Expo West, the Superbowl of the natural products industry, happens every March, and FRESH was thrilled to attend this year. Over 3,000 brands exhibited and more than 60,000 people attended this massive tradeshow held in Anaheim, California.
Our team set out to get some facetime with clients, build relationships with colleagues, discover new products, and learn from industry leaders. We sampled, we walked, and we talked until pure exhaustion, but it was worth every second!
This post will cover some of the top trends we saw at Expo West, along with our favorites in each category.
Mushrooms are continuing to have their moment, and we are here for the trend! Several types of functional mushrooms can help support wellness in a variety of ways, from reducing stress to boosting energy. We spotted these fascinating plants in protein powders, energy bars, coffee and chocolate beverages, broths, and more.
Crazy for Kelp
Kelp is a nutritious sea vegetable with over 20 vitamins and minerals. Plus, it’s great for the environment and the coastal communities that farm it. We spotted kimchi kelp, plant-based burgers made with kelp, and kelp chips.
Beverages with Benefits
Drinks aren’t just for drinking anymore! We tried countless beverages that offered some sort of functional health benefit with ingredients like prebiotics, probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, herbs, and spices.
Eco-Conscious Packaging and Ingredients
Countless brands are making moves to decrease their carbon footprint, some even reaching carbon neutrality. Some methods of sustainability include decreasing or eliminating the plastic used in packaging, decreasing energy needed for shipping product, and using upcycled ingredients.
Pretty in Pink!
Although not specifically food or health related, we saw a ton of PINK at Expo West! We noticed many companies with female founders using the color in their branding or wearing pink (one of our team members included 😊). Leaning heavily into a color which may have once been considered “unprofessional” represents female empowerment and authenticity, which we love to see in the male-dominated food industry.
Craving the authentic flavors of Mexico, India, and South Africa, but not able to make the trip? Fear not because certain brands are delivering all of the taste of their cultures in convenient jarred, bagged, or frozen forms.
Everyone loves a sweet treat, but ingredients and nutrition are still important to consumers when it comes to choosing a dessert. Lucky for us, many brands offer options that are free of gluten, dairy, and even grains, and are instead using nutrient-dense ingredients like almond flour, coconut oil, coconut sugar, and unsweetened chocolate.
Gut Health Centered Products
Gut health continues to be one of the goals for many health-conscious shoppers, and with that desire we are seeing more and more products with ingredients that support (or don’t irritate) the gut. Low FODMAP protein bars, fermented vegetables and beverages, added prebiotics and probiotics, and sprouted nuts and grains are some examples of how brands are focusing on gut support.
Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring! Many brands are leaning into fun and nostalgic flavors that evoke good vibes and childhood memories. We spotted plant-based lunchables, high protein, prebiotic-packed cookies and mac n’ cheese, squeezeable smoothies, and plenty of healthier chip options.
Gluten-free, dairy-free, and other allergen-free foods could be seen all throughout the expo floor, ranging from snacks to desserts to main courses. Many of these companies were born out of necessity to avoid certain foods or ingredients, and with an estimated 20 million people (about the population of New York) in the US living with food allergies, this trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
For more Expo fun, check out our expo recap on Instagram! What trend are you most excited about? Any trends we missed? Let us know in the comments below!