Trends spotted at Natural Products Expo West

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA. — Mushrooms, mocktails and mochi were plentiful among the new products introduced at Natural Products Expo West. More than 65,000 registered attendees gathered at the Anaheim Convention Center March 7-11 to get a taste of the latest innovations from 3,000 exhibiting companies, including nearly 900 newcomers.

Ahead of the event, a team of trend researchers assembled by Informa Markets’ New Hope Network identified the issues that are gaining traction in the natural, organic and functional food market, focusing primarily on environmental sustainability, transparency in the supply chain and holistic health and well-being.

“It’s always tempting to focus on the hottest innovations of the year or the newest ingredients, but it’s important to recognize that these trends are reflections and manifestations of the much broader cultural forces that are really driving today’s natural products industry,” Jessica said Rubino, vice president of content at New Hope Network, which produces the Natural Products Expos. “These big trends exist on a continuum, and Natural Products Expo West offers a front-row seat to watch their evolution.”

Many brands exhibiting at Expo West showcased functional beverages positioned to provide benefits such as hydration, energy, relaxation and more. Several formulations contain L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, as well as herbs and mushrooms linked to stress relief. Dubbed a “social tonic,” Hiyo is a sparkling seltzer blend of Ashwagandha, L-Theanine, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Ginger, and Turmeric. Rambler Energy Drinks are caffeinated with yaupon, a native North American plant recently named a trending ingredient by Whole Foods Market. BAD Tea Co., Los Angeles, shared their “extra caffeinated” ready-to-drink teas with L-theanine. To tap into consumer demand for energy, several brands of snack bars include caffeine in recipes for an extra boost.

free spirits

Alcohol-free elixirs and zero-proof canned cocktails feature complex flavor profiles, sophisticated packaging and, in some cases, the use of cannabis or adaptogens to create an alcohol-free buzz. Medase is a brand of hemp-infused mocktails sweetened with organic agave. Flavors include Moscow Mule and Margarita. Three Spirit Drinks offers a collection of mood-boosting alcohol alternatives with functional additives such as lion’s mane, hull melon hops, schisandra, lemon balm, valerian and damiana.

Billed as “premium non-alcoholic cocktails,” inspired by founder Pauline Idogho’s travels, Mocktail Club has apple cider vinegar, tea, and hints of agave. Strains include Manhattan Berry, Capri Spritz, Bombay Fire, and Havana Twist. Mixoloshe is a line of low-calorie canned drinks that offer modern interpretations of speakeasy staples like old-fashioned and gin and tonic.

gut feeling

Numerous drinks and snacks on display at the show were designed to support digestive well-being. Sunsweet Growers, of Yuba City, California, unveiled an elevated version of prune juice. Soft drinks like Mayawell, Wildwonder and Poppi are among the gut-positioned drinks that tout ingredients like agave inulin, chicory root fiber, Jerusalem artichoke and apple cider vinegar, while new brand Mighty Pop claims to contain prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics.

Los Angeles-based startup Supergut showcased its line of nutritional shakes and bars formulated with a proprietary resistant starch fiber blend which the company says is linked to promoting metabolic health, regulating digestion, improving mood and more is brought. Also on display were BelliWelli, a brand of soft-baked nutritional bars developed for millions of Americans suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other gut health issues; Rowdy, a brand of protein bars with prebiotic fiber; and Core Foods, a maker of chilled bars that contain prebiotic starches and probiotic cultures.

Gut Nuts, a brand of fermented almonds, is positioned as a “postbiotic snack.”

Other uses have included canned kombucha for kids, cultured cream cheese, and gluten-free crackers based on green banana flour, which is rich in prebiotic-resistant starch.

confection correction

A handful of brands introduced new confectionery products at Expo West, including low-sugar or no-sugar products and plant-based formulas. Katje’s, a German brand, and Healthy Hippo, based in Canada, are expanding into the United States with gelatin-free gummies (the latter uses monk fruit as its sole sweetener). Sweet Haven sampled its range of plant-based confections, including chewy candies and filled chocolate truffles. The maker of Simply Gum has introduced a line of soft gummies in flavors like sour apple cherry and peach raspberry. Better Sour, a new gummy brand with globally inspired sour flavors, was also launched.

Other new candy brands to be seen at the show include Oomph, Suckerz, TidBits and Joyride. Bon AppéSweet highlighted its date-sweetened chocolate bars, and Wild West introduced its line of dark chocolate sweetened with an organic blend of date powder, mulberry, peach and mango.

Asian influence

Another prominent topic in product development is global flavors. Japanese miso barbecue sauce, Filipino banana ketchup, and Indian street food-inspired dips are among the condiments created by Asian-American founders to increase presence on grocery store shelves.

Several startups showed different variants of Chili Cris, an enriched chili oil with crunchy bits. Asian-inspired uses also included mochi, dumplings, ramen, and bubble tea in convenient shapes. Several brands, including Copper Cow Coffee, Nguyen Coffee Supply, and Sang, launched Vietnamese coffee in ground, pour-over, or ready-to-drink formats.

Flavors like ube, matcha, red bean and black sesame have appeared in a range of products from oatmeal to ice cream. Sanzo, the sparkling water brand with Asian-inspired flavors, added pomelo, a citrus fruit native to Southeast Asia, to its range.

Fun meets functionality

Emerging brands are reinventing the staple foods of millennia, often with attributes like higher protein, less sugar and no artificial flavors or colors. New variants of Lunchables, Uncrustables, Cheez-It and Oreo were seen at the show. With its “real fruit whips”, The Froot Thief offers a sugar-free alternative to classic fruit-flavored snacks. Magic Spoon, the maker of grain-free, low-sugar breakfast cereals, sampled its range inspired by “the flavors and nostalgia of Saturday morning cartoons.”

Kiddiwinks markets a line of plant-based canned milks made with chickpeas, oats and chicory root. The products are available in chocolate and vanilla flavors and are described as “a twist on a childhood classic without the cow and sugar overload.”

SuperFat, a brand of keto-friendly spreads and snacks, unveiled the latest addition to its portfolio, a macaroni and cheese box made with gluten-free lupine bean pasta that’s high in fiber and protein, the company said.

Functional meets mushroom

The show featured mushrooms in many forms masquerading as meat in jerky products promoted by Pan’s and Moku, and cutlets and steaks served by Meati. Shroom Junkie, a new milk alternative, is made from pea protein fermented by shiitake mushroom mycelia.

Fun-Gal Snacks is the maker of Popadelics, a line of crispy shiitake pods that are vacuum fried and flavored with flavors like truffle parmesan and Thai chili.

Coffee and tea on display at the fair are made with medicinal mushroom extracts that promise to improve focus and immunity.