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Top trends from the NPA MarketPlace show floor

At the 2011 NPA MarketPlace, consumer and trade media observed several trends, such as portability and labeling innovations, from the 250 exhibitors on the show floor.

Where can you find stevia extracts, seaweed shampoo, contract manufacturers and probiotic supplements under the same roof? Last week 5,000 people gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the NPA MarketPlace, the Natural Products Association's 74th show that featured 250 exhibitors (including those mentioned above), cooking demos and education events.

Incoming president Jeff Wright noted that the NPA is the only association in industry to include all aspects of the supply chain—from suppliers to consumers. About 1,900 companies belong to the NPA. Wright said that retailers compose the largest segment of the association, and that he'd like to see more raw material companies join in the coming year.

Among the retailers scouting new and old products were members of media looking for the latest trends. Here are four trends spotted on the NPA MarketPlace show floor.

1. Portable packaging

Lindsey Emery, contributing health and fitness writer for Self, Fitness and Women's Health, liked Kur Organic Superfoods Delights, raw and organic snacks that are like all-natural brownie bites in a variety of flavors. "Since they've got a good mix of healthy protein and carbs, I think they'd be a great post-run snack, too," said Emery. "The packaging is very portable, so you can toss them in your purse, backpack or suitcase, no matter where you're headed. Good for moms, kids and active people everywhere."

With her consumer reader in mind, Emery also found Miles Outside's dehydrated baby food to be an innovative and practical product. Miles Outside was created by active parents who wanted a better solution to baby food while hiking and camping. "All you have to do is toss a few pouches into your pack, and then add hot water or milk when feeding time arrives," said Emery.

Ayren Jackson-Cannady, contributing health and beauty writer for Real Simple, WebMD and Glamour, also found portability to be paramount with the new beauty products at the show. "Consumers don't only want to live naturally at home, but they also want to live naturally at work, on vacation, or running errands," she said. "Choosing natural beauty products is a lifestyle switch that men and women are consciously making."

2. Products born from a personal need

Entrepreneurialism is alive and well in the natural products industry. The founder of exhibiting company The Seaweed Bath Co. is a longtime psoriasis sufferer who hunted for a natural treatment, eventually finding it in Ireland seaweed. "I think that this story not only resonates with many other consumers (psoriasis is a popular condition in the U.S.), but it is sure to ring an alarm for readers, especially if the personal story is mentioned within copy," said Jackon-Cannady.

3. Consumer-friendly labels

Baby body care company Dolphin Organics, and first-time exhibitor, made an impression with their inexpensive (less than $13) shampoo, conditioner and bubble bath. "The innovative, transparent labeling system breaks down exactly what consumers and moms are putting on their young children's skin," said Jessica Rubino, senior associate editor of Delicious Living. Jackson-Cannady also liked the honest, transparent label which is easy to understand for consumers, "not to mention editors on deadline who need to quickly know what is in the products they are writing about."

MelanSol, another first-time exhibitor, also employs a transparent labeling system. The natural sun care products are tested and verified for UVA and UVB radiation and display those ratings such as "PA+++" and "SPF-30 Filters 97% of UVB Radiation" right on the front label.

4. Alternative sweeteners married with sugar

Both SweetLeaf and Imperial Sugar debuted crystallized sucrose and alternative sweetener blends at this year's show. Functional Ingredients magazine is following the stevia-sucrose trend which is driven by a need for sugar and calorie reduction (think diabetes and obesity) rather than complete sugar replacement. Nordzucker, Pure Circle and Tereos have all formed joint ventures to bring these blends to Europe.

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