Best in Show: Top 15 Trends at Expo West 2016
A look inside the Top 15 Trends at Expo West 2016, from your Pineapple Collective founders. Drawing on our background as Registered Holistic Nutritionists, Educators and Brand Marketers, we spent 5 days trend hunting in LA and Anaheim, scouting the very best ideas, concepts, flavours and packaging from the trade show floor, and Southern California retail market.
Top 15 Trends at Expo West
Driven by consumer interest in gut health, “beating the bloat”, digestion and absorption, this trend at Expo West moves beyond simply sprouted ingredients (last year’s theme), and extends to probiotic enriched products, and cultured or fermented products that are rich in naturally occurring probiotic cultures.
2. Artisanal Flavours
We’ve been seeing a shift towards more unusual flavour pairings, many of which are gourmet inspired, and often in unexpected product categories. It’s bringing a whole new sensory experience to health foods, which years ago may have been considered “bland” or boring.
3. Alternative Sweeteners
No longer are health enthusiasts restricted with only a couple options of “safe” sweeteners, we now see a wide variety of whole food based sweeteners that reduce our consumption and reliance on refined options, and in many cases are lower on the glycemic index (more stable energy release). Pictured below: dates, honey and apple based sweeteners. Other options we spotted at the show: Lucuma powder, and maple syrup powder.
4. Portion Controlled Meals in a Cup
Manufacturers understand the mass consumer appeal in portion controlled meals (driven by a desire for healthy weight management). Demand exists for options that fit an on-the-go lifestyle, and the natural category is embracing convenience in a big way as demonstrated in these trends at Expo West.
A traditional eastern medicine modality, Ayurveda is making waves in the natural products category as many popular blogs and publications (like Gywneth Paltrow’s Goop article about Ayurveda and eating for your “Dosha”), have helped spread the word (on a mass scale) towards the benefits of affiliated herb and food combinations.
6. Superfoods Reign Strong
Looking to upgrade everything from our jams, to energy bars, to popcorn. Superfoods increase the nutrient density of some of our favourite foods, alongside being a purchase driver for success and viability to the brands integrating them. We like scouting brands who source and process their superfoods with integrity (look for those that are fairly traded and with minimal processing).
7. Social Media Integration On-Pack
Social media has become a core part of the marketing mix for customer experience, education and brand building. It’s no longer “good enough” to have a social media channel, it should be integrated into your on-package real estate to truly drive engagement.
8. Grass Fed
One of the “best” trends from an environmental and animal husbandry perspective, we are happy to see it continue to grow. We noticed a growth in the amount of label claims, and also product offerings from category leaders and newcomers alike. Along with grass-fed, we saw organic ingredients, and “Whole 30 Approved” verifications.
9. Reducing Food Waste
Innovation at its finest. Creating value and use for what was once thought of as waste, or would go to waste in the food manufacturing process. Repurposing the pulp from fresh pressed juice for soup or tortilla chips (from Forager), or using the leftover kraut juice to create a healthy elixir “shot” (from Farmhouse Culture).
10. Compliancy in Messaging & Regulatory Considerations
As “un-sexy” as this sounds, it’s extremely important for brands who intend to scale up rapidly. With an increasing number of lawsuits for unsubstantiated claims, and false advertising, there is not only rising consumer skepticism (in the supplement category), there is also greater scrutiny on brand communications and product information. Brands are finding creative ways to explain functional benefits, while being compliant with FDA regulations. For example: a slogan like “Stress happens. Adapt to it” versus naming the traditional word “adaptogen”. We welcome the creative problem solving!
11. Mission Based Brands
It’s not enough to manufacture a product that contributes to a healthier society, it’s become increasingly important for brands to align their products with “give back” causes, or integrate corporate social responsibility – especially to differentiate within already saturated categories. Coconut water and chip manufacturer Buddha Brands sets themselves apart with 1% for the planet donations, proudly displayed on all packages. But the proven market potential is a positive reinforcement. Neilsen data reported millennial shoppers are willing to pay more for brands that support a good cause. Our favourite, was Dave’s Killer Bread, who provides employment for rehabilitated convicts.
12. Coconut Oil: Preferred oil in clean, processed/packaged foods
Let’s not kid ourselves, many “natural” foods are still “processed” foods, yet they fill a need for many consumer’s diet, such as meat and cheese alternatives making meal time easier for many time strapped families. Packaged foods previously seemed to rely on soy or canola oils (often made with GMO’s), but it’s now decreasing as coconut oil emerges as the cleaner alternative. Find it in granola’s, nut cheese, and meat-free bacon.
13. Plant Based AND Vegan Label Claims
Though they mean one and the same, “vegan” can be hard for the majority of consumers to identify with, yet “plant-based” is more approachable. Including both on a label claim may seem redundant, but we noticed more and more brands choosing to list both to increase consumer inclusion. Can you spot them both on the products below? (hint: look for the turquoise circles)…
14. Custom Icons and Graphics: Educational Call Outs
Beyond third party certifications (which are also on the rise), there are many other worthy nutritional attributes that deserve special attention. To make them pop at first glance, graphic designers are being tasked with creating images that provide a quick point of reference as to the benefits of the food being marketed. We like the trend so long as it’s educational, and references functional benefits in a compliant way (to avoid regulatory risk).
15. Ancient Wisdom
Root down with ancient wisdom. Ingredients like dandelion and turmeric, prevail in categories like culinary sauces and beverages. These foods are often thought of as “grounding“, and this trend can be associated with a shift in consumer preference towards foods that bring us “back to our roots“.
Let us know any favourite trends we’ve shared, or products on this list you can’t wait to try!
Through out the remainder of this week and next, we’ll be also be discussing some of our strategic insights from Natural Products Expo West, including education opportunities and how to gain widespread market adoption when you are a disruptive innovation.