Anaheim, CAMore than 65,000 registered attendees and 3,000 exhibiting companies gathered at the Anaheim Convention Center March 7-11 for Natural Products Expo West, according to Informa Market. Natural and organic foods and beverages; clean beauty and home products; and nutritional supplements and ingredients were on display, with industry members throughout the supply chain gathering to learn about the latest research and innovations.

1) Innovation is back—and backed by research. 

Experts have noted that innovation slowed during the pandemic, due to supply chain challenges, staffing issues, the need to divert funds to other operations, and additional complicating factors. Much of the innovative offerings the WholeFoods Magazine team saw on the show floor involved delivery systems and technology to enhance nutrient absorption. A sampling of what we saw:

  • Lonza showcased new dosage innovations and clinical insights at the show. Among the new offerings: a new flavor and aroma capsule coating technology, designed to enhance the functionality and experiential benefits of supplements. Also on display: Capsugel Wave Technology, which is used for liquid-filled capsule applications, allowing brands to deliver oil and water-based solutions ingredients inside one visually appealing capsule. 
  • Gnosis by Lesaffre was shining a light on MenaQ7 Matrix, a clinically validated and patented K2 protected by Matrix technology.  The encapsulation makes it more stable, great for use in functional foods and beverages. As the company explains, the technology supports tablets, capsules and other traditional formats, as well as ready-to-drink applications. Also on display at the booth: Gnosis shared the news that it is entering foodservice with its Red Star Nutritional Yeast, a nutritional ingredient fortified with a B-vitamin complex.  
  • Capsoil Foodtech by Prodalim, Ltd., put a spotlight on innovative powders that the company says offer new possibilities for integrating beneficial nutritional oils, fat-soluble vitamins, and lipid-based nutrients into a broadened range of applications. This includes liquid shots, functional beverages, tinctures, enriched foods, and gummies, as well as traditional supplement formats. The technology can be used to differentiate, improving existing products or innovating new offerings.
  • Aker BioMarine was showcasing the company's new PL+ Technology, a delivery platform that aids in nutrient absorption. PL+ phospholipid-bound omega-3s support cell membrane flexibility and permeability, which is crucial to a cell’s ability to absorb ingredients, the company explained. PL+ Technology helps improve absorption of less bioavailable ingredients, which makes it possible to create superior formulations such as PL+ EPA/DHA Ethyl Esters.

2) Microbiome & immune are booming.

The microbiome was getting major buzz at the show, and for good reason. As explained by the Naturally Informed team, which is hosting a virtual education conference focused on the microbiome in May, "microbiome" was a blurry concept only five years ago, but has become understood as perhaps the most critical environment impacting human health – and consumers know this. What they know less about is exactly how it works and what they can do to impact it. And the more things come into focus, the more we have yet to learn about these complex systems so fundamental to life – the science is evolving literally daily. (Learn more at

  • The experts at TriNutra were on hand to discuss a human clinical study that demonstrates the benefits of

     TriNutra's proprietary black seed oil, ThymoQuin, when combined with AstaPure astaxanthin. The combination was shown to improve immune system vigilance and overall well-being following endurance training and competition stress. Improvements in the microbiome and gut-immune-brain axis may play a role in the benefits.
  • Cargill’s EpiCor team was putting gut and immune health at the forefront. The postbiotic has been the subject of more than a dozen published studies, including multiple clinical human trials. Research shows that EpiCor helps support the immune system, nasal comfort, and positively modulate the gut microbiome. Consumers are increasingly aware of the importance of gut health for overall wellbeing, and understanding of the benefits of postbiotics is one the rise. As the experts noted, food, beverage, supplement and pet food manufacturers are leveraging the formulation flexibility of postbiotics to bring the gut- and immune-health benefits to a variety of applications, so the opportunity here is significant.
  • As the ADM team noted, post-COVID people are looking for mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing, and they are being proactive about their health and wellness. To support consumers, ADM  had -biotics front and center. Recently, the company opened a new production facility in Spain to help meet rising global demand for probiotics and postbiotics. The site will produce ADM’s probiotic BPL1 and the heat-treated BPL1 postbiotic, as well as other ADM proprietary strains, and will support further growth in ADM’s UK-leading Bio-Kult brand of products. The company is also innovating on delivery systems, offering dissolving strips for probiotics.
  • FrieslandCampina Ingredients was at Expo to showcase its prebiotic range Biotis GOS range, which includes the company's new Biotis GOS-OP High-Purity. This ingredient is designed to allow brands to create on-trend gut health supplements such as gummies. The versatile ingredient can be used in a variety of formulations, the company said, giving brands flexibility to create line extensions. As the company has reported, consumers are more savvy about the role of the gut microbiome in supporting improved mental health, stress, and sleep, creating opportunities for brands to attract consumers by creating "accessible self-care moments. And thanks to ingredient innovations in the space, unique and trending formats can be created, such as teas, shots and fortified gummies using good-for-gut ingredients such as prebiotics." 
  • Daiwa Health Development was showcasing a new release: Daiwa GastroImmune, powered by the active ingredient ImmunoLin. Derived from bovine, the GI supplement contains a high concentration of naturally sourced immunoglobulins. Clinical trials showed that it can help restore gut homeostasis, support healthy GI barrier function, and bind and neutralize bacterial toxins in the gut. 

3) Active Aging is in demand.

The active nutrition category is on a winning streak, as WholeFoods has reportedand it shows no signs of faltering. A recent report from Verified Market Research revealed that the sports nutrition market was valued at $36 billion in 2020 and is set to reach $66 billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 7.9%.

  • Gencor was at Expo showcasing several researched branded ingredients, including ActivAMP, a plant-based solution for active aging. ActivAMP is an extract of an adaptogenic herb in the Ginseng family that has been clinically proven to burn fat and improve athletic performance. The ingredient, extracted from Gynostemma pentaphyllum, supports metabolic health by supporting healthy triglyceride levels, supports healthy body weight, helps reduce body fat, and helps improve aerobic exercise performance.The company also offers Trigogen, a proprietary extract of fenugreek seed for metabolic health that supports fasting and postprandial glucose levels. Gencor says it is better tolerated than berberine, which can cause GI upset for some users. And for liver health, Gencor offers 4'Liver, an Ayurvedic blend  designed to keep the liver cleaner by helping to prevent fatty liver with continued detoxing and improved metabolism.
  • Nirvana Water Science has released Nirvana Super, a liquid supplement that the company dubs "more than a shot." It delivers HMB to boost lead muscle mass and metabolism, vitamin D3 to build bone strength, and vitamin B complex to support energy and memory. Also new from Nirvana: Super "More than a Seltzer" and "More than Water" in a variety of flavors, each with HMB and D3, along with varieties that also include vitamin B complex or collagen, or electrolytes.
  • Nuritas was showcasing PeptiStrong plant-based peptides for the active nutrition space, as the ingredient has been shown to increase muscle synthesis recovery following immobilization. Experts were on hand to discuss a clinical trial, carried out by Maastricht University and published in the Journal of Nutrition, that the company says backs up its assertion that PeptiStrong plant-based bioactive peptides (which are unlocked from nature using AI precision technology), represent "a significant turning point in the way companies can now transform end-consumer vitamins and supplements, but also functional food and medical food." The company's goal: to revolutionize the ingredient business. Nuritas also has launched PeptiYouth, designed to improve skin's cellular regeneration and reduce wrinkles.
  • Timeline Nutrition cellular nutrition Mitopure capsules were displayed at the show in softgels (500mg). The product is aimed at improving cellular health and provides Mitopure in its simplest form, according to the brand. Mitopure is the first clinically tested, highly pure Urolithin A postbiotic, the brand noted, touting clinical studies that showed how 500mg of Mitopure delivers 6X more Urolithin A than a glass of pomegranate juice. This ingredient was brought to the show floor following a decade of research and numerous clinical trials.
  • VivoMega Omega-3 launched its new offering: algae oils that are ocean-derived and plant-based omega-3s with superior quality 700mg/g DHA. VivoMega has been spearheading purification of marine oils for decades. A natural next step is adding new raw materials that can deliver premium omega-3 products. At Expo West, the brand shared the science behind its Microalgae that represents a plant-based and highly potent source of Omega-3 DHA. The brand shared its SuperLight process, designed specifically for algae oils. The process is highly controlled with minimum exposure to heat and superior oxidation protection. It is available in 700mg/g DHA and 700mg/g total Omega-3, ocean derived, vegan omega-3 from microalgae, VivoMega Superlight Processing, Halal certified, non-GMO, has a 2-years shelf-life, and solvent-free.

4) Clean label and sustainability are a major focus.

As WholeFoods has reported, a survey commissioned by Neutral Foods revealed that 86% of adults in the United States feel the planet is worth saving, and that of those 86%, more than half (51%) agree that protecting the planet is important. The problem: They feel they are unable to help. In addition, 62% of all U.S. adults agree “food choices can impact the planet,” while 52% agree that they would be willing to make a switch to an alternative food brand if it could impact climate change. Thankfully, industry companies like Neutral and many others are stepping up to make the positive difference. Carolina Schneider, MS, RD, shared her insights and impressions from the show floor in Beyond Nutrition: 8 Food & Beverage Companies That Are Making a Difference. And here's more of what the WholeFoods team learned:

  • The experts at Kerry discussed the company's evolution to be even more focused on health and nutrition. Kerry is innovating through a lens of sustainable nutrition, focusing on food security, clean label (helping brands clean up their portfolio and extend shelf life to cut food waste), balanced nutrition (helping companies optimize the nutrition profile of products), proactive nutrition (focus on for key need states: digestion, immune and joint health, women's health, and cognitive health), and personalized nutrition (products tailored to specific needs). Kerry was also showcasing ingredients liquid BC30 probiotic and Sensoril Ashwagandha. Also on display: the BioK Extra probiotic supplement line, with options for immune support (featuring Wellmune beta glucan) and Cognition (featuring Cereboost American ginseng extract).
  • FruitSmart noted that, since COVID, there has been more demand for juice as it transitioned from a breakfast item to a millennial staple and consumers have moved away from alcohol. Consumers want a blend or an innovation. The brand showcased its blends of apple and raspberry, and the trend is going towards blends. Further, botanicals are growing, and consumers want a “unique flavor experience” with added health benefits in their drinks. The fibers and powders are upcycled, and the process matters. It serves partners by offering a wide variety of juices, purees, concentrates, essences, fibers, seeds, seed oils, and seed powders.
  • Geno focused on sustainable materials by replacing fossil fuel sources with plants. When it comes to carbon emissions, the company is on a mission to reduce hundreds of millions of tons of carbon pollution by 2030. Its first technology is  enabling up to 90% lower carbon emissions than the same products made using fossil fuels and other unsustainable sources. 

5) Snacks (and drinks) with purpose are on the rise.

Consumers want great taste and a great mission. As WholeFoods has reportedNatural Marketing Institute's 2023 State of Sustainability in America Consumer Insights and Trends Report, shows consumers continue to hold strong attitudes toward environmental protection and are taking small, progressive steps toward more environmentally friendly behaviors. Consumers are making purchases based on a growing set of values, from toxin-free to fair trade, and companies are delivering. From protecting the environment to nixing GMOs to promoting mental health, here are a few of the brands we connected with at the show. 

  • Guayaki Yerba Mate, a social purpose corporation focused on regeneration, released its new flavor, Peach Revival, focusing on less sugar and great taste. The brand described the drink as a hit for all ages, with students and college kids taking a particular interest. The drink comes in a can and has 20 calories and 3g of sugar. Its organic brew of yerba mate and organic yerba mate extract also has 150mg of caffeine for a pick-me-up and is released in time for spring. 
  • Unreal is the maker of all-natural chocolate candy products. The company specializes in bars, cups, and gems. The Dark Chocolate Coconut Bars are certified vegan, gluten-free, and Non-GMO Project Verified. They also make Dark Chocolate Caramel Peanut Nougat Bars, which are Non-GMO Project Verified. The cups come in Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Almond Butter. They also all use Fair Trade certified chocolate. 
  • Saffron Road is a leading brand of frozen Indian Cuisine. At the show, they exhibited their new cauliflower coconut curry. Other flavors include Butter Chicken, Chicken Biryani, Chicken Pad Thai, Chicken Enchiladas, and Chicken Tikka Masala. The company also has shelf-stable Crunchy Chickpeas that come in a variety of flavors. You can also find ready-to-eat meals that can be heated up in 60 seconds and Simmer Sauces that can be added to any protein or veggie based dish. All of their products are gluten-free, halal certified, and kosher. Many of their products are vegan, and non-GMO Project Verified. 
  • Not only does Hope Foods create delicious hummus and plant-based dips, but the company is also working to give customers the tools to support emotional well-being. Their team of professionals includes a Nutrition Health Coach and Mental Health First Responder and Trainer. Their website provides tools for self-care and emotional support. Hope Foods has a full line of hummus and dips, sure to be the hit at any party. Flavors include, Mild Green Chile and Spicy Green Chile Guacamole, Cashew and Almond french Onion and Spinach Artichoke Dip, and Thai Coconut Curry. Black garlic and spicy avocado hummus. 
  • Wild Tonic Jun kombucha, made from honey instead of cane sugar for a smoother, lighter approach without a vinegar bite. Wild Tonic launched its mocktail line and announced  new packaging. The non-alcoholic mocktail line includes: Bee’s Knees (Lemon sour & gin flavors (with hints of juniper, citrus and coriander), Persephone (Pomegranate, citrus and ginger with blanco tequila flavors), Paloma (Smokiness, plus tart lime & sea salt), and The Mule (Made with Jamaican ginger beer and lime). The brand’s founder explained the significance of Jun, stating that the traditional line is a living drink that has 42 strains of yeast pre- and probiotics and is a go-to for athletes. The mocktail line follows the sober curious trend, giving consumers a healthy alternative, while infusing a sophisticated alcohol palette. Its packaging rebrand includes the Arizona redrocks, as each Jun kombucha takes on the “energy of the place it is made from."
  • Jackson’s Chips is the maker of sweet potato chips, fried using only avocado and coconut oil. The company was born in 2013, by Scott and Megan Reamer, as a low-inflammation snack for their son, Jackson, to enjoy after being diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disorder. The chips come in a variety of flavors like Carolina BBQ, Farmhouse Ranch, Spicy Tomatillo, Sea Salt, and Unsalted. All of the products are Top 9 Allergen Free, gluten-free, vegan and kosher. 
  • Chicas is a woman-owned and family-operated business that makes chips and salsa. Irlanda Montes started the company with a passion for wanting to share her mother's family recipes with the world. Her and her sisters worked to make small batch chips and sell them in their community. Now, the blue corn and original corn tortillas can be purchased, and you can feel good eating them, knowing they are made with only six ingredients, and are non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-free.
  • Southern Recipe Small Batch Pork Rinds showed its air-fried pork rinds snack. At Expo West, its newest offering, Krutones croutons, were released. This gluten-free option is a “star for soups” and a pioneer of its category. The crunchy, protein-packed, gluten-free crouton alternative can be added to salad, used as a topper to dress up  soup, or added to casserole.

6) Industry leaders and pioneers were in the spotlight.

Expo West is always a place to recognize what's new and what's next, but a highlight is also honoring those who paved the way, and those who are making positive strides to better the industry overall. A few of the individuals and companies that were recognized:

The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) presented the 2023 AHPA Awards, which recognize individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the continued success of the herbal and natural products industries. This year's winners:

  • Herbal Hero Award: Asa Waldstein
  • Herbal Industry Leadership Award: Natural Remedies
  • Herbal Insight Award: David Winston
  • Environmental Impact Award: Shawn Donnille
  • Herbal Pioneer Award: Lise Groleau
  • Lifetime Achievement in Collaboration Award: Joseph Betz

The American Botanical Council (ABC) presented several awards, including:

  •  Mark Blumenthal Herbal Community Builder Award: Mimi Hernandez, RH (AHG), Executive Director of the American Herbalists Guild (AHG). This annual award is given to individuals who have played a significant role in creating a sense of connection and community among herbalists, botanical researchers, members of the herb and natural products communities and industries, and others who work with medicinal and aromatic plants.
  •  ABC Varro E. Tyler Commercial Investment in Phytomedicinal Research Award: Sabinsa Corporation, a leading producer of nutraceuticals, “cosmeceuticals,” standardized botanical extracts, and other products for the nutritional, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and food industries. 
  • ABC Norman R. Farnsworth Excellence in Botanical Research Award: Michael Heinrich, Ph.D., a professor of ethnopharmacology and pharmacognosy at the University College London (UCL) School of Pharmacy.
  • ABC James A. Duke Excellence in Botanical Literature Award to Medicinal Herbs in Primary Care: An Evidence-Guided Reference for Healthcare Providers by Jean M. Bokelmann, M.D., in the reference/technical category and Ginseng Diggers: A History of Root and Herb Gathering in Appalachia by Luke Manget, Ph.D., in the consumer/popular category.

Stay tuned for more from Expo West!

The WholeFoods team will be sharing insights from CRN, Rubus, Sunrise Strategic Partners, and more!