Twice a year, once on the East Coast and once on the West, it’s Natural Products Expo time, an enormous trade show for “natural” products with thousands of booths representing thousands more products. The wares range from organic items (think lots of chips and dips and convenience food) to health/beauty products to straight-up supplements and everything “natural” in between, including the enormous and still growing business infrastructure that feeds the multi-billion dollar industry.
ExpoEast 2013 in Baltimore just wrapped up and here’s our take on the way the trend winds are blowing for 2014 and beyond. For our picks for the coolest products in the show, look for our separate post (with videos).
Among the thousands and thousands of products, here are five trends to keep an eye on.
Non-GMO labeling is certainly on a roll. Labeling was far more prominent than ever, as manufacturers and reps actively pointed out that they have been Non-GMO Verified. Clearly, this is in response to consumer demand as people everywhere begin to wake up and question whether what they are eating is ok. More than ever people are learning that we don’t really know about the long term implications of genetically modifying what we eat and want food producers to divulge what’s in their products. We did overhear a not-so-happy exchange between someone at the Non-GMO Project booth and a food industry person but heck, we should have debate in the open!
Coconut persists with a vengeance, and is spreading beyond oils, showing up in more and more products, including as coconut sugar, and taking coconut water to new highs with the goal of having the freshest, most pure and most raw water out there (except, of course, from an actual fresh coconut). It tastes nice and makes skin happy too.
Gluten-free products were so prominent it almost seems that suddenly gluten intolerance is a pandemic (and that people who cannot tolerate gluten mostly want snack and convenience foods). We’re happy to see food vendors serving this growing market but would also like to see everyone eat less processed food, with or without gluten.
Vegetarian and vegan products continue to expand, with dairy-free becoming more and more prominent, including unexpectedly delicious plant-based cheese and ice cream. Chia seemed to be getting hotter too. A few vendors, seemingly apologetic that their products contained animal products noted they were gluten-free as if that were a reasonable substitute. Weird.
Juices and green smoothies and all-things-Detox are clearly having their moment. As people become more and more concerned about what seems to be our increasingly toxic world, these products hold the hope of purity. If we can’t avoid the toxins, might as well try some ex post facto relief. We’re not quite sure a frozen green smoothie on a stick will do it but it sure beats a lot of other treats in the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Of course, there was way more — drinks infused with healing herbs (turmeric and moringa were especially well represented), Ayurvedic products, including skincare based upon one’s dosha (there are three: Vatta, Pitta and Kapha — do you know which you are?), remedies for all that ails us (which apparently includes aging), a solid showing of pet food brands seeking to capitalize on our love of pets, and a zillion and one types of chips and chocolate. For a society that keeps talking about simple, there sure is lots of stuff to buy!
Next up? Our take on the Coolest Expo East Products:
- Cibaderm Health and Beauty
- DF Mavens Dairy Free Ice Cream
- Tree of Life Vegan Cheese
- Functional Formularies Liquid Nutrition
- SheaRadiance Beauty Products (Empowering Women).