Vegan, plant-based, gluten-free, dairy-free and high protein claims were found on a large majority of product showcases at the Natural Products Expo West show held in California this March.
We attended the show looking for trends and flavour profiles we expect to see on the rise in Canada. Five trends dominated the new products and their marketing approach to consumers:
- Hemp CBD
- Flavour innovation
- Functional benefits
If there is one takeaway from this year's expo it's this: The plant-based movement is taking over everything. From meat alternatives to pantry staples, to non-dairy milks and snacks, we are seeing plant-based products growing in every category.
Meat alternatives such as the Beyond Burger, meatless meatballs and meatless chicken nuggets are all indicators that there’s a large amount of innovation in this category, and the taste and flavours are getting better and better. In many cases you’d never know you’re eating peas instead of beef.
Staple products such as pasta and frozen pizza are also getting a plant-based makeover, with broccoli and cauliflower pizza crust and yellow pea pasta. This allows customers to increase their vegetable and protein consumption.
We all know that snacking is a huge growth opportunity, and plant-based snacking is taking over. Plant-based snacks include anything and everything from pea protein crisps to cauliflower chips to banana jerky. These items boast added protein, vegetables and flavour.
Plant-based milk such as oat milk, brown rice milk and nut milk (cashew, almond and pistachio) were found in many product showcases. Non-dairy creamer was another category that showed innovation, not only driven from plant-based alternatives but also in the unique flavours and alternative formats (refrigerated and powdered). Plant-based ice cream that could compete from a flavour perspective in a blind taste test was another big trend. These products were not just your staple flavours such as vanilla and chocolate, but unique flavor profiles including reishi chocolate and turmeric.
With the recent changes to the Canadian Food Guide we expect plant-based to shift from a trend to a lifestyle that is adopted by Canadians at an increasing pace.
From CBD-infused health and beauty products such as lotions and oils, to CBD-infused food and beverages, CBD products are definitely on the rise. From the food side we saw everything from CBD-infused water to CBD gummies. Consumer education will be a large part of the marketing strategy for these products once CBD is legalized in Canada (for now only registered retailers can sell CBD products).
Kombucha, kefir and kimchi were among the items boasting gut health benefits and unique flavours. Kombucha is growing from a niche product to a mainstream functional beverage and has become a hip drink among millennials. Look for kombucha on the night life scene; hard kombucha was showcased with alcohol levels ranging from 4.5% to 7.0%.
Unique flavours and blends were very apparent in all food and beverage categories with ginger and turmeric featured in products such as creamers, lattes, kombucha and ice cream. This makes sense considering the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits of these ingredients. Flavour innovation in the honey category was also prevalent. From hemp honey to lavender, to chili-infused honey, the flavour profiles were innovative and premium.
Many beauty and beverage items highlighted functional benefits with such infusions as rose water and collagen. Rose water and rose water infusion is said to have anti-inflammatory and skin rejuvenating benefits. Collagen was another big one--beef and marine collagen additives were found in many items including water, drinkable shots, snacks and creamer.
With these five trends it comes down to premiumization across all categories. Whether it’s a new plant-based snack, single-serve collagen water, or CBD-infused lotion, these trends add premium products, premium packaging and margin to your shelves. With consumer demand and added margin, these are trends worth investigating to see how you can get involved!