Expo West is often described as the Super Bowl of the CPG world. The show can be a little overwhelming and rightfully so with this year’s event tallying more than 65,000 registered and 3,000 exhibiting companies, including nearly 900 first timers. With empty stomachs for sampling and proper walking shoes, our investment team spent three days scouring the exhibition halls for the latest and greatest. Our team also spent time visiting our portfolio companies’ booths, connecting with old friends, and making new connections.
Read on for our top trends and surprises from Expo West 2023.
Plant-Based Meats Still Kicking –Plant-based protein continues although with less stamina and presence than we’ve seen in previous shows. There was very little differentiation in this category.
Show standouts: Tindl, Meati and Wicked Kitchen
All the Beverages – There was a strong presence from both existing and new brands. A huge number of functional water brands. Ollipop and Poppi had huge presences, as did Liquid Death. Surprisingly, Monster showed up with their branded water Tour Water, very obviously trying to entice Liquid Death lovers.
Show standouts: Health-Ade unveils cans vs. bottles, our beloved Urban Remedy shots, Sound Water
Go with the Gut- Finally the body’s second brain gets the recognition it deserves! Probiotics, prebiotics, and call outs to the microbiome were all over. Several brands used the word “gut” in their messaging. This is something our friends at Health-Ade Kombucha have been doing for years.
Show standouts: Good Culture, Health-Ade Kombucha, Sunwink
Sweet Indulgence– Despite the slew of articles preaching sugar reduction for a healthier life, consumers still want their cake (and eat it too). Brands are taking note of the insatiable sweet tooth of the modern American and are meeting them with low sugar, cleaner options. We saw an influx of chocolate, ice cream and manuka honey products. Sweet Loren’s is killing it and just launched a 40% reduced sugar refrigerated cookie line.
Show standouts: Urban Remedy, Smart Sweets, Sweet Loren’s and Tru Fru
A Spotlight on Regenerative Agriculture and Sustainability – We’ve seen this for a while, and it feels like more of a category-wide theme versus something any one brand appeared to own. Brands called out soil health, waste reduction and upcycling in their marketing.
Show standouts: Good Culture, Gotham Greens, Chia Smash
Global Cuisine Heating Up – Mexican, Korean, Indian, you name it. Vibrant colors and flavors from all corners of the world are a breath of fresh air. Sauces, seasonings, meal kits, the list goes on and on in both the snack and meal categories.
Show standouts: Siete Family Foods, Ziba Foods, Fillos (walking tamales), A Dozen Cousins and Bachan’s
- The Celebrity Effect- Athletes, influencers, movie stars… Expo West was an all-star affair. Jennifer Garner was working the booth at Once Upon A Farm. Blake Lively made an appearance at Betty Buzz non-alcoholic drink mixers. Daniel Lubetzky was working the show floor on his new Mexican cuisine company. We find it super interesting celebrities have taken note of emerging brands and show up to support their investments.
- Comfort Foods, But Make it Healthy- Comfort foods, done in a clean way that makes you feel “better” if not “healthy.” Frozen foods, favorites like mac and cheese and cleaner pasta options stood out.
- CBD Loses Steam – We did not see nearly as many brands integrating CBD into their branding, messaging, or ingredients as we have in the past. Functional mushrooms seem to have stolen the spotlight for the moment.
- Make Way for NA – A sizable portion of the beverage presence included non-alcoholic and alternative drinks. Aperitifs, elixirs, pre-mixed mocktails – oh my! The NA trend may not be just that, a trend, but an emerging category that will stick around and grow consistently. Only time will tell.
Originally compiled by Steve Young, Managing Director and Sylvio Petto-Neto, Director