News & Insights

Out With the Old, in With the New: Trends in Food & Beverage at the Last Expo East

By Atalanta Rafferty and Avery Darida

Cartoon man and woman eating healthy snacks, with a variety of healthy snacks floating over the white background

For almost four decades, Natural Products Expo East has provided a hub for food & beverage manufacturers, buyers and marketers from across the world to gather and discuss what’s new and next in the natural, organic & healthy products industry.

Just like a delicious meal, innovation in the food space isn’t meant to be enjoyed alone. From out-of-the box packaging and products launches to presentations and panels, conventions like Expo East are a (super)marketplace of ideas for the industry to share, sample, and improve upon food and beverages that have a positive impact on the world.

While Expo East announced its own rebrand to Newtopia Now set to take place in 2024, there’s lots to glean from the final show. Building off of what consumers are already buzzing about in the CPG arena, let’s take a look at the top trends and products coming out of the last Expo East:

Keep It Simple, But Significant

In a world where nutrition labels look a lot like laundry lists, food brands are bringing product formulations back to the basics – especially in the natural products space. By opting for fewer, more unique ingredients, brands are creating simple products that people know and love – but with a fresh and unfamiliar twist.

Zero Carb LYFE has the business of simple ingredients “in the bag,” recently launching its Lyfe Chips made from 100% chicken breast this year. From the same startup that launched chicken-based pizza crust, these high-protein, low-carb, gluten-free and keto-friendly chicken chips are proving that consumers can still enjoy their favorite foods, just made better for them.

Meanwhile, salad-inspired snack bars Undressed, which launched in 2023, is another prime example of simplicity meets novelty. The company launched a chewy yet crunchy, savory yet sweet “salad bar” that’s made with only the simplest ingredients like grains, greens, almonds, fruits and veggies.

There’s Nothing Like The Real Deal

Global fare is on the rise across categories, with ethnic foods estimated to grow at a CAGR of over 7 percent from 2022 to 2030. As shoppers experiment with both familiar and unfamiliar international cuisines, food brands are tapping into their roots and launching heritage-rooted foods for consumers from all backgrounds.

Take Sweet Tahini for example, an Isreali immigrant women-owned business in Boston, MA, that unveiled its tahini and oat milk frozen desserts in authentic flavors like Dark Chocolate with Halvan Crumbs and Cardamom Pistachio. The creamy, nutty desserts lean into the ongoing tahini trend while introducing consumers to the sweet staples of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Brazi Bites was born with a similar mission, looking to bring the gooey goodness of Pão de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) to U.S. consumers in a foolproof format. Created by a Brazilian husband and wife duo, these Latin-inspired frozen goods are naturally gluten-free and better-for-you – and they’re catching on like wildfire. The brand now offers empanadas, cheesy waffles, and single-serve breakfast sandwiches, carving its place in the rapidly growing sector of heritage-inspired foods.

Parting Ways With Plastic Packaging

Sustainable packaging is a tricky topic in the natural products industry, as companies are held responsible for what goes around their products as much as what goes into them. With 600 billion water bottles produced annually, beverage companies in particular are getting creative to combat the mounting plastic pollution crisis.

At last week’s show, ShineWater, a ready-to-drink beverage providing consumers with 100% of their daily dose of vitamin D, unveiled new sustainable aluminum can packaging across all of its products. Doubling down on its mission to make a global impact on nutrition, the company claims it is the first brand in the enhanced water category to make a total commitment to sustainable packaging.

Another leader in category is Boxed Water is Better, a brand born to solve the problem of plastic. With packaging made from 92% plant-based materials that’s 100% recyclable, Boxed Water claims it’s the most renewable package in the aisle and shows up through strategic partnerships with companies like Alaska Airlines and Soul Cycle to assist in achieving their carbon neutrality goals.

Buzz-Free Beverages Are All The Buzz

Gen Z and millennials are moving towards mocktails, with #mocktail racking up over 1.3 billion views on TikTok. As consumers prioritize wellness above the dreaded post-booze haze, CPG brands are getting creative. But these drinks aren’t just for those cutting out alcohol completely, as 82 percent of people who buy nonalcoholic beers, wines, and spirits still purchase traditional alcoholic beverages.

PARCH Spirits is proving that drinks can taste and look like the real thing, just without the hangover. The company’s line of canned agave non-alcoholic cocktails mimic the flavors of tequila and mezcal while offering a concoction of adaptogens like Ashwagandha and L-Theanine for maximum relaxation.

Meanwhile, brands like Sayso are satiating the sober-curious movement with purposeful products like its Skinny Spicy Margarita Cocktail Sachets. Known as a mocktail in a tea bag, the brand’s unique format of mixers enables consumers to experiment with as little or as much alcohol as they wish – depending on the drink or the day.

Looking to bring your food and beverage brand to the next level? Get in touch with RF|Binder and transform your brand’s “what if” into a job well done.

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