As Natural Products Expo East begins its last day in Baltimore, trends have already begun to emerge thanks to our editorial group at NewHope360 and assistance from the Sterling-Rice Group, based in Boulder, Colo. Over the past few days we've toured hundreds of booths, asked countless questions and gained invaluable insight into the inner workings of the natural foods industry.
Next week on NewHope360.com, we'll be unveiling our favorite products and video interviews with industry experts. Here's a sneak peak of three things I've noticed so far.
"Latest and greatest" is overrated.
A majority of the products and brands at Expo East have been available for some time in stores. As a journalist, even though I'm tasked with bringing the latest to the forefront, I found that asking, "What makes your brand unique?" instead of "What's your latest launch?" was more beneficial for revealing the underlying trends in the natural space—and not just the fads.
Gluten free is huge. But is it healthy?
This year, it feels like in every aisle there's a gluten-free company. But on the Twitter #expoeast conversation, several gluten-free bloggers and consumers commented that many of the offerings were high in sugar or sodium. The perfect should never be the enemy of the good, but if you're trying to appeal to the natural consumer, it's probably a good idea to ensure your formulation is healthy.
Convenient foods are still in demand.
Several companies I talked to mentioned that they've continued to launch products and experience great growth in the past year. Phew. One of those product categories includes convenience foods. In particular, two single-serving chocolates caught my eye: NibMor and Raw Foods both have single-serving dark chocolates that are delicious and vegan.