Stacking the Deck: How CPGs are Packing More Nutrition into the Next Generation of Natural Foods

Between March 6-9, 2019, over 90,000 manufacturers and retailers in the natural and organic food market congregated in Anaheim, CA for the 2019 Natural Products Expo West trade show. The event featured cutting-edge technologies and innovations from new market entrants and reputable companies. Fletcher/CSI identified a few key themes related to product innovation and new launches, including:

  • Nutritional deck stacking remains prevalent
  • Plant protein rules the day
  • Oat milk has exploded
  • CBD continues to expand into all products with no efficacy data

Packing More Nutrition into All Foods:

Expo West 2018 had featured a range of traditional food offerings, such as pasta and water, that had extra ingredients to achieve nutritional benefits beyond their main functions. This trend continues to gain traction in 2019. Ingredients such as collagen, aloe, and magnesium are being added to traditional beverages, treats, and meal staples to layer in greater nutritional benefits. Two offerings that caught our eyes included:

Goodnight: This brand is part of Foundry foods and a member of the Nestle USA incubator. Goodnight offers a late-night treat that tastes great and includes clinically proven ingredients to help consumers sleep. All ingredients are natural with no addictive ramifications.

HopTea: Combines beer and tea into a refreshing and beneficial non-alcoholic beverage. The infusion layers in the carbonation of beer and notes of an IPA with the benefits of various teas, such as green and chamomile. This ingredient blend highlights strides that innovators have made toward evolving traditional offerings into unique products.

Plants Replacing Meat Protein:

Numerous leaders of protein-based offerings rolled out plant protein solutions derived from peas, beets, soy, and other protein sources. In many cases, product quality and consistency were on par with Tyson and Cargill.  Substitutes for hamburgers, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs all maintained the consistency, look, and taste of real meat.

But, why should we focus on plant protein instead of simply eating meat? Aside from the vegetarian segment, plant protein-based offerings cater to environmentally conscious meat eaters. The products create significantly less greenhouse gases than those released from raising and slaughtering livestock. Additionally, plant-based protein products reduce water consumption because of a lower necessity to wash hands due to potential contaminates. Leaders and new entrants have refined their offerings to the point where fast food leaders are considering adding more vegetarian options to their menus.

Oat Milk Explosion:

Oat milk is the latest addition to the dairy substitute lineup of almond milk, soy milk, and others. This milk is produced through a process of adding water, blending, and straining to eventually create a very creamy, sweet liquid.

Oat milk caters to individuals with dairy allergies. It also pairs well with coffee and espresso beverages due to its creamier consistency and sweeter taste. Some competitors have begun incorporating oat milk into instant oatmeal to attract the lactose intolerant crowd that is looking for a creamier option. The presence of oat milk was felt at every corner of Expo West as industry leaders, such as Silk, and newcomers alike, looked to oat milk to differentiate.

CBD Expansion Without Clinical Evidence:

Perhaps the most pervasive trend that is steadily growing is the inclusion of hemp and CBD ingredients into supplements, foods, beverages, and other items. Hemp-based milk, pet treats, cookies, skin creams, and more were identified at every turn. Despite the prevalence of offerings, few exhibitors made bold claims about product efficacy. Most of the efficacy claims were tied to additional ingredients in the panel that already had known benefits, such as lavender and melatonin for calming, and glucosamine for joint health.

The major CPG leaders all indicated a desire to invest in CBD-related products. However, without adequate clinical evidence of the benefits, many were hesitant to make claims beyond verbal commentary. Consumer demand for these products is certainly present and interest levels among manufacturers continue to increase.

Fletcher/CSI researches industry trends and competitor initiatives that impact our clients’ businesses across each of our practice areas. Our research insights support our clients’ strategy and innovation decision making efforts. To learn more about our core services and industry expertise, please contact us at [email protected] or 802-660-9636.