I’ve attended Natural Products Expo West for the past seven years, and CBX has been attending for much longer. Still, with as much experience as we had, we were floored by the amazing turnout at this year’s show. Being in close quarters with 75,000 (+/-) of our closest friends was overwhelming, but man, it felt good. Maybe it was the two-year gap since the last show, or maybe it was the hugs and high fives with people we’ve only met via email or Zoom, but as a focus group of one, I thought this year’s expo was the best yet.
We spent two FULL days at the show, but we didn’t come close to seeing everything. Between the different show halls (A, B, C, D, and North upper and lower) the educational seminars, the morning yoga sessions, happy hours, and new product showcases, we easily could have spent another two to three days days there, but we made the best of it and took in everything we possibly could have. There were too many trends and themes to try and tackle in one blog, but we’ve done our best with outlining some of the standouts.
Upcycled foods take center stage: The upcycled food movement (foods made from ingredients that would otherwise have ended up as food waste) is not only growing, but it’s seeding the way for new innovations. Take Two Foods has barley milk that is made from spent grain from beer brewing. And Rind Snacks keeps their peel on the dried fruit snacks, thus keeping the peel out of the garbage. And there were dozens of other upcycled food brands—I could go on!
Kid-friendly & Comfort Foods Reinvented: Brands are reinventing traditional comfort foods, not only targeting kids, but adults too. Snow Days (better for you pizza puffs and other comfort snacks), Goodles (plant-based mac & cheese), Chubby Snacks (who doesn’t love a good PB&J?), and Caulipower (pizza, nuggets—you have to try the buffalo!, etc.) are all brands that are taking nostalgic foods to a better-for-you level.
Fermented Means Flavor: Fermentation is not a new process for the food and beverage industry by any means, but we are seeing it shine through more and more with products like Lifeway’s kefirs, kombuchas galore (Health-Ade, Rowdy Mermaid, and Nova Kombucha, to name a few), and Wildbrine and Cleveland Kitchen’s krauts, kim-chis, dips, and dressings.
Regenerative Agriculture Goes Mainstream: General Mills, Applegate, and 51 other brands exhibiting at Expo West sourced and/or supported regenerative agriculture. If you aren’t familiar with regenerative agriculture by now, you should be. There is a lot to know, but in short, it’s an approach to farming and agriculture that helps to reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter, resulting in carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. It’s good to see so many organizations and brands working toward a common goal: saving our planet.
Plant-based Is No Longer the Exception, It’s the Rule: The plant-based landscape has blossomed significantly in the past few years. While we spotted many plant-based brands and products at Expo West 2019, plant-based was by far the #1 theme at this year’s show. We saw several plant-based bacons (Ozo was delicious), yummy (realistic!) cheeses (if you haven’t tried the Miyoko’s liquid mozzarella, you must), several ice creams and other sweet dairy alternative treats (Sunscoop has a great ice cream alternative), pâtés (thanks, Plantcraft), whipped cream (and every other dairy alternative under the sun), oodles of seafood options (crab cakes, and scallops, and fish fillets—oh my!), and so, SO much more.
Shrooms, Shrooms, and more Shrooms: Rebbl’s reishi drink was a must, South Mill Champ’s Shrooms coffee and crisps were not to be missed, and both Smallhold‘s local vertically farmed mushrooms and Om‘s functional mushrooms showed how mushrooms and adaptogens are no longer a boring, slimy fungus, but a functional food of the present and the future.
Celebration of Diversity: We saw and are seeing more diversity ownership than ever in the CPG landscape, and we are loving it! Female-owned, Asian, BIPOC, LatinX, Asian, and more! We loved seeing so many of these brands take center stage, including Fila Manila Filipino American Kitchen (we are still salivating over their purple yam jam), female-founded Willa’s Oatmilk, and Wynn’s Kitchen (better-for-you Vietnamese-inspired sauces), to name a few. They are all building amazing brands, with amazing products.
Spotted: A-List Celebrities galore: And if all else has failed and none of the above interests you, Expo West is still a great place for celeb sightings—paparazzi-free! We spotted (or almost spotted through the crowds) Gal Gadot, Jennifer Garner, Tabitha Brown, Vanessa Hudgens, Joe Jonas, Jason Momoa (gulp!), and I am sure the list goes on. We are seeing more and more celebrity-backed and co-founded brands (another sign that there is a cultural shift toward better-for-you brands), and it was great to see the celebs supporting their brands in person.
We learned a lot at Natural Products Expo West ’22 (sign up for our Natural and Organics trends webinar to learn more), but our top takeaways were:
Want to chat more? Book a meeting with me!
If you like learning about CBX’s perspective on trends, sign up here for our CBX Trends Newsletter—your quarterly scoop on design trends, consumer insights, and the latest thinking!