New Product Trends Revealed: A Report from 2019's Natural Products Expo East

Oct. 31, 2019
Natural Products Expo East, more navigable than its Anaheim sibling, has its own stars.

Having attended the last four Natural Products Expo West Shows (and writing about them in Food Processing), I was interested to see what Natural Products Expo East (NPEE) had in store in Baltimore, Md., Sept. 11-14.

NPEE had an expected attendance of 29,000+, up from just over 27,000 in 2018, with an astounding 525 (or more) first-time exhibitors, out of a total over 1,550 vendors exhibiting their products. Some I’ve seen before, but a good number of products were making their first appearance in public.

In a separate Hemp Pavilion, there were some 50 exhibitors, although hemp- and cannabidiol (CBD)-based products will not be the focus of this article.

Three observations right off the bat:

  • There were more ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages without any sweeteners; some processors are finally listening to what consumers want.
  • Is sparkling tea finally here to stay? Numerous sparkling tea products were observed and were surprisingly refreshing.
  • I saw a booth making cotton candy with CBD. Is this really the right thing for our industry at this time?

In the presentation “What’s Next? Product Trends & Innovations Driving the Growth of Health & Wellness Brands,” show sponsors picked out some apparent trends:

  • Material optimization/waste reduction
  • Sourcing responsibility/inventive business model
  • Regenerative agriculture/agricultural commitments
  • Fat and sugar vilified
  • Earning consumer trust/verification
  • Clean label
  • Vitality/healthy microbiome
  • Experiential experimentation/craft and artisanal
  • Allergens and intolerance
  • Healing diets

The following were products that caught my eye, although some may have been introduced at New Products Expo West:

  • Taali Water Lily Pops: Six varieties: Himalayan Pink Salt, Salt & Pepper, Tangy Turmeric, White Cheddar, Tikka Masala, Sriracha Spice. (Several companies featured this new "snack" made from water lilies but these had the cleanest flavor of the lily pops products sampled.)
  • Oteas Tea: Numerous varieties of whole-leaf tea packaged in a biodegradable tea bag and a plastic-free carton for a zero-waste consumer product. The packaging graphics are gorgeous and the tea is great too.
  • Vegetarian Traveler Protein Toppers: Three varieties of Toasted Bean Blends: Garbanzo & Soy Medley, Pepita & Soy-Pea Medley, Tri-Soy Medley. A convenient way to add 15g or more of protein to any dish – and a bit of a crunch as well.
  • Moon Cheese: A great rebranding/relaunch of three variants: Cheddar Believe It, Cheddar Bacon Me Crazy, Garlickin’ Parmesan. Packaging looks great and the product tastes as good as it always has.
  • Bar None-All the Spirit without the Spirits: A four-product line of non-alcoholic bar-inspired Drinks: Sangria, Dry Aged Cider, Bellini Spirit, Spiced Ginger Mule.
  • Hoplark Hoptea: RTD "Hopteas" made with four or fewer simple ingredients and no sweeteners – The Green Tea One, The Calm One, The Really Hoppy One, The White Tea One, The Lemony One. All taste crisp and clean.
  • Tama Tea: Craft-brewed sparkling green tea (and no sweeteners) in Peach Pear, Mango Verde and Lemon Lavender.
  • Minna RTD Sparkling Tea: Also no sweeteners, in Tropical Green, Citrus Black and Lime Hibiscus. Refreshingly light and tasty.
  • Bluestone Lane Australian Iced Coffee: Plain with Organic Milk or with Oat Milk, both are sweetened with sugar. Also the same two varieties of cold brew, but both are unsweetened. All come in aseptic cartons with a wide-mouth screw-cap closure.
  • Organics by Red Bull Soda: Simply Cola, Bitter Lemon, Ginger Ale and Tonic Water. All sweetened with organic beet sugar.
  • HyVida Hydrogen Sparkling Water: Pure, Lemon Lime and Raspberry have just three simple ingredients with a very clean taste, and all are unsweetened.
  • Origin Almond Cold Pressed Juice: The five varieties (Hemp Mojito, Turmeric Ginger, Lemon Ginger, Matcha & Super Greens and Pina Colada) use all parts of the almond, an interesting concept. I hope the high retail price doesn’t hurt the success of this product line.
  • Chameleon Cold Brew Canned Coffee: Two whole milk lattes (Original and Cinnamon Dolce) and two black coffees (Organic Black Coffee and Churro Organic Coffee). While I am not a coffee drinker, the can graphics are gorgeous.
  • BeBold Energy Bars: The founder of Stacy’s Pita Chips is back after a hiatus of well over a decade. The bars (Peanut Butter and Almond Butter) need to be refrigerated -- will the consumer understand that? Although they can sit unrefrigerated for a week or two and still be good.
  • Sunny Fruit-Have a Ball Fruit & Nut Snacks: A five-product line: Apricot & Cacao Nibs & Hazelnut, Cherry & Hazelnut, Fig & Walnut, Fig & Walnut Prebiotic Powdered, Cherry & Hazelnut Protein Pumped.
  • Rind "Keep It Real. Eat The Peel" Dried fruits with their peels and apparently some seeds, in Tropical Blend, Orchard Blend, Tangy Kiwi and Straw-Peary Blend.
  • New England Naturals: Unsweetened organic berry coconut and unsweetened strawberry granola, both with no added sugars. Also featured was protein blueberry harvest granola.
  • Cynara Artichoke Chyps: Made from fresh artichokes; released in Spain in 2018.
  • SoKusa: Two unique snacks: Fish Cracklins and Lotus Root Crisps.
  • Hippie Snacks Avocado Crisps: In Seas Salt or Guacamole.
  • Kim’s Magic Pop Baked Coconut Bites: A unique cross between a cookie and a cracke, they come in Original, Chocolate, Honey and Salted Caramel; each is made from five (or less) simple ingredients.
  • Poshi Freshly Marinated Snacks: Making vegetables into snacks. Single- or multi-serve pouches of Asparagus with Rosemary & Oregano, French Bean Cuts with Lemon & Garlic or Artichoke Quarters with Basil & Thyme.
  • So Yummy! Meal Kits: Seven meal kits processed via sous vide: Basil Alfredo Chicken Penne, Chicken Marsala, Cilantro Lime Steak, Korean-Style BBQ Steak, Lemongrass Chicken Stir Fry, Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry and Thai-Style Coconut Chicken.
  • 88 Acres (The Seed Co.): Introduced a shelf stable Roasted Watermelon Seed Butter.
  • Force of Nature: Somebody's still using animal protein, including Ground Venison, Ground Elk, Wild Boar, Bison Burger Patties, Venison Burger Patties, Ground Bison Ancestral Blends, Ground Beef Ancestral Blends.
  • Lilly’s Organic Keto Hummus: In Original, Golden Milk, Buffalo and Ranch Dill
  • Egglife Egg White Wraps: Wraps made from egg whites, not flour, in Original, Italian, Southwest and Rye.
  • Wholly Rollies: All Natural, Frozen Protein Balls (made from peanut butter)in Cinnamon Oatmeal, PB & Cacao, PB & Strawberry.

OK, I can’t resist noting two hemp products: Mood 33 Hemp Infused Herbal Tea (in Energy, Passion, Joy, Wellbeing, Calm, Peace), each contains 33mg of US-grown full spectrum hemp-derived cannabinoids per 355ml bottle. And Elmhurst 1925 Plant Based Hemp Creamer (Original, French Vanilla, Hazelnut and Garden Milk) all made from the cream of hemp seeds.

If you need a respite from Natural Products Expo West (and the crowds) yet still want to attend a show that’s great for trend-spotting and tasting new products, plan on attending Natural Products Expo East in its new home of Philadelphia next Sept. 23-26. It’s worth the trip.

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