Expo West Report: 2016’s Hottest Health Food Trends

Boelter + Lincoln, Blog, Expo-West 2016

Every year, natural products brands, retailers, distributors and their devoted and influential consumers converge on Anaheim, California for the Natural Products Expo West & Engredea, presented by New Hope Network. A record-setting 77,000 attendees made this year’s Expo West the world’s largest natural product event in history. Attending on behalf of B+L and our client Angelic Bakehouse, we were excited to learn about the latest research and trends in the food and consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. Getting samples of the newest health food products, snacks and bars wasn’t bad either!

One keynote presentation was particularly compelling. New Hope’s “What’s NEXT? Which trends have the highest probability of mainstream success?” not only highlighted the hottest macro forces and consumer trends in the health food industry, it also gave us actionable takeaways. The overarching premise above all these trends was that consumers are more in tune with the food they eat than ever before and that many feel they have been misled in the past. Thus, rebuilding consumer trust should be priority #1 for any company in this segment.

Below is a brief overview of four of the trends that New Hope’s researchers felt would go mainstream most quickly and have the most significance for health food manufacturers and marketers in 2016:

  • Mission-Based Brands

As consumers care more and more about transparency – taking note of ingredients, marketing messages and the manufacturing process. But having a clean label is not enough. We are seeing a “Feed Me!” macro trend with manufacturers trying to solve growing world hunger and climate change issues. Shoppers will align with these missions and look for brands that stand for something and work to improve the world around us.

Examples at the expo include Marley EcoCups, the first recyclable K-cup, and Endangered Species Chocolate, a company devoted to a total fair-trade process and significant donations to charities.

  • Pre- and Probiotics

While shoppers are becoming hypersensitive to GMOs, they also realize the relationship between science and food can be a positive one. Scientists have suggested digestion has an impact on feeling well and the microbiology in the body impacts whole health. Half of Americans take multivitamins and more are starting to look at food sources as natural supplements, as well. Probiotics have been gaining popularity in recent years, but prebiotics are next on the horizon. Expect to see a mainstream rise for both markets, particularly in drinks, herbal supplements, fermented foods and healthy gummy vitamins.

Examples at the expo include JicaChips, a jicama snack with natural prebiotics, and Good Belly Shots, organic probiotic juice concentrate shot.

  • Brain Health

Both rapidly aging Baby Boomers and health-conscious millennials recognize brain health is critical for a long-term healthy life. Fatty acids and omega-3s are key for this and consumers want products that support it. Long gone are the days of a low-fat diet. We’ll see a rise in products highlighting healthy fats and brain-boosting superfoods as a focus on mental function explodes.

Examples at the expo include Hemp2o, a beverage loaded with brain nourishing vitamins, and Steaz Organic Energy, a clean vitamin-infused energy beverage.

  • Compostable Packaging

Consumers are beginning to care about all the waste that results from our on-the-go, convenience-driven lifestyles. Think plastic clamshell packaging and individually wrapped to-go snack pouches. To counteract the guilt, composting is resonating with customers, and they want brands that support this lifestyle.

Examples at the expo include Bearded Brothers energy bars with compostable packaging and Lolliware edible cups.

What does this mean for CPG brands and their marketing teams? It goes without saying, but is a significant reminder: now more than ever, consumers are in the driver’s seat – their influence combined with buying power can make or break your brand in the natural products category. Consumers are looking for brands that match their own ideals and vision of what makes their lives complete. The brands that do align with these ideals will be rewarded with the most genuine advocates. Leave the flashy, misleading buzzwords aside. Go beyond the functional nature of a product and speak from the heart of your brand. A consumer who trusts your brand is more powerful than you ever imagined, and will pay off in spades.

Stasha Wuest contributed to the research and content of this blog post.