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8 Trends Driving Growth in Natural and Organic

A look at the hottest topics, tastes and trends from Natural Products Expo West
Photograph by WGB Staff

The 39th annual Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., was jam-packed with the newest on-trend products, from CBD oils to plant-based dairy alternatives and grain-free foods, that today’s consumers are looking for where they shop.

The U.S. natural and organic industry continues to grow, hitting $219 billion in sales last year, said Carlotta Mast, SVP and market leader for Boulder, Colo.-based New Hope Network, during the State and Future of Natural/Organic session, held just prior to the opening of the show floor.

Food and beverage are driving the growth in natural and organic. Presenting recently released data from Nutrition BusinessJournal, Mast said the U.S. natural and organic industry was up 6.9% last year, with food and beverage accounting for 70% of sales.

Total U.S. food and beverage sales hit $152 billion, with organic food and beverage accounting for $45 billion, according to New Hope. Produce is the largest category within natural/organic, representing 24% of sales. Meat, fish and poultry, though just 7% of the natural/organic food and beverage category, saw the largest growth last year.

While natural and organic continues to expand, New Hope finds that sales of conventional products continue to decline. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, sales of natural, organic and functional products grew 6.6%, while sales of conventional products declined 0.2%.

However, organic dairy is one category that continues to face challenges, said Mast, who cited oversupply and the growth in plant-based alternatives to dairy as causes of the category’s plateauing sales.

On the show floor, plant-based dairy alternatives were a top trend. And though innovation spanned a multitude of categories, our editors identified seven top trends at the expo.

1. Plant-Based Dairy Deluge

New plant-based milk and creamer substitutes were featured by numerous exhibitors, including Elmhurst of Elma, N.Y., which launched a hemp-based creamer. Made with real hemp seeds and real hemp cream, the creamer contains just four ingredients and 350 milligrams of omega-3s.

malk organics

Photograph by WGB Staff

Houston-based Malk Organics nut milks are lactose-, dairy-, and gluten-free, and they contain no binders or fillers. Malk also launched a Sprouted Oat Milk and a line of oat-based creamers at the expo.

Los Angeles-based Califia Farms Almondmilk Creamer and Better Half Creamers (made with coconut cream and almond milk) are non-GMO, kosher, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and carrageenan-free. Meanwhile, the Swedish company Oatly featured its line of oat milks in ambient packaging.

2. CBD/Hemp Hoopla 

Hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) is a fast-growing category. New Hope points to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill and CBD curiosity as category drivers.

From lemonade to tinctures to edible oils and more, CBD/hemp products were all the rage at this year’s Expo West. RE Botanicals of Boulder, Colo., took home New Hope’s Nexty Award for Best New Hemp/CBD Product for its CBD Tinctures.

Bluebird Botanicals of Louisville, Colo., spotlighted its Hemp CBD Oil, Concentrated CBD Oil and CBD pet products. Bluebird conducts third-party lab testing on every product batch and has received certification from the U.S. Hemp Authority for also being glyphosate-residue free. 

New York-based Honeydrop Beverages has partnered with Boulder, Colo.-based Evo Hemp to make Cold-Pressed CBD Lemonades. Made with 20 milligrams of CBD sourced by Evo Hemp and a teaspoon of raw honey, the new CBD lemonades are offered in three flavors: Revive (Matcha), Relax (Lemon) and Rehab (Turmeric).

CBDistillery of Denver showcased its CBD Oil, Capsules, Cream and Isolate. Its products are made with natural CBD oils derived from non-GMO and pesticide-free industrial hemp. 

A recent New Hope survey of more than 2,700 U.S. consumers found that 47% have some familiarity with CBD. Of those familiar, 57% have considered purchasing a CBD product and 30% have purchased a product containing CBD.

While a New Hope survey of 230 natural brands in January 2019 revealed that most (71%) do not sell a hemp/CBD product, 65% indicated that they plan to launch one in the next one to two years.

3. Grain-Free Feast 

Gluten-free has been around a long time; the real story is grain-free,” said Brian Togubat, co-founder of Eat My Waffles. The Encinitas, Calif.-based company launched its next-level grain-free, gluten-free, no-sugar-added waffle and pancake mix at the expo.

Citing SPINS data that “grain-free” and “paleo” are two of the fastest-growing food claims today, Denver-based Cappello’s featured its grain- and gluten-free pizza made from almond flour. The fresh frozen pizza is available in a number of varieties, such as Italian sausage, pepperoni and cheese.

Pamela’s Products of Ukiah, Calif., introduced Tiger Nut Flour, Cassava Flour and Almond Flour. These paleo-friendly, grain- and gluten-free flours can be used to make a variety of baked goods.

Purely Elizabeth of Boulder, Colo., featured Grain-Free Bars with reishi mushroom extract in four varieties: Banana Nut Butter, Coconut Cashew, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Sea Salt.

Maria and Ricardo’s of Canton, Mass., served up tasty tortillas made from vegetables at its busy booth. Its Grain Free Veggie Tortillas are available in three varieties: Zucchini, Cauliflower and Sweet Potato. All varieties are also free from gluten, soy, dairy and eggs.

4. Grass-Fed and Pasture-Raised

Humanely raised and healthfully fed meat and dairy products was another hot trend at Expo West. Organic Valley of La Farge, Wis., gave attendees a firsthand look at its farms and farmers, who supply its milk from 100% grass-fed cows. A live broadcast at the Organic Valley booth gave attendees the opportunity to ask Organic Valley farmers questions that were answered from the farm.

A video at the Handsome Brook Farm booth allowed visitors to watch its hens roaming freely on ample pastureland. American Humane certifies the Franklin, N.Y.-based Handsome Brook Farm hens, which get at least 108 square feet per bird on rotated pastures.

Vital Farms of Austin, Texas, featured its Certified Humane Pasture-Raised Eggs and Butter. Vital Farms hens also enjoy 108 square feet of space on which to roam.

5. Snacking Smorgasbord 

The healthful snacking trend is here to stay. Expo exhibitors offered up scores of new snack sensations that satisfy today’s top consumer cravings.

San Francisco-based Olly featured its Protein Bar line, which has 15 grams of plant-based protein in each bar. The bars are available in Salted Caramel Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Zesty Lemon Creme and more.

Saffron Road of Stamford, Conn., showcased its Crunchy Chickpeas in sweet and savory flavors, as well as its Chickpea Chickbean Crisps in four flavors: Chili Lime, Sea Salt, White Cheddar and Zesty Ranch.

RW Garcia of Scotts Valley, Calif., launched a line of non-GMO and gluten-free Organic Corn Chips in Yellow, Blue, Bar-B-Q and Chili Cheese. Late July of Boston introduced a new line of popcorn in a variety of flavors, including White Cheddar, Sea Salt and Kettle Popcorn.

Taking granola beyond breakfast and making it an all-day snack, Creative Snacks Co. of High Point, N.C., featured its Granola Clusters in a variety of flavors. And Golden Beet-o de Gallo from Love Beets of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., won the expo’s Nexty Award for Best New Savory or Salty Snack.

do anything sauces

Photograph courtesy of Do Anything Foods

6. Functional Beverages 

Functional food and beverage sales continue to surge, with the category growing 7.5% to $68 billion in 2018, according to New Hope, which names mushrooms, hemp and CBD, ashwagandha and probiotics as hot functional ingredients.

“As consumers increasingly seek [functional] ingredients in non-capsule delivery form,” the highest growth categories in 2018 were beverages and snacks, Mast of New Hope said.

Numi Organics of San Francisco introduced new Daily Super Shots in five varieties, each with a different purpose, such as reducing inflammation, gut health and immune support.

Navitas Organics of Novato, Calif., featured Organic Superfood Latte mixes in Cacao, Matcha and Turmeric. Protein 2o of Elk Grove Village, Ill., showcased its line of all-natural waters infused with 10 grams of pure whey protein. Toronto-based Qii served up samples of what it said is the world’s first iced tea for oral health.

Wisdom Natural Brands of Gilbert, Ariz., has relaunched its teas featuring a base of yerba mate, hibiscus and stevia. Yerba mate contains antioxidant compounds, while hibiscus has many reported health benefits.

Chicago-based Petal sampled its line of three botanical sparkling waters: Original Rose, Mint Rose and Lychee Rose. These sparkling blends are free from sugar and caffeine, rich in antioxidants, naturally flavored and organic.

7. Plant-Based Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 

The surge in plant-based foods has created a veritable feast of options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in between.

Daiya Foods Inc. of Vancouver introduced a dairy-free Homestyle Breakfast Burrito and a dairy-free Fiesta Breakfast Burrito. Both are made with an egg-style scramble.

Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Modern Table introduced new flavors of its Vegan Mac made from lentils, rice and peas. Modern Table Vegan Mac is available in Southwest, Classic Cheddar Style and White Cheddar Style.

Alpha Foods of Glendale, Calif., featured its plant-based Chik’n Nuggets and All Day Burritos loaded with plant-based protein. Detroit-based Banza showcased its Penne made from chickpeas, which contains 25 grams of protein per serving.

8. Fido Goes Natural 

Sales of natural supplements, natural living and household products, and natural and organic pet products were all up last year. Citing a stat from the American Pet Products Association, Mast of New Hope pointed out that 73% of millennials own a pet.

These consumers tend to be more concerned about products that are healthy for their pets and the planet. As a result, natural/organic pet products far outpaced conventional last year, up 10.2% to $7 billion, compared to only 1.9% growth for conventional pet products.

Traditional CPG companies such as Minneapolis-based General Mills are also getting into the natural pet game. General Mills acquired Blue Buffalo Pet Products for $8 billion last year.

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