85,000 Attend Natural Products Expo West

More attendees, exhibitors and new products than ever in an expanded convention center.

By Leslie Herzog, Contributor

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As someone who can cover a lot of ground quickly and having done the show two previous times, I thought I would be more than able to cover Natural Products Expo West (March 7-11) in the three days I allotted to the show. But the approximately, 85,000 attendees (a 6 percent increase over 2017) and 3,521 booths (including more than 600 first-time exhibitors) was too much even for me. There was more ground to cover this year with the newly opened North Hall of the Anaheim Convention Center.

Each year, NPEW is a bellwether of what’s really new, trendy and healthy in the food and beverage industry. There are thousands of products on display, most of them new and pursuing some niche. And while many of them soon will fail, somewhere in each show is the next Greek yogurt, the future coconut water, the most recently discovered superfruit or supergrain.

Several business or consumer trends presentations outlined the state of the natural and organic category. Macro forces include:

  • Cultural Awakening – The world is awakening and it’s changing everything.
  • Modern Life – Modern life brings with it many advantages including innovative products; but modern life also comes with challenges.
  • Technology Enablers – Our connected world is generating exciting new opportunities, opportunities to explore and learn, to innovate and improve; but technology is also bringing with it unprecedented and accelerating disruption.

Some of the trends I observed walking the show floor:

  • A significant increase in the number of honey products and brands.
  • New waters have always been big at this show, and there was no shortage this year. I saw kale, bamboo, cactus, birch, Icelandic, carbonated, Carpathian Mountain and numerous flavored waters, some with a suggested retail price (SRP) of $4.99 for a 16 oz. bottle – really?
  • There were new fats and oils. Ghee products increased, as did coconut oils and butters.
  • Turmeric is the new kale.
  • Seeds are being used as a replacement for grains.
  • Charcoal found its way into foods, beverages and healthy and beauty aids (which also is a key component of NPEW).
  • Hemp containing foods and beverages, a hallmark of this show, remain popular.
  • Collagen is now in some food products.
  • Probiotics were most often seen in beverages.
  • Kombucha beverages continued to have a sustained presence.
  • Non-dairy milks also have been a mainstay. This year I observed macadamia and cashew milks.
  • Carbonated beverages may not sound novel, but there were so many types – including coffee and tea.
  • There seemed to be a notable decrease in the number of sauces and dressings – has the market finally been saturated?

Long after the backlash against synthetic sweeteners, is the consumer is getting confused by the term "natural" sweeteners on the label? Does the product contain sugar, or maybe stevia, which some people want to avoid? One company at the show declared “Zero Sweeteners” – maybe that’s the new trend for saying the product doesn’t contain any added sweetness, which many consumers are looking for. Monk fruit sweeteners showed up in more products at the show.

The following were notable products that caught my eye (and stomach).
Note: Not all products are available nationwide or were launched at the time of the show. I also noted an increase in products that are being launched only online, through company websites or Amazon.

Jasberry Superfood Rice Pasta: four products including Goji Berry + turmeric, Acai Berry + Jasberry Rice, Spirula + Moringa + Matcha Green Tea, and Chia + Quinoa; available in multiple shapes; SRP $4.99-$5.99/8.82 oz. box.

Golden Nugget Ghee: new varieties include: Goat, Turmeric Lions Mane, and Chocolate Mushroom; SRP $16.99-$24.99 (depending on variety)/8 oz. bottle.

Kumana Avocado Sauce: I believe the first shelf-stable avocado sauce, in three flavors; SRP $8.99/13.1 oz. bottle.

Growing Roots Foods – a new Unilever brand of snacks dedicated to urban farming – debuted in four varieties: Pineapple Coconut Rum, Cocoa Chipotle, Coconut Curry, and Maple Bourbon; SRP $4.49/4 oz. package.

Solely Fruit Jerky: Six varieties containing between half and a full banana, mango or pineapple per bar and just one or two ingredients; SRP $0.99-$1.29.

From the Ground Up: a line of crackers, crisps and pretzels containing cauliflower with one veggie serving per ounce; SRP $3.99 per 4 or 4.5 oz. bag or box.

Bou (short for bouillon) Soup Cups: four products including Chicken Noodle, Harvest Vegetables + Grain, Shitake Mushrooms + Beef Flavor, and Garden Tomato + Quinoa; SRP $3.99-$4.99/single serving cup.

Popper Duos (Calbee North America): Three flavors (Mac & Cheese, Zesty Queso, and BBQ & Ranch); SRP $3.49-$3.79/5 oz. bag.

Peatos (World Peas Brands): WHAT ARE THEY four varieties made with peas and lentils (Classic Cheese, Chili Cheese, and Fiery Hot and Masala); SRP $2.99/3 oz. bag.

Crunch-a Mame Organic Edamame Puffs: four varieties (Nearly Naked, Cheddar, BBQ, and Ranch); SRP $1.99/1 oz. bag or $3.49/3.5 oz. bag.

Spokes Air-puffed Potato Snacks: Sea Salt, BBQ, Dill Pickle, Simple Bare; SRP 3.69/2.8 oz. bag.

Incredi Puffs: Made with corn meal, navy beans and potatoes in four varieties (Sriracha, Cheddar & Sour Cream, Pizza, and Cinnamon Apple); SRP: $1.49/1 oz. bag or $3.99/5 oz. bag.

Stacy’s Cheese Petites: (Parmesan with Rosemary, and Romano with Garlic & Pepper); SRP $4.99/4 oz. bag.

Enjoy Life Grain & Seed Bars: Four varieties (Banana Caramel, Chocolate Marshmallow, Cranberry Orange, and Maple Sweet Potato); SRP $2.19/1.76 oz. bar or $4.69/5 pack of 1 oz. bars.

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