Expo West 2023 Trends and Observations
The Drive Wheel team is on location and excited to connect with our current and future members at Expo West. With over seventy thousand buyers, exhibitors, and industry professionals expected this week, there’s no doubt that people are fired up to connect with their peers.
The show floors have all been packed with people ready to engage with the industry, showing how strong the natural products industry has become. The line to get into the White Tent was so packed on day one you could be forgiven for confusing it for the convention centers neighbor Disney land.
Our team has been keeping our eyes out for new tastes and trends across the industry that are sure to inspire innovation and to keep conversations going about where consumers’ interests will be shifting in coming years. Drive Wheel Peer Groups are an excellent forum to dig deeper into these trends and to see how your Peers are interpreting changing tastes and trends. Let’s take a look at what was trending this year at Expo:
Reducing Your Alcohol Not Your Fun
The past few years have seen a rise in the “sober curious” lifestyle. This has been driven by a variety of things, from consumers’ desire for improved physical and mental health, a shift towards mindfulness and wellness practices, and a growing awareness of the negative impacts of alcohol on society and the environment. As a result, consumers are seeking out alternative beverages that still let them enjoy the ritual of having a drink, like mocktails and non-alcoholic beers, which allows them to socialize without compromise.
Expo West exhibitors have taken up this movement, and some of our favorites so far include Mocktail Club’s products which feature non-alcoholic twists on old classics like their capri spritz for those who miss Aperol Spritzes and Three Spirit who have a range of non-alcoholic wines as well as their elixirs that boast mixology inspired botanical flavors. Both have included a little kick to some of their products which mimics the burn of alcohol that can be missing from sweeter juice mocktails. Just because consumers are choosing to abstain doesn’t mean they’re interested in a sweet flavor profile.
Classic Soda’s With A Twist
There has been a shift in cultural values towards healthier lifestyles, and this has influenced consumer preferences for healthier beverage options, but consumers don’t want to miss out on the nostalgia of familiar flavors. This has led to cool new soda alternatives that have as much function as they do flavor. Rowdy Mermaid’s Cola, grape, orange and lemon lime adaptogen rich Good Mood Sodas have that nostalgic flavor down, and they offer a relaxing alternative to caffeine and sugar. Vina’s Dr. Spice, Peach Pop and Yola Cola offer low sugar options, while packing the caffeine that some consumers seek out from their sodas, helping them to keep that pep in their day.
With the rise of international travel and increased exposure to other cultures, consumers are becoming more adventurous in their food choices and seeking out new and exciting flavors from around the world. This trend is reflected in the growing popularity of global cuisines such as Thai, Mexican, Indian, and Korean, as well as the use of flavorful ingredients like harissa, gochujang, and za’atar. Consumers are also drawn to healthier options, with many global cuisines emphasizing the use of fresh herbs and spices to get their flavor instead of salt and sugar. .
Dosa’s range of Lassi’s rooted in Indian flavors, but packing a new twist include Cayenne Tamarind, Cardamom Mano, Peppercorn Berry and Tumeric Banana. Alpha’s Globally inspired plant-based wraps include Sweet Chili Chik’n, Chik’n Curry and Steakless Spicy BBQ, Eat Meati teamed up with Momofuku with a collaboration that brought their plant based products together with bold chili crunch.
New Players In The Non-Dairy World
Plant-based milks have gained already largely arrived in the industry, and are now as ubiquitous as their traditional dairy counterparts. This is driven by several things, including health concerns, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare. Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of animal agriculture, and many are choosing plant-based alternatives as a way to reduce their carbon footprint. Plant-based milk options like almond, soy, oat, and coconut milk have become more widely available, making it easier than ever for consumers to switch. This year it looks like the plant based dairy landscape is becoming more diverse . Moving onto the scene this season we saw two new plant based milk players with Chick Pea dairy, from Kiddiwinks plant based milk for kids to CHKP’s chickpea based yogurts, to Shroom Junkie’s mushroom plant milk.
Not Just Net Zero – Net Positive
Regenerative agriculture is a holistic farming approach that prioritizes soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem resilience. This method of farming aims to restore degraded soils and promote sustainable food production by integrating practices such as cover cropping, crop rotation, reduced tillage, and the use of natural inputs like compost and manure. We saw a rise in regenerative products claims, taking the sustainable products trend to the next level. As consumers continue to show preference to companies with a sustainable mission this looks to be a great way to show not just neutral impact on the world but positive. Many consumers are willing to pay more for this conscientious approach, so look for this to be an increasing investment in brands’ social capital.
Move Over Neutral Tones – It’s Time For Magenta
Walking the show, it was easy to spot a new trend in booths, clothes, some spectacular suits, and neon signs. Pantone wasn’t wrong when they made Viva Magenta the color of the year. This bright hue has taken over Expo West and it’s the perfect color to show off the energy and vibrancy you can feel in the industry. Bold colors, flavors and innovation is the name of the game, and Expo West has brought that to the center of conversation. Don’t let that momentum slow as you make your way back to your day to day routine. Drive Wheel may not bring the Magenta, but your favorite bright orange Peer Group’s are about to kick off our spring season, and we are excited to keep the conversation going!
Engaging Discussions Enable Confident Decisions™
When you’re busy with the daily demands of your job, its easy to overlook the opportunities that will drive long-term growth. When you become a member of a Drive Wheel™ peer group, you can identify new strategies, reduce risk, and make confident decisions that will grow your business faster and more strategically.
We host two-day in-person meetings twice a year where leaders discuss their new strategies, innovation plans, and business challenges to get feedback from their peers. Member leave the meeting knowing they have thought about their idea from every angle. Between meetings, we conduct benchmarking studies and weekly news roundups to keep our members informed about changes in the industry.