Trend Sighting at Expo West

Trend Sighting at Expo West

March 23, 2022

By Deanna Scheid, RD, Regional Health & Wellness Specialist at SpartanNash and Yvette Waters, MS, RDN, CISSN, Nutrition Strategist & Brand Influencer at Raley’s

Expo West, the largest natural, organic, and “healthy” products event in the U.S. is a time to see vendors and learn about new trends and innovative products that will be hitting the market in the coming months. The themes for Expo West 2022 centered around sustainability, lifestyle, nutrition and health, transparency, and convenience. While everyone had a product/company story around sustainable practices, reducetarianism, or ethically sourcing, the main trends we saw are discussed below.

Plant-Based . . . EVERYTHING!
It was hard to find products that were not shouting plant-based from the rooftops. “Fish” coming from a nine-lentil blend, “bacon” in the form of soy and peas, “cottage cheese” made from an assortment of nuts and beans. Everywhere we looked, plant-based was there. Even animal protein brands were featuring plant-based line extensions with improved taste and texture. It is important to help the retailer find clean label, simple and real ingredients in these products – check out some recommendations below. A list of top plant-based items at the show can be found here.

Botanical and Functional Fizzy Drinks
The show floor was filled with all things bubbly beverages with a focus on added benefits and trendy, colorful packaging. Several sparkling drinks are adding in probiotics, prebiotics, botanicals and more.  The new trend in this category is the addition of adaptogens ranging from different vitamins and minerals to mushroom elixirs with lion’s mane and rishi to herbal remedies like ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, and holy basil.

Buzz-less and Zero Proof Spirits:
Through the pandemic, there was some dabbling in “drysolation,” mindful drinking, and mocktails. To ride that trend, offerings of no and low-ABV beverages, zero-proof cocktails and hop waters were around the show floor for those with a sober-curious mindset.

Kelp looks to be a possible food trend aimed at customers looking for healthy and sustainable products. The pitches to this possible “new superfood” included containing many essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids along with a big focus on how kelp does not require soil or fertilizer for it to grow. It absorbs nutrients from the water and can also sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. We saw introductory kelp puff chips as well as fermented kelp and kelp cubes (mixed with cranberries and blueberries) to be added to one’s morning smoothie.

Clean & Sustainable Beauty
Focuses of sustainable practices, eco-friendly products, and clean ingredients (free from) was a strong focus in the HBC area. One of the newer products included hard shampoos and conditioners (they look very visually similar to soap bars), which require no packaging.

Healthier Indulgent Treats
If a retailer can cater to the three main customer needs -- health & wellness, indulgent, and convenience -- then they have the winning recipe. Healthier treats, bars, and creative ways of fitting “whole foods” into a “guilt free” treat was scattered around the show. These types of products were made from whole grains (like energy bites), simple ingredients with no preservatives that required refrigeration (Hail Merry) and whole fruits dipped in chocolate. These types of products can hit both customer desires looking for indulgent and “healthier” treats.

Low in Sugar/No Added Sugar
While the Keto craze may be dying out, low or no added sugar isn’t. While “Keto” did not have as large of a presence as past years, low sugar, Paleo, and no added sugar were still call outs on packaging. From kid-friendly lower in sugar bars such as Whoa! Dough to Tattooed Chef Oat Butter Chocolate Chip Bars with no added sugar, customers are looking for sugar solutions that aren’t as strict or GI upsetting as “keto.”