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Published Veröffentlicht 26/03/2024

Trendspotting at Natural Products Expo West 2024

There’s the Super Bowl, the Oscars… and then there’s Natural Products Expo West. 

This yearly, three-day show in March in Anaheim, California, sees more than 70,000 food enthusiasts, health advocates and eco-conscious consumers, covering 512,000 square feet, to learn about the latest and greatest innovations in the realm of natural and sustainable products. I attended on behalf of Allison’s Consumer Brands practice, to see 1) how many steps I could take in two days covering the enormous Anaheim Convention Center, 2) how many samples I could fit in my bag at the end of each day and 3) what are the emerging themes from this year’s show.

Global flavors take center stage

From Asia to India, international flavors were seen in everything from canned beverages to frozen entrees. O’s Bubble from Taiwan has a line of colorfully canned Lychee Oolong and Aloe Vera Jelly Popping Boba. Suji’s Korean Cuisine had a whole line up of plant-based dumplings flavored with kimchi, Thai sweet chili and other exciting flavors. Truly Indian offered vegan simmer sauces and ready to eat meal pouches featuring flavors like curried chickpeas and spiced lentils.

Nutty alternative milk

From soy to coconut to oat, consumers are well-versed in the alt-milk options for their morning lattes. But some nut milks emerged this year that might overtake the almighty almond. Fomilk, which uses desert-grown pistachios and rain-fed hazelnuts to make a variety of milks, promises to be more sustainable due to lower water use than other kinds of milk. I found both nut milks very creamy, not chalky and subtly flavored. Milkadamia is made from raw macadamia nuts and has a line of milk, pre-mixed café latte and milk tea. I also saw a brand called Maizly that makes milk from corn.

Championing imperfection through the rise of ugly food

An estimated 20% of produce or more gets thrown away due to cosmetic reasons like blemishes, weird shapes and odd colors – which don’t impact the taste of the produce at all. There were so many companies that touted the use of “ugly food” as the source of their products, certainly a creative way to embrace imperfection and reduce food waste. The Ugly Company proudly messages “hello I’m ugly” on the front of all its packages of dried fruit, which includes whole cherries, mango and peaches. Uglies Kettle Chips name says it all, and its Buffalo Ranch flavor really packs a punch. Upcycling in foods is an emerging practice for natural products – Seven Sundays, uses upcycled oat protein in several of its cereals.  

Next-gen plant-based meat

We all know plant-based meat is better for the environment, and we’ve certainly come a long way from the two leading brands that have been the darlings of the category. From plant-based hot dogs to mock meats with strikingly authentic flavors, the evolution of plant-based protein options continues to highlight a paradigm shift in the way we approach meat consumption. Unlimeat, made from upcycled plants (see, more upcycling!) runs the gamut from jerky to tuna to Korean BBQ bulgogi. Daring, which makes plant-based chicken (for chicken lovers), comes close to capturing the mouthfeel and flavor of chicken. And for those vegetarians/vegans who yearn for the opportunity to enjoy a convenient lunchable-style snack, Mighty Yum comes to the rescue with single-use snack boxes called “munchables” made with 100% plant-based pepperoni and ham and cheese.

Are pickles the next trending flavor?

I might argue pickles have never NOT been popular. However, 2024 might be when we reach “peak pickle.” Suckerpunch pickles offer single serve pickle pouch snacks, perfect for on-the-go snacking. It also has a 2-ounce pickle juice shot, which I learned is popular with athletes because the salt and vinegar can reduce the duration of exercise-induced muscle cramps while also rehydrating the body. But I digress… we’re talking about snacks! Boulder Canyon has collaborated with Grillo’s Pickles on a limited-edition kettle style potato chip in a classic dill pickle flavor. Bubbie’s Fine Foods already has an extensive line of pickled items, including both sweet and savory pickles and sauerkraut, and this year it announced it’s not the first company to bring fermented pickle chips to market.

Wendi Shapiro is the general manager of the Los Angeles office of Allison, and a senior leader in the Consumer Brands practice. She’s been plant-based for more than 20 years and is passionate about using natural products… and pickles.

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