After two years of COVID pandemic-related isolation in the food industry, Expo West is back in person this year with a vengeance!
Nearly 3,000 companies are exhibiting here in Anaheim, California, a few blocks away from Disneyland. And this year, the ‘Disneyland’-vibe is stronger than ever. It’s celebratory and exciting to have industry leaders from across the “better-for-you” space all collecting in one place again. Anthony Flynn, CEO and Founder of YouBar, the Los Angeles-based co-packer behind many of the most innovative brands at Expo West, says:
“The atmosphere this year is electric. For the last few years, brands’ inability to see other people taste their products in-person and just go, ‘WOW!’, was missed. It’s incredible to be back!”
While everyone is thrilled to be back – including now-‘staple’ health food brands like La Croix (because sugar sucks!) and Happy Egg (because protein continues to be king) – here are the top three most revolutionary trends that are stealing the limelight at Expo West 2022.
The pandemic made everyone lonely, depressed, and stressed – and natural foods came to the rescue! “We were stressed out even before the pandemic hit,” explains Flynn, “Now it’s even worse, and consumers are eager to do something about it with their diets.” The hottest trend at Expo West this year is inarguably health products infused with superfoods meant to make consumers feel better, from Ashwagandha and Lions’ Mane to L-Theanine and Green Tea Extract. Indeed, sales of ashwagandha have increased by an eye-popping 162% in the last 12 months, and at Expo West, it’s being featured in everything from coffees and cakes to brownies and bars. By the same token, all sorts of nootropics – ingredients marketed as improving focus and mood like L-Theanine, Green Tea Extract, and Coffee Fruit Extract – are also everywhere. For examples, look no further than hot emerging brands like Free Rain and U Calming.
Diversity in Entrepreneurs
The entrepreneurs behind the hottest CPG brands are changing fast, and this couldn’t be more clear than in the aisles of Expo West. There are more brands than ever before being spearheaded by women and people of color. Some retailers and Venture Capital firms are even prioritizing giving shelf space – and hefty investments – to companies with diverse leadership. Flynn expands, “Over the past several years, we’ve seen incredible growth in women and minority-owned businesses in the cutting-edge food space. These businesses are typically on the cutting-edge of being mission-driven, clean label, and forward-thinking.”
Plant-Based Ethics and Companies that “Do Good”
Plant-based eating has been a booming health trend for several years, and now the benefits of eschewing the carbon-negative impacts of eating animals are dovetailing with the nutritional benefits of eating more veggies and causing a “mega-trend”. The evidence for this at Expo West is obvious in the form of everything from innovative plant-based meat replacements to nutrition bars infused with proteins coming from exotic ingredients like algae. “While ‘being vegan’ is still pretty niche,” says Flynn, “The number of consumers who are prioritizing plant-based ingredients in their diets is growing astronomically.”
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