Thousands of familiar brands were joined by first-time exhibitors at Natural Products Expo West (NPEW) 2022, the leading trade show in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry. As in the past, trends emerged which can serve to inform strategies for brand developers, including stakeholders in the probiotics arena. Notably, one benefit materialized in the wake of the global pandemic: virtual programming offered for those who couldn’t attend in person. Though IPA representatives ventured into the cavernous halls to explore new products and ideas, the show’s sponsor’s spotlighted some of the most exciting new offerings in a video titled Navigating Expo: The hottest trends and products.
Amanda Hartt and Adrienne Smith of New Hope Network (Expo host), Scott Dicker of SPINS (a wellness-focused data technology company), and Ethan Soloviev of HowGood (product sustainability database company) presented the macro-trends deserving of attention. Notably, Scott Dicker reported that the health and wellness categories are driving 75% of the growth. The key to success is focusing on these segments, he said.
Challenges of the protracted pandemic have driven interest in products that may alleviate stress. One functional ingredient in this category that has experienced enormous growth is an adaptogen herb called ashwagandha. In addition, many new products are including elements that address brain health and sexual wellness.
This category continues to grow, making in-roads into performance nutrition and soda and beer segments. Growth in added probiotics to food and beverage products was reported. Of note, it appears that organic is now a baseline attribute with some products adding transparency (e.g. QR codes showing where is grown) and “doing good” (e.g. “buy one, give one”) to the list. And perhaps another offshoot from the pandemic (or aging consumer) is the growing number of brands targeting sleep problems.
Climate and sustainability
Food systems account for more than one-third of greenhouse gas emissions with farm production the most liable. Many products embraced innovative ways to reduce waste in product and packaging, use renewable energy, favor sustainable production, enhance agricultural commitment, and improve recycling methods. Sustainable packaging—our oceans and landfills are bursting—was a big concern that was evidenced by a new compostable diaper and other novel and much-needed solutions. Interestingly, Ethan Soloviev of HowGood suggested that carbon labeling could become as routine as calorie counts. New intelligence databases such as those offered by HowGood allow users to measure their ingredient or product’s impact to assist in strategic sustainability decision-making.
This year’s show found growth in veteran-owned (53% growth), woman-owned, minority-owned, and LGBT-owned businesses in attendance. Filipino banana ketchup, Vietnamese sourced coffee, and Thai tea illustrated the offerings from companies working to bring their rich cultures to market.
Growing well beyond the “eat your vegetables” mantra, this category has experienced explosive growth over the last decade. Increasing concerns over health, animal welfare, and climate change suggest that the trend will continue. And not just vegans are driving the demand. In particular, younger consumers are looking for substitutes for meat, chicken, and dairy. Plant-based fermented products like yogurt should see a growing market share.
Sustainable meat and dairy
Sustainability in areas like animal agriculture is driving pockets of growth. Fish jerky, wild boar sausage, and bison jerky all highlight this movement. In the yogurt section, consumers are seeing milk derived from pasture-grazed cows.
These are the trends gaining momentum among exhibitors at NPEW:
Eat more plants, multi-stakeholder (engaging in the triple bottom line (TBL)*, clean label, sugar-vilified, nutrition meets convenience, mission-driven commerce, diversifying ownership, waste reduction, sourcing responsibly, and plant-based ethics.
*TBL theory posits that instead of one bottom line (profits), there should be three: profit, people, and the planet.
Probiotic stakeholders would be wise to heed the trends that follow and drive consumer demand. You may be in the business of yogurt, kombucha, or kefir. Or perhaps your operating category is supplements. Whatever your sphere of influence, the message is clear. In the probiotic category, consumers are looking beyond taste and bacterial count. While these are still of primary importance, products that integrate forward-looking innovations will be the winners.