What Was Trending in FMCG at Natural Products Expo West 2018

March 16, 2018

Our feet are screaming after covering more than one million square feet and 3,500+ exhibitors of natural food and lifestyle products at the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., March 7 – 11.

But we lived to tell a few stories. Here’s what our Wellness and Cultivate teams collected along the way.

The beauty revolution is coming to a food near you.
Collagen appeared to be the ‘it’ ingredient of this year’s Expo, moving from supplement powders and capsules to a high-profile ingredient in snack bars, ketogenic creamers, functional beverages and, wait for it, beef jerky.

While research is still underway, collagen has been linked to improved skin elasticity, stronger nails and healthier hair, external benefits that complement the internal benefits traditionally touted by food makers.

Don’t tell me, involve me. Brands hand out experiences instead of samples.
Ok, we’re not denying we ate plenty of samples. But the brands that created experiences were more memorable in a vast sea of exhibitors. Several brands showed their True North by asking attendees to vote for what they stood for or push a button to learn what action attendees could take to make a difference in the world.

The engagement took brand associations to a higher purpose and mindfulness, tapping into the millennial “maker generation” mindset and giving them a chance for hands-on expression.

Step aside, sustainability. There is a new environmental movement taking root: Regenerative Agriculture.
As the dust settled, soil health took the spotlight. Regenerative Agriculture moved from an aspiration at the 2017 Expo to a business model in 2018. The topic was so hot that fire codes had to be enforced when the session on Regenerative Agriculture Certification exceeded maximum capacity and attendees were turned away.

While experts grapple with the technical definition of what constitutes regeneration and how to measure it, we expect food retailers, manufacturers and agriculture to explore their role in not just sustaining our planet, but healing and restoring it. Examples include the role of cover crops to return nutrients to the soil and the role of livestock to naturally loosen and fertilize land.

Once a category known for acceptable, not exceptional culinary appeal; taste now rules supreme.
Remember the first time you bought something from a natural food store or ate an organic packaged food when your grocery store carved out a tiny spot for organics in aisle 12? We do. And for many people who love food, it wasn’t love at first bite. This first impression has been tough for the natural and organic industry to shake. Taste improvements have been incremental, but that’s about to change.

The delish meter for the natural and organic foods we tasted were off the charts. The foods were full of flavor with exceptional mouthfeel. The yogurts were creamy, the cereals were crunchy with just the right amount of sweet, the plant-based meats were crave-worthy. The brands we tried would challenge and beat many of our pantry staples. Look out. Competition for share of taste bud just got real.

Want to hear more about FMCG trends and how they might affect your business? Contact me, kim.essex@ketchum.com.

Ketchum Cultivate is a community of Ketchum food communications experts with deep passion for and experience with sustainable, natural and organic brands. The Cultivate Team operates as a boutique within Ketchum’s global network and can help growing brands scale and garner attention from new consumers and important stakeholders through earned and online media, content development, influencer advocacy, sustainability reporting and partnerships.

Kim is a partner at Ketchum and directs the Food & Beverage Practice in North America. She loves all things food – from the farms it is grown or raised on to her favorite spot, her kitchen. She has helped food producers and food makers tell their stories for a better part of her 25-year career. She really should have been a scientist, and is grateful to food for filling her scientific curiosity – biology, sociology, political science, food technology, behavioral science, economics, oh my!