Our small-but-mighty team had a blast at Expo West this year, clocking in dozens of brand video hits, thousands of steps through the Anaheim Convention Center halls, and what seemed like hundreds of delicious samples.
We also pinpointed quite a few up-and-coming trends at the Expo, from edible caffeine and eco-focused initiatives to herbal coffee and healthier options for alcohol, pasta, baby food, and more.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the trends we noted—and keep your eyes peeled for in-depth reviews on some of our favorite brands in the coming months!
Focus on Hydration
We all know that drinking water is good for us—but it can get boring to chug bottle after bottle of plain ol’ H2O.
We’ve seen a rise in electrolyte drinks and powders in past years, but Cure Hydration stands out for their top-tier ingredients—like coconut powder, pink Himalayan salt, and organic flavoring—and no added sugar.
Healthier Drinking—Or Not At All
A theme we saw emerging last year at Expo East—a focus on non-alcoholic beverages or healthier ways to drink—has certainly stuck around.
From lower-sugar mixers to recovery shots to adaptogenic NA spirits, Expo West gave us a good taste of how to drink—or not drink—in a healthy way.
Some of the NA brands we loved sampling were the adaptogenic Social Elixir from Three Spirits (loaded with yerba mate and lion’s mane mushroom) to elevate your mood and the low-sugar mocktail mixers from Mingle with just 20 calories per serving.
And if you are planning to imbibe in drinks with a non-zero ABV, More Labs has got you covered with their Morning Recovery shot, full of vitamins, electrolytes, and liver-supporting compounds to get you back on track the next day.
Taking a Look at Sweeteners
From stevia to erythritol to monk fruit, the options for non-caloric, natural sweeteners are now seemingly endless.
However, we heard from a handful of brands that they are aiming to step away from these sugar-free sweeteners, for reasons including potential health risks—case in point: this recent study on erythritol—or simply wanting to get back to more natural ingredients.
One brand we saw taking the “regular” route was Mingle, who added just a smidge of organic cane sugar to their healthy mocktail mixers.
All Things Coffee
If you thought coffee was just coffee and couldn’t be reimagined, think again.
From herbal teas that taste like coffee to mushroom-loaded java to delicious instant coffee that puts Folger’s to shame, Expo West was loaded up with coffee of all sorts (as was our slightly overcaffeinated team).
For the purists who are looking just for regular coffee, look no further than Ethical Bean—a brand with a mission to provide 100% fairtrade certified and organic beans that are good for both the people and the planet.
Which brings us to our next trend….
Sustainability and Eco-Focused
Not only did Expo West as a whole place a greater emphasis on sustainability at the show, but many companies we saw were leaning into eco-friendliness—or making it a core part of their brand.
A favorite that we stumbled upon on the show floor was Bar U Eat—upon first glance, it looks like another tasty granola bar, but talking with the brand led us to learn that their wrappers are compostable—made with plant-based materials from FSC Certified forests as a means to become BPI Certified Compostable.
We also loved to see that some well-known brands are taking sustainability to the next level, like Harmless Harvest, who rolled out new lines of coconut yogurt and smoothies to help them meet their goal of being zero-coconut-waste by 2025.
Healthier Options for the Little Ones
A significant trend that we made a note of this year at Expo West was a greater emphasis on healthy foods for babies and toddlers—why should adults have all of the (clean, organic, non-GMO) fun?
Whiteleaf Provisions carries baby food pouches and apple sauces with ingredients from organic, biodynamic, and regenerative farms, while Yumi offers organic baby food for all stages and puffs and clean-label-certified bars for the toddler crowd.
Plus, Brainiac Foods uses applesauce, gummies, and “Brain Butter” to target key nutrients that most of our kiddos—and us adults, if we’re being honest—aren’t getting enough of, including lutein, DHA, and other omega-3s.
Pasta Alternatives Nail Taste and Texture
Plant-based or otherwise, pasta alternatives are no stranger to the bustling halls of Natural Products Health Expo, but this year’s tour of better-for-you fusilli, linguini, and other classic options simply hit different.
What struck us was not so much the favorable nutritional comparisons (standard pasta is continually catching shade at the expo), but the leveled-up taste and texture.
For instance, ZenB was perhaps the most accurate alternative to standard noodles we’ve tried to date, in taste, texture, and appearance.
Derived from the Japanese word for “whole” (zenbu), these immaculately pasta-like noodles are made from only one ingredient: yellow peas.
But Taste Republic is very much in the running when it comes to the tastiest gluten-free pasta, as the owner refuses to launch any products that aren’t impeccably similar to the pasta we all know and love.
Finally, Three Farm Daughters is about as pasta-like as it gets—considering it’s real pasta.
No, they aren’t gluten-free or plant-based, but thanks to the kind of wheat this North Dakota family uses in their pasta, you can dwarf the fiber content of your standard bowl of pasta several times over.
Caffeine You Can Eat (Safely)
They certainly weren’t the only edible caffeine brand making moves at Expo West this year, but Quantum Energy Squares had the best interview and the tastiest edible caffeine products.
The crux of “Chief Amazement Officer” Dave Cynkin’s spiel was an eyebrow-raising point about the pitfalls of separating caffeine and food.
If you want a sustained energy boost without the crash, Dave explained, you can’t just have coffee for breakfast—which is where his plant-based, gluten-free, and caffeinated bars come in.
Loaded with nutritious protein sources and more, Quantum Energy Squares provided a perfect shot of mid-day pep for our team while staving off hunger at the same time.
And no, unwanted teleportation is not a side effect. They just wanted a cool name.
Herbal Supplement Leaders Pull Ahead
It’s safe to say most of us are feeling a bit inundated by the constant flow of trendy herbs popping in and out of prominence.
Thankfully, we have brands like Ruved, Teeccino, and Four Sigmatic, who have planted their flags in highly promising niches throughout the realm of ancient herbology to bring practical, targeted solutions to the everyday shopper.
Naturopath-founded Ruved brings out a selection of the most trusted ayurvedic herbs in their catalog of herbal supplements, including ashwagandha, curcumin, and many more.
By far the best herbal brand in terms of bringing out the huge palate of bold flavors nature has to offer—from hazelnut chicory to maca chocolate—is Teeccinno. Hence the name, their herbal teas are very much geared towards the coffee-loving palate.
Finally, Four Sigmatic is putting on a clinic when it comes to tasty adaptations of functional mushrooms like chaga, lion’s mane, cordyceps, and much more.
In addition to their flagship line of coffees, Four Sigmatic now has coffee creamers and protein powders made with the same nutritionally hard-hitting ingredients.
Broth Keeps Blowing Up
Broth is broth, right? Actually, what may seem like a stale product category with little potential for improvement has actually proven to be a huge opportunity for brands that approach it correctly.
In fact, Bonafide Provisions has been at it since 2006, and by “it,” we mean providing discerning shoppers with high-quality, Certified Organic bone broths that are frozen immediately after being made (in small batches) to preserve nutrients.
Their no-sugar-added, protein-packed instant bone broths are shelf stable, and can even serve as seasoning.
And of course, we didn’t visit them this year, but we’ve got to give a shoutout to Dr. Kellyann for leading the field with their collagen-rich, delicious bone broths in both powder and liquid form.
We hope grandma doesn’t take it personally, but she has serious competition.