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Insights and Trends from Expo East

Arriving by trains, planes and automobiles our Capsule team came to the Natural Products Expo East with palettes cleansed and eyes wide open.

We tried everything from oat milk to apple cider vinegar. We braved novelties of tea brewed like beer and quinoa cloaked by chocolate. The abundance of flavors is hard to describe and even harder to endure later in the day. But, we pushed through to a finish and then went for saki and sushi.

For those who need context, this is the younger sibling to Expo West in Anaheim. And, like many younger siblings, East gets picked on for being the smaller and less impressive version.. Well, those same negatives can become positives when you see how East is more intimate, easier facilitates having real conversations and less over the top. Expo East is a hard working show and it delivers results.

Here are some of the natural food trends we noticed while walking this year’s show.

-- Hemp and all things CBD had a dedicated “Pavilion” and you know what they say, “Once you have a pavilion, then your thing is a thing.” Well, perhaps they don’t say this but a pavilion of Hemp was a clear indication of the important role this ingredient will have in the natural and organic products space. If you’re not hempin’ it, you need to get on it.

-- Ingredients and a clean supply chain is showing up more in conversations. In the consumer world, most people are talking about a “clean ingredient” stack. In natural and organic they are ahead of the market and already talking about a clean supply chain and knowing where your ingredients originate.

-- Our first exposure to the Beyond Meat brand was at this show years ago. Plant-based continues to thrive, like the perennial it is. Now that the wheel is spinning, the innovation cycle is getting further refined, improving and meeting the taste needs of a mass market. A sustainable future becomes much more likely when the average Joe/Jill consumer can’t distinguish between a burger made from a cow and what that cow eats.

-- Just a few years ago it was “free from” and all the labels, certifications and seals to signal anything from Non-GMO to Certified Organic. This easy button approach has created a marketplace of label fatigue for shoppers and brands are starting to hear it. It used to be listed front of package, spoken to in all booth conversations and a primary part of any retail pitch, now these claims are expectations and used for reassurance on the back of your package.

-- Technology, for a more natural experience, as it shows up everywhere continues to become a growing part of the backbone of this industry. Block chain is the most prominent technology being deployed to more clearly see the entire supply chain for brands on the leading edge of technological innovation.

Those are our big five from the show. If you had other themes show up, we’d love to hear them. We write a monthly column, telling founder stories and epic tales of brand, design and marketing. And, if you’re looking to reduce the friction in retail and increase sales, we have a research and design method you’d appreciate.

Enjoy the natural world, get out there and reach out if you’d like to discuss our next adventure.

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