The State Of Health & Wellness: A Perspective From a Trade Show in Philadelphia

The State Of Health & Wellness: A Perspective From a Trade Show in Philadelphia

The Interact Team is just leaving Expo East where the energy was electric, as brands and those in the industry were celebrating the last time we’ll all gather here in Philly. It left us excited for what’s to come in the new chapter. There was a lot of buzz around Newtopia Now, a trade show in August for what seems like a great pivot in line with the times. Brands will welcome the smaller format and new venues along with an emphasis on experiential. See y'all in Savannah (shoutout to New Hope)!  

As our team comes down from the buzz and the energy, we put our heads together to track the trends, our analysis of what’s working, what’s not working, where brands are thriving and where they have room to grow.


Family came first at this year's show. Whether it was an easy addition to a weeknight meal or a quick add to a packed school lunch, brands were targeting the whole family with options to please the kids and parents. We saw Happy Wolf, Serenity Kids, Chubby Snacks, and Must Love.

The plant-based is in a drought. There weren’t as many alternative meats and cheeses at this year’s show. We saw many brands claim they were plant based but decided to draw little attention to it. Drumroll Snacks recently redesigned their packaging to downplay their vegan claims. That being said, plant-based milk is still in full swing. We saw pecan milk, sunflower milk, barley milk, chickpea milk, and fermented animal-free milks. But we don’t think your local coffee shop will be carrying them all.

Keto had its 15 minutes. Well sort of. Similar to the plant-based surge, brands are now repositioning as “No Sugar Added.” Brands were using this as an opportunity to use real food as sweeteners like dates or there was no need for sweetness to begin with. Date Better is taking the guilt out of indulging with date based treats. It’s a good reminder for folks building brands - think like a consumer first, not a marketer. Just because you can say it, does not mean it needs to be said.

Expo East was buzzed on non-alcoholic beverages. This year, there was an entire aisle dedicated to alcohol alternatives. Parch. Recess. Noughty. Mingle. Soirée. Mockly. Sovi. Kul Mocks. HopWtr. We also found that more people were skipping the hard stuff after hours too. And it might just be that this happens to be a crowd focused on health and wellness, but there seems to be a rise in brands fighting to keep us sober. When it comes down to it, anything without alcohol is non-alcohol. This will be a battle of good branding. Those that understand their consumer and are able to communicate it best will come out on top. 

Everyone has seemed to drink the adaptogenic kool aid. Ashwagganda was prevalent in numerous beverages at the show. With adaptogens to an ever larger degree. Melting Forest has a Mushroom Chill line. Emotional Utility Beverage has a focus and euphoric line. Moment beverages calm. Moss supports energy, mood and libido. Yoro focuses and restores you. It seems as though there was a “cure” to every emotional issue one may have. 

Flavors took flight! Founders were drawing in from their culture and family recipes to bring global flavors in new formats. We are glad not only to find diversity in flavors but also a diverse crowd of entrepreneurs at this year's event. They are bringing the much needed cultural and culinary representation to the table. Check out Bollygood, Hillside Harvest, Aajis, and Chutni Punch.


Expo East highlighted several diverse aesthetics—everything from the culturally ornate to the simple and stripped-back. Additionally, there was no clear-cut audience to which designs were being geared toward. It was rather dependent on the specific product. One design choice that stood out was the use of bold typography as logo marks. Brands are using lettering to further express themselves. Moreover, while sustainability is a buzzword in today’s day in age, it was surprising to see that not as many brands were incorporating it into their packaging.


Our team noted a common trend of brands that were doing too much. In other words, countless brands are overloading their packaging with information, likely due to the lack of an identifiable North Star: What is the single most leverageable, unique, or differentiating factor for the brand? Finding the right balance between conveying a compelling story and overwhelming the consumer or pack with information remains a challenge. As we always say, Consumers don’t read, they recognize. Some brands, however, are finding innovative ways to educate consumers off-pack, through the creative use of social media, specifically TikTok, to speak directly to consumers about their preferences and expectations. Bollygood, an Indian-inspired sparkling beverage, stood out to us as an example of great brand storytelling. The brand showcased itself in a meaningful way through the context of their physical booth as well as specific brand assets.


Retailers are tuned into gen-z and millennials right now. They know that the audience is hyper focused on what they are putting in their bodies. Better-for-you brands are trending. And we have entered a new wave of best-for-you brands. A better version of the already better-for-you products. We were able to catch up with Prabal Chaudhri from Brave Good Kind, and he said that they were finding retailers were particularly interested in their packaging materials as consumers have demanded commitment to sustainability. Getting into retailers these days can be difficult as a new brand. In the past they sought out exclusivity and partnerships. Now they are prioritizing innovation that aligns with consumer trends.


Generally, it felt like there was a sea of sameness. In conversations with investors and other folks walking the floor, the consensus was that there was little that was irresistible, crave-able, or new. Competition is high and it takes a lot more than just a good product and a passionate founder to build up a meaningful relationship with consumers today. Brands are also not growing as quickly as they are struggling with inflation and higher interest rates. There is a much greater emphasis on building strong brands rather than just backing products. Furthermore, data-driven insights are as powerful as ever and investors are open to both DTC and retail strategies.


Large brands are continuing to dominate, but start-ups are aligned in their strategies on how to make waves in their prospective categories. Retailers aren’t fighting bigger brands but are looking for unique positioning. Big or small. For small brands, focusing on the target consumer and emphasizing a clear differentiating factor is the main concern. Kamaal Jarret with Hillside Harvest mentioned that their primary focus is on “increasing brand awareness and impacting growth through velocity.” Setting themselves apart by maintaining a commitment to who the brand is at their core is the main priority. 

As always, consumers gravitate towards authentic brands. Start-ups are using these pillars to fight back on industry captains. So brands, how are you authentically creating your own space within your category? 

Expo East left equipped our team with a wealth of insights—some new and some reinforced beliefs about the ever-evolving working of branding and design. Until next time—stay inspired, stay creative, and keep innovating!

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