic Valley, which now offers Mighty Bars made with 100% organic beef. Wilde Bar showed off its line of meat-snack bars in flavors like Turkey Cranberry and Peach BBQ Beef. Meanwhile, Caveman Foods launched several flavors of Chicken Primal Bars, and Wild Zora showcased its Meat & Veggie Bars.

Branching out from bars, many animal-derived launches focused on grass fed. Bridget Coates, founder of Kura, reported, “Our retailers were most interested in learning more about the smoothie trend, as well as the nutritional benefits of grass-fed protein…We noticed a large number of grass-fed dairy products including cottage cheese, ice cream, cheese and buttermilk.” In fact, one of her favorite finds from the show was grass-fed cottage cheese from Good Culture.

4. New ways to get probiotics. Probiotics were all over the show floor, from the supplements to the grocery to the pet aisles. According to Ganeden, more than 60 new SKUs were launched at Expo West containing its patented probiotic strain-GanedenBC30. Some of these launches included fruit/veggie purees and yogurt treats from Little Duck Organics; Brad’s Raw Foods’s new Broccoli Poppers and Crunchy Kale with probiotics; Pressed Probiotic Waters from Suja; and Cashew Smoothies with probiotics from Forager Project.

Also new on the market from Barlean’s is a gummy vitamin offering two billion CFUs of Bacillus coagulans. Nordic Naturals launched probiotic gummies for kids. And, UAS Laboratories came to market with a unique probiotic supplement, one specifically geared at supporting Heart Health.

5. Healthy fats innovations. Continuing on the trend to bring healthy culinary oils to market, several unique launches were made at Expo West. Barlean’s, Nutiva and Nature’s Way also showed off coconut oil with a natural buttery flavor. Maadhuri Shankar, marketing coordinator of Amira, which specializes in Indian specialty basmati rice, organic rice and food products, said her favorite find of the show was “the use of natural fats, such as Complete Coconut Elixir and Coconut Espresso.”

Aker launched a new technology platform that Wright reports was of strong interest to attendees. She stated, “Everyone was interested in hearing about how this technology will forever change the omega-3 market. In general, many of the show’s exhibitors seemed to be looking toward the future and that is important to the natural products industry.”

Shankar also makes an interesting point: the Amira booth was visited by several mainstream grocery retailers (as well as natural independents), speaking to the growing interest of natural products on a broader scale.

Arkin agrees and states, “I think it’s fair to say that natural products, which were once part of a small, niche market, have become mainstream.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine May 2016