Expo West 2019 recap: From hemp to oat milk
Last week, a few of my colleagues and I were given the opportunity to attend the annual Natural Products Expo West Show in Anaheim, California. Our attendance was strictly business, but it’s hard not to feel anxious and a bit overwhelmed walking into the 1,600,000+ square feet of exhibiting space at the Anaheim Convention Center. A mere 12 hours from the moment we walked in, that vast open space would be crawling with over 88,000 attendees representing over 3,400 unique exhibitors from around the world. It’s truly hard to describe the immensity of the show.
Allow me to back up a bit and explain what the show is and how we fit into the equation. The Natural Products Expo Show, in its 39th year, is precisely what it sounds like: a giant convention where brands, manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors go to show off their newest and hottest products coming to market. If you are a self-described “foodie,” this is undoubtedly your Mecca. I could probably write an entirely separate article on the hundreds of different product types showcased, but I’ll spare you. Instead, you can check out the extensive list by clicking here.
Now, our job at the show is to essentially capture six-sided images of as many products as humanly possible. We run these product images through our patented Label Insight software to do what we do best: product attribution data! We provide this data to Informa (the company who runs the whole shebang) and they use it to power the show’s digital product directory. In effect, Informa is setting up a digital show floor and we are helping them fill it with the data and information we gather from the products at each booth.
Since most booths are touting Vegan, non-GMO, organic, and gluten-free snack and food options, it can be remarkably difficult for brands to distinguish themselves from the rest. It almost seems like the aforementioned attributes are a prerequisite to even getting into the show. However, there were a few trends at this year’s show you simply could not avoid.
The first, and probably least surprising, was the emphatic emergence of hemp and cannabidiol (CBD). Honestly, it seemed like every other booth was boasting about some sort of CBD or hemp product. In my opinion, it was by far the hottest product type at the show. From oils, gummies, and supplements, to infused beverages such as tea, water, and juices, CBD was extraordinarily well-represented at the 2019 show. Given the somewhat murky regulatory and legal landscape of CBD, it will be very interesting to follow how this plays out for future shows.
Another big trend at this year’s show was oat milk. If you’re anything like me, you just said to yourself, “I didn’t know you could milk an oat?!” Let’s set all dumb jokes aside for a moment, because this was another product type that really burst onto the scene. Personally, I was completely unaware of Oat Milk, so it was a pleasant surprise. Per Isadora Baum’s Shape.com article, oat milk is made from steel-cut oats or whole grain oats that have been soaked in water, blended, then strained. It is a frothy, dairy-free alternative that is bound to show up in your local Starbucks sooner or later. Not only can it contain up to 35% of your daily value in calcium, but it’s an excellent alternative to cut down on your saturated fats.
Another interesting trend we noticed was the presence of collagen. It probably isn’t the latest, greatest, or flashiest, but it was quite an eye-opener to see the many forms it can take. From powders, shakes, nutrition bars, shots, oils, gels, or supplements, this abundant protein has become popular for its obvious health benefits. Collagen is a major component of connective tissues that make up several body parts, including tendons, ligaments, and muscles. It is also a big factor in skin health, joint pain relief, and bone loss prevention. Knowing what I know now about collagen, I wish I would have grabbed some more free samples while I was there….hindsight is always 20/20!
Although I don’t consider myself much of a health-conscious eater by any stretch, I must confess that experiencing Expo West first-hand forces me to re-evaluate my lifestyle (in a good way, of course). It was hard not to walk that show floor and think, “maybe...just maybe...there are better, healthier alternatives.” As the natural products world burrows deeper and deeper into the consciousness of everyday Americans, it’s a beautiful feeling knowing that Label Insight has positioned itself to be right in the center of it all. Within the Age of Information era, the demand for more product transparency, knowledge, and understanding has officially bled into the food industry, and there is no stopping it now.
About Brendon Covilli
Brendon joined Label Insight to leverage his experience in sales, marketing, and customer success to help the CPG brands onboard their product images to the Label Insight platform. As Onboarding and Outreach lead Brendon thrives in a dynamic, fast-paced environment that fosters creative freedom and a positive culture.