Natural Products Expo West Review

As expected, Natural Products Expo West 2019, held in March at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, Calif., did not disappoint as a showcase for innovations and trends. From CBD to collagen to brain function to plant-based, beverage brands aimed to disrupt major categories with a bevy of new product launches.

Among the most buzzed about trends at Expo West 2019 was CBD. The hemp-based functional ingredient reared its head at the 2018 edition of the show, but as the hemp category grows following the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD products were well represented across categories at this year’s event. Startups like Oki and Cann placed a focus on CBD-infused products, while established brands including Reed’s and Vita Coco previewed new line extensions. Weller, a CBD-infused snack company, debuted its first beverage with a line of sparkling waters containing 25 mg of CBD. The ingredient was also a popular choice for shots – a space which saw an increased presence at the show in its own right – with companies including Hempi, Sol-ti, California Juice Co., Lumen, Navitas, and 4Pure launching CBD and hemp products.

But CBD wasn’t the only functional ingredient trend on the rise at Expo West. Collagen – an animal-sourced protein purported to reduce skin aging, build muscle, burn fat, and aid in gut health – was a prominent feature in RTD beverages. Long a popular ingredient for powdered drinks, brands including Pop & Bottle, Coco Luxe, JUS By Julie, and Picnik released new SKUs featuring collagen.

Vital Proteins, which produces powdered collagen mixes, launched its first foray into RTD with Collagen Water and Collagen Shots. The functional waters are available in Blackberry Hibiscus, Blueberry Mint, Lemon Ginger, Original, and Strawberry Lemon varieties. Each 12 oz. bottle contains 10 g of bovine-sourced collagen and 60 calories or less, depending on the SKU.

The company also launched a line of collagen shots, available in five varieties, each with 7 g of collagen peptides per 2 oz. bottle.

Though still a niche space, brands also showed a rising interest in drinks with brain-boosting ingredients, including nootropics and MCT oil. Vitamin-infused coffee maker VitaCup launched its first foray into RTD products with a line of coffee-based shots, including a version of its MCT-infused Genius blend, which will contain 120 mg of caffeine with turmeric and B vitamins. “Super Coffee” maker Kitu Life unveiled a line of “Super Espressos” in 6 oz cans, made with 5 g of protein, zero sugar, and MCTs. As well, Picnik added new additions to its creamer line and Bulletproof, an early trendsetter in the space, added a caramel flavor to its RTD coffee line.

Startup Brainiac showed a line of drinkable yogurts positioned as “brain food for kids.” The brand makes use of natural ingredients intended to aid mental function, such as Omega-3s DHA and ALA and Choline.

Plant-based milks have been a rising category for a number of years, but at Expo West 2019 oat milk was the standout innovation in terms of dairy alternatives, as brands including Quaker Oats, HP Hood, Silk, Califia Farms, Happy Planet, MALK, Elmhurst Milked, Rise Brewing Co., and Mooala all showcased their respective takes on the trend on the show floor.

“Plant milk, and oat specifically, is really an attractive category because of the fact that it delivers on the things people are looking for,” Kyle Marancos, director of marketing for Happy Planet, told BevNET. “They’re looking for a great tasting product, they’re looking for something for their health, and they’re looking for something to take care of the planet.”

But Expo West wasn’t only about functional innovations. New twists on the sparkling water category were prevalent on the show floor, from botanical and tea blends to offbeat flavor profiles. Several companies have introduced new sparkling water lines, including Sound, which produces a line of sparkling teas in 12 oz. glass bottles, which debuted a new canned line of tea-infused sparkling waters. Szent, which sells unflavored water with scented rims around the bottle cap in order to create flavor sensations, sampled a sparkling line that is still in development.

Waterloo and Big Swig unveiled new flavors for their pre-existing sparkling water lines, while Seasons Sparkling unveiled a rebrand – pivoting from a botanical soda to a “botanical water.” Petal, another sparkling botanical drink, added several new flavors as well.