It’s always tempting to zero in on the year’s hottest innovations or the latest go-to ingredients (Ube! Seaweed! Amaranth!). New products seem to come and go at a dizzying pace. And while we anxiously await the next iteration of adaptogenic powders and plant milks, it’s also important to recognize that these and other trends are reflections and manifestations of the much broader cultural forces that drive today’s natural products industry.
These larger forces are the “whys.” Lately, thanks to a heightened focus on farming, sourcing and diversification of the CPG industry, many of us are also taking a closer and well-deserved interest in the “whos.”
Far from flashes in the pan, these big-picture observations, outlooks, aspirations and trends—we haven’t found the perfect name yet—exist on a continuum. They emerge, they grow, they sometimes peter out, but most importantly, they evolve.
In our opinion, Natural Products Expo West offers a front-row seat to observe this evolution. Other vantage points include the NEXTY Awards program, the NEXT Trend Guidebook and coding of Expo West exhibitors and the many connections and relationships that the New Hope team has with brands, retailers and natural products stakeholders.
Here, our experts highlight five of the top 10 trends from Natural Products Expo East 2022 and predict how they’ll evolve throughout 2023.
What's next for these 2022 trends?
2022 TREND: Plant heroes
It’s no longer enough for products and brands to just be animal free; the plant-based heroes of today and tomorrow are those that are truly plant-forward, as well as transparent about nutrient density, sourcing, water use, carbon footprints, supply chains and so much more.
2023 EVOLUTION: CPG nurtures biodiversity
With biodiversity declining at an unprecedented rate, there’s no industry better positioned to be part of the solution than the natural products industry. A small fraction of the world’s plants currently enters the American diet and lifestyle, but we’re predicting more investments in regenerative and indigenous supply chains. The result: an uptick in solutions-focused ingredient innovation that supports global biodiversity and introduces myriad novel plants into the food, beauty and dietary supplement categories.
2022 TREND: Sustainable messaging
Brands are taking numerous measures to reduce their environmental footprints and transform their business models. The next step is communicating these efforts in a way that resonates with consumers and increases demand for climate-friendly products.
2023 EVOLUTION: Quantifiable impact
Messaging can go a long way in driving consumer demand for sustainable products, but authenticity and trust are critical for taking brand accountability to the next level. Looking forward, brands will need to rely on specific tools and resources to quantify their efforts and impact. This is particularly important in the natural investment space, where environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting is becoming a key requirement for brands seeking investment dollars.
We also predict greater transparency around environmental impacts in the meat and dairy alternatives space, where brands need to back up any impact claims if they want to gain consumer trust.
2022 TREND: Joy through empowerment
Happiness and love have become intrinsically linked with empowerment, a message embraced by a range of supplement and functional food and beverage companies that are delivering health results while establishing an emotional bond with their customers. Brands are using positioning such as “inner love,” “good vibes” and “radiant glow” to communicate the benefits of various products, help people feel in control and forge connections between positive feelings and related health benefits.
2023 EVOLUTION: Joyfulness abounds
In 2022, we reported on joy’s omnipresence in the natural and organic products industry; let us rejoice because that trend is here to stay. Whether tying joy to a product’s functional benefits or to its fun branding and delightful flavors, the natural products industry will continue quenching consumers’ quest for happiness with positive, proactive messaging. As this trend evolves, we expect that entire communities, such as the organic industry, will ditch the fear- or guilt-based positioning and go all in on the good stuff. “In the organic industry, we are really good at introducing ourselves by what we are not. We’ve underserved ourselves and especially our farmers who work hard to create biodiversity, nurture and manage their resources and create their farms in a way that is of value to society,” says Matt Dillon, former chief sustainability officer at Farmer Focus. (According to Dillon's LinkedIn profile, he left the company in January.)
2022 TREND: Road maps for supporting diversity
Although this speaks to more of a cultural shift than a trend, the industry has been examining the ways in which retailers and brands are making real commitments to serve diverse communities, and looking at how the CPG industry can work to elevate diverse-owned brands.
2023 EVOLUTION: Diversifying investments
The CPG industry, in general, has come a long way in terms of supporting diverse-owned brands, amplifying unique perspectives and placing culturally authentic products on store shelves. A particular source of inspiration has been the many ways that the community of diverse-owned brands has come together to support one another.
The next steps include focusing on convenience and accessibility as keys to the success of these brands, as well as greater integration throughout store shelves and broader availability across retail channels to make healthier, culturally authentic products more available to a wide range of audiences. Another critical point for future growth relies on developing models for investing in early stage BIPOC- and women-owned companies. These companies exemplify the diversity and innovation that are truly going to affect change in the CPG industry.
According to Mike Dovbish, executive director of Nutrition Capital Network, “Industry investors are anticipating that in the near future, women-led businesses will be the majority.”
2022 TREND: Foundations for wellness
The shift toward supporting mental and foundational wellness is a reflection of modern-day concerns about stress, sleep, anxiety, depression, focus, energy, etc., and the impact they are having on both our physical and mental well-being.
2023 EVOLUTION: Wellness transcends the label
Natural products have long been positioned as alternative solutions for optimizing physical and emotional well-being. Today, companies are doubling down on mind-body commitments by differentiating through science and walking the wellness talk by adopting comprehensive corporate initiatives. We predict that research-backed wellness formulations—addressing everything from mood to mental acuity—will take center stage in dietary supplements and functional foods and beverages. Behind the scenes, companies across food, beverage, beauty and supplement categories will continue developing employee- and community-based initiatives focused on mental well-being to back their brand and product promise. CPGs and retailers are not only investing in products that support wellness but are also launching robust corporate and community initiatives.
To hear more about these predictions and 2022 trends in review, tune in to Podcast: What's next in trends for 2023.
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