a blurred view of a tradeshow floor and the expo east logo to reflect the show recap article

Expo East 2021 Recap: 6 Trends at Natural Products Expo and the Brands Behind Them

image of Scott Dicker, data analyst for SPINS

As SPINS' Marketing Data Analyst and Trade Show Insider, Scott covers the latest trends and insights within the Health and Wellness Industry. 

After going virtual in 2020, Expo East returned to an in-person experience in Philadelphia this year. Even though we were all wearing masks and practicing safety precautions, it felt like old times. Brands of all sizes presented their latest innovation and surprised us as we went from booth to booth. We saw today's top performers staying strong, emerging trends poised to shake up store aisles, unexpected creations in body care and home goods, and heard from retailers and brands how they’re navigating the unusual times we’re in. The 3 days of Expo East felt like a year’s worth of information.

In case you didn’t get a chance to attend (in person or virtually) or if you want to relive the experience, here’s what we saw at Expo East:

Report: The State of Natural 2021

1. The Natural Market Is Strong and Will Get Stronger

Kathryn Peters, SVP of Business Development, joined New Hope SVP and Market Leader Carlotta Mast and Whipstitch Capital managing partner Nick McCoy to kick off Expo East for The State of Natural keynote. The presenters looked at how natural didn’t just survive the pandemic but thrived across the store. Peters pointed out that momentum is on the natural and organic industry’s side and has been outpacing growth expectations. The industry is set to surpass $300 billion by 2023, proving that this is no longer a niche industry.

McCoy explained how social and environmental issues are top priorities for customers concerned about the environment and social matters. If natural brands and retailers want to earn loyalty and longevity so they can continue to grow, they need to meet these expectations starting today. Watch the full presentation and download the deck.

2. Shoppers Care About Immunity

Of the many ways the pandemic affected consumer behavior, a focus on immunity is one of the most prevalent. Since the earliest days of lockdown, we saw shoppers grab immunity-boosting vitamins, supplements, and functional ingredients. At Expo East, we saw everything from gummies to snacks to beverages boasting their focus on immunity.

In a post-show wrap-up, New Hope’s Christine Kapperman echoed the sentiment. She noted brands like Urbl offer shots of adaptogens and nootropics that are convenient ways to get important daily doses without needing pills. That’s also evident in the prevalence of vitamin sprays and roll-ons that are diversifying what you see in vitamins and supplements.

a brand image of immunity boosting shot bottles

3. Non-Alcoholic Beverages Get Traction

According to SPINS Product Intelligence, the non-alcohol department is up 18% year-over-year. As we walked the show floor it became apparent that brands understand this is an overlooked audience that has plenty of opportunities to grow.

In addition to non-alcoholic beverages that remain in high demand, like sparkling water, performance beverages, and ready-to-drink coffee with functional ingredients, we saw items designed to go on your bar. Ritual Zero Proof offers tequilas, rums, whiskey, and gin that is entirely free of alcohol. Similarly, Gruvi has an alcohol-free prosecco alternative for when you want to enjoy some bubbles.

Non-alcoholic options open up a new audience for people who are missing out on certain social activities. Whether someone never drinks alcohol, is avoiding it for the night, or is pregnant and just wants to enjoy a cocktail, these alcohol-free items are meeting growing demand.

brand product image of non-alcoholic whiskey alternative
brand product image of an alcohol-free prosecco alternative

4. Herbs and Botanicals Have Major Buzz

The SPINS team was joined in the booth by strategic partner ClearCut Analytics, whose experts noticed how prevalent herbs and botanicals were in new products.

"The Herbs and Botanicals category is one of the cornerstones of the natural products industry, but it’s far from old news! We saw plenty of innovative and new products at Expo East,” says Gina Roberts, Customer Success Manager at ClearCut.

For example, Goli offered samples of their newest gummies within the green superfoods and ashwagandha subcategories.

brand product image of ashgwandha gummies reflecting the growth in herbal ingredients

Based on ClearCut's eCommerce data, Goli's ashwagandha gummies are already taking off on Amazon. While its gummy products just appeared on the marketplace in April 2021, they have already captured 20% of the subcategory's sales and continue to gain popularity. In addition, ClearCut spotted turmeric all over the Expo floor, both as a trending main ingredient and as an added ingredient within complexes.

5. Shoppers Want Transparency

Throughout the show, we saw products promoting a wide range of attributes like plant-based, allergen friendly, and keto items. Many of those products also emphasized their connection to local farms, emphasized their sustainable packaging, or provided biographical information about the people behind their business.

Shoppers care about transparency into the groceries, body care, pet care, and home goods they buy and are looking for non-dietary information at the store. For example, Alexandre Farms proudly displays information about their regenerative dairy items to appeal to environmentally minded shoppers. Smart brands and retailers are already putting the message front and center so shoppers can easily find it and we expect to see that become even more common in the future.

6. Trends Are Overlapping

Shoppers don’t view their lifestyle, dietary, and ethical needs as competing with each other, and we saw many products that reflect this intersection. Someone on the keto diet or avoiding artificial sweeteners won’t abandon those dietary needs just because they find a product that looks great and has immunity-boosting ingredients.

The transparency we mentioned above comes into play here, too, because organic production and sustainable business practices remain an underlying requirement for many shoppers, but then they’re going to keep looking for the product attributes. Shoppers want it all and many brands are eager to meet those expectations.

Expo East offered a peek at the hottest trends in today’s natural market and gave us a peek at what’s coming. No matter which brands or retailers we spoke to we heard the same message that we see in our data: the natural shopper is committed and not going anywhere.

For even more insight from Expo East, watch our daily recaps:

Day 1: adaptogens, super mushrooms, and non-alcoholic beverages

The first day of Expo East was off to a great start where we saw trends like adaptogens, super mushrooms, and non-alcoholic beverages sweeping the floor. Here I've highlighted products to watch for; from functional and immune-boosting beverages to body care supplements.

Day 2: What retailers are focusing on

SPINS' VP of Retail Channel Development, Brandon Casteel joins me to discuss how retailers are focused on catering to the conscious consumer, from the ingredients to the packaging. We also highlight products driving the plant-based dairy category and the increase in coffee-flavored products.

Day 3: The Power of Plant-Based

SPINS Chief Technology Officer, Sasha Dzeletovic, joins me to discuss our big takeaways from Expo East after wrapping up the show, such as the importance of an omnichannel strategy, and the continuing trend of global flavors and plant-based. 

In addition to the presentations we mentioned, you can also to check out these on-demand presentations from Expo East featuring SPINS experts: Yes Retail is Still Relevant! Why a Dual DTC & Retail Channel Strategy Works Best and Organic at Retail: Trends & Insights


The State of Natural 2021

In the State of Natural 2021 report, we look at a year of exclusive SPINS data to understand what’s happening in our industry. Shoppers are still in the shadow of the pandemic but they’re also moving toward the future with a strengthened focus on health and well-being—from their diets to their makeup to their pet food. In the State of Natural, you’ll learn why:

  • World Flavors Find a New Audience
  • Nootropics Deserve Attention
  • Shoppers Are On a Mission
  • Mushrooms Are Magical
  • Snacks That Satisfy Any Diet
  • Natural Cosmetics Defy the Odds
  • Pet Parents Put Their Money Where Their Hearts Are
  • Ready to Drink Cocktails Go With Everything
  • Clean Label Is Taking Over Beverages

Ready to see what other insights SPINS has to offer? We'd love to help you get started.