Last week, our team attended Natural Products Expo West. With miles of booths, we were sure to get our 10K steps in— and of course see the current and the future trajectory of culture through food & beverage products. The innovations not only excited our taste buds, but were an opportunity for us to better understand what consumers are looking for when it comes to the better-for-you category. Here are our key takeaways.
It's A No Brainer
Supplements and vitamins have had strong growth since COVID three years ago. As consumers continue to invest in health & wellness, we are now seeing them look beyond just immunity and seeking additional functional attributes. Products that had brain benefits were all the rage at Expo West. According to Brainiac Foods, “most of us only consume 20% of the daily essential nutrients our brains need to thrive.” Brianiac Foods is creating apple sauce, vitamins, fruit & veggie squeezers, and nut butters with the brain top of mind. We also saw brain-boosting ingredients make their way into beverages with BrainJuice which supports memory, mood, and focus. They have created a powerful antioxidant complex used in all of their products to help protect and energize the brain. Prefer a bar over juice? We saw our friends at Mosh off the floor this year. They are on a mission to create a conversation about brain health through food, education, research, and provide the tools for a “mindstyle” lifestyle. They have created a protein bar specifically for the brain after watching a family member slowly lose his mind to Alzheimer’s. Wanting to get the whole family on a brain nutrient rich plan? Well it doesn't stop there. Babies' brains are 80% developed by the age of 3. Cerebelly is the only baby food with 16 key brain-supporting nutrients. We have a feeling that we will start seeing more brain focused food & beverage products arise. It seems like a smart idea to us as our brains now have to compete with AI.
The Wave of Vitamin Sea
Marine superfoods swept the tradeshow floor. Not only is it good for you, the ingredients themselves are good for the earth. Wavy Wonders was one of the brands we discovered using these underwater benefits with its culinary crafted seaweed snacks. According to their website, Kelp creates underwater ecosystems and requires 0 inputs to grow making it regeneratively farmed. Seaweed reduces the effects of climate change as it sequesters greenhouse gasses. It turns carbon dioxide into oxygen. If you prefer to drink your nutrients, Oomee is an algae-infused refreshment to make you gut-sparkle. Looking for a marine plant-based alternative? Akua is the first kelp-based meat and seafood alternative. They offer a burger and crab cake made from kelp and other superfoods. Sea Monsters have created kid-friendly seaweed puffs that you’ll want yourself to snack on. They come in fun flavors ranging from cheese pizza to spicy korean bbq. The wave of marine superfoods is just getting started.
Gut health has officially taken over the world. There is evidence to show that gut problems have risen over the last decade. And people are not afraid to talk about it. #GutTok on TikTok has over 400 million views. As a society, we are sharing tips & tricks to help repair our gut. Gut health has made its mark in the consumer space with gut-friendly snack, drink, and supplement options. Fody caught eyes at Expo West with their “Garlic Makes You Fart” poster. We see you Dude with a Sign. They created a line of food products free of triggers. For snack options, BelliWelli is a bar free of common gut-irritants and contains real probiotics and fiber. If you are just having trouble in the bathroom, DigestLive is coining the term “poopgasm” and owning the fact that “gut-health” is really just a polite way of saying “sh*t show.” Go with your gut and try some new gut-enhancing products.
Trippin' For Mushrooms
Mushrooms have been a buzzword this past year. While these are not magical, their benefits are. They have been around for quite some time but are now mass market. Om, Malama Mushrooms, Oasis Adaptogens, and Four Sigmatic all offer mushroom powders that can be used in shakes, coffee, recipes, and more. They allow you to add mushrooms to whatever your routine currently is. If you are looking for pre-made products, Odyssey Elixir is a mushroom sparkling drink to promote mood, focus, and energy. For a quick snack, Pan’s Mushroom Jerky and Moku give you the satisfying meat texture of jerky as a mushroom-based option. If you haven’t already, it’s time to open your mind to the world of mushrooms.
Keto is looking to appeal to mass markets and has shifted from keto-focused products to keto-friendly. These products are changing the way they talk about themselves, with more focus on "low sugar". Fatso is a keto-friendly peanut butter that is also vegan, gluten free, and non-gmo with an emphasis on including good fats and low sugar. If you have a sweet tooth take a look at Sweet Logic. They are desserts made for mugs with their low sugar cake mixes. Wanting less sugar is something we can all get on the same page about.
A New Phase of Plant-Based
It seems these days that almost everyone is vegan. We have seen a major shift in food as people are searching for plant-based options for almost everything. It has expanded far beyond grocery stores and is now a norm on most restaurant menus as well. We are seeing plant-based really expand outside of meats and into dairy, cheese, and even eggs. We met up with the Yo Egg team off the tradeshow floor this year and got to try the first plant-based egg with a poachable yolk. Our team says it measures up to a traditional egg. Bored Cow is the first milk alternative to do it all. It is real dairy without the cow. One of the more exciting movements in the plant-based space is Chiaviar. A chia seed based spread alternative to caviar. Omni Foods, known for their plant-based meat alternatives, just underwent a redesign of their brand. They shifted their focus from plant-based proteins to a more holistic plant-based format introducing gyoza, pot stickers, and more. Plant-based has really stepped up its game and you can now find alternatives for most foods.
The Reinvention of Soda
Olipop and Poppi have spurred a landrush into soda 2.0. Consumers are still looking for a sweet beverage but are wanting zero sugar and added benefits. We saw a number of new better-for-you sodas at this year's show. Rowdy Mermaid, known for their kombucha, launched Good Mood Soda which has a variety of traditional soda flavors. Zevia showcased their rebrand this year as they go mainstream. The zero-sugar, naturally sweetened soda brand will debut its more modern packaging in stores this summer. Some soda brands are expanding beyond the anti-sugar movement and have added additional ingredients to target the niches within the wellness community. Health-Ade Pop’s key ingredient in their soda is prebiotic fiber, giving your native gut bacteria the fuel it needs. Mayawell is a bubbly prebiotic soda and it says so right on the front of their pack. They are targeting your tummy with a focus on flavor. Vive Organic is using fresh pressed fruits and a vitamin blend their team of doctors have crafted in-house to improve your immunity through soda. United States of Soda has crafted unique premium flavor blends that are low calorie and organically sweetened. Flavors range from pear elderflower to sour blueberry. We’ll cheers to sodas that aren’t overloaded with sugar and artificial ingredients!
It was so great to discover so many new brands and catch up with old friends. Pizza Cupcake, MeloMelo, Hot Jiang, Chewsy, and more were some of our team's favorite discoveries. The learnings we gather from Expo West year after year are invaluable to us. While we are still taking everything in, we know we will be back next year for another great show.