Top Takeaways from SPINS’ Expo West Webinar Recap

Plant-based protein, dairy’s efforts to regain relevance, and the continued ascent of CBD and hemp were a few of the major trends to emerge from Natural Products Expo West 2019, according to a show recap presented yesterday by market research group SPINS.

In a webinar held yesterday, SPINS senior manager of natural insights and innovation research Jessica Hochman, director of natural insights Brent Coons and Jake Knepper, data product manager of product intelligence, broke down the most prominent ingredients, flavors and diet trends from Expo West 2019.

CBD and Hemp Take Over CPG

CPG is experiencing a rare event as CBD and hemp products flood the market despite risks and limitations associated with the ingredient, Coons stated, calling the category “crowded, chaotic and competitive.” CBD was prevalent in products across categories at Expo West, from functional beverages and foods to supplements, skin care and topicals.

Several brands like Weller and Sun Soil have integrated CBD into all product lines, though Coons warned that manufacturers should tread carefully when choosing to add it to all their products, as this could de-value it as a functional ingredient.

The volume of hemp products showcased at Expo West indicates a “market revival” according to Coons, highlighting products like Humming Hemp’s Hummingbar and Ananda Food’s hemp flour made from upcycled seeds, along with Lumen’s Hemp Elixir.

Keto Gains Momentum

Of the current popular lifestyle diets, keto has emerged as the one with the most impact on CPG, partially because it’s not as strict as others on eliminating ingredients like artificial sweeteners.

Coons noted that two segments have emerged within keto products: keto indulgence and everyday lifestyle. For the former, he pointed to ice cream products from Mammoth Creameries and Killer Creamery as promising entries in a “post-Halo Top world,” while also noting Koia’s keto protein drink as an indulgent beverage option with flavors like cake batter. Liviva’s edamame pasta was a stand out for the everyday lifestyle food segment.

Plant-based Meats Prove Their Worth

According to Knepper, the concerns which previously plagued plant-based meats, like unappealing flavor and inadequate nutrition, now appear to be a thing of the past. Plant-based brands on display at Expo West, he noted, were positioning their products to attract both plant-based consumers and meat eaters.

Offering high protein and low saturated fat, products such as Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef — made from peas, mung beans and rice — are challenging traditional ground beef. Lightlife and Sweet Earth also showcased protein-packed plant-based meat innovations at this year’s Expo West, while other standouts included Upton’s Naturals Jerky Bites made with seitan, Mother Raw’s plant-powered Ranch Dip and Hakuna Banana’s oat based frozen dessert.

Dairy Stages a Comeback

While acknowledging stagnation in the dairy category, Knepper noted that this year dairy brands have looked to new innovations to compete with the increasing popularity of plant-based milks. Organic Valley and Horizon Organic both showcased protein-enhanced milks, with the latter brand positioning its product as a protein beverage rather than traditional dairy milk.

Alexandre Family Farms, Pavel’s Russian-style yogurt and Annabella’s water buffalo yogurt all took advantage of the appeal of dairy products containing only the A2 protein, the more easily digestible protein found in milk, to appeal to lactose intolerant consumers.

Brands Reduce Waste

Several companies at Expo West introduced innovations aimed at reducing food waste. Salute Sante showcased its grapeseed flour, which makes use of grape seeds which have been pressed for oil after the grapes are pressed for wine. Kochman predicted this flour could be seen in products like cookies and crackers in the future.

Barukas uses the whole baru nuts in its new trail mix, mixing the dried and shaved fruit around the nut into the snack, while Spudsy utilizes upscaled sweet potatoes in its puffs. On the beverage side, date seed coffee maker MediDate uses the usually discarded date seed for its cold brew.

Hops Cross Categories

While hops have solely lived in the beer industry in the past, they are now being integrated not only into non-alcoholic beverages but food as well. In the beverage space, H2OPs showcased a hops-flavored sparkling water, and Hoplark HopTea, winner of the New Beverage Showdown 16 at BevNET Live Winter 2018, showed off its sparkling black, chamomile, green and white tea varieties. In the food space, Alvarado St. Bakery’s Hemp & Hops Bread was a standout. Hops are also being utilized in natural supplements such as Sun God Medicinals for its functional benefits including sleep support.

Better-For-You Sweets and Sweeteners Emerge

Several alternative sweeteners were on the scene at Expo West, including Birch Benders’ monk-fruit sweetened Magic Syrup. Dates were also a solid trend, appearing in sauces and sweeteners from Joolies, Just Date Syrup and The Date Lady. Several brands also showcased craft honey products with international flavors, such as Rare Hawaiian Honey Company and Bee Seasonal.

Better-for-you indulgence was a strong trend, Kochman noted, especially with products highlighting their fiber content. Gutsii’s chocolate bars with prebiotic fiber, Frill’s date-sweetened frozen smoothies and Peekaboo’s organic ice cream incorporating vegetables like beets, carrots and cauliflower were all products offering healthier sweet treat options.