By Amanda Savage
For 38 years the annual Natural Products Expo West & Engredea, the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event, has been a place for innovation. It’s an opportunity for new companies and products to emerge, a place for the industry’s leading natural food brands to debut and test their new products, and a place for older companies to attempt to enter the natural foods business with new product lines. Distributors, wholesalers, venture capitalists, retailers and media all come together for this industry showcase.
This year, 85,000 attendees and 3,521 exhibiting companies were present at the event, which was held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California March 7-11.
“The conversations happening at Expo West are often catalysts for change well beyond the natural products industry,” said Adam Andersen, senior vice president, Events, New Hope Network.
From all of these companies and products, distinct trends often emerge. While many dominant trends like plant-based goods, matcha, kombucha, sparkling water, zero-waste business practices, and international foods continued their dominance, new trends materialized.
Here are some of the biggest trends from Expo West 2018.
Healing continues to reign as a top concern in the natural foods space. As the widespread legalization of medical and recreational marijuana continues, more people are turning to cannabidiol CBD for treatment. While more research still needs to be done to officially prove the power of CBDs, many sufferers of physical pain, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, anxiety, depression, PTSD and epilepsy have turned to the non-psychoactive cannabis compound to alleviate their symptoms. It’s important to note that CBD is like a cousin to THC and does not offer the the same “stoned” side effects. Companies like Buddha Teas make consuming CBD easy with their new line of organic CBD tea bags, each containing five milligrams of CBD in water soluble form for instant relief. For supplement intake, Ananda Hemp offers softgels and tinctures. CBD By GoodBites is a company that makes luxurious raw CBD-infused edibles such as truffles.
When it comes to whole foods, not much is more American than maple. This year at Natural Products Expo West, dozens of companies were tapping into maple in unexpected ways. Emma Marvin from Butternut Mountain Farm, a maple sugar company in Vermont, sees three factors influencing the growing trend of maple: People’s awareness of sugar in general; the want of nutrients and not empty foods; and, of course, the taste! Ripple, for example, debuted a new maple-flavored dairy-free yogurt at the expo. Dozens of maple companies offered maple sugars, sweeteners, butters and vinegars. The Maple Guild spokesperson Brett Pinto said maple vinegar can be used in salad dressings and as a versatile cooking ingredient. Other companies used maple in totally original ways. Sap! Is making sparkling maple sap soda, while Asarasi is using reverse osmosis to filter out the three percent sugar in freshly tapped maple syrup (the other 97 percent is water) to create a completely clean new resource for water.
In the never ending search for the latest and greatest new superfood, chickpeas, specifically the green chickpea, seem to be having a moment. If you didn’t know, green chickpeas are simply young chickpeas and are said to have more nutrients than their older sisters. Vana Life Foods has a new line of grab-and-go green chickpea bowls, while Lightlife debuted new chickpea curry bowls. For more subtle consumption, Hippeas offers chip-like chickpea puffs, while Rule Breaker Snacks stole the show with delicious brownies and sweets made with chickpeas. Carina Ayden, the creator of EFFi Foods’ legume-based granola, said it is important to make everyday foods healthier in order to fight problems like obesity. Ayden explained that using low-sugar, high-fiber proteins like chickpeas in granola makes a person reach satiety sooner and keeps them full for a longer period of time.
Amanda Savage is a travel and lifestyle journalist and reporter, who focuses on environmentalism and conscious consumerism. She has worked as a television producer, content strategist and editor and writes for many local, regional and national publications.