News & Insights

Insights from Expo West 2024

Damien Moore-Evans

Image of various plant based milks and ingredients.

At this year’s Expo, one theme dominated the landscape: plant-based products. Everywhere you turned, there was a new plant-based product vying for attention. One of few meat brands, Applegate, even commented that ‘we’re one of the only ones servicing real meat’ ahead of their lunch time hot dogs that drew long lines and highlighted the seismic shift towards plant-based alternatives in the food industry. It’s a sign of the times and a clear indication that plant-based food is not just a passing fad but a permanent fixture in the culinary landscape. Here are a few key observations from our visit:

Plant-based Milks

The big players in the oat milk market made a splash at Expo. Oatly, for example, covered two huge pillars in the main entrance to the convention center with their branding and boasted a sizable booth. Califia Farms also made waves with the launch of their new flavored creamers serving up delicious coffee concoctions. 

In a strategic move, Chobani and La Colombe joined forces for their booth, following Chobani’s acquisition of La Colombe for $900M in December. This partnership presents a formidable challenge to industry giants such as Starbucks and Dunkin’, signaling an intriguing shift in the competitive coffee landscape.

But it’s not just oat milk that’s making waves. Keep an eye on new entrants in the alternative milk market, such as Maizly, ‘the world’s first corn-based milk’ and Táche, a line of pistachio-based milks. We’re personal admirers of Táche’s beautifully designed packaging and their delicious pistachio milk, who are redefining the boundaries of dairy alternatives as they seek to position themselves as a healthier option to oat milk.

Health and Wellness – Mushrooms

As we touched on in an earlier blog, health and wellness is critical to consumers today as we observe more than ever what we are putting in our bodies. Mushrooms are having a moment and as an ingredient have long been valued for their medicinal properties and are increasingly being recognized for their potential to support overall health and well-being. At Expo, Melting Forest capitalized on this growing interest in functional mushrooms by highlighting their adaptogenic and nootropic properties, which are known for their ability to help the body adapt to stress and enhance cognitive function, respectively.

By incorporating mushrooms into their beverages, Melting Forest demonstrated a commitment to harnessing the power of nature to promote health and vitality. Their products not only offer consumers a delicious and refreshing way to stay hydrated but also provide functional benefits derived from carefully selected mushroom extracts.

Melting Forest Mushroom Power booth at Expo West.

Moreover, the whimsical and inviting booth design of Melting Forest, reminiscent of The Smurfs Cartoon, added an element of fun and playfulness to the Expo experience, further enhancing the brand’s appeal and attracting attention from attendees. The creative presentation not only showcased the brand’s unique personality but also reinforced its connection to nature and the magical world of mushrooms.

Another brand infusing the benefits of mushrooms into their products is Laird Superfood. Laird Superfood, a brand created 9 years ago by surf legend Laird Hamilton and his wife Gabby Reece, a volleyball legend and fitness expert, have infused the benefits of mushrooms into their functional mushroom adaptogenic coffee. Many mushroom brands seem to be positioning themselves as an alternative to coffee, while Laird Superfood is presenting its joints benefits – smart move considering the global coffee market, according to straits research, was valued at USD 120.59 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach USD 182.63 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 4.72% during the forecast period (2022-2030). Fun fact about Laird Hamilton, he turns 60 this year and is chasing a 60ft wave… we wish him luck with this quest!

Health and Wellness – Non-Alcoholic 

The non-alcoholic beverage sector is experiencing a significant surge in popularity, driven by shifting consumer preferences towards healthier lifestyles and mindful drinking choices. At Expo, this trend was prominently showcased by several brands, offering a diverse range of innovative non-alcoholic drink options to cater to evolving consumer demands.

Guiness 0.0 Beer display wall at Expo West.

Guinness, renowned for its iconic stout beer, has been making a bold move into the non-alcoholic market with the launch of Guinness 0.0. Leveraging its reputation for quality and craftsmanship, Guinness aimed to capture the growing segment of consumers seeking alcohol-free alternatives without compromising on taste or experience. By promoting Guinness 0.0 at Expo, the brand signaled its commitment to meeting the needs of health-conscious consumers and expanding its product portfolio to include non-alcoholic offerings.

Similarly, Lagunitas, a respected player in the craft beer industry, unveiled its latest innovation: Hoppy seltzer water. Combining the refreshing bubbliness of seltzer water with the hoppy aroma and flavor profiles characteristic of craft beer, Lagunitas aimed to appeal to consumers looking for a lighter, more flavorful alternative to traditional alcoholic beverages. 

Meanwhile, Abstinence Spirits showcased a range of alcohol alternatives designed to provide consumers with premium drinking experiences without the need for alcohol. By offering sophisticated and well-crafted alcohol-free spirit options, Abstinence positioned itself as a leader in the burgeoning market for non-alcoholic beverages, catering to health-conscious individuals.

Collage of juice brand booths at Expo West.

Complementary to the non-alcoholic beverage options, the landscape of juice variations expanded as brands showcased innovative and diverse offerings to cater to evolving consumer preferences. Brands like Revl Fruits and Tulua stood out with their unique approaches to juicing, offering creative blends that combined exotic fruits and nutrient-rich ingredients to deliver refreshing and flavorful beverages. Additionally, 100 Coconuts, Vita Coco and Harmless Harvest capitalized on the growing demand for coconut-based products, presenting a range of coconut water options that provided natural hydration and electrolyte replenishment. These brands demonstrated a commitment to quality and innovation, reflecting the broader trend of consumers seeking healthier and more diverse options in the juice and beverage market.

Our Brand Top Tips

Following this year’s visit to Expo, where we gathered many observations and insights, we wanted to share a few ‘top tips’ to brands planning on showcasing their products at future Expos.

Create an Engaging Brand Experience:

  • Design an immersive booth that reflects your brand identity and values. Use eye-catching visuals, interactive displays, and experiential elements to capture attention and encourage attendees to engage with your brand.
  • Offer product demonstrations, samples, or tastings to allow visitors to experience your products firsthand. This hands-on approach can help create memorable moments and leave a lasting impression. 
  • Incorporate storytelling into your booth design and messaging to convey the unique story behind your brand, products, and mission. Authentic storytelling can resonate with consumers and foster emotional connections. Lavazza presented an authentic coffee experience at Expo showcasing their latest bold coffee flavors steeped in their rich Italian heritage.

Collage of booths highlight CSR at Expo West.

Focus on Sustainability and Social Responsibility:

  • Highlight your brand’s commitment to sustainability, environmental stewardship, and social responsibility. Showcase eco-friendly packaging, responsibly sourced ingredients, and initiatives that support local communities or environmental causes. KIND did a great job demonstrating their sustainability efforts through an interactive booth illustrating their ‘Almond Acres Initiative’ which is a pilot project to test mix of regen ag and modern technologies on 500 acres of their supplier, ofi’s, California almond orchard.
  • Educate attendees about your sustainability efforts and initiatives through signage, literature, or multimedia presentations. Transparency and authenticity in communicating your brand’s values can help build trust and loyalty among environmentally-conscious consumers. The General Mills booth showcased their commitment to advancements in regenerative agricultural practices. 
  • Consider incorporating interactive elements or educational content related to sustainability and wellness into your booth experience. This can demonstrate your brand’s dedication to promoting health, sustainability, and social impact.

Drive Engagement and Foster Connections:

  • Prioritize attendee engagement and interaction to foster meaningful connections with potential customers, partners, and industry stakeholders. Train booth staff to engage visitors in conversation, answer questions, and build relationships. GoodPop had both an engaging booth in the convention center and fun food truck outside (pictured above) handing out much needed ice-pops to delegates who were taking a break and enjoying the Californian sun.
  • Leverage social media and digital channels to amplify your presence at the event and encourage attendees to visit your booth. Use event-specific hashtags, live updates, and behind-the-scenes content to generate buzz and attract attention. Goodles did a great job at engaging the crowds with their exclusive giveaways only announced via their Instagram story updates. 
  • Collect attendee feedback, contact information, and leads to follow up after the event. Personalized follow-up communications can help nurture relationships, continue the conversation, and convert leads into loyal customers or partners.

In summary, Expo is not just a trade show; it’s a glimpse into the future of the food and beverage industry and it’s about the battle for market share where start-ups are punching above their weight, competing for the attention of industry giants like Kroger – the Expo start-up pitch event to Kroger, where small CPG brands had 90 seconds to pitch their products, drew long lines of enthusiastic entrepreneurs, highlighting the high stakes of the Expo floor. 

With plant-based alternatives, innovative wellness solutions, and sustainable practices taking center stage, Expo 2024 showcased the evolving tastes and preferences of consumers worldwide and we can’t wait to see what the next year brings! Well done and thank you to all the brands that participated at this year’s Expo and for making it such an engaging experience. 


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