What’s Trending in Food: Five Takeaways from Natural Products Expo West

By: Jessica Lappen, Vice President

Cone Communications attended Natural Products Expo West, the world's largest natural, organic and healthy products event, to get a first look at the future of healthy products. The conference brought together 3,100 exhibiting companies showcasing new products and trends within the natural product space. With our agency’s long history in the organic and natural food space, and my own 15 years of experience working with food and beverage brands, it was great to be on the frontlines to taste and experience what will be influencing clients and intriguing media and influencers moving forward. Here are a few observations from the show.

Dairy-Free Dairy

The plant-based dairy product category continues to expand and specifically grow beyond the uber-popular almond milk. New nut-based milk products include Milkadamia macadamia milk and Malk pecan milk. We also saw an introduction of oat-based milk from Oatly using Swedish oats, creating a nutritious dairy substitute. Clearly this continues to be a strong category and is growing outside of milk substitutes with the addition of artisan vegan cheese from Miyoko’s Kitchen.

Protein Packed

As consumers continue to prioritize health and get curious about what they are eating, they are seeking out additional nutritional benefits, like protein packed or enhanced offerings. As a result, brands are adjusting packaging and product formulations to better address this consumer need. We’ve seen this for years from leaders like KIND Snacks, highlighting the protein from the almonds in their bars. Now this trend has made its way into everyday products like Horizon Organic High Protein Chocolate Low-fat Milk, Birch Benders Pancake and Waffle Mix, and ips chips and popcorn.

Matcha Mania

Matcha continues to have a moment, expanding beyond teas, into snacks, beverages and indulgences. Matcha was seen in Vosges Mint Matcha chocolate bars, Vegan Rob’s Spinach and Matcha kettle chips, and the first canned Nitro Cold Brew Matcha Green Tea from B Sweet Coffee & Tea. We expect to see matcha continue to serve as a perfect pairing or inclusion in a wide variety of products moving forward.

Waste Not Want Not

Tea made out of coffee?! Wize Monkey has created a purposeful brand by steeping coffee leaves to create lightly caffeinated tea. The use of excess coffee leaves provides coffee farmers with a way to extend their harvest season, into the off-season, creating year-round income. It’s no surprise the brand was selected as winner of the New Hope NEXTY Award at Expo West as the best new mission-based product.

Transparency = Trust

More and more brands are forgoing conventional product labels and packaging, and using that space to provide consumers with clear and concise information, helping to win over their trust in the process. This is seen through simple ingredient sharing on RXBAR packaging, or highlighting certifications and verifications on-pack like certified gluten free Pipcorn Truffle Popcorn, non-GMO Back to Nature Mini Chocolate Chunk Cookie, or Fair Trade certified Wholesome! DelishFish.

As these trends continue to grow, we expect to see these products and many more on store shelves soon. Longer term, as consumer palates continue to adjust and desires and demand for these types of products increase, these trends will become more mainstream and will likely impact brand decision making over the next few years. Should you want to discuss how these trends apply to your business or how we can be of support to you, please do not hesitate to reach out.