After a two-year hiatus that left an Anaheim-sized hole in our hearts, Expo West returned better and buzzier than ever. (Though that may have just been our microbiomes after sampling 30 different probiotics in a day.) And while many of the macro-themes were a continuation of what we’ve seen in the past (plant-based meats! Functional beverages! Mushrooms!), there were some trends that stood out to us due to their sheer popularity, or as subtle riffs on existing trends. Here’s what we bet will be sticking around:
Mushroom Everything: From REBBL’s Reishi Chocolate blend, to crispy, salty mushroom chips, the fungus was certainly among us. We saw reishi, chaga, cordyceps, and lion’s mane permeate pretty much every category, from beverages, to snacks, sauces, and supplements. We even saw a few grow-your-own mushroom kits.
Brain-boosting Nootropics: In a similar vein, foods, drinks, and supplements that support cognitive health popped up repeatedly, likely due to consumer demand for more energy and focus for a post-Covid world. Where immunity support became huge in 2020, brands who can support brain health and natural energy will win big with people who are ready to go about their lives with a renewed sense of vigor and clarity in 2022.
The Need for Seed: From Toodaloo’s seed-studded adaptogenic trail mix to tahini bars made from sesame seeds, we saw brands using seeds to deliver both nutrients and crunch in new and interesting ways. Another rising star on the show floor was the sachi inchi seed. Brands like Brass Roots were sampling sachi inchi seed butters, seeds, and puffs.
Fermentation with Flavor: Foods that support both gut health and immunity took on more flavorful forms at Expo, with a surplus of kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and pickled vegetables, and they tended to lead with bold flavor messaging over health claims. We even saw brands like Manda Fermentation display their signature Wellness Superfood sachets, each containing 53 ingredients, fermented over the course of 3 years for the ultimate microbiome boost. Lest we forget the rise of fermented dairy like Good Culture’s new lactose-free cottage cheese. Which brings us to our next trend…
Hip Hydration: Brands like Liquid Death and Gen-Z Water created palpable excitement around their booths, and it wasn’t uncommon to scan the busy walkways and see that most people were toting around one of the canned waters in hand. While these brands have cultivated a persona that makes you feel just a little bit cooler with one of their waters in hand, we also saw an incredible amount of hydration packets from both new and existing brands, like Cure and Recess, that were all about portable hydration your way.
Brands Adopt Regenerative Agriculture: In years’ past, regenerative agriculture has felt like a bit of a buzzword touted by a select handful of brands including Teton Waters Ranch and Alter Eco. In the midst of the global climate crisis that’s infiltrated our daily lives over the past few years, we’re seeing more brands across the board adopt more responsible agriculture practices. From drinks (Chiki Chiki Boom Boom), to olives (Big Picture Foods), regenerative agriculture is here to stay and more important than ever.
Plant-Based Seafood goes Mainstream (): While there’s no shortage of plant-based meat alternatives, brands have really honed their recipes to create plant-based seafood that mimics the taste and texture of the real deal. Examples include Good Catch’s fish sticks, Mind Blown’s plant-based scallops, and Sophie’s Kitchen shrimp, to name a few.
The Rising Tide of Seaweed & Algae: The rise of seaweed and algae has been a slow one, but this year, both finally hit the literal and metaphorical main stage. With a surplus of nutritional benefits along with climate-friendly attributes, dried seaweed has been a long time favorite, but we saw it play out as a staple in krauts, kimchis and salads this year. We even saw… wait for it… kelp cubes! Because your morning smoothie could use a burst of sea-based superpowers.
Comfort Foods, Reimagined: Finally, we saw a big uptick in brands delivering on consumer demand for comfort foods with a healthy spin during the pandemic. Wicked Kitchen debuted their new plant-based ice creams using Lupin beans for Protein. Catalina Crunch sampled better-for-you cereals that resembled childhood favorites like Golden Grahams. Caulipower was even sampling their chicken tenders (“REAL chicken, not plant-based!”, they exclaimed to samplers) coated with rice flour and cauliflower. And, in a personally very exciting development, Wilde was sampling deliciously salty chicken chips that are high in protein.
Celeb Stars: The paparazzi would have had a field day at this expo. Our crew spotted Gal Gadot, Jennifer Garner, Tabitha Brown, Dylan Barbour, Jason Momoa, and even Double Dare’s Mark Somers making the rounds. While celebs investing in health food brands is nothing new, it’s interesting to see so many showing up to support their partnerships in person.
Jumpsuits: Everyone was wearing them!
Did you attend Expo West? If so, are there other trends that stuck out to you? If you couldn’t make it, which of the trends listed above excite you the most?
MOREJune 24, 2018
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