6 trends at Natural Products Expo West

Calming ingredients and plant-based food are among the trends that dominated the trade show floor this year

Nearly 90,000 attendees from 136 countries walked the trade show floor during the 39th annual Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California earlier this month.

This year the event set new records, bringing together more than 3,600 exhibiting companies, including more than 600 first-time exhibitors.

On display throughout the trade show were exhibits from branded and private label manufacturers showcasing the latest in food and beverage, beauty and home, and supplements and nutrition. But it wasn’t just the booths that made a statement about where retail and CPG are headed.

This year, six notable CPG trends stood out:

Plant-based: There’s no doubt that vegan and plant-based products continue to dominate the focus of innovation in CPG. Companies showcased a broad assortment of meat, dairy and egg alternatives, but the plant-based trend has also accelerated in the frozen dessert, water, grab-and-go and fresh categories. For example, exhibitors such as Chef’d gave samples of its meal kits, but none contained meat (all were vegan). Other companies that make grab-and-go salads for grocery and convenience stores also touted their meat-free meals. Samples of vegan “ice cream” and “gelato” were everywhere. Booths showcasing meat products overall were few and far between at Expo this year.

Protein: Companies are doubling down on both Keto and Paleo products, which feature foods and beverages heavy on protein and low on carbs. At Expo West, everything from sugar-free protein bars to low-carb granola, shake mix, meal kits and sweeteners made with monk fruit were promoted as being “Keto-” or “Paleo-friendly.” Even veteran brands such as Bob’s Red Mill and private label suppliers such as B&G Foods are getting into the low-carb diet biz by launching protein bars and cauliflower rice products.

Coconut: It seemed as though every aisle at Expo West had foods or beverages with coconut in it. Coconut protein water, savory coconut crisps, coconut sugar breads, coconut salad dressing, coconut curry bars. If last year’s Expo West was all about turmeric, this year’s biggest ingredient trend seemed to be coconut.

CBD: Industrial hemp was legalized in the recent Farm Bill, but CBD is not a federally approved additive for food and beverage. Still, many show booths displayed coffee and meal replacement bars infused with hemp or cannabidiol.

Digestive: Food manufacturers and ingredient suppliers at Expo West showed off new products that go beyond having lots of fibre and probiotic ingredients. Beverages and foods containing prebiotics and fermented foods were ubiquitous. Kombucha is still a very hot beverage trend. Products containing Reishi mushroom claimed to have inflammation-fighting effects on the digestive system.

Calming ingredients: A number of beverages, foods and supplements designed to calm or reduce stress and anxiety were on display. Examples: “calming” salad dressings containing chamomile, gummy supplements that calm nerves, coffee that is designed to reduce anxiety and not rev you up, and sleep-inducing sparkling water for bedtime.

A version of this article appeared at