2009 Expo West: a surprisingly lively show


(Also includes photos from Supply Expo, co-located with Expo West)

Taking a strong posture against a weakening economy, natural beverage companies and their crunchy compatriots flexed with new products and a growing focus on healthy living during Natural Products Expo West earlier this month at the Anaheim, Calif. Convention Center.

It was a surprisingly lively show — attendees and exhibitors had been nervous about the possibility of weak attendance and downcast moods. But despite the absence of major announcements of capital infusion or company sales – a change from recent years — beverage companies, perhaps just happy to be surviving the tough times, put on a positive face..

“The money we got last year gave us the ability to grow,” said Eric Schnell, co-founder of Steaz, which took in financing last year from investment group Inventages. “This year is all about perfecting what we’ve got, making sure we’re the healthy alternative for any mainstream beverage product.”

Without extra money flying around to pursue new ventures, it was unsurprising to hear many optimistically-themed gerunds like “polishing,” “burnishing,” and “honing” from brand owners.

Nevertheless, new products were in evidence – even Steaz was showing off a new energy shot, right down the aisle from Guayaki, which has also recently launched a Yerba Mate based energy shot of its own, while across the busy aisle from both partners-in-crime was fellow fast-growing LOHAS brand Sambazon. The acai product marketer was trumpeting Jungle Love, a new, aphrodisiac-themed flanker SKU for its Amazon Energy drink.

Chasing the Runners
While that wedge of Fair Trade friends focused on energy introductions, other companies focused on improving their financial health by focusing their brands on consumer health. Several new and reformulated products seemed to be targeting a group of consumers who are intense about their amateur athletic pursuits, trying to make a functional play against a category long dominated by Gatorade.

Amid strong appeals to pre-and-post-work gym rats from brands like Owater, Clif Bar – which is trying to cross into the cooler by debuting a new, four-SKU sports drink line-and private-label innovation house Tandem Rain, Mix1 fitness drink founder Greg Stroh discussed the burgeoning weekend warrior focus as a contrast to that of Gatorade, which has long relied on celebrity athletes to promote its brand.

“We’re chasing the white collar athlete,” Stroh said. “I’d rather be where we are with a unique position than just be a sheep.”
To that end, momentum built behind all three leading brands of coconut water: Vita Coco showed off a re-sealable 500 ml package and a new flavor, Acai and Pomegranate. O.N.E. debuted four new flavors, Pineapple, Passion Fruit, Mango and Pink Guava, while Zico prepared to move its headquarters from New York to California while citing strong growth numbers, including seven new employees.

“We’re focusing on that intense amateur,” said Zico founder Mark Rampolla, who has found a growth channel in yoga studios and among triathlon enthusiasts. “We might tap professional athletes, our approach is validated by the professionals, but our growth comes when it’s practiced by the amateurs.”

Along those lines, a significant number of new products showed lower calorie profiles than in years past. Keeping things under 100 calories per bottle seemed to be the guideline for product manufacturers.

“There are a lot of people keeping things down to about 50 calories per serving or less,” said Adina CEO Greg Steltenpohl. “That seems to be the sweet spot.”

Herbal Magic
Also seeking amateur practitioners were companies introducing drinks that relied on a balance of herbs and fruits for flavor and effect. Adina was one of the companies drawing a crowd, as it showed off its new four-sku Holistics line, based loosely on the principals of Ayurvedic principals of balanced health.

Another herbal line came, surprisingly, from prune marketer Sunsweet, which debuted Herbal Waters, a 33 percent juice product laced with potentially beneficial ingredients like ashgawanda, lemongrass, and hibiscus. Sunsweet is using the 16 oz. glass-bottled drinks, filled in a company-owned bottling plant in Yuba City, Calif., to try to pursue distributors who are now without vitaminwater, according to category manager Stephanie Harralson. To that end, AMI brands’ Carpe Diem also took on a sponsorship role at the show.

Herbs were not the only miracle products for health seekers, of course, as the show saw the introduction of a number of new superfruit products. Long one of the leaders of the Acai movement, Bossa Nova introduced new slim, plastic bottles for all of its products, including its Superfruit line, while new 3-SKU Borojo Energy introduced attendees to borojo, a Central American superfruit that, according to founder Gregg Hollander, can offer the drinker an euphoric feeling, in addition to energy.

At Expo West, with so few exhibitors feeling the flush that can come from investors with open wallets, perhaps a little borojo-derived euphoria, as well as the chance to maintain the business, was all that one could ask for.

(Gallery also includes photos from Supply Expo, co-located with Expo West)

Also on display:

Skylar-Haley, sponsor of BevNET’s Expo West show coverage, was also busy promoting their newly launched achievONE Chocolate and Vanilla flavors along with their essn sparkling juice line and essn organic energy drink. AchievONE is a high protein nutritional drink with 15 grams of protein, 80 calories and 18 essential vitamins and healthy nutrients in 8.25oz tetrapaks. Skylar-Haley recently added Sparkling Mango and Passion Fruit to the essn line of 100 percent juice beverages.

•A new Tetra-Pak water Aqua Source from Canada.
•New biodegradable packing from Aquamantra using Enso Bottles.
•Ayala’s Herbal Water introduced a Lemon Verbena Geranium flavor and a label redesign.
•Balance Water, a new line of Australian flower essence waters in Mind, Women, Traveling and Children.
•Bradford Tonic, a line of all natural holistic tonics available in B-Tonic, B-Sorrel and B-Ginger.
•A pair of new Kombucha based flavors from Carpe Diem including Cranberry and Quince.
•EverNutrition’s 2oz Citrus Punch energy shot.
•Forte Energy shot, an all natural acai-based shot.
•FUBAR, an isotonic coconut water based sports drink.
•Gloji Mix (Goji and Paradise Apple) and Gloji Glow (Goji and Pomegranate) in proprietary 8.5oz glass bottles.
•New tea made from Graviola Tree leaves in the Amazon titled Graviola Life.
•H2Organics Moms, a two SKU nutrient enhanced water for pre and postnatal care.
•New Tetra-Pak packages from Hint.
•A pair of new yerba mate flavors from Honest Tea, Agave and Tropical Mate.
•Three new infused essence waters from Icio Water in flask bottles including Cucumber Lemongrass, Lemon Basil, and Peppermint.
•Ilanllyr Source’s new canned waters from Wales.
•Loose tea maker Ineeka’s foray into bottled beverages, Himalayan Green Tea Beer.
•Infinite Wellness has a Concord Acai flavor.
•A pair of white teas from Inko’s including White Tea Lemon and Unsweetened Original White Tea.
•Iron Horse Beverages now distributes Elite Naturel Organic Juices to 42 states.
•New Lime flavor from Izze.
•Jones’ GABA, a tea-juice and Gamma Amino Butyric Acid based focus and clarity wellness drink in four flavors including Fuji Apple, Lemon Honey Tea, Nectarine and Grapefruit.
•Made’s line-up of 16 oz. PET shelf-stable juice/milk hybrids, in four flavors: Strawberry Mojito, Strawberry Lemonade, Pomegranate Pineapple and Pineapple Mai Tai.
•A pair of fiber-infused smoothies from Mix1, including Dark Berry and Orange Carrot.
•O2Cool Oxygenated water from HiOSilver.
•New stevia-sweetened flavors from Odwalla.
•Four new flavors from Olade including Cranberry, Strawberry, Tropical and Pomegranate.
•Three new flavors (Hibiscus and Blackberry, Hibiscus and Pineapple, and Hibiscus and Vanilla) and new shelf-friendly packaging from Ooba.
•Oogave’s expanded line-up, which now include 6 flavors and a reformulated root beer.
•Orgain, an 11 oz. TetraPak meal replacement drink in two flavors, Creamy Chocolate Fudge and Sweet Vanilla Bean.
•Peace Water, new charity water that donates 30 percent of profits to a different organization each month.
•Phd’s three probiotic flavors in packets with 20 billion active cultures.
•New three SKU energy drink and six SKU energy shot line from PurBlu Beverages, Give Energy and Potion Herbal Remedy.
•In addition to Jungle Love, Sambazon introduced a diet version of Amazon Energy with 40 calories per 8 oz. serving.
•New packaging and an Unsweetened Chaga flavor from Sayan Health.
•Antioxidant Ionized Alkaline Water, Siana Water from South Korea.
•Smart Juices switch to Not From Concentrate.
•SPI West Port ALO’s Aloe Vera + Mangosteen + Mango flavor.
•Sunsteen mangosteen supplement, formerly in a larger container, is now in 8.3 oz bottles.
•New 16 oz. proprietary glass bottles from Sweet Leaf Tea, soon to be followed by PET.
•U Natural Hydration’s Cucumber Mint flavor.
•Veriteas, a 10 oz. low-calorie noncarbonated Oolong tea energy drink.
•Wellness Tonics, a four flavor enzyme rich raw foods brand in D-Tox, Pom-Berry, Superfoods and Chi Energy.
•Three new flavors from Wyman’s including Yumberry, Acai, and Pomegranate.

(Gallery also includes photos from Supply Expo, co-located with Expo West)