Natural Products Expo West 2018
Brand & Business Insights
Our Uber driver said "Oh, you're going to the Natural Products Show? I've been driving people all day- I hear there are 85,000 people attending this year-that's as many people as the Super Bowl!".
We say this every year, but this seemed to be the tipping point of Expo West: new halls, new brands, new hopes, new dreams. Natural eating has gone mainstream, and CPG has gone natural- evident in the massive attendance. As market researchers, our antennae are always up, listening to cultural evidence of this in daily interactions. Knowing that I work on food trends, two middle-aged suburban men recently told me how much they like Beyond Meat, amazed by its semblance to a real meat experience. And recently at a St. Patrick's Day celebration I thought it was telling that the conversation centered around the benefits of quinoa, despite the bacon and bangers front and center on the table.
Times they are a- changin'.
(Photo from Chobani)
Good food can change lives - and that starts with good ingredients. There were endless examples of functional foods at the show - from jackfruit to dragon fruit, hemp to seaweed, collagen and veggies- turned chips.
The most successful companies transcend ingredient/product level stories, elevating the brand experience. Daiya continues to dazzle, reimagining an entire segment (dairy) and innovating to all of its possibilities-- from pizza to cheesecake, cheesy mac, yogurt, dressings and sauce. Today, Daiya already has 47 SKUS and is growing globally.
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Here are a few more brands that made us pause for thought in our whirlwind day on the show floor.
Chobani encouraged attendees to upload pics for real time engagement.
quest for authenticity took them to Oaxaca to create fresh-pressed corn tortillas with three ingredients: corn, water and lime.
Bodega Masienda was born.
It's amazing what a splash of color can do to wake up the fruit pop and jerky category. Enter Modern Pop and Soley Fruit Jerky.
And now, some inspirational closing words from Mary McDonald- a long-time colleague and friend of joyful plate who joined me at the show.
Feeding your Passion
Mary McDonald, M.Ed, H.C.
As a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at a suburban public school outside of Philadelphia, I came to Expo West to learn about the latest food trends and find healthy ideas to bring back to my students.
What I got was so much more.
I attended a few seminars, including the State of the Natural Industry and the Keynote Session with Jennifer Garner and John Foraker. During their presentation, I learned how their company, Once Upon a Farm, has a goal of providing tasty, nutritious organic food to children. But what inspired me most was their passion "to be a leading organic family food company that will fight for and support efforts to drive positive social change and food justice for the benefit of families."
I realized that Jennifer and John were more similar to me than different, even though she is an award-winning actress and he is an ultra-successful CEO. The goal for
Once Upon A Farm
is to provide nutritious, high quality food through purpose-driven brands, while my goal is to teach the students how to navigate the food choices to find nutritious, high quality foods. Same goal. Different approach.
Attending Expo West 2018 and listening to the excitement in Jennifer's voice, fed my passion to help the next generation learn more about the importance of eating well in today's complex world of food choices. Since returning from Expo West, I've decided to surround myself with Jennifers who will help propel me forward towards my goals.
Now, the question is what is your passion and how will you fuel it?
Mary McDonald is a Family and Consumer Science teacher at Central Bucks West High School in Doylestown, PA. She earned her undergraduate degree from University of Connecticut and a Masters of Education from Arcadia University. She is also a Certified Health Coach from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Mary is married and a mom of four daughters who runs marathons and practices Bikram yoga to stay sane.
If you would like to contact Mary, please email her at
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