By Lauren Trieschmann
Last month, our team traveled to Southern California to attend Natural Products Expo West, a five-day event showcasing the latest and greatest in natural food and beverage products. This year’s event saw over 65,000 attendees and more than 3,000 exhibitors from all around the world. If I had to guess how many samples we consumed, it’s probably somewhere close to the 100 mark.
After a marathon of snacking, sipping, and chatting with exhibitors, here are a few of the trends that stood out:
1. Mushrooms are having a moment.
Mushrooms, while delicious, are certainly not a new or trendy food. But at this year’s Expo West, we saw mushrooms being used in new and innovative ways we’d never seen before. This included mushroom “jerky,” mushroom chips, mushroom-infused beverages, and even a vegan sea scallop alternative – you guessed it – made from mushroom. Research shows that these fungi have a host of health benefits, from promoting gut health to reducing the risk of certain types of cancer. While some were hits and others were misses for our team, we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this trend in the coming months.
2. Imitation chicken is here and better than ever.
Following closely behind the wave of big-name meat alternatives like Impossible and Beyond Meat, faux chicken has been having its moment for some time now. That being said, we were surprised by how many different brands specializing in these products were in attendance at Expo West, and the variety of offerings – from fried to grilled to curried, and everywhere in between. As a non-meat-eater, I was excited to try out a few of the new-to-market brands and see how they compared to my favorite Better Chew “chicken” sandwich from Bay Area vegan restaurant, Malibu’s Burgers. The verdict: some were down-right delicious while others were quite bland and lackluster.
3. N/A is here to stay.
Mocktails and non-alcoholic beverages have been gaining steady momentum over the last few years, and if Expo West is any indication, this trend hasn’t slowed down a bit. We tasted a bevy of options at the event (pun intended) and saw many brands opting for complex flavor profiles and unique ingredients. Offerings included Mocktail Club, which uses bold ingredients like cardamom, ginger, lemongrass, and pear shrub in its canned concoctions and Medase Mocktails, a line of hemp-infused drinks in classic cocktail flavors like Moscow mule and margarita. Many non-alcoholic drink brands also appear to be stepping up their game with thoughtfully designed, eye-catching packaging that stands out on the shelf.
4. Seaweed takes on (many) new forms.
Seaweed is known to be rich in vitamins in minerals, and many of us enjoy it regularly in the form of dried seaweed sheets or as an ingredient in sushi. It’s also a sustainable snack option, considering it’s a zero-input crop that requires no freshwater, fertilizer, or dry land to grow. We tasted a slew of seaweed products at Expo West and saw it being used in ways we’d never imagined. Sea Monsters, for instance, makes puffed seaweed and sorghum snacks in flavors like cheese pizza, sweet chili, and vegan ranch, while Kelpie Chips offers its crunchy bites in both savory (zesty pizza) and sweet (apple cinnamon) variations. Seaweed also showed up in sauces, seasonings, and fermented forms at the event.
Interested in getting the word out about your natural food brand? Reach out to our team for more information.