Alter Eco coconut clusters

East Meets West: A SPINS Trendspotter’s Guide to NEXTY Finalists, Winners, and Other Hot Products

By Jessica Hochman


Going into Natural Products Expo West 2018, New Hope announced 72 finalists in 22 categories for its prestigious NEXTY awards. Here we explore a few key categories, revisiting products we know we love (including a few of our top tastes from Expo East 2017), plus the products we can’t wait to try in Anaheim this week.


Best New Sweet Snack

As more and more consumers eschew sugar, it’s all the more exciting to see the innovations that come from the Natural and Specialty Products Industries, delivering sweet flavors in ways today’s consumers want to consume them.

Snacking chocolate has been on our radar for a while, and it’s clearly going strong. We loved Taza’s Dark Bark back at the Sweets & Snacks Expo in 2017 (mentioned in our 2017 Snacking Trends report ). Alter Eco’s Coconut Clusters are nominated for the NEXTY now, and we loved them at Expo East 2017, too, along with Theo’s Chocolate Clusters.









Still chocolate but offering a unique and different kind of indulgence, Honey Mama’s Paleo-friendly, raw nectar bars impressed us early last year. (Read more of what we loved about them in the 2017 Winter Fancy Food Show recap.)











Sejoyia’s Coco-Thins are a contender, too, covering the popular thins trend and hot ingredients like cashews (one of our ingredient spotlights in our 2017 Trend Predictions), cassava (rising since Winter Fancy Food Show 2017), and beloved coconut. We look forward to giving these a try.

But we can’t overlook the powerful allure of other non-chocolate clean candy: with sugar-free lollipops and low-sugar gummy bears – both with fiber! – Koochikoo and Smart Sweets might be onto something in a challenged category.

KEY TRENDS: better-for-you indulgences, natural alternative sweeteners, snacking thins, sugar + fiber

Best New Special Diet Food

We’ve always got our eye on alternative flours, grains, and grain-free formulations. Taste Republic’s plantain linguini looks like a grain-free must-try. (Though not nominated here, Barnana’s plantain chips made from the same starchy fruit are on our list to try, too!)

A Certified Women Owned business, Base Culture’s baked goods are also Certified Paleo, positioned for success with a growing group of consumers avoiding grains. We’ll try Birch Benders frozen Paleo waffles, too: we loved the delicious execution of breakfast classics, reimagined as grain-free, in Soozy’s muffins and Kitchfix’s frozen waffles at Expo East!

Wildway Smoothie Bowl Starter Mixes include probiotics and collagen peptides, along with adaptogenic ashwagandha, maca, and reishi mushroom. However you feel about the functionality of the smoothie bowl trend, this product marries convenience with several of the hot ingredients we picked for our 2018 Trend Predictions.

KEY TRENDS: adaptogens, alternative flours + grains, collagen, grain-free, plantains

Best New Condiment

No slight to the other nominees, but we’ve been watching fermented hot sauces for a while and loving these product launches. Wildbrine’s double-fermented, probiotic kimchi hot sauce condiment was at the top of our list after Expo West 2017, and its Smokey Jalapeno Sriracha flavor was a NEXTY finalist at Expo East a few months later. We’re looking forward to giving this year’s NEXTY finalist Picaflor Live Culture a shake.

KEY TRENDS: fermented foods, probiotics














Best New Beverage

New Hope’s roundup here hits on several strong trends we’ve seen growing over the last few years: activated charcoal and unfiltered apple cider vinegar in Vermont Village’s Daily Detox, grass-fed milk protein and turmeric in Iconic protein drinks, and a more recently emerging trend in Picnik butter coffees.

Following popular Bulletproof and Know Brainer brands into the butter-coffee space, Picnik impressed us at Expo East, offering similar functional benefit claims (without Ketogenic claims) in an accessible, colorful, playful package with familiar flavors. Cappuccino is the least sweet of the three, but maple-syrup-sweetened Dirty Chai and Mocha Latte may help broaden the appeal of butter coffee to new consumers. Front-label claims include 10 grams of protein plus a mention of the MCT oil and grass-fed butter within.

KEY TRENDS: butter coffee, grass-fed milk, MCT oil, protein, turmeric

Best New Natural Living Product

Passing on plastic was another key trend prediction for 2018 at SPINS, with Bee’s Wrap’s reusable food wraps as one of our featured innovations. We love the look of Repurpose’s compostable straws, too, and both NEXTY finalists here are right on trend!

Two other plastic-fighting brands caught our eye at Expo East 2017: Poof Diapers 3.0 took home the NEXTY for Best Mission-Based Product for its biodegradable answer to the debate over disposable or cloth diapers, and WooBamboo!’s Eco-Awesome biodegradable silk floss in a renewable plant-based plastic package was a finalist for Best New Packaging Innovation.

KEY TRENDS: biodegradable and compostable packaging and products, renewable resources, passing on plastic

Best New Organic Beverage

We were impressed with the adaptogenic mushroom tea blends from Choice Organic Teas back at the Winter Fancy Food Show in 2017, and they’re still a staff favorite at SPINS. Reishi Detox gets the NEXTY finalist nod for Expo West 2018, but other varieties like Reishi Matcha and Shiitake Mate are worth a visit to the brand’s booth, too!

Organicgirl’s Clear Greens Waters and Teas are green in more than just the color of their romaine-lettuce base: they’re another value-added vehicle for the brand with greens that might not make it into a salad clamshell for cosmetic reasons. Waste reduction was another key theme in our 2018 Trend Predictions, and we look forward to tasting these organic drinks from a company with a strong sustainability ethos and a distribution scale to make a big difference.

While it’s not the first blue beverage we’ve seen – Daily Greens’ Jicama-Blue Majik was one SPINS taster’s favorite juice of Expo East 2017 – the innovative use of blue spirulina in Remedy Organics’ Blue Oxidants drink certainly grabs the eye. Add to that adaptogenic ingredients like ashwagandha and maca, Ayurvedic-inspired botanical blends, organic plant-based protein, and probiotics, and these drinks show strong potential for success with the natural and self-care-focused consumer in 2018.

KEY TRENDS: adaptogens, algae/spirulina, Ayurveda, reducing food waste

Other NEXTY Favorites from Expo East 2017

If you missed these products in Baltimore, catch up with these brands to taste some of our trendspotters’ top picks in Anaheim!

SOUND Sparkling Tea clinched the NEXTY award for Best Organic Beverage, and our tasters can toast to that. The unsweetened line features five varieties, each with a different type of tea and complementary accents for curated flavor profiles that still taste clean and simple. Chamomile includes elderflower, yarrow, lavender, and vanilla, while Rose Tea takes a hint of hibiscus, lime, and cardamom. Yerba Mate, Green Tea, and White Tea versions bring their own distinct flavor combinations, too.










No Evil Foods continues to raise the bar for plant-based meat alternatives with its new Pit Boss Pulled “Pork” and Plant Meat Jerky. Masterfully seasoned in small batches, the succulent textures of these plants benefit from combining vital wheat gluten with chickpea flour. Winner of the NEXTY award for Best New Packaging Innovation, this brand’s 100%  compostable cartons also share quick facts on the positive environmental impact of choosing plant-based proteins.



Which trends are you watching for this week at Expo West? Tell us in person! Catch up with our team in the SPINS booth (#552), or email us to set up an meeting at [email protected] and [email protected]. You can also tweet us at @SPINSllc!