ANAHEIM, CALIF. — More than 2,700 companies are expected to exhibit at Natural Products Expo West, to be held March 8-12 in Anaheim. The event, hosted by Informa Markets’ New Hope Network, returns after a two-year absence due to the pandemic.
A so-called Super Bowl for the natural products industry, Expo West typically offers the first glimpse of cutting-edge innovation created by emerging and established brands. Product developers are responding to new challenges and consumer needs, said Jessica Rubino, executive director of content at New Hope Network, Boulder, Colorado.
“Consumer behaviors are changing, and this gives the natural products industry the opportunity to not only meet consumers where they are, but to predict where they are headed,” Rubino said. “It’s been time to rethink how we connect, how we do business, and how we create meaningful solutions for people and the planet. As a result, an inspiring approach to innovation has taken shape – one that is much more about solutions than novelty and promises a better future, rather than just surviving the chaos of today.
Ahead of the show, a panel of experts discussed the trends and novelties to follow during a digital presentation. Speakers included Scott Dicker, data analyst at SPINS; Amanda Hartt, head of market research at New Hope Network; and Adrienne Smith, Content Director at New Hope Network.
As consumers seek personalized approaches to wellness, natural, organic and functional products are driving much of the growth in the food and beverage market, Dicker said.
“Perhaps the hottest functional ingredient right now is ashwagandha…which is growing 162% both in-store and online,” Dicker said.
Nootropics, substances marketed as enhancing cognitive function, such as L-theanine and green tea extract, are also trending.
“People have a decreasing attention span and nootropics are becoming very popular to help them focus if they’re working from home or have other distractions in life,” he added.
The functional food and drink products debuting at Expo West address a range of needs, including energy, sleep, mood and brain health, Smith said. A ready-to-drink drink launched by Free Rain, New York, contains maca root to “nourish libido, improve sexual energy and support hormonal balance,” she said.
Upland Snacks, Petach-Tikva, Israel, has developed freeze-drying technology that binds fruits, vegetables and grains into crunchy bite-size pieces. The brand’s Mango Pineapple Superfood Bites contain sunflower seeds, quinoa, chia seeds and turmeric.
U Calming Co., San Diego, creates soothing tonics incorporating kava, ashwagandha, L-theanine, chamomile and lemon balm to promote relaxation.
“We were stressed before the pandemic,” Ms Hartt said. “It just got amplified.”
Various characteristics are driving the growth of organic foods and beverages, Ms Smith said, citing “gluten-free, vegan, functional mushrooms, superfoods” and noting that organic has become a benchmark or standard for natural products.
“This is especially true in mid-aisle categories where brands make it so easy for consumers to choose organic and then get these other benefits,” she said. “These include things like baking mixes, breakfast cereals, sauces, oils, and of course other grocery staples like dairy creamers, eggs, and chicken.”
She cited the example of Good Food For Good Inc. of Toronto, which introduced an organic Bolognese-style vegetable sauce made from pumpkin seeds. All Clean Food, LLC, Minnetonka, Minnesota has created a line of organic pasta dinners that are free from the 14 major allergens. A porcini pasta dish is made with white rice and quinoa flours, porcini powder, herbs and spices.
Several exhibitors have received a Regenerative Organic Certified seal, indicating that ingredients have been produced by methods that advance soil health, animal welfare and social equity. Navitas Organics, Navato, Calif., has launched regenerative certified organic cocoa powder. The company partners with farmers who use holistic and indigenous practices that increase biodiversity and conserve natural resources.
Philosopher Foods, Santa Cruz, CA has launched the first regenerative Certified Organic Stone Ground Chocolate Coconut Butter. Livestock graze in coconut plantations, converting weeds and grass into manure, which stimulates plant root growth and sequesters carbon dioxide, according to New Hope Network.
“It’s also certified glyphosate-free,” Ms. Smith noted.
Suggesting that “carbon is the new calorie,” speakers reviewed brands and new products with a focus on climate and sustainability. Airly, St, Louis, markets cheddar cheese crackers made with ingredients produced using regenerative agriculture practices. The company offsets the carbon produced during the manufacture of the crackers.
“It also has this great seed-to-shelf compatibility of its carbon capture, and it does all of this at a really accessible price,” Ms. Smith said.
Ms. Hartt highlighted several pioneering exhibitors in the field of sustainable packaging. Zen Beverage Co., Irvine, CA, is a bottled water company using recycled, Ocean Bound certified plastic to help restore coastal environments. The company said it is on track to save 50 million pounds of ocean-bound plastic by 2025. Cocojune Products, New York, packages its organic, dairy-free yogurt products in plastic cups. paper and is working towards a compostable option, Ms. Hartt said.
Another trend discussed during the presentation is the celebration of diversity in the natural products industry, as historically underrepresented entrepreneurs gain more space and support.
“Over the past two years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in women’s, minority, NGLCC (National LGBT Chamber of Commerce certified) and veteran-owned businesses,” Mr. Dicker said. “You’re going to see it all over the living room.”
Fila Manila Filipino American Kitchen, Laurel Springs, NJ, produces staples inspired by the Philippines’ most iconic dishes. The latest launch is Banana Ketchup, a tomato-free condiment made with bananas, peppers, herbs and spices.
A Dozen Cousins, Los Angeles, offers convenient staple dishes based on Creole, Caribbean and Latin American recipes. Recent additions include ready-to-eat rice cooked in bone broth and seasoning sauces for meat and rice.
San Francisco-based Twrl Milk Tea is a plant-based twist on a popular Taiwanese drink. Canned lattes are made with organic, fair trade tea and pea milk and are infused with nitrogen, which creates a creamy taste.
Sanzo, New York, is a brand of sparkling water with flavors of Asian fruits such as calamansi, yuzu and lychee, without added sugar, artificial flavors or preservatives. The startup was “founded by a Filipino American who saw the opportunity to offer a clean label option,” Ms. Hartt said, adding, “Its goal was simple, to celebrate high-quality Asian flavors that have been masked for decades by the addition of sugars.
Continued innovation in ingredients and forms, along with improvements in taste, texture and nutrition, will propel the plant-based food and beverage category forward, Dicker said.
“Crop production has definitely been one of the biggest trends we’ve seen in the industry over the past five years, and we continue to see it grow,” Dicker said. “I know there was a bit of a plateau after the huge growth that was experienced at the start of the pandemic. It’s kind of back to baseline, and now we expect more modest but continued growth.
Concerns over health, the environment, animal welfare and dietary limitations are contributing to this momentum, he said.
Chi Foods, Santa Barbara, Calif., produces a line of organic plant-based soils made with sacha inchi, a nutritious nut that contains more protein than pork, according to the company.
From Vancouver, BC-based Big Mountain Foods, Lion’s Mane Mushroom Crumble features a blend of organic lion’s mane, portabello and shiitake mushrooms, plus pea protein, carrot, coconut and hemp seeds.
Miyoko’s Creamery, Petaluma, Calif., has developed a liquid vegan mozzarella pizza formulated with cultured cashew milk that “melts, bubbles and browns,” according to the company.
Expect to see more plant-based formulations not necessarily meant to replace or mimic animal products. Ms. Hartt cited jackfruit as an emerging ingredient, used as a base in a chewy snack offered by Amazi Foods, Bethesda, Md.
Eliminating animal products isn’t the only solution to tackling climate change, according to a number of brands set to showcase sustainable meat and dairy innovation. Mr. Dicker noted pockets of growth, particularly around grass-fed and fair-trade claims.
Force of Nature, Austin, Texas, focuses on regenerative meats. The brand’s Lonestar Blend Boar and Beef Sausage is made with holistically raised, grass-fed beef and wild boar, an invasive species that contributes to water pollution and crop destruction.
Neptune Snacks, Seattle, offers sustainably sourced fish jerky. The company uses imperfect, undersized cuts or surplus species such as locally abundant wild Alaskan pollock and Pacific rockfish, which reduces waste throughout the supply chain.
Applegate Farms, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corp. based in Bridgewater, NJ, introduced the Do Good Dog, a beef-based hot dog raised on verified regenerative grasslands. The cattle that provide the beef for the Do Good Dog are part of a system helping to regenerate up to 260,000 acres of American prairie, according to the Savory Institute, an organization committed to facilitating large-scale regeneration of prairies in the United States. world.
“I love this product purely because of the huge potential impact it could have on our meat industry,” Ms. Smith said. “It shows a way to improve mass-market products like hot dogs. How can we do it better with more care for animals and more care for the earth’s resources? »