8 Emerging Trends We Saw on the Show Floor
Each fall, Expo East brings together the best of the natural industry: pioneering brands, innovative products, trend-setting retailers, and top suppliers. This year was no different. After a successful return to an in-person event in 2021, this year’s show was bigger and proved that Expo East is back in full force as fall’s must-attend event. Last week, 1,267 vendors and thousands of attendees filled the Philadelphia Convention Center to get a close-up look at the natural products and trends shaping the Health and Wellness industry.
Every day at Expo East was filled with an exciting event, from visiting vendor booths to joining education sessions and attending events with the industry’s top leaders. Before doors even opened, we attended two exciting events:
Gear Hugger Wins Natural Products Expo East Pitch Slam
The night before Expo East kicked off, SPINS joined a panel of judges at the Natural Products Expo East Pitch Slam in partnership with Naturally Network. Representatives from emerging brands throughout the U.S. had the opportunity to showcase their story and win prizes that will help transform their business. This year’s winner was Gear Hugger, a multipurpose household lubricant that works for repairs around the house or on outdoor adventures. Founder Checo Diaz gave an impressive pitch that highlighted how important creating a plant-based, non-toxic product was to him and why it’s unlike anything else on the market. SPINS was proud to award Gear Hugger a data package worth $15,000 so they can continue to grow strategically.
The Natural Industry Is Growing and Evolving
Kathryn Peters, SPINS’ EVP of Strategic Initiatives, joined New Hope Network’s SVP Carlotta Mast and Whipstitch Capital’s Managing Partner Nick McCoy to deliver The State of Natural & Organic keynote. In this packed session, the presenters discussed the natural industry’s performance as shoppers adapt to life 2 years after the pandemic’s start and amid inflation concerns. They also delved into the consumer and product trends driving growth, from sustainability to inclusiveness to lifestyle shifts.
Once we got to the show floor, we hit every booth and spotted some trends you’ll be seeing more in the coming year:
Sleep and Mood Aids On the Rise
The last couple of years have added stress to everyday routines that were already hectic enough. The vitamin and supplements aisles were filled with options that went beyond the usual A, B, C and D and instead offered ingredient combinations that promised to help you unwind at the end of the day, get a good night’s sleep, or just help control your daily stress levels. Som Sleep offers ready-to-drink sleep aides that rely solely on the right mix of functional ingredients and avoids gluten, dairy, allergens, GMOs, and CBD.
According to SPINS data, sales for calmative and mood support supplements have grown 28.7% over the 52 Weeks Ending September 4, 2022, in Conventional and Natural Enhanced channels, while sleep supplements saw 3.7% growth.
Hydration for Everyone
Replenishing electrolytes after a workout is still a top priority for some performance nutrition products, but many brands are focusing on hydration for everyday, all-day consumption. Some established sports beverage and supplements brands—as well as emerging hydration brands—are offering drinks, powders, and tablets with lower potassium and sodium content that bodies can efficiently absorb. These are hydration options you can enjoy the benefits of while sipping throughout your workday. More performance-focused products are meant to hydrate quickly but are not effective ways to take in these ingredients during more sedentary parts of the day.
This interest in hydration is not surprising, as we’ve seen hydration and electrolytes grow 122.9% in the VMS subcategory. Liquid ready-to-drink options are an emerging form that has seen 291% sales growth compared to the more popular powder form, which still saw 118.5% growth.
Zero Alcohol Gains Momentum
Alcohol-free beverage options are expanding beyond standard beer alternatives and sparkling ciders in lieu of champagne. Brands like Ritual are offering ready-to-drink cocktails (mocktails), mixers, and liquors that look, smell, and taste like the real deal. Even their packaging has the same attention to design that makes zero-proof liquor look at home on the bar shelf or in hand at a party. Brands are positioning these products not just as alternatives for non-drinkers. Some brands are now including functional ingredients that give a nutritional boost. They are appealing to anyone who’s enjoying a “dry” month, on a cleanse, or just isn’t in the mood for a drink but wants to partake in the social ritual without having to drink water all night.
Plant-based in International Cuisine
Plant-based has been expanding beyond the burger and tofu options that consumers have known for years, but this year’s Expo East boasted an array of new options popping up throughout the store. For example, we tried classic sauces, side dishes, and entrees in international cuisines such as Indian, Mexican, and Mediterranean. They had rich flavors and an assortment to choose from that made it clear plant-based manufacturers are offering quality options in every cuisine, so shoppers don’t have to compromise to enjoy their favorite dishes.
Sustainability Takes Priority
Brands have been preaching the importance of better-for-the-planet products for a while, but this year they’ve put it front and center. We saw brands whose core message and branding are about their sustainability practices—from sourcing ingredients to manufacturing process to charitable commitments. Uglies, for example, uses “imperfect” potatoes that don’t have shelf appeal and would otherwise go unnoticed (and unpurchased) in stores. Today’s shoppers don’t want to give up on their commitment to natural foods, the planet, and their taste buds. This focus on sustainability aligns with the tremendous growth we’ve seen in Certified Upcycled products, which are up 81.8%.
Functional Ingredients in Every Aisle
You could walk down any aisle in Expo and find a product with functional ingredients: coffee, candy, baby food, breads, froze desserts, plant-based proteins, and body care. Plus, there were many functional ingredients being sold as the key ingredient for snacks, such as chips and jerky derived from monk fruit or dates (which were also being packaged as their own snacks both raw and covered in chocolate). Not all of these brands were claiming to be low-fat or sugar-free products, but rather they were proving that any food—even decadent ones—can provide additional health benefits.
Creative Coffee Options
Anyone who needs their morning cup of coffee to get going will be thrilled at the variety of natural options they can choose from. We saw classic, natural coffee formulas in the form of grounds and also ready-to-drink options. But we also noticed an uptick in innovative alternatives, such as mushroom coffee blends (which have a classic taste with additional health benefits) or FigBrew’s fig coffee (for shoppers who love the coffee ritual but don’t enjoy some of the side effects). These manufacturers understand that shoppers love--and need--their daily cup of coffee but they also need options that fit into their wellness goals and dietary needs.
Natural candy options have been steadily growing over the years, and this year manufacturers are enhancing their product lineups with additional health benefits. For example, Yumy Candy offers plant-based gummies that are vegan, low in sugar, naturally sweetened, high in fiber, and free from major allergens. Plus, ice cream alternatives (oat and soy) have replicated the flavor and texture of virtually every classic treat you can want, including popsicles, sandwiches, cones, and pints. Sample after sample proved that nutritious and flavorful desserts are no longer a rarity.