Evolving Trends from the 2012 Natural Products Expo West

Last week’s Natural Product Expo had record number of attendees—over 60,000.  This show focuses on “natural” product solutions ranging from supplements to health and beauty products and food/beverages.  Here are just a few of the emerging food and beverage trends we saw.

1. Innovation through Acquisition. What has become clear is that the big companies have found the “fountain of growth” and are gobbling up the successful small brands and companies.  These up-and-coming companies are out-innovating the big ones, finding new ways to excite consumers and growing holistically.  Noteworthy Announcements made at the Show:  Emergen-C was acquired by Pfizer, Food Should Taste Good acquired by General Mills and Mrs. Mays Naturals acquired by Dole Foods.



2. Fermentation for health. What do kimchee, kombucha, and kvass have in common?  They are all products based on fermentation that are associated with traditional health and wellness. These fermentation methods date back thousands of years and consumers are finding trust and renewed interest in the health beliefs of these products.  Key benefits are around digestive health, pre/probiotics and immunity are just to name a few.  Examples include Wildbrine Red Beet and Cabbage Sauerkraut Salad, Zukay Kvass and Celestial Seasonings Kombucha Energy Shots.




3. FREE of [fill in the blank]. This trend continues to be top of mind with consumers but with a keen eye to “bad, unhealthy or questionable” ingredients and unknown chemicals.  Clearly people want their food to fit not only their dietary needs but also their values.  Still making news are the top allergens in food such with gluten free, dairy free, nut free, soy free moving mainstream.  Few are using high fructose corn syrup now and the focus is moving to new natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit.   New emerging trends focused on sustainability, GMO free, and BPA free are demonstrating consumers wanting to affect bigger issues as well.  Noteworthy mentions include Cybele’s Free-to-Eat Cookies whose products are free of the top eight (8) allergens, Naturewise Sweeteners Monk Fruit as an fruit based sugar alternative, Non-GMO Project Certification forcing the FDA to reevaluate labeling standards, and Amy’s BPA free lining in cans.



4. Mainstreaming:  Grains, Nuts, and Seeds. While quinoa, millet, and other ancient grains continue to mainstream with tasty offerings, so do seeds and nuts, along with their by-products.  Chia was the biggest player in the seed family with MamaChia beverages adding not only texture but omega 3 to beverages and Nature’s Path introducing an entire line called ChiaPlus.  There were also a lot of non-dairy seed and nut based milks that caught our eye as consumers look for new tastes, textures, lactose free, and vegetarian options with multiple benefits. Worthy mentions: Sneaky Pete’s Oatstanding beverage (oat milk) for heart health, Good Karma Flax Milk with Omega 3’s, and Sunrich Naturals SOL Sunflower Kernel Milk which is soy, nut and gluten free.



5. Nutrition meets Personal Care. Health and beauty aids (HBA) are just as important to health conscious consumers as their food.  They want products from sustainably sourced ingredients that are cruelty free, sulfates free, paraben free and any other nasty chemicals that might absorb into their skin and body.  Think of cosmetics with food derivatives, now classified as nutricosmetics defined as foods, beverages, and supplements containing ingredients that support skin and body structure to emerge.  Examples include anti-aging ingredients like Hyaluronic acid, coQ10, collagen, omega e’s and vitamins A, C, and E that may support skin-cell health and collagen production to stave off environmental damage that can cause wrinkles.   While women have traditionally been the key target for these products, be on the lookout for men and kids to get in the game as well.  Honorable Mentions: Sprout Cream, Bull Dog Natural Skin Cream for Men and Episencial products for babies and kids.



Brought to by Kim Lopez-Walters

Food innovation expert Kim Lopez-Walters recently joined GameChanger as a full-time director. Kim’s background includes marketing and innovation leadership positions for Starbucks (introduced some of the first Frappucino coffee drinks), PowerBar and Clif Bar. She has also been a marketer for Nestle, Quaker and Pepsi-Cola and was an innovation trends strategist for Iconoculture.

Last week Kim attendeed the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA and shared her trend observations seen in this newsletter.

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