Supplement Industry Trends: Natural Products Expo West 2019

Natural Products Expo West is an annual event in Anaheim in which nearly 3,000 food, drink, and supplement exhibitors come together to showcase their latest products. With the colossal number of exhibitors and more than 86,000 attendees, it can be tough to navigate an expo of this size. Fortunately, however, several members of the humanOS dream team came together to make sense of the bedlam, and in this blog we share the trends that were on show, also highlighting some products that piqued our interests.


Natural Products Expo West 2019: Emerging trends in the food, drink, and supplement industries

Before the event, the data insights division of the producers of Expo West did an analysis to identify trends in the three industries. They came up with 48 trends nested within 16 categories. These categories fall into three broad groups that seem to be the dominant influences shaping the near future of the industries:

1)    “Holistic” health and wellbeing

2)    Empowered communities

3)    Modern life

But what do these mean, and what are some examples of each?


Food, Drink, and Supplement Industry Trends: Holistic health and wellbeing

Consumers are increasingly aware of the problems with heavily processed products that are energy-dense but micronutrient- and phytochemical-sparse. In response, many of us are now more open to consuming ingredients that have been ingested in all corners of the globe for eons for their purported nourishing properties.

Basically, Ayurveda seems less woo than it once did.

Here are some examples from this category:

1) Vegan and vegetarian products are gaining traction, which is probably good for the biosphere, even if this is a highly contentious topic.

2) At the same time, manufacturers seem to be keen to squeeze more protein into their products. As Stu Phillips discussed in this podcast, this is generally an encouraging trend. I couldn’t help but marvel at some of these protein-fortified products, such as the Quest protein chips (they really do taste like tortilla chips). The jerky lover that he is, Ali took a particular liking to many of the dried meat products (when he wasn’t trying to nab free T-shirts).

Next, while collagen was once dismissed as being perhaps the lowest quality protein there is (because of its complement of amino acids), manufacturers now seem keen to include collagen in their products whenever possible. Keith Barr touched on why collagen is good for the health of connective tissues such as tendons in this podcast.

Finally, in an attempt to bring together the best properties of multiple protein sources, some brands combined collagen with proteins (such as whey) that are very effective at stimulating skeletal muscle anabolism. I’m not sure if this might just dilute the advantageous effects of each of the protein sources though – I’d consume the collagen pre-exercise and the whey post-exercise until we know more.

3) Numerous companies are packing their products with ingredients that people claim to have health benefits, such as ashwagandha. It was almost hard to fathom just how many hemp products were on show, and we all left with enough CBD oil to sink a small ship.

A very small ship.

As you can tell by the fact the packet is empty, Maddie took a particular liking to the matcha snacks.

4) Many manufacturers had a clear focus on doing away with ingredients thought to contribute to various maladies, such as gluten.

No surprises there.

And food scientists continue to seek alternatives to more traditional sources of fats and sugars. Monk fruit and stevia were especially common sweeteners.


Food, Drink, and Supplement Industry Trends: Empowered communities

Some of us are fed up of big food companies and apparent government apathy about the perilous effects of consuming junk foods and drinks on our bodies and the environment. In response, smaller-scale communities that aim to counter these effects are emerging.

Here are some examples of the activities of these communities:

1) More environmentally-aware brands are using novel approaches to reduce, reuse, and recycle product packages. There were dozens of packaging companies promising novel, eco-friendly product packaging solutions.

2) Progressive companies are using business models that aim to improve capital flow to everyone involved in their projects, including those in “developing” countries.

3) Brands appear to be becoming more particular about their agricultural practices, energy costs, and employee welfare at all levels of the supply chain. There was also a common emphasis on making business practices more transparent.

Good stuff!


Food, Drink, and Supplement Industry Trends: Modern life

We consumers want to capitalize on cutting-edge science and technological innovation to improve health and performance in a way that is practical in the contexts of our busy modern lives. This is fundamentally what we’re all about at humanOS.

Here are some examples of some of the more innovative products we saw:

1) Some brands are responding to new scientific discoveries. An example of this is a novel melatonin product that Dan found when he wasn’t shaking hands and kissing babies.

The product that contains a timed-release form of melatonin and an asparagus extract. This supplement is relatively novel for two reasons: 1) it uses an unconventional, timed-release delivery system, 2) it contains an asparagus extract, which is speculated to improve sleep in some people by stimulating the production of heat shock proteins. The concentrations of these proteins increase in response to stressors, such as prolonged wakefulness, and the proteins help ensure that our bodies respond appropriately to duress. It’s not yet clear if the combination used in this product is efficacious, but it’s an intriguing approach.

2) Taking a supplement or dried food is often more convenient and practical than consuming a whole food, and there were many dried foods and food extracts on show. We have discussed the many health benefits of beetroot (1, 2, 3) and cocoa (1, 2) here before, so we were pleased to see several dried beetroot products and cocoa flavanol supplements. Despite being unsweetened, the dried fruit products are exceptionally sweet and make for great alternatives to many processed items.

There were numerous chocolate products spiked with various ingredients, including creatine. There were also several chocolate-based sleep products, which left me puzzled given that cocoa contains multiple stimulants, including caffeine.

3) Finally, some brands aimed to add a novel spin on consumers’ experiences. (There was vodka jelly. I can attest that vodka jelly is about as tasty as it sounds)

What are the main food, drink, and supplement industry trends in 2019? Here's what we learned at Expo West
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Post-Expo West life

We met some wonderful people at Expo West, tried some great products (although we’ve probably met our protein bar quotas for the next decade), and were a little sad to leave.

Fortunately, the future is bright.

Feeling impulsive, Ali hired a Mustang and took Maddie and I on a West Coast roadtrip up to humanOS HQ, where we’re now beavering away at upcoming projects.

Watch this space!



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