Expo West: Event Summary

Earlier this month, Jerusha Bennett, Director of Brand Strategy and Innovation at The Sound’s Chicago office, had a blast attending the Expo West Convention and Trade Show.  It’s the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event. It brought together over 86,000 attendees from 136 countries and was a real “who’s who” of natural product influencers, innovators, start-up gurus, and groupies! All of this brainpower came to life in thousands of exhibitor booths across hundreds of halls – showcasing the best and brightest brands looking to drive positive impact in the CPG industry.

Jerusha came back with a treasure trove of emerging innovation, insights, and trends (and oh so many samples!) and is excited to share some of the stickiest themes for you here.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts, and Jerusha would be happy to chat further on any particular areas of interest.

Seltzer 2.0

Sparkling water brands are continuing to innovate well beyond simply pushing out new flavor profiles.

  • Keep your eyes out for tea infused sparkling waters, such as Sound Tea, with flavors such as Hibiscus Tea with Blueberry & Cinnamon and Black Tea with Blood Orange
  • Explore botanical sparkling waters, from brands like Seasons Sparkling that have unexpected flavor combinations such as Matcha Ginger Turmeric and Grapefruit Rose
  • How about flavorful unflavored water? Yeah, we were confused too, but Szent offers flavor experiences with unflavored waters that have scented bottle mouths
  • We also sampled Hops Seltzer from H20PS, which is sparkling water that’s brewed like beer but with only the hops for a refreshing citrus taste
  • And of course, we were very excited to see CBD infused seltzers as well from brands like Weller


Let’s get dirty.

Brands across both personal care and beverage seem to be relishing in the dirty business of…well, dirt.

  • We sampled two different “black waters”, which is a way cooler sounding name than what it actually is, an alkaline water with trace minerals. Blk Water claims to have the power of a sports drink with the purity of water.
  • We also tried out some pretty funky bacteria personal care products. Yup, you heard us correctly. Mother Dirt is a line of live probiotic (aka bacteria) personal care products.
  • And we had a blast trying out the Hello activated charcoal dragonfruit toothpaste


Drinkable & Snackable beauty.

The fountain of youth is no longer relegated to beauty creams, topicals, and cleansers, and is now finding a new home in the beverage and snacking spaces.

  • The hot new collagen brand, Vital Proteins debuted a new line of beauty waters at Expo, with refreshing flavors such as Blueberry Mint, Blackberry Hibiscus, Lemon Ginger, and Strawberry Lemon (our personal fave). Each water boasts 10g collagen to nourish your inner glow.
  • Carving out a new snackable beauty space, This Saves Lives also unveiled a new line at Expo, with a line of collagen snack bites, infused with matcha and rose water for their Radiance SKU.


Fat as a friend.

Paleo isn’t the only place where fat has come back into fashion. We saw several brands celebrating blubber’s benefits in all its glory.

  • FatCo is an organic nose-to-tail line of grass-fed personal care products that leave your skin moisturized and balanced.
  • We also munched on some tasty small-batch pork rinds from Southern Recipe in unexpected flavors, such as Korean Kimchi Barbeque, as well as Union’s Chorizo and Salami Crisps.

CBD is all around.

Perhaps the least surprising (though no less appreciated!) trend expansion was the accelerated growth of CBD innovation across almost all aisles of the store.

  • We already mentioned the bubbly/buzzy CBD seltzers in our Seltzer 2.0 section, but we also saw CBD raw cookie dough from Good Bites
  • There were also many mood management CBD gummies, with Winged being one of the more design-forward options out there
  • In the beverage space, there was Karma with its nifty bottle cap that stores CBD and essential vitamins until you crack the seal, “assuring optimal potency of the nutrients”, as well as Navitas CBD wellness shots


Plant-bast protein party.

Another growing category that just exploded all over Expo, was plant-based protein.

  • In the plant based snacking space, we saw meat alternative vegan jerky bites from Upton’s Naturals and Leaf, pigless “Pig Out” bacon chips from Outstanding
  • And of course, there was also a line of Texas BBQ style whole roasted crickets (not for the faint of stomach!) from Exo

 

  • The plant-based dairy category saw a ton of new innovation with Kitehill, a leader in the category debuting a new line of dips and yogurts, as well as new plant-based “milk” entrants, such as macadamia milk from Milkademia, and a beautiful black sesame milk from Three Trees


A new twist.

We also saw a lot of unexpected takes on old snacking standby’s for the health conscious consumers out there.

  • From The Ground Up sampled some tasty cauliflower and butternut squash pretzels, and Vegan Rob’s introduced Brussel sprout chips and moringa puffs
  • An exciting protein-packed take on the traditional potato chip was Lesser Evil’s egg white curls


To booze or not to booze

We saw a lot beverages that are typically alcoholic go alcohol free – and then other typically non-alc beverages dip into the boozy frontier.

  • There were botanical boozy teas from Owl’s Brew and hard kombucha with 5.6% ABV, from Wild Tonic
  • On the flip side, we saw the emergence of non-alc craft beer, with Athletic Brewing Co.


New coffee forms

Drinking coffee out of a mug is so one year ago. Now, it’s all about new coffee combinations and new coffee forms that we didn’t even know we needed!

  • The aptly named Eat Your Coffee bar offers one cup of coffee in each caffeinated snack bar
  • La Colombe Cold Brew Shandy’s bring a refreshing twist to the coffee space
  • Protein is now finding a home in the coffee category with Smari’s line of Icelandic protein coffees as well as Kitu’s super powered protein-packed coffees, which both boast 10g protein each
  • And who says that steeping is only reserved for tea? The new single serve coffee bags from Steeped, brings portable single serve coffee to the 21st century
  • And of course, how could we forget our adaptogenic infused mushroom coffee, from Four Sigmatic

Jerusha would love to hear your thoughts, questions or builds on this if you have any!

Jerusha Bennett, Director Brand Strategy & Innovation

jerusha@thesoundhq.com