My. Feet. Hurt.  Over 19 hours and countless miles walking Expo West.  My fourth visit to the Natural Products Expo and it feels like this one was bigger than ever. While we’re putting together a more detailed summary of what we saw, tasted and were inspired by, I thought you’d appreciate a glimpse at four macro trends that we observed.  We walked the show with no agenda other than to see what there was to see.  No client sent us or subsidized the trip.  While we saw a majority of the booths we didn’t see every one of them, so I welcome hearing your observations and reflections through your own unique lens.

Here we go…

Sip your way to health the way great-grandma did. 

Michael Pollan popularized the concept of judging food by whether your grandma would recognize it as food or not.  I believe we’re stepping a little further back in time to how great-grandma did it.  On the rise are gut-health related tonics, elixirs, and broths.  These fall into two categories right now: fermented drinks and bone broth.  Pickle juice, kimchi juice and cider vinegar are but a few of the shots we tried. All promise to put health back in the gut and improve your digestion and overall well being. Bone broth is also offering it up in the same way.  Dig out your Fannie Farmer cookbooks to see what other concoctions might become a hot trend next year.

Pickle juice, kimchi juice and cider vinegar are but a few of the shots we tried.

Pickle juice, kimchi juice and cider vinegar are but a few of the shots we tried.

bone broth, it’s part of the “snout to tail” movement

bone broth, it’s part of the “snout to tail” movement

Minimize the eco-footprint required to make food.

Speaking of bone broth, it’s part of the “snout to tail” movement that’s utilizing every part of an animal, not just the prime cuts of meat.  We also saw skincare products being made with the tallow from these animals.  Less waste is good.  And on that note, let’s talk about how delicious bugs can be.

Is that silence I hear “crickets” from the audience?  Yes, crickets are gaining a foothold.  Much more sustainable, requiring a lot less energy and resources per pound of protein, insects are gaining some traction.  We saw bars, salty chips and baking flour made up of the “slow roasted” cricket.  I’m intrigued by what can happen when this gets to scale and we have a new, inexpensive protein source to feed the world.

None of the cricket-based products that I tried tasted like cricket. Whatever that tastes like. It didn't taste like chicken either. :)
None of the cricket-based products that I tried tasted like cricket. Whatever that tastes like. It didn't taste like chicken either. :)

Sugar is truly the new big bad.

Well, not really ‘new’, this has been on the rise for a few years.  What we saw were more products sweetened with Stevia.  I can’t recall how many bars, beverages and powders touted their Stevia street cred.  And if you are averse to Stevia, then you can still find plenty of agave and organic cane sugar rather than the refined white demon.

On this anti-sugar bandwagon, I noticed some new “tree water” players and was intrigued enough to ask about their point of difference.  Turns out, according to them, that maple water is lower in sugar than coconut water but with all the same great hydration properties.  And birch water has even less natural sugar than maple water.  I think water water still has them all beat but that might be too simplistic a solution in our functionally focused world.

Birch water from Sapp - has the lowest sugar for tree waters, compared to maple and coconut. Or so I'm told.
Birch water from Sapp - has the lowest sugar for tree waters, compared to maple and coconut. Or so I'm told.

If everything has “superfoods” in it are we losing the meaning?

More than we saw Stevia, we saw the word “superfood” – you name the superfood, its been blended or baked into some sort of chip or bar or protein drink or other magic concoction.  Superfoods are wonderful, great source of antioxidants and essential nutrients.  We need them and we’ve been eating too few of them the past 50 years or so.  And while many of the products at this show aren’t completely “mainstream America” (whatever that is these days), all the major food companies and retailers were running around the show.  So will they start getting superfoods into their products?  Hooray if they do, but how do you market the idea of “superfoods” in a meaningful way if its in everything?

Just one of the booths with products containing "superfoods". It was everywhere.
Just one of the booths with products containing "superfoods". It was everywhere.

More to come later in the week. We met some amazing entrepreneurs and saw some really innovative and intriguing products.  In the meantime, google Matcha.  And let me know what you saw if you attended the show.  Email us at hello@ignite-360.com

-Rob