Natural Products Expo West
If you’re in the food and beverage world, there’s a good chance you’ve seen an article (or 500!) about Natural Products Expo West 2022. There are a lot of great reasons for the coverage, and we can’t wait to share our experience at the show this year!
The excitement and energy were palpable at every single “hub”. With an estimated 60,000 in attendance, the show spans three massive exhibit halls, along with multiple smaller “spokes” set up over the course of four days to facilitate additional vendors, networking/social events, educational sessions and meeting spaces. The entire show buzzed as people gathered for the first time in three years. While there have been a handful of shows in the interim (some of which I attended), this was the first that felt like a true indicator of being “full-on back”.
Trends: What’s been incubating for 2+ years?
Making Meals Easy Peasy.
The increase of at-home dining during the pandemic opened the door wider — and the desire — for consumers to continue the practice of preparing meals at home. We saw a significant range of meal kit starters this year, aiming to make mealtime easier for on-the-go lifestyles. And the options included some pretty compelling reasons to believe (aka RTBs): a wide variety of ethnic flavors, some really solid clean ingredient profiles, and on-trend plant-based solutions.
Bright, Bold and Light-Hearted Booths.
Brands looked and felt different for 2022. Historically, Expo West can be a sea of white backdrops with a smattering of close-in food photography. This year, booths were bright and bold with a huge range of color throughout. And FUN! There were a ton of interactive social activations hosted by brands, including DJs playing music throughout the day.
Delivering on Indulgence.
I loved seeing some brands go all-in on taste, which we know is still the lead driver for consumers when it comes to food. We know there was an uptick in the purchase of comfort foods at the beginning of the pandemic, so the modernization of nostalgic foods is brilliant. Whether these brands are building on that trend or simply on to incredible taste profiles, they definitely deliver on a yummy experience.
Definitely not brand new, but it would be a complete miss not to acknowledge the significant headway that plant-based has made in the past few years. “Plant-based” was prolific in product and in messaging, you couldn’t miss it. Whether in the form of meat replacement (chicken and seafood were nearly as prevalent as beef), snacking, drinking (yes — beverages too!), or meal solutions, PB is all the rage.
What About COVID?
Proof of vaccination was required (or proof of a negative test) and while masks were encouraged, the vast majority of people did not wear them. And for all intents and purposes, sampling was handled exactly like it was at pre-pandemic shows. If you’re considering exhibiting or attending a show in the coming months, I would expect the venue to have a Covid protocol, but be prepared for the reality to possibly play out differently. The shock of the strangeness of normalcy was outweighed by the overall positive sentiment.
Here We Go.
If Expo West is truly an indicator of where we are headed with live events, I say buckle up! While this resurgence of energy may not last forever, I imagine most shows will experience something similar in their inaugural year back, so embrace the positive momentum and the opportunity to engage!