As a second-time attendee to Natural Products Expo West, which took place March 9-12 in Anaheim, Calif, I thought I would be able to handle the crowd and the multitude of booths during the three days I spent there.
But with a record setting crowd (80,000-plus, an increase of approximately 4 percent over 2016) and some 3,100 booths (including 500 first time exhibitors, plus booths at two adjacent hotels and even in tents on the sidewalks between venues) I underestimated the amount of new and innovative products to see.
The following were notable products that caught my eye (and stomach). Not all products are available nationwide or were launched at the time of the show. Suggested retail price (SRP) is included wherever possible:
- Farmhouse Culture Organic Kraut Krisps – with 1 billion colony-forming units per serving in five variants; SRP $3.79 / 5 oz. bag. (By the way, this won the show's Nexty awards as both Best New Organic Food and Best New Snack.)
- Tiny but Mighty Spicy Southwest Microwavable Heirloom Popcorn – Claims to be the first all-natural spicy popcorn made from heirloom corn; the product is virtually hulless. Three 2.5 oz. bags in a box for $4.29.
- P-nuff Crunch baked peanut puff ¬ An anytime peanut protein snack with 5g of vegan protein per serving; SRP $3.99 / 4 oz. bag.
- Beanitos Baked White Bean Mac ’N’ Cheese Crunch – 3g protein per serving; SRP $3.49 / 7 oz. bag.
- Banana Joe Crispy Thin Banana Chips – five variations include Thai Sweet Chili and Gruyere Cheese flavors (on banana chips? really?); SRP $2.99 / 1.76 oz. bag.
- Zyn Crunchy Superfood Snacks (CabernayZyn, ChardonayZyn, MerlayZyn) – Raisins made from dried wine grapes; SRP $2.99/ 0.5 oz. bag.
- Kettle Chips introduced many new products, including two based on cocktails: Moscow Mule and Bloody Mary potato chips. Also a four-product line of chips cooked in 100 percent avocado oil.
- "Overnight Oats" – several companies introduced these no-cook oatmeal products that consumers prepare by refrigerating overnight. PepsiCo announced Quaker Oat Cups at the show and Rachel’s displayed three products.
- Pork rinds – many companies debut flavored pork rinds. The three flavors of 4505 Chicharrones Pork Rinds caught my attention. A 1 oz. pack has a SRP of $2.99.
- Better Bean – took baked beans upscale with a line of refrigerated 15 oz. containers with a SRP of $3.99; also half the sugar and sodium of leading canned competitors.
- Millet Tots – a three-product line of whole grain millet tots from Rollin Greens.
- JC’s – after a successful launch of novelties and shelf stable truffles (with several new variants coming), JC’s introduced an eight product line of JC’s Scoop ice-cream; SRP $4.99 / pint.
- LoveTheWild – sustainable frozen fish paired with good sauce, which consumers bake in the oven in parchment paper; SRP $5.99 / single serving. This four-product won a Nexty award for Best New Frozen Product.
- Ginger Shots – only two ingredients (ginger and the named flavor) are in this six-product line; SRP $3.99 / 2.5 oz. bottle.
- AvitaeXR – an extended-release caffeine beverage. After the initial 125mg boost of caffeine, encapsulated beads release an additional 125mg of caffeine in 3-4 hours. The 12 oz. clear can has SRP of $2.69-$2.99.
- 10th Avenue Tea – matcha teas are still being introduced; this line of seven flavored powders in a unique shaker package has a patent-pending delivery system. The 2-oz. container has approximately 45 servings and retails for $10. This was a Nexty award winner for Best New Package Innovation.
- TeaPigs Feel Good Teas – Bags of Bright N’ Green, Up Beet or Snooze are meant to make you feel good. SRP $8.99 / 15 bags.
Plant proteins are becoming ubiquitous and showing up everywhere. Some examples included:
- Green ChickPea Shelf Stable Meals from Vana Life Foods – 9-11g protein per meal; SRP $3.99-$4.99.
- Pea Protein Powder from Bob’s Red Mill – 21g protein in a quarter-cup of flour – SRP $14-$17 per pound.
- Enhanced Milks from Califia – 8g protein in a 10.5 oz. serving for $2.49.
- ProYo Low Fat Ice-Cream – 10g protein in every 4 fl. oz.; $5.49 per pint.
- Bite Fuel Protein Cookies – 6g. protein in a two-cookie serving; $2.99 for six cookies.
- Protein Chik-a-Peas from Kay’s -6g protein per ounce; $3.29 for a 4 oz. package.
- CrunchMaster Protein Snack Crackers – 5g protein per 30 g serving; $3.49 for a 3.54 oz. (100g) bag.
- Bolthouse Farms Plant Protein Milk – 10g. protein per glass in four flavors; $4.99 per 48 oz. bottle.
Vegan, non-GMO, no preservatives, no added color were commonplace claims across the show floor – almost the price of admission for this show and marketplace.
Additional Thoughts about the Show
Around the show were several products that proudly used "seconds" of produce and vegetables. Dieffenbach's Kettle Cooked Uglies proclaims "our chips are made from rejected potatoes with minor imperfections." MisFit Juicery's "delicious cold-press juices [are made] out of fruits and veggies that are the wrong size, shape or color." (MisFit also was in the inaugural class of the Chobani Food Incubator.) In either case, consumers can't tell by looking at the product, but it sure is a good marketing ploy. And it does reduce the amount of food waste – a current hot topic.
There were many examples of fresh products with short (45-85 day) shelf life; with what I consider pretty high suggested retail prices for their products. Is part of the reason for the high SRPs the high levels of returns (and thus waste)? This is a subject one doesn’t read much about anywhere.
Natural Product Expo West certainly is a great show, a "must attend" for forward-thinking product developers, marketers and company executives. But make your room reservations early – many hotels already are sold out for March 7-11, 2018.