Last week the Migration Marketing team gathered in Anaheim, CA with 67,000 of our closest friends for the single greatest week in the food and beverage industry. We are, of course, talking about Expo West.

Natural Products Expo West is the premier trade show for the natural and organic products industry. Thousands of established and up-and-coming brands gather to showcase new products and innovations and vie for the attention of would-be retailers, investors, and distributors. It’s exhilarating, exhausting, and incredibly fun for people like us who are passionate about all-things CPG.

Every year, Expo West trend predictions are shared prior to the event in a rousing, Vegas-style game of who will get it right and win the accolades of fellow industry insiders. This year, we hedged our bets on a few macro trends we will cover later in a more in-depth post. For now, we’re sharing our top Expo West trends and takeaways for your reading pleasure.

 Mental Clarity

The “silver tsunami” is coming as an estimated 4.1 million Americans are expected to turn 65 this year. It’s no wonder savvy brands are touting products with brain boosting benefits.

Life Cider – apple cider vinegar drink that promotes mental clarity

Rootine – clinician formulated drink mix to support brain health

Melting Forest D-Stress Drinks – sparkling adaptogenic beverage with cognitive-enhancing properties

Brainiac – whole grain bars packed with brain-fueling ingredients

Insight: Look for more products to support brain health and cognitive function at all ages. This is a macro trend that is likely to stick around for the foreseeable future.

Implication: If your product doesn’t provide any brain-boosting ingredients, could fortification aid in enhancing its appeal?

Simplified Ingredient Lists

Better-for-you snacks are nothing new, but there’s a growing movement for more transparency in food labeling. We saw lots of messaging around simplified ingredients moving to the front of the packaging to highlight this point.

Actual Veggies – fries made with potato, chickpeas, and cauliflower

Flackers – plant-based crackers made from flax seed

Root – additive-free snacks made from real vegetables

Way Better Snacks – snacks made with sprouted seeds, beans, and grains

Insight: As consumers continue to scrutinize ingredients and nutritional content, brands will be forced to simplify their offerings.

Implication: Consider reformulations where possible, particularly for items/lines where velocities are not meeting expectations.

Rethinking Food Waste

Nearly 40% of all food grown annually in the US goes to waste. Thankfully, sustainability-minded companies are finding innovative ways to turn what would once be considered trash into useable product.

Uglies Kettle Chips – made from upcycled potatoes

Spudsy – made from upcycled sweet potatoes

Ugly Dried Fruit – discarded fruit waste transformed into dried fruit snacks

Rind Remix – upcycled snack mix made from whole fruit

Insight: Upcycling alone won’t be able to solve the food-waste crisis, but the movement towards more sustainable food production practices is a much-needed start.

Implication: Look for innovative ways to incorporate upcycling into your product pipelines, then let consumers know the impact it has.

Women’s Health

With celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow opening up about menopause, women’s health is no longer considered ‘taboo’.  Thankfully, a handful of companies, often with female-founders, are leading the charge and introducing products with women’s needs front and center.

Mary Ruth’s – liquid sleep aide

Tea Botanics – tea formulated for women experiencing symptoms related to menopause

MenoWell – female formulated plant-based energy bars

Mixhers – herbal supplement powders to promote hormone health

Insight: Watch for more innovation in this space as brands look to partner with women on their journey and provide nutrient-rich foods to align with changing life stages.

Implication: If your product doesn’t support this wellness theme, are there other widespread, yet ignored ones it does and/or that you can innovate against?

Innovative Dairy Alternatives

Finding dairy-free products that perform like the real thing can be challenging. Thankfully, we saw improved texture and flavor across the board with the introduction of innovative ingredients and manufacturing processes.

MiYOKO’S – oat milk butter

Violife – plant-based cream cheese

Harmless Harvest – yogurt made with cultured coconut

Millsie – dips made with cashews

Fabalish – queso made with aquafaba (chickpea water)

Insight: Consumers expectations for authentic, indulgent dairy-free products will continue to grow.

Implication: Brands are under pressure to keep the wheels of innovation turning in this category.

Sustainability In Packaging

The EU’s recent agreement on increased regulation for packaging waste is having ripple effects around the world. Manufacturers are continuously looking for ways to innovate and reduce unnecessary packaging.

Open Water – purified water in BPA-free aluminum packaging

Reel – premium paper products made from 100% tree-free fibers

Ocean’s Halo Seaweed – the first seaweed snack with no plastic tray

Local Weather – sports drink in an infinity recyclable aluminum bottle

Insight: Watch for more regulation to pass at the state and federal level as environmental concerns take center stage.

Implication: With consumers often willing to pay more for sustainably packaged products, frequently due to the elevated perception of the what’s inside, and emerging technologies as well as packaging models for reducing waste, CPGs capable of incorporating this trend into their businesses should be better positioned for both the immediate and long-term.

Upgraded Kid Foods

The proliferation of inexpensive, overly processed foods has been a huge contributor to childhood obesity. We were thrilled to see several brands toting allergen-free products with ingredients even a kindergartner could pronounce!

Goodles – variety of gluten-free, kosher, and vegan noodles

Fit Joy – grain-free pretzel snacks

Happy Wolf – refrigerated snack bars free from common allergens

Lovebird – grain-free cereal made with natural sweeteners

The Froot Thief – real fruit snacks with no added sugar or preservatives

Insight: Savvy consumers are reading labels and continuously seeking out higher quality foods. Look for more brands to clean up their ingredient list and include health-enhancing benefits, such as probiotics and vitamins to support children’s health and development.

Implication: Taking this trend one step further and looking for ways a product can support more than just the nutritional needs of children could provide even greater differentiation within this growing market.

Dill Pickle Everything

Flavor trends come and go, but pickles were everywhere this year.

Boulder Batch Kettle Chips – limited edition partnership with Grillo’s pickles

SuckerPunch – gourmet dill pickle packs for snacking

POPTime – Spicy Dill Pickle popcorn

Twang – pickle flavored beer salt

Hardbite – Spicy Dill handcrafted chips

Insight: Fermented flavors are trending with the growth of pickling and vinegar-based drinks. Look for dill pickle flavors to continue showing up in unexpected places.

Implication: Limited edition, small batch, and/or seasonal launches could be ways to test the waters while capitalizing on this trend.

Mood Enhancing Hydration

As Gen-Z continues to drive the NoLo (no and low alcohol) movement, more consumers are looking for ways to naturally take off the edge.

EUB – cognitive and mood boosting beverages

Gutsy – sparkling drink made with fermented adaptogenic plants and ashwagandha

TRIP – CPD infused drinks to help provide a sense of calm

Magic Mind – nootropic drinks designed for a boost in energy, cognition, and stress maintenance

Insight: The variety of non-alcoholic beverages continues to grow year over year. We expect to see continued innovation in the zero-alcohol space along with the introduction of more mid-strength spirits for consumers who are still alcohol curious.

Implication: With competition only projected to intensify within this space, consider partnerships with other industries where specialized mood-enhancing beverages could provide you both with a point-of-differentiation.

A Few of Our Favorites

Carbe Diem – The name says it all. Tasty high fiber, lower carb penne had us going back for seconds (and thirds.)

Seedlip – This non-alcoholic spirit brand is popular for a reason…it’s delicious. We tried a few mocktails and had a hard time deciding which was our favorite.

Windy City Mushroom – Oyster mushrooms never tasted so good. The Fungitarian meatless mixes provide a flavorful, vegan protein-packed meal in minutes.

Cheesewich – Listening to the team explain the Cheesewich origin story was a highlight of the show. Proof that inspiration and great ideas can truly come from anywhere!

Now that the high from Expo West is winding down, it’s time for brands to figure out what to do next. If you’re looking for help with your marketing strategy or are struggling to differentiate your brand from the competition, please give us a shout. Our team is here to help brands of all sizes achieve their goals!