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Expo West: Top trends in supplements and personal care

Expo West is a little like herding cats. With so many products, events and meetings, it’s tough to round up and direct it all toward a sensible, singular conclusion, ultimately answering: What did it all mean? Still, I try in vain. Here are a few major trends in supplements and personal care—my beats at the show.

Kid-specific products. Items in fun packages or with kid-friendly delivery systems dominated the show floor. I saw Eco-Lips’ lip balms infused with Honest Tea Kids flavors (Tropical Tango Punch, anyone?), Aura Cacia bath products decked out with playful animals, Nordic Naturals’ colorful omega-3 gummy worms, tangy liquid multivitamins, mini-probiotics and more—all targeted toward the younger set. Some of the kids’ products don’t change a thing from the adult formulations except perhaps suggested doses.

Organic standards for personal care. A new organic certification (NSF/ANSI 305) and two organic partnerships (Natural Products AssociationNaTrue and Quality Assurance InternationalNaTrue) were announced at the show. Label confusion will continue in the short run. In the long run, Curt Valva, general manager for Aubrey Organics who has helped develop various organic standards for PC, said that five levels of organic PC will likely result: USDA Organic for 100 percent certified organic products; USDA “made with" organic for “made with” organic products; NSF/ANSI 305 for other “made with” organic products; and NPA for “natural” products.

Eco-packaging. According to Susan Collins, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute, 44 percent of greenhouse emissions in the world come from product packaging. “In other words, it’s our stuff,” Collins said. To reduce the negative impact, more and more products are being made with earth-friendly packaging. Rainbow Light introduced its Eco-Guard 100 percent PCR supplement bottles. Nature’s Gate has 50 percent PCR packaging.

Transparency. Several companies launched tools to help consumers take a peek behind the label. Gaia Herbs’ “Meet Your Herbs” website and iPhone application will allow consumers to plug in a product number and get details on what’s inside. Aura Cacia has an Aromatherapy App that helps consumers explore the effects of essential oils. As shoppers demand product and company transparency, look for the introduction of more of these services from other companies.

Supplement categories to watch: antioxidants, omega-3s (alone and in combination with other omegas like omega-5, -7 and -9) and caffeine-free energy in a multitude of delivery formats. Oh, and herbal combinations. Pam Tarlow, integrative pharmacist for the Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy that was featured in the Expo West Retail Store Tour, said that single herbs are usually studied, but combinations offer better results. “Single herbs don’t do well in studies, but combinations do well in people,” Tarlow said.

Personal care categories to watch: anti-aging (hint: boomers spend $2.3 trillion annually on goods and services), mineral makeup and oral care.

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