If anything proves the growth and potential of the all-natural market, it’s the 63,000 attendees, many of them from heavy-hitter retailers like Kroger, Target, Walmart and Amazon, expected to walk the floor of the Natural Products Expo West show in Anaheim, Calif. this March 6-9. The show also will see a 10 percent jump in the number of exhibitors with more than 2,600 companies showcasing their all-natural innovations.
Adam Andersen, show director, says Natural Products Expo West continues to draw more beverage companies as marketers are looking to get exposure for their new products and network with distributors and retailers. “From a consumer standpoint, there is a drive for healthy, convenient foods and beverages, and beverages that are natural, organic and functional. And even as competitive as it is, we keep seeing more and more new products every year,” Andersen says.
And Andersen notes that the show is mutually beneficial for exhibitors as well as attendees looking for innovative products to put on their shelves.
“Conventional retailers are waking up and realizing that their product selection is not appealing to that trend so they want to bring in a better mix of products to capture that audience,” Andersen says. Functional beverages are driving a lot of growth in the natural segment and attendees will see a variety of good-for-you drinks.
Carlotta Mast, senior director of content and insight at New Hope Natural Media, which produces the Expo, works with New Hope’s research team and has noted a number of trends building momentum over the past few years.
Even though the coconut water category has become somewhat saturated, Mast says new variations continue to launch to capitalize on the popularity of coconut water, a trend she calls Coconut Water 2.0. One innovative brand with a unique twist on coconut water is Mulberry Love. The brand can be found at this year’s Natural Products Expo West and is a superfruit drink that combines mulberry juice and coconut water for an antioxidant-rich beverage.
Another functional product, Drink Chia!, exhibited at the show last year and brand co-founder Chandra Davis says the show was invaluable in terms of the relationships she was able to build. The exposure Drink Chia! got at the show helped Davis sign contracts with major retailers and the brand now has distribution in Canada. Chia seed drinks are a hot trend right now and Drink Chia! stands out for being what Davis calls a “chuggable chia drink” for people with active lifestyles.
Also at the show, Activate Drinks, a line of nutrient-enhanced waters with a fresh twist cap, will debut its new Activate Powered by Solgar Vitamins line, which is a new range of multivitamin varieties sweetened with stevia. “Expo West provides a great way to connect with key buyers and distributors. It also provides a great platform to launch a new product, due to the size of the show, media attention and high-profile attendee list,” says Jesse Merrill, vice president of marketing at Activate.
Other functional beverage products to be found at the show include Oatworks, an oat-powered natural smoothie that offers soluble fiber, and Live Kombucha Soda, a carbonated twist on kombucha in flavors like root beer and cola.
Good-for-you hydration also is a growing trend within the natural channel as small players innovate to bring excitement to the beverage shelf. Balance Water’s Balance Cleanse product contains Alpine spring water gently infused with Australian flowers that provide a diuretic effect for a daily purifying drink.
Mast also notes that cold-pressed juices are a hot trend that has extended from the natural channel into more mainstream grocery channels. One particular brand, Suja organic, cold-pressed juices, debuted at the show last year and has enjoyed tremendous success due in some part to consumer interest in high-end juices that provide whole nutrition from fruits and vegetables.
“Another big trend we’re seeing with beverages that’s gaining momentum within the overall health and wellness area is personalized nutrition. It started with condition-specific functional beverages formulated and marketed to offer specific health benefits. And now it’s gone to the next level of personalized, interactive drinks,” Mast says.
An example of this trend is Fuelade, a custom sports energy drink that has an interactive element to assist athletes in refueling based on their sweat-analyzed energy levels. A unique feature of this product is the use of a Fuelstrip sweat test strip, which allows consumers to analyze their sweat to determine their level of fuel depletion after working out. The drink and technology were developed by Miami-based sports science company Fuelstrip.