Trends & Trials from Natural Products Expo East 2019

September 23, 2019

With thousands of new products and 300,000 square feet of exhibit space, navigating Natural Products Expo East (NPEE) is a feat. But the Ketchum Cultivate team divided and conquered the show floor, digesting how brands of all sizes are innovating and sustaining purpose-driven portfolios.

natural products expo east trends ketchum

Holy Hemp!:
For the first time ever, Expo East included a Hemp Pavilion where dozens of brands showcased CBD offerings. From oils and sprays to gummies and infusions – hemp is arguably the hottest commodity in natural products. In fact, 76 percent of companies surveyed by New Hope plan to launch in the category within the year. To stand out, companies need to educate retailers and consumers about the benefits before it’s likened to the next snake oil. Companies marketing performance benefits like beauty, zen, sleep, and recovery were most notable – and will predictably help curb CBD confusion of being a “cure all.”

hemp trends

Save the Earth:
The golden “Rs” of reduce, reuse, recycle are no longer enough. Brands are finding new solutions and partnerships to truly embody environmental principles. Tetra Pak, a major food industry packaging supplier, recommends packaging that is sustainably sourced, using plant-based renewable raw materials. As the 2020 presidential election approaches, the topic of climate change will daunt consumer minds and hearts – making this topic more culturally relevant than ever.

The Protein Aisle:
Plant-based meat is rapidly approaching a $1B industry. And grocery stores are rethinking traditional store formats to cater to this boom. Kroger, in partnership with the Plant Based Association, is piloting a plant-based meat section at certain locations to determine if shoppers prefer a dedicated section (while collecting data galore about these shoppers). It won’t stop there. We predict grander meat aisle transformations to come – including the idea of the “protein aisle,” where shoppers can find all proteins in one spot.

Drink to Your Health:
The innovation game is strong in the RTD beverage industry – with companies using ingredients to market health rewards. Beverages aimed at gut health boasted probiotics and apple cider vinegar, tons of beauty bevs touted the importance of collagen, and cognitive and stress-reducing sips contained adaptogens, MCT oil and mushrooms. Honorary mention goes to the hottest ingredient in beverage right now – Oat! Oat milk is the plant-based dairy alternative darling taking the market by storm for its creamy deliciousness. Consumers won’t long for milk taste, but they will absolutely start to long for lower sugar options.

We look forward to Expo East’s much much larger sister show, Expo West, in the Spring! Until then, we’ll savor the samples and memories gathered in Baltimore.

Jessica has led campaigns and communication initiatives for numerous Fortune 500 companies, primarily in the Food & Beverage and Retail sectors. Passionate about all things Food PR, Jessica’s roster of CPG work includes Beverage, Baking, Meals, Condiment and Snack brands. From ingredient reformulation and purpose-driven partnerships, to new product news and equity-building always on programs, Jessica loves strategizing the best ways to tell a brand’s story. She is an earned media and influencer pro. For several years, she served as a teacher’s assistant for a Public Relations in Marketing graduate course at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.