I Coulda Used Some Wheels

Raising my son was a way of cataloguing all possible forms of sporting equipment.

As a parent, there’s no better way to bond with your child than through the world of sports. We participated in every endeavor possible: baseball, tennis, skiing, football, soccer, ice hockey, biking, you name it. David and I took in them all, hour after hour, day after day.

There was only one piece of equipment that always scared me, and that I finally opted out of – rollerblades. Much to David’s amusement, cruising the hills and paths of Central Park was a dangerous trip for me. I just couldn’t grasp it, couldn’t brake safely, so I gave it up.

After spending several grueling days at Expo West, I think I should have persevered.

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The trip through Anaheim would have been so much easier on wheels. Unless you were in attendance, you cannot comprehend how vast the show was, and how difficult it was to cover. We had over 180 beverage companies listed in our Show Guide, and each was to be visited over the allotted time. (Our partners in food at Project NOSH had hundreds and hundreds more. Instead of rollerblades, they could have used Vespas.) Still, excitement and energy pulsated through the halls. I’ve never seen so many new launches, revamps and line extensions in such a short time. As the world evolves to healthy, natural and organic, Expo West is the vehicle driving the industry.

It wasn’t always thus: while for some it’s hard to remember a beverage world without healthy, natural and organic beverages, that was the case for my first 15 years in the industry. I’m glad about the direction we’ve taken since then. While the old standards, CSDs in particular, will always be part of the spectrum, the new parameters are much better for overall health and for society in general. Congrats to everyone participating in this brave new world.

After limping through Expo West, I wanted to share a few trends I observed. First, the probiotic wave is coming in. It’s the new “hot” category, as HPP was over the past two years. Coconut waters, in many variations, remain as strong as ever; I actually think the new taste profiles are better, and more geared for the mainstream consumer. Dairy (and alt-dairy) offerings have revived and re-launched a category that has been the mainstay for health and nutrition all of my lifetime. I’m glad it’s cool again.

Boutique CSDs proliferate and are growing strongly. Functional beverages that are actually functional have returned credibility to that segment of the beverage landscape. Protein remains a key sector and comes in all delivery formats now.

Water and all its derivatives continue to drive business like no other beverage class. It’s the main staple in my drink profile, and the variations are endless. Taste, flavor and functionality abound as the consumer lives a good-for-you lifestyle.

Expo West is a microcosm of all that is good and good for you. Just let me skate through it next year.