After 2 long years of virtual conferences, we were so excited to physically head to Expo West 2022. It was our first in-person conference since the pandemic began and we were thrilled to be around so many individuals in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry—and of course to try many of the newest products in the category.
We experienced so many a-ha’s that it’s impossible to recount them all, but here are a few of the top insights and observations that stood out to us during our three days in California.
The Adoption of Adaptogens
Needless to say, we can all use a little help calming our minds and bodies these days. And based on what we saw at the expo, there are more than a few brands looking to help. There was absolutely no shortage of products featuring adaptogens (herbs like ashwagandha and holy basil that are said to help people’s bodies manage mental and physical stress) in a variety of different product forms. There are some adaptogenic products already on the market, but this could be the year they really take off.
Example From Expo West 2022: The name says it all! Mude is a line of sparkling beverages with organic botanicals that support your mood. They promise to deliver functional benefits such as energy, mental focus, relaxation and improved sleep. Our team especially liked Mude Chill, featuring ashwagandha and chamomile to help your body manage stress, reduce anxiety and help you unwind.
Leveraging The Magic of Mushrooms
Okay, functional mushrooms are actually adaptogens too, but they were prevalent enough that they warrant their own call-out. Functional mushrooms like Lion’s Mane, Resihi, Turkey Tail and Cordyceps have been used in ancient medicines throughout history to boost energy, focus, immunity and mood—all benefits today’s consumers are pining for.
Example From Expo West 2022: One of our favorite products featuring functional mushrooms was Odyssey Mushroom Elixirs, which are sparkling elixirs, coffees and teas that promise to help the body resist and adapt to emotional and physical stress. We tasted several great-tasting flavors, including Dagon Fruit Lemonade, Blackberry Lemon Twist, and Chai Rooibos and you would never know they were made with mushrooms.
New Ways to Pack in the Protein
When trying to boost their protein intake, many people think about yogurt and protein shakes and bars. But there are a lot of new, unique protein products on the way. We saw everything from unique product forms like bone broths and even croutons to new types of protein (hello, animal-free whey!).
Example From Expo West 2022: Twin Peaks Performance offers Protein Puffs in delicious flavors like nacho cheese and sour cream and onion. With a great taste and texture, plus 21 grams of protein and only 130 calories, these are basically like healthy cheese balls.
Real-deal Permissible Indulgence
Snacks and desserts that promise crave-worthy flavor without the guilt have been around for a while and they aren’t going away any time soon. The problem with many of these products is that they often fall short on taste expectations, but we were pleasantly surprised—and excited—by how many new offerings we sampled truly delivered on indulgence.
Example From Expo West 2022: Bon Dévil promises to give “pure pleasure without the guilt” and it did not disappoint. The brand features a line of coconut-based desserts with no dairy, gluten, lactose or GMOs, all while clocking in at under 120 calories. With flavors like Chocolate Ganache, Vanilla Ganache, and Salted Caramel Choc Ganache, it was hard to choose a favorite.
Plant-based Is STILL Growing Strong
This was a big trend at our last visit to Expo West and the category is still thriving. The growing number of vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians and everyday consumers wanting to get more plants into their diet has sparked a continuous flood of new high-quality plant-based options (beverages, desserts and meat analogs, oh my!) that deliver on both taste and nutrition. And not only do these products promise to be better for your health, many also pledge to be better for the planet as well.
Example From Expo West 2022: One of our favorites in this space was Ozo plant-based bacon. It hasn’t made its way to shelves—or even their website—yet, but we believe that it has the potential to really take off. The aroma, crispy-crunchy texture and delicious meaty flavor are enough to satisfy even the biggest bacon lovers. We never would have guessed it wasn’t traditional pork-based bacon.
More Great Mocktails & Mixers
We were pleasantly surprised by the number of fun mocktail-type drinks launching. We were excited by the new options and delicious flavor combinations that let people enjoy a fun and refreshing beverage without the negative effects of alcohol. But… for those who do want to imbibe, most also offer the flexibility for people to add their favorite liquor if desired.
Example From Expo West 2022: Mingle Mocktails stood out in this place. The philosophy behind the brand is very inclusive—whether you choose to drink alcohol or not, everyone should have fun. They feature classic cocktail flavors like Mimosa, Bellini, Mojito, and Cosmo, making sure nearly everyone will be able to find a flavor they love.
Upcycling Is The New Recycling
Did you know that food waste is actually a bigger cause of climate change than plastics? In fact, nearly 1/3 of all food that is produced ends up being wasted. That makes upcycling an important trend to keep your eye on. The Upcycled Food Association defines upcycled food as foods that use ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption, are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment. We had the opportunity to sample lots of different items featuring upcycled ingredients and we thoroughly enjoyed both the taste and the idea that the products were leveraging foods that would have normally just been thrown away.
Example From Expo West 2022: We were pleased to discover Spare Tonic, a delicious probiotic sparkling tonic made from upcycled fruits and vegetables. Representatives of the brand were deservedly proud of the fact that their product redistributes food waste, turning it into new refreshing tonics.
Immunity Is Top Of Mind
Given we are emerging (hopefully!!) from the pandemic, it wasn’t at all surprising to see a ton of immunity-focused products. We saw lots of different product formats (like drinks, juices, and bars) made with vitamins, minerals and ingredients that promise to help boost immunity and protect from colds and illness.
Example From Expo West 2022: Suja Organic Elements features a line of cold-pressed sparkling juices that support immunity and biome health. They’re made with immune-boosting ingredients like Vitamin C, Vitamin, D and Zinc, along with microbiome-supporting ingredients like probiotics. These were some of the best-tasting drinks we sampled over the course of the entire conference—especially the Strawberry Passionfruit flavor.
Expo West 2022 was one of the best food product shows that we’ve experienced yet. The combination of the amazing products and trends combined with the energy of being back together in real life really set this show apart. It was so fun seeing some old faces and meeting new friends over the course of the week—and of course getting to try a zillion different samples along the way. We can’t wait for next year!
Maggie Huntwork is a Senior Strategist at Seed Strategy, where she leverages her dynamic, cross-channel experience to help clients connect with consumers and build their brands.
Edited by Adam Siegel. In addition to being the Editor of The Accelerator, Adam is VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his diverse experience in advertising, research and innovation to craft breakthrough creative and winning concept copy.