Our Take on Expo West
Walking into Expo West is like walking into an airport during the holidays. There is a feeling of anticipation and enthusiasm, a buzz that fills the air and makes you tingle with excitement. Then you enter one (just one!) of the halls and you look around in wonder at all of the exhibits, all of the products, all of the people! So many people. It’s fresh and exhilarating and just a little bit insane.
Then you get your bearings the best you can and dive in.
It’s not easy, in fact it's barely possible, to see everything at Expo West. The show is a beast! It acts both as a window into the future and as a connection to the potential of that future. The size and scope of the show are (as expected), sprawling, carrying on through floors and floors of the Anaheim Convention Center and the surrounding environment. So much to see, so much to do, so many entrepreneurs and innovators to meet.
Innovation is the word of the day. But it’s one thing to have innovation and quite another to have the right expression of that innovation, to set yourself apart from the herd – and the herd is massive. Package design and booth aesthetic are vitally important. It truly makes a difference. You might have the most innovative, healthy, eco-friendly, award-winning product, but if no one is paying attention, how can anyone care? Both conceptually and visually, you need to be on trend and on point. And, of course, your product better be good!
And while everyone is striving to be the most innovative, the first to market, the best at what they do, it’s striking how many are all doing the same thing. There are definitely some trends out there that are taking hold and some companies that are paving the path better than others. Here are some of the most pervasive trends we noticed:
1 | Water
Water, water everywhere! Hydrogen-infused, oxygen-infused (yes, apparently adding more of an existing element is a thing), vitamin-filled, protein-added, electrolyte-enhanced, caffeine water, antioxidant water, naturally alkaline and PH balanced water, pure spring water, deep ocean water, Hawaiian volcanic water...and that’s just the still water! Sparking is a whole other world. It’s all out there. We are in a literal water bubble.
2 | Kombucha
What an extraordinary product born from the fermentation process! It’s also become quite the fashionable thing to drink, partly because people want to reap the health benefits, and partly because there are so many new appealing flavors. Brands like Health Ade and Humm have really pushed the art of kombucha making and elevated its taste. Other noticeable tonics include regular and sparkling drinking vinegars, coconut vinegars and elixirs.
3 | Veggie-Inspired Everything
There are so many novel ways to coax a crunch out of vegetables. We found a plethora of delicious snacks made from something other than the traditional potato. Take cauliflower, peas, carrots, beets or kale (just to name a few), and you can make a whole new chip, cracker or pretzel. It’s all about getting the public to dig in and try something new yet familiar.
4 | Vegan/Plant-Based Foods
It’s the year of the vegan! Foods, snacks and even drinks are all catering to a vegan audience. What used to be considered a difficult diet has become a lot easier – and tastier – with the newest innovations out there. And as plant-based foods become more sophisticated, there are many options out there that even meat eaters can enjoy. We tried Beyond Sausage, the newest innovation from Beyond Meat, and it was simply delicious.
5 | Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose
We found some very interesting innovations that understand the value of upcycling. ReGrained Bar reuses spent grains from the brewing process to create their "SuperGrain+" flour, which is a prebiotic fiber used in their bars. Asarasi Water has innovated a way to carbonate, store and deliver the water that would normally be discarded from maple syrup production. We think finding the nutritive value in something that used to be considered waste or a by-product is pretty cool. The trick here is in the messaging, to inspire consumers and help them find value in things once unimagined. It’s reinvention on all fronts and well worth it.
6 | Simple Ingredients
How many times have you looked at a food label and can't even articulate the ingredients? There's just so many products out there with crazy nutrition statements that read like a novel in another language. Hopefully, that will soon be the exception and not the norm. Many companies are moving to transparency and real ingredients. One notable product we tried was Pasokin, a traditional Brazilian snack made with just peanuts, cane sugar and salt (and love, if you want to get technical). Simple and delicious. No more processed foods or components you can't pronounce.
7 | Everything In Between
What one person considers unusual is another person’s cultural brickwork. We experienced all sorts of unexpected treasures…cricket chips, puffed lotus nuts, gold coated cardamon pods resting in a bed of saffron (that was an interesting experience!), and many others. This is the category where new inventions are made, where companies aren’t afraid to take risks and encourage consumers to dive in and take chances. And they all have benefits. Be sure to check out Lotus Pops, puffed lotus nuts that are rich in antioxidants, a good source of protein and have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties!
The Wrap Up
Natural Products Expo is such an experience. This is an event that makes a bold statement in so many areas. It’s up to companies that make products like these to pioneer the future. It’s so inspiring. Even if there’s too much to see and too much to do, you always leave with the feeling that you’re just a little different. You've met some cool people, you've learned a lot, and you're more experienced than you were when you first walked through the door.