Trend Watch: Expo West

Trend Watch: Expo West

Naomi Sleeper
Director,  Productivity Improvement
Imperial Distributors


March is a busy month for trade shows, and Imperial’s Category Managers have been front and center in the action. This month we begin a three-part series of Imperial’s Category Managers’ reflections on the top trends identified at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Global Pet Expo in Orlando, and International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago. To kick off the series, we start with the latest trends in natural and organic products revealed at Expo West. Imperial Category Managers Kevin Cooley (Nutritional Bars and Supplements) and Penny LaManna (Skin, Hair and Beauty) share the top trends from the show.

1. Product Certifications: The pervasiveness of product certification icons on product packaging, marketing materials, booth signage and backdrops throughout Expo West shows the continued relevance of these certifications (and the values they represent) to consumers. Across beauty, nutrition and supplement categories, Natural Products Association (NPA), USDA Organic, Non GMO, Gluten Free, B-Corp, and Leaping Bunny certifications, among others, validate products’ health, environmental or social benefit as distinguishing attributes. Be sure to check out the collection of products showcasing some of these certifications in this month’s Imperial Griffin ad!

Several key ingredients took center stage in Expo West’s featured health and beauty products:
2. Herbs: Herbs, like thyme and oregano, are becoming feature ingredients in health and beauty products. Recognized for their antibacterial and antioxidant properties, as well as their energizing fragrance, both thyme and oregano are being used in skin products as a natural remedy for oily and sensitive skin, clogged pores, acne and other skin infections. These herbs also popped up in hair care at Expo West to help treat itchy scalp, dandruff and thinning hair. Thyme and oregano essential oils are also becoming more popular for their broad health benefits, ranging from digestion to detoxification.

3. Honey: Honey was showcased as a front-running ingredient in both skincare and nutritional supplements. Lauded for its antibacterial, antioxidant, and moisturizing benefits, honey is being promoted as a key acne-fighting, anti-aging and complexion-boosting ingredient across many skincare products. In addition, with sugar’s classification as the “#1 bad guy” by nutritional supplement manufacturers, honey has taken the lead as a healthful sweetener in ingestible nutrition products.

4. Turmeric: Commonly known as the main spice in curry, turmeric has for centuries been used for a broad range of medicinal purposes ranging from joint pain to jaundice. Supplements featured at Expo West marketed the mental benefits of turmeric—due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and beta-amyloid-fighting chemical compound curcumin—including improved cognitive function, reduced symptoms of depression, and even treatment of Alzheimer’s.

5. Activated Charcoal: While charcoal made a big showing in the beauty industry last year, this ingredient is emerging for its ingestible health benefits as well. Activated charcoal herbal vitamins were featured at Expo West for their gastrointestinal benefits, including reduced gas and bloating, and for lowering cholesterol. Activated charcoal vitamins were also promoted as a natural hangover remedy.

6. Collagen: Collagen made a strong appearance at Expo West as a dietary supplement to promote skin health. In addition to its more traditional pill form, collagen powders (featured along with recipes for “cooking with collagen”) offers a more versatile way to add collagen to consumers’ diets.

7. Plant-based alternatives: Driven by demand primarily from millennial moms, as well as weight-lifters seeking an alternative to whey, several brands have come out with plant-based substitutes for more conventional sources of macro- and micro-nutrients. A new plant-based Protein Bar provides 10g of protein, while Nature’s Way now offers plant-based Omega 3 supplements.

8. Mood-Boosting and Stress Relief Formulas: New exhibited supplements, particularly in the form of powders and adult gummies, targeted mood and mental wellness. These mood boosters and stress relievers are composed of several ingredients, including GABA, lemon balm, theanine and tyrosine, to promote relaxation and calmness, while relieving stress and anxiety.
Expo West also featured new ways to ingest these ingredients to realize their nutritional benefit:
9. Protein bites, balls and cookies: While the protein bar market continues to grow, manufacturers have identified other forms for consumers to achieve more protein intake throughout the day. High-protein formula snack bites and cookies made a big appearance at Expo West this year.

10. Vitamin Drops: While gummies were the popular alternative to pills in the vitamin world last year (and are still growing in sales), liquid drops are now being promoted by vitamin manufacturers as a superior vehicle for ingesting vitamins due to faster and higher absorption, compared to conventional vitamin pills. One exhibitor claimed that their freshly ground and mixed vitamin drops absorbs 500% faster with 50% more vitamin absorption than swallowed vitamin pills (and without the chalky texture of chewables).

These learnings from Expo West shed light on the trends to look out for in the natural and organics product industry this year. Over the next two months, look out for pet and housewares category insights based on our Category Managers’ learnings at March’s Global Pet and International Housewares shows.