Kombucha, Probiotics, and Plant-based everything—Oh My!

It’s been a week since brands and companies from across the globe unveiled their newest launches and innovations at Natural Products Expo West 2017. The dust has settled—though there may still be some sand in my suitcase from my West Coast jaunt—which means, it is time to reflect. So here goes, I’ve got my nitrate-free beef jerky and no preservative-added beet chips at the ready (spoiler alert: two huge trends) to fuel this recap.

First, we want to applaud all of our clients for truly leading the way in their respective categories. Just a few of the amazing launches and news unveiled by our client partners this year at Expo West:

  • Gaea has been changing how consumers define “authenticity” and “traceability” since they’ve entered the U.S. market from Greece. Gaea’s now giving other snack brands a run for their money by elevating the quality of the C-store product game. At Expo West, Gaea showed off its Gourmet Olives, available in two varieties: Green and Kalamata. Put your slurpees down, folks, get some real food in ya!
  • Munk Pack finally showed off the highly-anticipated MunkPack Protein Cookies. 18 grams of plant protein, and available in four delicious flavors: Coconut White Chocolate Macadamia, Double Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Raisin Spice—lace up your hiking boots!
  • Viki’s Granola, the fastest growing granola company year-over-year, is branching out—or should I say barking out? Viki and her team announced the upcoming launch of new product line, Granola Bark, at the show—four delectable flavors: Original, Banana Crunch, Citrus Explosion and Blueberry Blast (Banana Crunch is my fave!)
  • Carrington Farms, long-time maker of the most innovative and dependable health food products gave show attendees a sneak peak of the incredible rebrand that the brand is rolling out in weeks to come. The new packaging and new products were amazingly well received – we can’t wait to show off the new look soon!
5WPR public relations

My fellow Expo Warriors aka pro trendspotters and taste testers checking out our client NeoCel’s newest launch! (Dara Busch, EVP of Consumer Practice and Elizabeth Minton, VP of New Business Development)

Walking the show like navigating an adult version of Disneyland (which, by the way, runs fireworks every night at 10pm—I learned this the hard way in my Anaheim hotel). Whether you were weaving in between the Davids or the Goliaths of the tradeshow, one thing was clear—innovation led the way in the fight for shelf space. The overall food market is flat, but natural and organic was up 7.7% in 2016¹, and the state of the industry couldn’t have been more obvious in the buzzing halls of the show.

Food & Beverage Trendspotting at Expo West 2017—what made a splash:

  • PALEO – As someone who has “gone paleo,” I was delighted to see that you couldn’t walk a few booths without seeing the word “paleo” on packaging. One of my clients’ after the show said, “is Paleo still a thing?” Answer: yes. The marketplace for the Paleo Certified stamp of approval is booming. Even non-paleo brands have begun to “clean up” their acts, removing additives and unnecessary ingredients. Think: bone broth, coconut wraps, pure maple water, almond flour, and paleo jerky sticks.
  • PROBIOTICS – Walking the show floor, I think there was an hour stretch where I took a probiotic shot, drank probiotic juice, and topped off a breakfast taco with probiotic hot sauce (which by the way was delicious). The probiotic train has left the station and there are no signs of slowing down.
  • PLANT-BASED – Given that there are hundreds of rows on the show floor, it’s typically hard to reach a consensus of opinion on what booth was most popular, but this year, everyone I talked to said the same thing: Beyond Meat was the “it” booth. Perhaps it was due to the fact that Beyond Meat was serving up the plant-based burgers in a fully functional diner style flat top, or perhaps it was just that they were on trend with the ever-growing trend and category of plant-based products. Plant-based milk topped $4.2BB in 2016², plant-based cheese generated 31.4% growth in the natural channel and 18% growth in all channels³, and plant-based meat sales exceeded $606MM in the 52 weeks leading up to Jan 22, 2017⁴.
  • DOING GOOD – More than ever before, we saw “1-for-1” Give Back Models and brands that proudly pushed social missions and CSR efforts. Case-in-point: we saw a snack bar brand called “This Bar Saves Lives,” the motto is “buy a bar, feed a child.”
  • FUNCTIONAL RTD BEVERAGE CATEGORY – We saw “superpower tea with ginseng,” caffeinated water, probiotic water, drinking vinegars, and kombuchas. We saw beverages that had a long check list of why you should be drinking them besides for hydration. Functional RTD Beverages game was on fire. If you want hydration with a side of wellness, energy, digestive support, or more—check your grocery aisles out.

As a consumer, I’m hungry for some of these launches to hit market. As a publicist, I’m excited to give editors and producers the scoop on what I know readers and viewers want more of lately. As part of the industry community, I’m so proud of companies and brands for upping the ante and keeping each other honest. The direction the industry is going in is incredibly exciting—how could it not be, when Oat Milk, Vegan Buffalo Wings and Probiotic Hot Sauce are in my shopping cart?


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