Some 3,000 brands converged in Anaheim for this annual natural products extravaganza. Here are some of the hottest trends spotted by New Hope's editors on the trade show floor.

Douglas Brown, Senior Retail Reporter

March 20, 2024

5 Min Read
Expo West 2024 Food and Beverage Trends

What happens at Natural Products Expo West every March never stays in Anaheim. The products and energy fostered by the big show always reverberate through commerce and culture. And much of the momentum revolves around trends. Less than a decade ago, for example, few people had ever heard of keto. But then products trumpeting keto properties began popping up at Expo. And now, it’s mainstream.

This year’s event showcased a variety of trends, all of which are making their way to retailers of all stripes: small food co-ops, natural channel retailers, conventional stores, online shops and direct-to-consumer businesses.

What are some of the most engaging trends that New Hope’s editors encountered at the show? Read on!

Sweet naturals

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Back in the day, most sweet things got that way due to sugar. Then in the 1970s, products (here’s looking at you, diet soda) began swapping the sugar for things like saccharin and aspartame. You don’t encounter much of those artificial sweeteners today. But nowadays stevia, monk fruit, allulose and erythritol, among others, give many sugar-free or low-sugar treats their sweet. At the 2024 Expo West, however, editors saw many products that leveraged old-school sweeteners such as dates, honey, maple syrup, agave and fruit purees for their flavor advantages.

Related:The Natural List – Hot takes and hidden gems to spot at Expo West

Products: Bear Maple Yuzu Citrus Sparkling Ginseng Elixir, Just Date Organic Milk Chocolate Chips, Pure Wild Co. Mango Turmeric Marine Collagen, Bon AppéSweet Better Than Milk Chocolate

Energy without the shakes

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People have been starting their mornings and fueling their days with caffeine energy for thousands of years—since the discovery of tea in China and yerba mate in South America. But now, millennials and Gen Zers are drifting away from caffeine and looking for other products that provide a buzz without the jitters. Some champion protein for energy. Others fix on things like metabolism modulation, vitamins, minerals and electrolytes—even combinations of banana and coconut. Regardless, be on the lookout for more and more energy products that skip the caffeine.

Products: Good Idea Black Currant Sparkling Metabolism Beverage, Press Shot All in One Energy Ampoule, Wipala Banana + Coconut Energy Gel

Nailing nutrients

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Pasta from lupini beans or kernza? Chickpea oatmeal and instant miso soup packed with vegetables? Products like these, and many more on display at Expo, offer benefits beyond rich flavor. They also bring on the nutrients—lots of them. The term nutrient density hasn’t yet captured the popular imagination, but that’s beginning to change. From products touting high fiber to double-digit grams of protein, the concept was everywhere on the show floor.

Products: ChiChi Grain Free Oatmeal, Brami Spaghetti, Tsubi Miso Cubes, Patagonia Provisions Organic Fusilli

Back to 'back to basics'

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Innovation often hinges on ingredients. And that can mean a whole lot of more—more stabilizers and more preservatives, more artificial flavors and more fake dyes. More chemicals that nobody outside of a laboratory can pronounce. But at least in the natural and organic products industry, another “m” word has risen: modesty. Long lists of ingredients no longer signal innovation. Instead, they trigger scrutiny by shoppers in the channel. For example, rather than jams with added sugar, citric acid and other ingredients, how about just … fruit? Or simple and satisfying frozen meals made from organic beans and vegetables? Plant-based bacon crafted from organic mushroom mycelium, organic coconut oil, organic sugar and salt (yes, that’s more ingredients than in pig bacon—but a tidy list for a plant-based meat).

Products: Blue Zone Kitchens Minestrone Casserole, Just Spread Strawberry Preserve, MyForest Foods MyBacon

Nostalgia trip

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Remember the chocolate sauce grandma used to pour over classic vanilla ice cream? Favorite baked goods such as zucchini bread? Neapolitan ice cream and fluffy biscuits? Nostalgic flavors like these represent innovation—by way of tapping the past. And increasingly more brands are having fun exploring OG products and taste experiences.

Products: Goodpop Neapolitan Pops, Sunday Night Foods Vegan Chocolate Sauce, Evergreen Chocolate Zucchini Bread Mini Waffles, Cappello’s Almond Flour Buttermilk Biscuits

Skip the sauce, but explore experience

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The non-alcoholic beverage movement has come a long way in short order. Now, instead of just booze-free lager, the category includes sparkling wine, upscale craft beer, elegant spirits, bright-tasting ready-to-drink beverages—even amaros. And it keys into the experiential side of drinking, too, minus the tipsy and the hangover. Some brands offer adult beverages for all day, from morning energy elixirs to drinks focused on afternoon focus and evening unwinding. The contemporary N/A beverage movement got its start in the natural channel, and continues to thrive—as evidence by any stroll around Expo West.

Products: Eva’s Spritz For Bitter For Worse, Wilderton Bittersweet Aperitivo, Kin Euphorics Actual Sunshine Rise and Glow

Concentrate it

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Only water accounts for more sipping worldwide than coffee and tea. That’s a lot of beverage consumption. And a healthy balance of it first gets brewed before being canned or bottled and shipped around the world—not a positive development on the sustainable front. Liquid is heavy. Shipping it eats fossil fuels. A new wave of coffee and tea brands, however, is making delicious and innovative concentrates, which help mitigate shipping pitfalls while also leaning into convenience and affordability for consumers.

Products: Rishi Tea London Fog, Explorer Cold Brew Alchemist Dirty Spiced Chai, Minor Figures Barista Chai Concentrate

Kudos to kimbapand Korean cuisine

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The buzziest restaurants in New York City right now? Korean. Meanwhile, kimchi is everywhere (potato chips, pork rinds, mayonnaise—even supplements), and home cooks and professional chefs both incorporate the spicy sauce gochujang into everything from salmon glazes to scrambled eggs. Now comes kimbap, a Korean staple involving cooked rice, vegetables, fish and meat (not necessarily all at once) rolled in seaweed and sliced into bite-size portions. Frozen renditions of kimbap made a splash at Expo this year—one of them even won a NEXTY Award. But that’s not all. Korean brands at the show also offered latest and greatest innovations in kimchi products, burdock root tea, seaweed snacks and more.

Product: Gimme Snacks Chili Lime Roasted Seaweed Snacks, Sempio Foods Kimchi at Home Kit, Lucky Foods Korean Style Kimchi Pancake, C-Weed Seaweed Wasabi Bugak Chips, Ocean's Halo Kimbap Veggie Roll

About the Author(s)

Douglas Brown

Senior Retail Reporter, New Hope Network

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