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Expo West 2018: Top Trends Beyond the Products

March 16, 2018

SRW Agency shares brand-building insights and opportunities from the show floor

CHICAGO, March 16, 2018 /PRNewswire/ —, an independent, full-service marketing agency with a penchant for growing natural health and wellness brands, today released its top brand trends from Natural Products Expo West 2018. This year’s event drew more than 3,500 exhibitors showcasing the latest natural, organic and healthy products. Also on display were the strategies brands are using today to propel these products into consumers’ hands tomorrow.

“Most attendees walking the floor at Expo West are excited to try what’s inside each new product package. We’re the ones fixated on the actual packaging, the brand’s story, how they’re engaging with consumers,” said SRW founder Kate Weidner. “We observed a few clear themes for how brands across all segments are successfully positioning and promoting themselves, and where they still have room to grow.”

Allies instead of adversaries – Natural food brands are beginning to band together. Brands that often vie for the same consumers are putting the competition aside to partner up on everything from shared booth space to giveaways and social media promotions. This camaraderie was a recipe for success at the show, helping brands stand out by standing together. One example: Simple Mills, the fastest-growing brand in natural baking mixes and crackers, partnered with Malk Organics and Chameleon Cold-Brew coffee to host a hopping milk and cookies happy hour.

Founders at the forefront – Founders continue to cultivate their own thought leadership platforms and are becoming, in many cases, separate entities from their brands. As Expo West continues to grow, so do the celebrity personas of many natural food brand founders. While these personalities continued to draw booth traffic, relative newcomers are establishing themselves as thought leaders in entrepreneurship, sustainability and other arenas outside natural products to reach more investors, consumers and partners.

Branding beyond the booth – As in years past, there was no shortage of innovative and eye-catching booth designs, marketing materials and swag. Where many brands still struggle is with weaving a cohesive story throughout all assets – from their booth and printed materials to digital and social properties. The most brilliantly conceived brand activation can fall flat if the messaging and aesthetic from the show floor is not mirrored on their website and social media pages.

On a mission for more – There was an increased focus on lofty – and important – goals like improving global health, sustainability and diversity. But much of the dialogue and action was at an individual brand level. Natural Products Expo convenes the greatest minds from the food industry and beyond, and it’s leaving brands wondering: how can we start harnessing our collective knowledge to work toward these goals, together?

Engaging the experts – As more natural products brands move from start-up to mainstream, they are also moving away from a “we can do it all ourselves” mentality with their marketing – and it shows. There was a flurry of quality content coming out of the Expo, particularly on social channels. Brands are seeing the power of social media and are no longer viewing community management as a task for an intern. Increasingly, they are partnering with content experts who understand how to use social channels to drive business growth.