Ahhhh, Natural Products Expo West. Where the kombucha flows like wine and health-nuts flock like the Salmon of Capistrano.
Some view this insanely jam-packed weekend as chaos at its finest. However, at Covet, we see it more as Oscar Weekend, where all of our most coveted foods, beverages, beauty products and more, are all dressed up for the big award show. Natural Products Expo West is where the who’s who of health and wellness brands all convene in one place, chugging cold brew, revealing new innovations, bouncing wild ideas around and putting faces to a year’s worth of emails and conference calls.
This year, we took the whole team up to Anaheim for the weekend to set up camp in our amazing lineup of client booths (and get some much needed R&R in the Suja Press Room). I think it is safe to say that we have finally recovered from our four-day hangover, following the biggest Expo West in history, and are just buzzing with excitement over the bubbling trends we noticed since last year’s Expo, all of the fun new brands in the health and wellness space that we tried, and the success of our incredible clients. Below is a recap of all the madness from the big show!
Greener than Ever:
Several brands are taking reduce, reuse and recycle to the next level with creative uses of ingredients that were likely previously thrown away. For example, Hawaiian Ola has taken coffee leaves – a potent source of antioxidants – and created a refreshing ready-to-drink tea, which also creates an added value to Hawaiian coffee farmer’s efforts. Meanwhile, dehydration is proving an effective technique to pack nutrients into foods while preserving.
Puppies & Babies:
It seems like both pet and baby food have begun to follow in the footsteps of our very own nutritional trends, incorporating more fresh ingredients into their products and using innovative new modes of processing and packaging to preserve the nutritional integrity of those fresh ingredients. Once Upon a Farm has put an HPP-spin on fresh fruits and veggies and infused healthy fats tailored to infants’ key nutritional phases, all packaged in neat little shelf-stable pouches that don’t sacrifice taste or quality. Meanwhile, The Honest Kitchen – who’s dehydrated pet foods have sparked a revolution among pet food manufacturers big and small – has disguised superfoods to look like pet kibble with its new Proper Toppers product launching in April, made only with chicken or turkey, blueberries, pumpkin and chard.
Functional ingredients have stepped out of the box and off the spice rack with unique ingredients like rosewater and saffron being infused in a beverage called H2Rose that claims beauty from within along with mood-enhancing and stress-relieving benefits. Royal jelly, found in Bruce Tea, was the Kung-Fu legend and brand namesake’s special ingredient in his tea (which was created by his daughter), and the queen bee’s pollen touts a plethora of health benefits.
Protein of the Future:
Protein has become more and more important, in light of the many intolerances to other food groups like grains, dairy and sugars. Much like Once Upon A Farm’s fresh baby food, Smashpack is the solution to every busy body’s chaotic schedule. Their BPA-free pouches are packed with real fruit and a healthy fat to give you a delicious, paleo-friendly, gluten-free, high protein snack while you’re on-the- go. And just when protein products couldn’t get more outside the box, we found Exo, who makes protein bars packed with a gluten-free flour alternative made solely out of crickets (yes the bug). Think they’re crazy? Cricket protein is catching like wildfire, and brands like Exo and Bitty -maker of cookies made with cricket flour – are just the tip of the insect-iceberg.
Bike Powered Energy:
Forget solar power, this weekend was powered by our two-wheeled roadside companions. Pitaya Plus & Stonyfield Organic both utilized stationary exercise bikes to power blenders to make smoothies-to-order with their delicious superfood packets and organic yogurts, respectively.
Beyoncé was one step ahead when she was drinkin’ that watermelon… our favorite summertime fruit has become one of the biggest trends in food and beverage we’ve seen this year, for it’s ultra-hydrating properties. Maple water top dog’s DRINKmaple used Expo West as a launching pad for their newest product, DRINKmelon. Unlike high pressure processed watermelon beverage brands like WTRMLN WTR and H2Melon, DRINKmelon is pasteurized and shelf-stable. Hot on the watermelon trend, sprouted snack brand GoRaw has soaked, sprouted and dehydrated watermelon seeds to create a powerful protein source on its own and in a bar.
Most Buzzed About Booths
Siete, an emerging tortilla brand, has used cassava and coconut flour for a delicious gluten-free tortilla that mimics the feel of a flour tortilla with an amped up taste. The brand’s breakfast tacos were the tastiest treat on the show floor.
Aside from having killer branding and top notch protein snacks to keep us going on hour 2783910 of the show, EPIC hosted Bone Broth Latte’s on Saturday morning that sparked a fan-crazed line longer than that of a Bieber concert.
Exclusively on Friday, NFL pros and Health Warrior investors and ambassadors Arian Foster, Glover Quin, and EJ Manuel were at the chia seed snack line’s booth to provide powerful nutrition and inspiration through superfoods. Visitors snapped selfies with the stars starting around noon, while checking out the brand’s all-new look and tasting the new Dark Chocolate Chia Bar (an office staple!)
What we were probably most excited and curious to check out was the Barnana booth. About a week before the big event, the potassium packed banana-snack purveyors announced their newest product: Gorilla Milk – a nutritionally dense milk from Western Lowland Gorillas. By purchasing Barnana Gorilla Milk you would be directly contributing to efforts to save and repopulate the wild habitat of the gorilla. Crazy amazing, right? We weren’t the only ones who thought so. After making the trek to Barnana’s post, we soon discovered that the hair-brained idea was nothing more than a publicity stunt. We don’t know what we felt more… totally stupid for buying into the gimmick heard round Expo, or hilariously entertained by the fact that everyone in attendance did too. Well done, Barnana. Well done, indeed.
Favorite New Products
Banza Chickpea Pasta – pasta can finally be enjoyed guilt-free. And don’t even get us started on their new Mac N’ Cheese….
Project 7 Gourmet Gummies – the brand that has brought joy to chewing gum fanatics nationwide launched their brand new line of gummies. With flavors such as Birthday Cake and Grapefruit Melon – it takes just one bear to be transported back to childhood nostalgia.
Ruby Rockets – when we thought we literally couldn’t eat one more thing, and were feeling the expected Expo-bloat from all the samples, Ruby Rockets came to the rescue with their 35-calorie Galaxy Green veggie popsicle, made only with kiwi, avocadoes, spinach, banana and green apples.
Pop & Bottle – not only did their almond milk taste insanely good, but we felt cool just holding one of their gorgeous bottles.
Covet Client Achievements
NEXTY Best in the West: Suja’s Raspberry Probiotic Water
NEXTY Best New Condiment: EPIC Duck Fat Cooking Oil
NEXTY Best New Pet Product: The Honest Kitchen’s Bone Broth