It’s one of the biggest shows in the food & beverage industry and last week almost 90,000 people arrived in California for Natural Products Expo West.
The biggest trend from the show was CBD-infused products. Although there are more regulatory hurdles ahead, the passage of the Farm Bill has helped provide more clarity for hemp and CBD products. As bigger food manufacturers keep an eye on the trend before leaping in, smaller brands are getting a head start in the market. Primarily in beverages currently, expect to see this trend move deeper into snacks in the coming years.
With Paleo and Keto being two of the biggest diet trends that seem to be sticking around, it was natural for snack brands to jump on board with products targeted to these consumers. Both diets are similar in that they focus on nutrient-rich foods with a focus on high fat and low carbs. Branding on packaging is now highlighting keto and paleo friendly ingredients and tapping into this growing market.
Due to high fat diets like Keto, healthy fats have officially made a comeback too. Coconut oil, full fat dairy and nut butters are appearing all over snacks.
Consumers are becoming more informed on plant-based and what that means for the environment and the growth here continues to explode. The snack market is finding more ways to innovate in this space and offer more grab-and-go options, especially with puffed plant-based snacks.
Alternative dairy continues to be a big trend too, with oat milk this year’s darling. Oat milk is nut-free, dairy-free and gluten-free, checking most of the allergen-free boxes. The texture of the milk is creamier than most of its competitors with more protein than nut milks and more fiber than any other milk.
With a mild flavor that can be seasoned in a variety of different ways, cauliflower is becoming an integral ingredient in the plant-based trend. It’s replacing more traditional ingredients in pizza, pasta and other grain-based foods as a healthier option.
Functional food continues its rise in the snack industry with consumers more willing to pay extra for the nutritional benefits they’re realizing they need. Collagen was the big ingredients at this year’s show, evolving from supplements and beverages into snacks.
Medical studies show that a healthy gut is the foundation of overall wellness, and more than ever before, consumers are seeking foods that support their healthy immune systems too. From prebiotic fiber to microbiome products beyond food and beverage, the connection between your gut and overall health was reflected at the show.
Beyond a dried snack, kelp and seaweed have evolved into featured ingredients in salsas, butters and noodles. These sea proteins are celebrated as a key nutrient-dense food that is highly sustainable. With major umami taste, they also include naturally occurring sea salt as well as a variety of other beneficial minerals.
Many brands are looking to operate with greater sourcing intention. More transparency into where the ingredients are coming from and insight into how the company is run. Mission-based companies are also becoming the norm in the snack space with these brands using their products to promote causes they care about.
The natural industry has always paid attention to the ingredients in food and beverages. Now that same care is also being directed to the packaging these products come in. With single-use plastic seeing negative feedback, reusable and compostable packaging is gaining more traction. Always tricky with snacks and their shelf life, expect to see more innovation in this category as demand increases.
It was very clear at Expo West that brands have heard consumers’ request for more snacks without sugar loud and clear. Almost every food and drink manufacturer is prioritizing cutting sugar or finding alternative sweeteners. Monk fruit was a big ingredient this year with the natural sweetener adding sweetness to snacks while also serving the desire for healthier options.