The Top 7 Food Trends We Saw at Expo West 2022
Foods and beverages are more than just fuel—and food brands are taking that ethos to the next level. Expo West 2022 was the place to see thousands of food and beverage brands debuting functional, innovative, and solution-oriented products, many of which will revolutionize grocery aisles permanently. After walking the floor at the Anaheim Convention Center for two days, here are the trends we scouted out that we believe will be pillars of new products to come.
Healthy energy drinks
Exploding in popularity as of late, there is a high chance that one of our standout clean energy drinks picks have already found its way into your refrigerator. With increased consumer interest in natural, healthy sources of energy that don't result in an afternoon sugar crash, the battle to gain market share and create a drink that both tastes great and is derived from a simple formula without artificial sweeteners, colors, or preservatives will see consumers with a bevy of exciting options on the shelves in the coming months.
As a near-effortless way to boost overall wellness, the swap to these more functional beverages is a straightforward and easy way to hit your health benchmarks by utilizing the addition of adaptogens, probiotics, fiber, vitamins, and root extracts. Some companies also focus on building community and giving back, like CLEAN Cause, a healthy energy drink company that donates 50% of net profits to support individuals in recovery from alcohol and drug addition.
Plant-based has certainly been one of the biggest trends that we've seen in the industry over the past five years, and we are continuing to see it grow. Now the focus has shifted from plant-based beef to plant-based chicken as well as other plant-based alternatives that aren't trying to be meat (like jackfruit). Imalk'esh Organics, for example, will soon launch a plant-based mea alternative made from organic texturized "CHi Protein," their blend of water, sacha inchi nut powder, and fava bean protein.
If you haven't heard of adaptogens yet, we expect it's only a matter of time. This buzzword is becoming increasingly prominent across the food landscape despite many consumers still struggling to grasp at exactly what they are. The active ingredients found in plants, mushrooms, and herbs believed to provide health benefits that can increase your body's ability to respond to stress, anxiety, and fatigue, adaptogens are now found in countless food and beverages from sparkling waters to canned coffees to even whole coffee beans (from Four Sigmatic). Regarded for their therapeutic effects in eastern medicine extending back centuries, more well-known examples of adaptogens include: Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Goji Berry, Turmeric, Tulsi or Holy Basil, and Licorice Root.
FREE RAIN, for example, is a line of sparkling waters that are enhanced with functional ingredients such as Siberian ginseng for Energy, ashwagandha, and maca.
The faces behind majority shareholders and founders in food and beverage companies is shifting—and fast—with historically underrepresented entrepreneurs introducing flavorful and authentic products to consumers. Whether it be through types of employee-owned models, or new enterprises with BIPOC, Latinx, or Asian-American founders, entrepreneurs are diversifying what ownership and traditional grocery store shelves look like.
Jake Deleon, Founder & CEO of Fila Manila, is a 1st generation Filipino-American immigrant who launched a line of Filipino sauces and condiments during the pandemic after spending his $1,200 stimulus check on prototypes.
Sustainability/Food waste/Regenerative agriculture
Climate change, as well as food and packaging waste, are top of mind for many shoppers, and brands are either revamping their sustainable packaging efforts, overhauling their supply chains, or new companies are popping up solely based on tackling the issue of food waste, such as Renewal Mill. The company is all about upcycling, using ingredients typically discarded during production in their plant-based products. For their Nexty Award-winning Upcycled Matcha Chip Cookie Mix, the company uses leftover soybean pulp from tofu to make okara flour, which is the base for these upcycled cookies.
Other ways brands are tackling food issues is by starting at the soil, and several brands, including Navitas Organics, boasted a Regenerative Organic Certified seal, indicating ingredients were produced by methods that advance soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness.
Moonshot, a climate-friendly snack brand, makes plant-based, carbon-neutral crackers with heirloom, regeneratively grown wheat. Their packaging is made from recycled materials and is recyclable itself and are also carbon-neutral at the company level, measuring our footprint every year and offsetting anything they can't reduce or eliminate.
In our increasingly busy worlds, it's no surprise that consumers are looking for quick and easy ways to get food on the table faster. While previous decades solved that problem with T.V. dinners or Hamburger Helper, food brands are now tackling the issue with nutrient-dense, flavorful, and creative alternatives.
For example, A Dozen Cousins showed off their new seasoning sauces for both rice and meat/meat alternatives. The entree seasoning sauces include flavors like Jamaican jerk and instruct consumers to pour the seasoning pouch onto your meat or meat alternative of choice, coating it thoroughly, then simply bake, broil, or grill it, and you're good to go! Mekhala, a Singaporean/Thai whole foods, showed off their Plant-Based Starter Pack that combines a sachet of non-GMO textured pea protein, with a flavor-packed organic and vegan Mekhala sauce. And Do Anything Sauces brings plants to the forefront of popular sauces, with riffs on favorites like Beet Pesto and Cauliflower Alfredo.
We may have always loved snacks, but since COVID-19, snacking has been on the rise. More than 35% of consumers report snacking more often now than one year ago, with snacking occasions accounting for 48% of all food and beverage, as reported by Food Business News. Consumers are continuing to seek out healthy snacks options, many of which now mimick childhood favorites—similar to how comfort foods started to trend during stay-at-home orders. Cheese snacks fit perfectly with that trend, pairing comfort foods with health food buzzwords like low-carb, keto, and high-protein. New twists on old favorites include Outstanding Foods' first vegan cheese balls, Whisps Cheese Crisps & Nuts, Core & Rind cashew queso, and Moon Cheese's take on a Frito, which are 100% mozzarella sticks shaped like Fritos coated with seasonings.