Natural Products Expo West: Products and People Everywhere!

March 22, 2016
A first-time attendee arrived hungry, left fulfilled.

Leslie Herzog is vice president of operations & research services at The Understanding & Insight Group LLC, a business development and products research technology company practicing in the innovation and product design space for more than 17 years. He's also a longtime member of our Editorial Advisory Board.

As a first-time attendee at the Natural Products Expo West (Anaheim, Calif., March 8-13), I did not know what to expect. But there I got more ideas and saw more products and people (77,000+) than I could imagine … or there is space available to describe in this article.

New Hope Media presented several business/consumer oriented trends presentations in which they outlined the following eight trends to keep an eye on for the year ahead based on their research and databases that go back over 16 years.

Top Trends

  • Mission Based – compassion resonates
  • Pre/Probiotics – the new gut health, positioned for health
  • Sourced local – local values on a larger scale
  • Paleo (this is considered a “food tribe”) – example of whole and less processed food, beyond the crossfit gym
  • Hidden Veggies – the “secret” (note: Veggie Fries won the pitch-slam competition!)
  • Compostable Packaging – reducing guilt, reducing waste
  • Brain Health – considers fatty acids, supplements, and energy content

Grass-fed Meat & Dairy

The following were notable products that caught my eyes (and stomach) after spending more than 20 hours covering the show (although I could have used another 20 to really do it justice)

  • TruVibe Eat Clean organic meals: "Clean meals for the soul." An organic all-in-one meal at 350-450 calories for each of the four variants with an SRP of $9.99 per 16-oz. bottle. Will consumers be willing to drink their meal at this price?
  • CocoMazing: "All the goodness of coconut water with the refreshment of carbonation." Three variants with an SRP of $2.99 per 12 oz. bottle or $9.99 for a four-pack.
  • Steaz Cactus Water: "The rise of cactus water is predicted to be the next big trend in the functional water category." Three green tea variants with an SRP of $1.59 per 12 oz. can.
  • Teatulia: Energy teas with eleuthero root, which helps "clear the mind." Three variants with an SRP of $7.99 for 30 tea bags.
  • Four Sigmatic Mushroom Elixirs (four variants SRP $30-35 per 20 pack), Coffee Mix (two variants) and Hot Cacao Mix (two variants) SRP $15-18 per 10 pack (for both the coffee and cacao).
  • Igzu Bamboo Leaf Tea – Claims to be the first bamboo leaf tea. Three variants with an SRP of $2.49 per 16 oz. bottle.
  • Twining’s Earl Grey Line Extensions: Extra Bold, Jasmine and Lavender – line priced with existing Twining variants.
  • Stash Green Tea Line Extensions with Matcha: Pomegranate raspberry, ginger peach and mojito mint green – line priced with existing Stash variants.
  • Caveman Chicken Primal Bites – Three varieties with 12g protein per 1-oz. serving.
  • Duke’s Smoked Shorty Sausages – Four flavors with 9-10 grams protein per 1.25-oz. bag, priced at $1.99.
  • Coconut milk based ice-cream products from multiple vendors. Is this the next wave of "healthy" ice-creams?

Building on a trend one of my colleagues saw two years ago, with leadership from Modern Table whole meal kit (8 varieties) priced at a SRP of $6.49-$6.99, we saw derivatives of it with pastas (not meal kits) based on pulses:

  • Ancient Harvest POW! Pasta Meals – Two variations of power protein complete meals ($5.99 per 9.3-oz. box).
  • Explore Cuisine Pulse Pastas – Six varieties, $4.99-5.99 per 8-oz. box
  • Cook Simple Veggie & Bean Pastas – Four variants each made with just three ingredients ($4.49 per 8-oz. box).
  • Tolerant Energy Legume Blends – Three blends, each in two different shapes, $4.99 per 8-oz. box.

Of course, other categories made their presence felt in a big way at the show including: popcorn in all kinds of flavors; grain bars, meat bars, seed bars, protein bars and bars in all imaginable flavors and ingredients; jerky; cold-pressed juices (most using high-pressure pasteurization).

I think I noticed some notable absences from the show. Does a dearth of pasta sauces and salsas mean we have witnessed the end of the cycle for those categories? Time will tell.

Some other thoughts

  • Many manufacturers used stevia in their products – not only in beverages. When asked why, their response was “because it is a natural sweetener.” For many consumers, stevia results in a lingering, funky, sometimes described as bitter aftertaste. We all know taste is king; will these products succeed in spite of or fail because of the use of stevia?
  • We are not sure why a good number of manufacturers’ representatives were reluctant to disclose the suggested retail price (SRP). These processors have to remember, even if you have a great product, it won’t sell (again and again) if it is at the wrong price.
  • Several manufacturers had incorrect information on their products’ Nutrition Facts Panel; like an incorrect statement of calorie content (e.g., one doesn’t declare a serving at 144 calories). Remember the FDA is watching your labels too!
  • At least one company called its product "veggie & fruit pops." When asked how many servings of fruits and/or vegetables were in the product, they responded "none, because the serving size of the pop is too small." Hmm…wouldn't one expect at least one-half a serving (if not more) of vegetables and/or fruits in a product so named with a price of $4.99 for six pops? I would!

Natural Products Expo West is a great show. If you are in the industry (and you must be if you are reading this magazine), put this show on your agenda … and make your reservations early, because this show will only grow bigger in the years ahead, with or without you.

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