5 Natural Food Marketing Conversations from Expo West 2015
I had been warned in advance not to eat anything. And I was told to expect a lot of people. After spending a few days last week at Expo West, I can honestly say that people were right: nothing could have prepared me for the natural food marketing feast ahead.
By the numbers, this year’s Expo was the largest ever. Spanning 350,000 square feet in the Anaheim Convention Center, the Hilton and the Marriott there were more than 2,700 exhibitors (including 634 first timers) and 71,000 attendees.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, how many things can you get milk from, you might find your answer wandering the aisles of Natural Products Expo West. Products ranged from processing, software, packaging and ingredients; to personal care, pet products, supplements, to every kind of natural food and drink you can imagine. Picture yourself walking through the aisles of the biggest Whole Foods in the world and getting to sample every product on every shelf.
No matter who I spoke to, there were five consistent conversations top of mind with folks regarding natural food, beverage and product marketing:
- Labeling Transparency. Consumers are asking for transparency with regard to food product labels, claims and certifications, including non-GMO and organic. A chalkboard set up outside the exhibit hall asked the question, “What does natural and clean label mean to you?” Answers included pure, single ingredient, real food, and full disclosure. But the question remains: how much meaning or value do the labels actually provide to consumers?
- Food Tribes. The growing demand for gluten-free, vegan, non-dairy, paleo continue and other special diets are changing the way food is processed and how much people consider the actual ingredients of what food stuff is being put in their mouths.
- Probiotics. There were probiotic drinks, pills, powders, and tinctures all making the claim to provide good bacteria for a healthy gut, which in turns reduces inflammation, arthritis, disease, and improves your overall health, and even facilitates weight loss. It remains to be seen if and how well these claims will stand the test of time.
- Simple and ancient ingredients. Some of my favorite products were the most natural and least processed: A skin care line, Yurrku, made using aboriginal plants from Australia; and the tart cherry chews and drinks from Boulder and Michigan.
- Benefit Corporations (B Corps). Popular companies such as Yogi Tea, BARE Snacks, Bhakti Chai, Guayaki Yerba Mate, Mamma Chia, Seventh Generation and Method proudly displayed their B Corp logo. However, only 72 of the almost 3,000 companies were B Corporations. (Side note: Hopefully this number will continue to grow. Grady Britton is pursuing B Corp certification, so next year we will be in good company.)
They were right, I did not leave hungry. But I never did find that organic, gluten free, non-GMO, kosher, Fair Trade, Oregon Tilth certified, edible cup that I was searching for. Next year!