Monitor: Values, sourcing and convenience still paint the trend picture at Natural Products Expo East 2021

Natural Products Expo East 2021 will be the biggest gathering of the industry since the coronavirus pandemic emerged, but however different the show might feel, expect to see product trends that were going strong long before anybody had heard of COVID-19.

Rick Polito, Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

September 16, 2021

3 Min Read

Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, Sept. 16, 2021

As the world emerges, haltingly and unevenly, from lockdown, new challenges emerge. In this feature, New Hope Network provides an ongoing update on those challenges and the opportunities they hold. Look for the Industry Health Monitor every other Friday to learn the major news that is affecting the natural products market immediately and the less obvious insights that could dictate where the market may struggle or thrive in the months to come.

When the lights come up on the show floor at Natural Products Expo East in Philadelphia next week, the attendees will be masked but the trends that drive the industry and create opportunities for brands and retailers alike will be on full display.

And from New Hope Network’s analysis of products that exhibitors will be sharing, it is increasingly clear that the pandemic may have changed the experience of the show, but it hasn’t slowed innovation for brands. The analysis reveals these major trends for attendees to keep their eyes on as they visit Expo, on the floor or in the virtual experience:




These are brands that are setting goals that go beyond profit margins to reduce negative impact on people, animals and the planet. The companies may not have been formed to address poverty, hunger or environmental problems but those targets have been written into the business plans.

Nutrition Meet Convenience

These are products that aren’t just easy to prepare or consume; they also include a nutritional benefit that goes beyond natural or organic. That can take the form of functional foods, “foodified” supplements and layering medicinal herbs and mushrooms into snacks and other quick-eats products.

Sourcing Responsibly

More brands want to be able to tell their consumers that they are delivering higher quality ingredients with lower impact sourcing. Telling that story requires transparency and innovation.

Allergens & Intolerances

Food allergies and intolerances have forced CPG companies to adapt production and ingredients to suit growing populations of consumers with very specific and urgent needs. Look for companies with deeper quivers of products free of gluten, allergens and other ingredients that can trigger digestive and immune responses.

Time-honored Heritage Ingredients

Consumers have grown cautious of hybridized seeds and crops that have been over-designed to meet shelf stability and production requirements. Brands are responding by bringing back ancestral varieties of wheat and other commodities that pre-date industrial agriculture.

Flavor Adventuring

Unexpected spices and flavorings are rising to meet more adventurous palates and fusions of international cuisines promise endless combinations.  

Novel Alts

Decades ago, soy milk was considered new but in the modern natural products industry an anything-can-be-anything wave of innovation has arrived with chickpeas, coconut, lentils and other unexpected ingredients appearing in pastas, breads, non-dairy dairy products and skin care.

Plant Proteins

Newcomers keep arriving in the plant protein space. Expect exhibitors to offer new ingredients in new formats to meet a demand for non-animal protein that shows no signs of abating.

Waste Reduction

Brands want to be able to show consumers that they are not only reducing food waste and eliminating unnecessary packaging; they are also “upcycling” ingredients that were once thrown away.

For a deep dive into how the trends will manifest at Natural Products Expo East 2021, purchase the NEXT Trend 2021 Guidebook, which identifies exhibiting brands according to the trends they position against.


Consumer behavior indexes measure dramatic shifts in consumer behaviors as we march through the pandemic that is compared to a 2017 “normal” benchmark before COVID-19 emerged. These indexes are assessed through monthly surveys of how consumers perceive their shopping behaviors. What we see from the most recent survey results is that COVID-19 still appears to be driving choices. After a brief period early in the summer when vaccines seemed to be taming the pandemic, the delta variant emerged and the window of joy slammed shut. People have masked up and hunkered down again and that conservative stance emerges in the index results.

About the Author(s)

Rick Polito

Editor-in-chief, Nutrition Business Journal

As Nutrition Business Journal's editor-in-chief, Rick Polito writes about the trends, deals and developments in the natural nutrition industry, looking for the little companies coming up and the big money coming in. An award-winning journalist, Polito knows that facts and figures never give the complete context and that the story of this industry has always been about people.

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