Breaking Records and Setting Trends at Expo West

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It was another record breaking year for the 2017 Natural Products Expo West, with more than 80,000 in attendance at the Anaheim Convention Center from March 9-12. The event, which is in its 37th year and produced by New Hope Network, hosted 3,100 exhibitors, with over 500 first-time exhibitors. Attendance was up by over 3,000 from last year.

“Each year, longtime attendees band together with first-timers to push the natural products industry to new heights. We quickly see its impact as groundbreaking new healthy products show up on store shelves across the country.” said Adam Andersen, managing director, New Hope Network, in a press release.

In addition to taking over the convention center and the Anaheim Hilton, the expo also spilled over into Marriott, to host educational sessions and, for the first time, new products. The event is only expected to continue growing each year, with the convention center’s expansion of the North Hall in time for the 2018 expo.

With more expo attendees and continued growth in the natural products industry, the WholeFoods team saw a great deal of growth in established categories as well as growing trends that will likely take the market by storm. A growing trend happening in dietary supplements is whole food-based product formulation. A leader in this is MegaFood, based in Derry, NH, which places an emphasis on the foods their supplements are derived from, such as the Uncle Matt’s Farm oranges, from which it extracts vitamin C and the Kauai Organic Farms turmeric the firm utilizes. The importance of MegaFood’s farm partnership, explains Erin Stokes, naturopath and medical director, is to provide consumers with a connection to food. Supplements in general have taken on a sort of sterile, medicinal persona and this movement seeks to remind people nutrients come from food and that supplements can help fill gaps where even a proper diets fall short. Helpful infographics displayed at their booth, for example, break down the amount of food it takes to get recommended daily value of vitamin B6 such as 2.5 large bananas, 3.5 cups avocado and 20 tablespoons of peanut butter. This puts nutrition in perspective. While this may not be new to some manufacturers, something noticeable in the expo aisles were manufacturers using whole food terminology such as turmeric instead of curcumin and the rise of whole food turmeric in more and more functional food applications.

Protein continues to be a dominant force, but with the continued inroads of plant proteins, the category is reaching a broader range of consumers beyond fitness enthusiasts and athletes because everyday people are seeing the value of protein and groups such as vegans, vegetarians and those on plant-based diets increasingly recognize the need to meet their protein needs. Growing Naturals, based in Los Angeles, CA, for example, is introducing a new line of Benefit Blends. These are “one and done” plant protein formulas for morning and evening rituals that give consumers the necessary protein, fiber and antioxidants they need when they start and end their days. This crossover product targets the everyday consumer who simply wants a quick and filling meal that’s nutritious. The PM Benefit Blend also incorporates a proprietary formula to aid in sleep which reflects a growing trend across categories. Sleep aid supplements are not necessarily new but manufacturers are seeing increasing opportunity in offering consumers support for restful sleep. We predict that sleep aids will continue to grow in prominence in various formats.

Despite targeting mainstream consumers, plant proteins still seek to challenge their dairy-based counterparts in the sports nutrition category from brands such as Naturade and Clean Machine. Clean Machine, based in Tampa, FL, introduced a new plant protein called lentein that is derived from water lentil, which challenges whey in its Branch Chain Amino Acid content and is highly nutrient dense, meeting the recommended daily allowance of several vitamins and minerals. However, beyond sports nutrition, dairy-based protein is also reaching out to other markets, demonstrated by products such as Whey2Be! cookies that take advantage of snacking and protein trends all at once.

When it comes to food, plant-based (PB) foods continue to grow rapidly with leading vegan brands like Daiya and Lightlife continually adding more products to their portfolio, not only giving their vegan and vegetarian customers more options but also giving their dairy and meat-based counterparts some added competition. This booming category is particularly driven by the natural channel. In an education session, the Plant Based Food Association explained that while growth in all channels for plant-based food was up 1.9%, in the natural channel, growth was 12.2%. Top product types that driving growth are PB milk ($4.2 billion), PB mean ($606 million), PB cheese ($104 million) and tofu ($92 million). This growth has not gone unnoticed. Particularly in PB milk and other dairy alternatives, the dairy industry is pushing back, most recently with the Dairy Pride Act, formally titled Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday – Act and sponsored by Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin (D), that seeks to redefine dairy as obtained from hooved mammals and would prohibit the use of terms such as milk, yogurt and cheese on non-dairy alternatives. If the bill is to pass, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have three months to issue guidance. PBFA’s position, reflected in letters to FDA, Baldwin as well as Representative Peter Welch (D-VT), is that the bill will have no effect on consumer choice and that legal precedent exists allowing the use of “common and usual names” on products. However, PBFA does concede that label and product standardization of plant-based foods across the industry would be beneficial.

Collagen has seen a real surge. While a multi-category ingredient to begin with, seen in health and beauty applications as well as joint health supplements, collagen is being given a greater role in sports nutrition to aid in recovery after strenuous exercise. The growing number of bone broth protein supplements showcase collagen as a complementary ingredient for active individuals. Collagen products have also seen innovation in delivery system with formats like soft chews and powders utilized by Irvine, CA-based NeoCell Corp targeting hair, skin and nails as well as joint health and inflammation. NeoCell demonstrated just how creative one could be with their collagen consumption by having “cooking with collagen” demonstrations at their booth, serving attendees collagen pudding and collagen tilapia tacos.

A fascinating and controversial category, phytocannabinoids have garnered a great deal of acceptance among natural products consumers and retailers over the past few years, but misinformation continues to hold the category back. This is why Las Vegas, NV-based CV Sciences has been holding sessions at major trade shows such as the Healthy and Natural Show in Chicago, IL, Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD and again at Natural Products Expo West this year. In these sessions Stuart Tomc, VP of human nutrition for the firm, emphasizes that hemp-based phytocannabinoid products have nothing in common with marijuana because they contain less than 0.03 THC and therefore do not cause intoxication in its users. He and other manufacturers of phytocannabinoids are frustrated about being both lumped in with marijuana and contradicted by marijuana advocates and dispensaries which advocate the medicinal properties of THC and place an emphasis on strain (ie. sativa vs. indica).

Tomc argues that “strain” is a marijuana term rather than a hemp term and that THC-rich products advocated by these parties do not offer the health benefits that cannabidiol (CBD)-rich products from hemp do. Among hemp-based phytocannabinoid manufacturers, emphasis is placed on CBD and the combination of other phytocannabinoids derived from hemp that create what is often referred to as the entourage effect. It appears that these lectures are having a benefit, as the room increases in size to accommodate all those interested in the topic as well as the increased presence of phytocannabinoid products on the show floor.

Cognitive health is also an emerging trend with some targeting concentration and others targeting mood. Products targeting focus and concentration from brands like Brain Gear and Brain Juice come in convenient, drinkable formats perfect for young professionals. Products that support mood are found in more conventional supplement formats but there are some unique formulations that take a holistic approach. For example, Monroe, WA-based Natural Factors introduced a new line called 3 Brains, formulated by Karen Jensen, ND. The gut-brain connection is often talked about in the industry but this line pursues gut-brain, heart-brain and gut-heart connections. The line is a variety of kits that provide crucial supplements that target all these factors in one place. For example, 3 Brains Total provides customers with phosphatidylserine, curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, grapeseed extract, and key probiotic strains to support what Jensen calls the three brains. This is a very unique approach to cognitive health that also incorporates other highly important health factors that individuals often prioritize.

Innovation is a commonly used word when it comes to Expo West, but the level of originality and technological innovation brands exhibit at the show never ceases to impress. A great example is Life Extension, based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, which debuted multiple new products, but moreover, showcased the innovative science behind their newest product, Ageless Cell. Life Extension partnered with Insilico Medicine scientists to develop “geroprotective” — natural substances capable of aiding in a healthy life span — formulations by using artificial intelligence to study an abundance of data to determine what combination of nutrients could support the aging process. The result is a formulation consisting of four ingredients— myricetin, NAC, gamma tocotrienol, and EGCG — all of which modify “senescence-inducing” pathways, inhibiting the development of senescent cells. According to Life Extension, the scientists found that the four nutrients work together, in different ways, to support key anti-aging pathways, and they believe these compounds all modulate specific biological pathways responsible promoting good internal and physical health. Because this information can all seem a bit dense to those of who aren’t scientists, Life Extension played an informational video at their booth, which can also be viewed at: www.GeroProtect.net

Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company
Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company

It’s important for both dietary supplement companies and natural food manufacturers to innovate because the natural products industry is highly disruptive, leading the change necessary to promote health. Denise Morrison, president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company, one of the keynotes this year at Expo West said as much. Morrison, who said this was her third year attending, praised the show and explained that brands such as Bolthouse Farms and Plum Organics, which are now part of Campbell’s portfolio got their start at Expo West. The trade show, she said as well as the natural products industry as a whole has influenced Campbell Soup Company as well as other mainstream brands to rethink their current business models and be more responsible about what goes into their products and being transparent with consumers.

Change, she explains is not linear, but change and the ensuing complexities it presents also creates opportunity. In times of change, Morrison says, there needs to be “responsive and responsible leadership,” and she advocates strategic foresight; a future-oriented thought process in which a company prepares for future disruption in the marketplace. One example she provided that is particularly relevant to the natural products industry is the way eating habits are changing. The lifestyle of average people is quite fast-paced and therefore, says Morrison, the lines between snacking and meals are blurred. Snacking is moving away from guilty pleasures such as bags of chips or candy bars and instead, because of this daily hustle, snacking throughout the day means making up for lack of a full meal. This is causing consumers to make more deliberate purchases that are healthy and functional so that while they may not have time to grab a full lunch, they are getting nutrition throughout the day from their snacks. Snacking is currently a $89 billion market in the United States and the natural products industry is a driving force in functional foods and beverages.

 Doug Rauch, co-CEO of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and founder/president of the Daily Table
Doug Rauch, co-CEO of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and founder/president of the Daily Table

Clearly, the natural products industry is growing and growing rapidly. We have long stopped being niche and the world is catching up to us, while we continue to move forward. Yes, this is a big business but it also means something, and that’s important. In his keynote address, Doug Rauch, a major player in the industry who has spent 30+ years at Trader Joe’s, finishing his tenure as president of the entire Trade Joe Company and is currently co-CEO of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and founder/president of the Daily Table, explained that the natural products industry grew out of people’s immense passion, but for many, this passion wasn’t enough. Some people, he said, felt so strongly about what they were doing that they felt guilt about making money as a business.

However, he contends, business if done ethically is good, what he called conscious capitalism. Business is good, says Rauch, because it creates value, it is ethical because it is a voluntary exchange, noble, because it can elevate our existence and even heroic because it can lift people out of poverty. Profit, he explains, is the air businesses breath and allows them to live on so that they can serve a higher purpose. This industry is full of amazing stories and passionate business owners and as the industry continues to grow, it’s important to keep in mind that all this business we engage in serves a higher purpose. Additionally, as bigger players choose to cash in on the industry’s success it’s important that the passionate business owners remain successful and compete so that we may maintain our integrity. WholeFoods challenges independent natural products retailers to continue to be leaders in their communities, showcasing these many valuable products but also maintaining high standards and taking to task those who you do not feel represent the values of the industry.


Patricia Bragg, N.D., Ph. D., Head of Bragg Live Health Products
Patricia Bragg, N.D., Ph. D., Head of Bragg Live Health Products

NewsBriefs:

Head of Bragg Live Health Products, Patricia Bragg, N.D., Ph. D., made an appearance at WholeFoods Magazine booth where she signed copies of her book Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar for expo-goers.

Howard Schiffer, CEO, Vitamin Angels
Howard Schiffer, CEO, Vitamin Angels

Vitamin Angels, based in Santa Barbara, CA, held their annual League of Angels fundraising reception at the Diamond Club in Angel Stadium of Anaheim, where attendees learned about the organization’s mission through inspirational videos and networking and also celebrated their efforts with hors d’oeurves and drinks. Guests were able to use the Anaheim Angel’s private batting caging for donations of $50 — which helps 200 children. Founder and CEO Howard Schiffer gave the evening’s keynote speech.

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) of Silver Spring, MD, announced the recipients of the 2017 awards, which are given to individuals and organizations that have substantially contributed to the herbal products industry. Elwood Richard, founder of NOW Foods, received the AHPA Visionary Award, Scott Bass, partner at Sidley Austin, LLP, and Loren Israelsen, president of the United Natural Products Alliance (UNPA), were honored with the AHPA Herbal Insight Award, Suzanne Shelton, founder and managing partner of The Shelton Group received the AHPA Hero Award and BI Nutraceuticals was presented the AHPA Herbal Industry Leadership Award. “AHPA is pleased to recognize the hard work and dedication of these individuals and BI Nutraceuticals. AHPA and the entire herbal products industry have greatly benefited from their years of dedication and hard work,” said AHPA president Michael McGuffin. “These awards are a small token of our gratitude for their tireless efforts.”

New Hope Network’s annual Hall of Legends once again honored eight of some of the most influential leaders in our industry. Newly inducted legends were Joan Boykin, a founding member of The Organic Center, Morris Shriftman, CEO of Mozart Marketing, Terry Lemerond, founder and president of EuroPharma Inc., Katherine DiMatteo, executive director Sustainable Food Trade Association, Michael Kanter, founder and co-owner of Cambridge Naturals, Steven Smith, founder of Tazo, John Foraker, president of Annie’s Inc., and Irwin D. Smith, found and CEO of The Hain Celestial Group. These inductees have all strived to make a positive impact on the world through their businesses and organizations by being tenacious, embracing innovation and standing by their principles.

The American Botanical Council (ABC), based in Austin, TX, awarded its 2016 Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award to Her Excellency Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Ph.D., president of the Republic of Mauritius who leads her country as an advocate of African medicinal plants, and has made valuable contributions to the knowledge of the medicinal properties of plants growing on Mauritius and its surrounding islands. She is the first female president to be elected on Mauritius. “ABC is deeply honored to be able to recognize the excellent ethnobotanical, pharmacognostic, and conservation efforts and publications of Her Excellency Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim,” said Mark Blumenthal, ABC’s founder and executive director in a press release. “Her tireless work on medicinal plants in the Indian Ocean and East African region has already garnered several well-deserved and high-profile international awards. I am certain that the late Professor Farnsworth would highly approve of ABC’s selection of Dr. Gurib-Fakim to receive his eponymous award.”

ABC also announced that Ikhlas Khan, Ph.D., will be the recipient of the 2016 ABC Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award. “Through organizing the International Conference on the Science of Botanicals (ICSB) for 17 years, in partnership with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Professor Ikhlas Khan has created a global community of researchers, regulators, and others who have an interest in furthering the appropriate production and responsible use of scientifically supported medicinal plants products,” said Blumenthal of ABC’s decision. The award will be presented to Khan on April 4 at ICSB at UM.

Reserveage Nutrition, based in Boca Raton, FL, held their annual Women in Naturals event at Hilton’s Sunset Deck where guests were encouraged to network with the many influential women in the natural products industry who were in attendance. Naomi Whittel, founder and CEO of Reserveage Nutrition and president and CEO of Twinlab, based in American Fork, UT, delivered the opening remarks for the event.

 President and CSO, Sidney Sudberg with his son, CEO and microscopist Élan M. Sudberg
President and CSO, Sidney Sudberg with his son, CEO and microscopist Élan M. Sudberg

Alkemist Labs, based in Costa Mesa, CA, celebrated its 20th anniversary at Expo West. President and CSO, Sidney Sudberg with his son, CEO and microscopist Élan M. Sudberg expressed their gratitude during a champagne toast to an audience at their booth. The firm is a leader in botanical identification services, utilizing botanical Microscopy and HPTLC for quality control when only a handful of companies with high standards invested in testing.

Pierce Sioussat, president and CEO, Bioforce USA, Heather Wainer, publisher, WholeFoods Magazine, Abby Sioussat, owner, Bioforce USA

Herbatint, based in Ghent, NY celebrated one year as a B Corp with a champagne toast. B Corps meet rigorous standards for social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency as certified by the non-profit B Lab.

Aker BioMarine Antarctic US, based in Issaquah, WA, introduced its Omega-3 Index Project which seeks to make the value of omega-3s more tangible to consumers, increasing loyalty from customers and integrity from industry suppliers and manufacturers. CEO, Matts Johansen explained that Aker was embracing a “new school” focus of engaging with consumers and encourage other B2B companies to do so as well because consumer research and marketing is important to not only understand consumers to also to help and support them. At their 10th Anniversary party, they premiered a short film, directed by leading Norwegian director that portrayed the lifestyle of a bodybuilding Norwegian woman compared to the traditional diet of her family which is heavily composed of fish. “The future of communication is about storytelling, not brainwashing,” says Johansen. The story told is simple and does not advertise Aker, only that the omega-3 index of modern young people falls short of the desired level, no matter how healthy and active one’s lifestyle may be. Research has shown that high omega-3 levels reduce the risk of heart disease by 90% and that the target numbers for one’s omega-3 index should be 8% and above.

Mushroom Wisdom, based in East Rutherford, NJ, held its annual Japanese breakfast where Mark J. Kaylor, Ph.D., discussed the functions and benefits of mushrooms.

Wakunaga of America, based in Mission Viejo, CA, held its annual dinner party for retailers at the Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, featuring a Japanese dinner and live music by the Safari Jazz Band.

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