Healthy trends for 2019 at Expo West

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Healthy eating, natural and organic ingredients are all ongoing big news in the food and beverage market, and few places are better to pick up on the current big trends than the annual Expo West in California. We teamed up with two of our clients who attended the expo, Rhett Hurvitz from Luv Sum and Angie Lang from Swirlit to look at the themes that are getting people talking:

Plant-based diets and fake meat: While it can be part of a healthy diet, meat consumption doesn’t have a great reputation right now. Concerns about climate change, environmental impact, animal welfare, and of course health have all combined to put meat-free eating on a wider agenda.

RH: Vegan products where everywhere, including loads of fake meat. I was most impressed with a brand called Impossible Meat.

Sugar is still the bad guy – but fat has a reprieve: There’s a pretty strong consensus that eating too much sugar is bad news for anyone’s diet, and in the health food world there is a big move towards reducing or even cutting sugar out altogether. Options include using alternative sweeteners such as stevia, or taking a completely different flavour approach and using other tastes to satisfy the palate.

One way of doing that is by including fats. Having been the healthy eating bad guy for many years, fats are now coming back into their own. Most people now know that not all fats are equal – transfats are bad health news, while unsaturated and saturated fats play different roles in the body. More health products are welcoming fat – or at least “good” fats such as avocado – back into their ingredients list.

AL: Healthy options and low sugar were really big on the agenda and the inclusion of stevia in drinks was prominent. Tea-based drinks are on the rise.

Cannabinoids are still big news – and other compounds are joining them: With the loosening up of legislation around cannabinoid use in many US jurisdictions, the natural health world’s interest has been growing in the use of CBD oil and related compounds. Of course, many countries (including Australia, and even more so in many of our SE Asian export markets) have strict laws around cannabinoid products, so this trend isn’t for everyone. But one interesting theme seen is the inclusion of increasing numbers of other “nutraceutical” compounds in beverages marketed for functional health.

RH: CBD oil was used in a significant proportion of new products exhibited.

 AL: Beverage companies were packing protein, collagen, pre- and probiotics, hemp, green coffee bean, nootropics and antioxidants into new formulations. Ingredients like ashwagandha, mastiha, adaptogens, and amino acids were increasingly represented.

 Brands are looking to sell function as well as convenience – and freshen up their ranges: The food and beverage market nowadays is about more than just satisfying hunger or slaking thirst. Today’s consumers want their products to pack in extra benefits for gut health, energy, immune function, or even beauty, and producers are responding. At the same time, refreshing ranges in this way gives brands the chance to update their image and relaunch classics for the modern market.

AL: brands were offering a wider portfolio of functional drinks focussing on gut health, relaxation, sport nutrition, immunity, detox, beauty and energy. Inclusion of dairy alternatives is extending ranges.

Sustainability is causing a buzz: The natural health world has always been an obvious bedfellow for environmental activism, whether that is in careful and transparent sourcing of ingredients, or environmentally aware packaging. With single use plastic packaging making a negative splash in the news over the last couple of years and customer awareness growing, holistic and sustainable products are very much the in thing.

RH: Sustainability, whether that be packaging, processes, ingredients etc, was heavily communicated.

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