News highlights, market trends, and original data analysis related to the U.S. retail food & beverage industry … by Jay Nargundkar
One week ago, the Natural Products Expo West 2015 in Anaheim concluded. This blog’s prior coverage of last year’s east coast edition of the show provided background on the bi-annual mega-conference and its importance with regards to spotting emerging trends in the food and beverage industry. As big as Expo East is, the west coast edition is much larger, and this year’s Expo West was the biggest ever — featuring over 71,000 attendees (3x East 2014) and over 2,700 exhibitors (2x East 2014), a majority of whom are F&B companies.
The same trends that FBB previously spotlighted — such as healthier chips, protein expansion into new categories, trendy tea beverages — were evident at Expo West 2015, and more. This show seemed to have a much stronger representation by beverages in general, and a particular arms race in enhanced and alternate “waters”; squeezable spouted pouches featuring beverages or food for adults were everywhere; so were marketing claims centered around “superfoods” and a greater emphasis on spices (particularly cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric).
A handful of companies stood out as clear winners in terms of generating buzz at their booths. KIND Healthy Snacks, which has been dominating the snack bars market for the past couple years, had people talking at their gigantic booth with their launch of a new “popped” granola bar line. They also enjoyed a do-gooder halo from promoting founder Daniel Lubetzky’s upcoming book on socially responsible business, Do the Kind Thing, which seems sure to become a best-seller.
(It was noteworthy, too, that at the Expo, rival Clif Bar debuted an organic granola bar in a wrapper with a see-through window — an obvious KIND knock-off, a decade after the latter introduced it.)
A pair of companies struck gold with their humorous approaches — alternative meat purveyor Beyond Meat erected a faux-McDonald’s counter to serve their “chicken” strips, complete with uniformed employees, ketchup dispensers, and trash can based on the fast food giant’s iconic designs; meanwhile, Organic Valley continued with their recent satirical “Save the Bros” campaign to promote their line of new protein shakes, employing a platoon of stereotypical gym-rat, tank top-outfitted guys (and a few gals) to operate a “high striker” hammer strength game which they cajoled passers-by to play.
Finally, a couple of the highest-trafficked booths belong to Justin’s, who won the “Best of West” press award for their dark chocolate mini peanut butter cups, and vegan dairy specialist Daiya, whose massive encampment on the floor displayed an impressive array of cheese-substitute products while consistently fielding long lines of attendees wanting to sample them.