Popped, Fruity and Farmhouses: Trends and Insights from Natural Products Expo West 2017

Posted by: Malisa Meresman in: Food/Beverage -

If you’ve wondered how big natural products have become, just look at Natural Products Expo West 2017. The show has grown so popular, busy and large that it’s a challenge to take it all in. While attending the show with client Steaz, I admittedly got swept up in the buzz and excitement, but nonetheless came away with an clear sense of the trends and marketing strategies that are sweeping the category.

Better For You Snacks
Few of us are immune to mid-afternoon cravings for a pick-me-up, and natural food brands are on a mission to provide better snacks to quell those urges. Popcorn has emerged as a versatile star suitable for anyone, any time. Brands like Pipcorn and Halfpops were pushing their unique methods, while Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP, Modern Pop, KettlePOP and SkinnyPop tried to break out with low-cal, non-GMO, organic and healthy flavor varieties spanning sweet to savory. Quinoa and gluten-free chips and “puffs” were also plentiful, with tasty new takes and types at every turn. Other snack brands touted their ability to harness the fueling power of fruit, particularly bananas and acai.

Catering to Vegans
Vegan and vegetarian diets have been getting more love these past few years. Given the presence of brands showcasing meat and dairy substitutes, I think it’s safe to say market demand is growing for better-tasting options for those living with dietary restrictions. Numerous alternatives were presented at the show, including cheese, turkey, and of course, bacon.

Beverages Boasting Bigger, Better Flavors
Natural beverages are huge right now, with consumers wanting more than empty calories from their thirst-quenchers. All kinds of brands are boasting bigger, better flavors and introducing innovative combinations. Hubert’s Lemonade (part of Hansen Beverage Co.) pushed a new variety, pineapple ginger, while Bai unveiled Bai Black, a twist on the brand’s “bai bubbles” carbonated beverages featuring classic soda flavors. 

The market for coconut water remains strong, but upstart brands had difficulty vying for attention alongside industry leaders. New flavors and savvy packaging weren’t enough to make a splash at the show, although some creative displays – like Coco Libre’s space-saving solution with product as seating – were enough to get the crowd talking. Tea brands were well represented, both hot and cold ready-to-drink varieties, but it was surprisingly difficult to find one of the biggest developing trends: matcha.

Banana Boats on Wheels and the “Cactus of Wisdom”
Exhibiting at Expo West means that brands are in a crowded space with just an instant to relay their stories to passersby. This year appeared to be the year of the farmhouse, with many brands conveying their all-natural brand aesthetics through farmhouse-style displays. Others turned heads with modes of transportation– Steaz’s Mind. Body. Soul. beverage wagon, Barnanas’ banana boat on wheels, Off the Eaten Path’s hot-air balloon, Hansen’s pop-art pick-up truck – and used creative mobile units to support sampling.

Being eco-conscious is more important than ever. Numerous brands went back to the basics in communicating how green they are, literally turning themselves green. Many booths and displays were a sea of green, and the color permeated some brand representatives as well. No one did it better than Steaz: an interactive, seven-foot-tall green “Cactus of Wisdom” lured crowds and distributed words of wisdom on branded mantra cards for a unique take-away from a jam-packed show.



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