Once again, I joined 65,000 of my closest friends and colleagues in Anaheim for the annual Natural Expo West. Every year I try to join the party in a different way. This year, I enjoyed early morning yoga, the Keynote by Martha Rogers, author of Extreme Trust: Honesty as a Competitive Advantage, The Organic Research Foundation luncheon, The Fresh Ideas Market Place, the Hot Products exhibits and the main floor exhibits.

In reviewing my photos and notes, I am struck by 3 trends:

  • expo-milkadamiaBeverages: water continues to have differentiations. Look for maple water and birch water… waters that have filtered through the tree and then are tapped and bottled. There are still proliferations of cold pressed juices and soda substitutes, with lots of chia, hemp, and ginger added for fortification. New milk introductions include Milkadamia, from macadamia nuts, and Veggemo, made from pea, tapioca and potato. Most compelling is UVO, a flavored drink that provides sun protection from the inside out. Drinking this dermatologist designed beverage provides ingredients that help absorb bad UV rays, reduces inflammation, decreases DNA damage, etc. Think golfer, fisherman, or hiker who is going to drink something while outdoors… this is certainly a huge audience that might upgrade from Gatorade or plain water.
  • Bars: a trend that seems to becoming saturated. How many versions can the category support? There will surely be lots of fallout as the available shelf space can only expand so much. What wins? Low sugar, Paleo, gluten free? There can only be one or two per niche. It depends on consumer loyalty and how much money a brand can spend to build brand equity. One that I will look for as I shop is Qia’s chocolate, cherry, quinoa. Delicious, satisfying and under 200 calories. They were very smart to invest in an outside booth where they gave out full size samples as early as 7:30 am to catch the yoga crowd. When you get up that early to work out, you appreciate a free, healthy breakfast at the ready.
  • kidfreshBaby Wellness: Half of all Millennials are married with children. They are demanding better for you products for their little ones. Options include: Kidfresh (meals), Natralia (Australian body care), Greenpoint Brands My Natural Collection (BPA free teething rings, toys and flatware), Kid Licks (edible nail polish), and more of the ubiquitous squeeze packs including Once Upon a Farm.

Two additional trends that crossed over into various categories included:

  • Housewares: in addition to the above mentioned My Natural Collection of placemats, cutlery and plates, there was an Italian water pitcher by Laica that removes toxins but leaves in calcium and minerals.
  • jackfruitPlant based foods abound and taste better than 30 years ago when the first soy based products made their debut. There were entries by Jackfruit Company, Fresh Nature’s green garbanzo beans, the behemoth Daiya making a convincing display including nachos, pizza and the like. Light Life’s approach was very cleaver, “All meat is made from plants, we just make ours without the middleman” meaning they cut out the cow.

What wasn’t there? Past trends that were less evident:

  • Tomato products: salsa, BBQ sauce and pasta sauce
  • Olive oil and vinegar
  • Chocolate bars

Lots of sugar substitutes continue to proliferate… with natural color and flavor profiles.

And finally, my prediction, look for PALM oil to be the next big thing. Donuts fried in it were light and crisp. It’s naturally a pretty pink/orange color that may be used as is when the color makes sense for the product application (think frosting) or it may be stripped to be neutral. Coconut oil paved the way so this should be easier for the consumer to accept.

If you are a manufacturer or importer of a branded product and are considering exhibiting at Expo West, you may want to read “Have the Most Successful Trade Show Ever” to determine if it’s the right fit for you. Don’t assume! Educate yourself and be strategic.