Although I allotted four days to cover Natural Products Expo West (March 5-9 in Anaheim, Calif.), up from three days at the show in the previous years, I honestly did not see everything that this amazingly large show had in store.
In a presentation, show manager New Hope Media named three overarching cultural forces that identify the program and the current state of the natural product business:
- Holistic Health & Wellbeing – a concept they have created that suggests more awareness and engagement by consumers.
- Empowered Communities – communities of people, businesses and brands and how they choose to be forces for good or change.
- Modern Life – which brings both advantages and disadvantages with enabling technologies, scientific research and innovations that require "choicefulness" by the individual.
I think by any measure – attendance (around 85,000 attendees!), number of exhibitors (3,521) and square footage (586,775) – NPEW must be the biggest food and beverage show in North America. Because it's devoted to new and truly novel consumer-ready products, it should be on everyone's must-attend list.
Some of the key trends I observed during the show:
- More kids- and baby-oriented products than noted in previous years.
- Large CPG companies are investing in or incubating lots of small brands (Nestle, Cargill, Unilever, General Mills).
- Functional shots (usually 2-3 oz.) are becoming an alternative to veggie/fruit smoothies (lower calories, less expensive).
- Coconut in many forms and in many products.
- Is oat milk the new soy milk?
- Non-meat jerky with many bases (banana, coconut and mushroom are examples).
- More coffee beverages and fewer tea beverages than in previous years.
- Pre- and probiotics are still in a shake-out phase because messaging is unclear or complicated.
- Microbiome is getting less traction than one would expect due to the role it plays in health and wellness.
- Mini products and downsizing is a good (but sneaky) way to raise prices.
- Many products using cauliflower or broccoli or sweet potato as their main ingredient.
Natural Products Expo West is March 3-7, 2020
About the Author: Leslie Herzog, a former product developer at a major food company, is vice president of operations & research services at The Understanding & Insight Group LLC (www.theuandigroup.com), a business development and product research technology company practicing in the innovation and product design space for more than 18 years. He's also a longtime member of our Editorial Advisory Board.