Beverage Trends Abound at Natural Products Expo West
Plant-based beverages, sparkling drinks and sports & energy products topped the list of highlights at the 2019 convention.
This year’s Natural Products Expo West drew a record-setting 86,000 attendees and more than 3,600 exhibiting companies this March at California’s Anaheim Convention Center.
Those attendees included executives from Imbibe, a third-party beverage formulation and commercialization company based in Niles, Ill. Following are new beverage observations from Imbibe trend spotters.
Tea & Coffee
Several brands including HopLark, Teatulia, and Up to Good showcased sparkling tea beverages, though Teatulia calls their sparkling beverage “tea soda.” It is sweetened with cane sugar and includes flavors like lavender, cucumber and pineapple.
Purple, silver needle tea, and cascara were some of the novel teas on the show floor. Purple and silver needle tea come from Africa and support local farming communities. All three are suggested to be high in antioxidants.
RTD cold brew coffee and tea lattes were popular on the show floor. High Brew Coffee and Bhakti Chai sampled products with cashew milk and HeyDay and Rise introduced a cold brew coffee with oat milk.
Coffee with ingredients for added function is an up-and-coming trend. Forest Coffee and Cadence Coffee showcased CBD enhanced cold brew while Pop & Bottle debuted a line of lattes with antioxidants, collagen, nootropics, and adaptogens.
One of the more novel coffee offerings was Verve Coffee Roasters Flash Brew on tap. Flash Brew is made by pouring hot water over ice in an oxygen-free environment which results in a bright, full-bodied flavor. Flash brew coffee is a trend-to-watch as it may compete with cold brew in the future.
Tea Time: New generation of sparkling tea beverages. Teatulia varieties include those lavender, cucumber and pineapple flavors.
PHOTO COURTESY OF: HAPPY CELLS, INC. (WWW.TEAONIC.COM)
Oat milk was one of the most pervasive beverages across the show floor. Califia, Mooala, Oatsome, Silk, Rise, Quaker and several other brands featured oat milk products.
Other novel plant-based milks included Hope & Sesame sesame milk, Milkadamia macadamia milk, and Three Trees pistachio milk.
Brands offered plant-based waters for premium hydration. Almond, aloe, bamboo, watermelon were some of the plant-based waters being showcased.
Brands like Kalena, Sap! and Drink Simple offered flavored, sparkling plant-based waters. Featured flavors included blood orange, cranberry goji berry, and strawberry habañero.
CSDs & Sparkling Waters
Based on the number of products being showcased at Expo West, caffeinated sparkling water may be the next big thing.
Limitless calls its product “lightly caffeinated” with 35mg of caffeine while Ávitāe’s products range from 90-125mg. XRC has 250mg of caffeine per bottle, but claim that the brand’s patented delivery system provides 125mg of caffeine up front and the other 125mg will be slowly released over time.
Demand for sparkling water hasn’t died down and brands like Big Swig are entering the market with bold, bright flavors like key lime.
Olipop and Live add a twist to craft soda by incorporating functional ingredients. Olipop sodas are enhanced with prebiotics while Live soda is fortified with probiotics for gut health.
New brands are entering the craft soda market and offering sophisticated flavor profiles. Cann offered a blood orange cardamom “social tonic.”
Sports Nutrition & Energy
Keto products were popular across categories but were especially prevalent in sports nutrition products. Collagen and egg white protein, MCT oil, and natural non-nutritive sweeteners were key ingredients in these products.
The clean label movement has strongly influenced the sports nutrition category as many brands are transitioning to natural colors, flavors and sweeteners. Several brands like Elmhurst, BodyLogix, and Happy Planet called out their clean ingredients on product labels.
Another hot trend in sports nutrition was incorporating greens like kale and spinach in protein products. Evolve, Iconic Protein, Amazing Grass, Plant Fusion, and Whole Earth & Sea were a few of the brands offering superfood protein beverages.
Brands are enhancing protein products with other ingredients, too, like collagen, MCT oil, BCAAS, probiotics and medicinal mushrooms.
Food as Medicine
Gut health is still a top priority for consumers and brands are using more than probiotics to improve digestion.
Apple cider vinegar and prebiotics were widely represented on the show floor. Teaonic’s I Love My Gut Tonic uses a laundry list of plant-based ingredients suggested to aid with gut health including milk thistle, dandelion root, and fennel seed.
Beauty beverages suggested to improve hair, skin and nails are an emerging trend. Collagen is the rising star and can be found in products across categories. Other products touting beauty benefits include bamboo water, which is high in silica for collagen production; and rose water, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
Consumers have cognitive health on the brain so brands are incorporating ingredients that improve focus, clarity and memory into juice, tea, kombucha, smoothies, enhanced waters and more. iQ Juice uses fruits and herbs high in quercetin, a flavonoid that is suggested to improve brain function.
Beverages and wellness shots that help you fall asleep are a growing trend. Ingredients like l-theanine, valerian root, and melatonin are common in these products. Hempi’s sleep inducing shot also includes 10mg of CBD and adaptogens to encourage better slumber.
CBD was one of the most prevalent ingredients at Expo West. It was found in food and beverage across categories and as a supplement. Water was a popular CBD delivery method for beverages, but it was also incorporated into lemonade, coconut water, and coffee products.
Plant-based ingredients were a top trend at Expo West, especially in protein beverages. Aloha showcased an RTD plant-based protein beverage made with pea and brown rice protein for a well-rounded amino acid profile that can compete with dairy-based protein drinks.
More brands are incorporating adaptogens into their products and helping raise awareness about these stress-relieving herbs. Temple Turmeric introduced a natural energy drink with adaptogens and caffeine.
Medicinal mushrooms for different functions were popular throughout the show. Chaga, reishi, lion’s mane, cordyceps and turkey tail offer varying benefits like improved energy, focus, and gut health.
Food and beverage products are getting flavor inspiration from India. Flavors like cardamom, turmeric, ginger and chai could be found in CSDs, juices, teas, and even ice cream.
Fruity flavors also had global inspiration from Asian and Latin American countries. Blood orange, pomelo, dragon fruit, yuzu, and guava were popular in waters, teas, CSDs, and energy drinks.
Floral flavors like elderflower, rose, lavender, and jasmine were used in CSDs, tea, lemonade, and sparkling water.
Consumer palates are becoming more sophisticated and welcoming of flavors other than savory or sweet. Bitters were incorporated into beverages by brands like Hella Cocktail. Hops were also used in beverages beyond IPA beers like water and iced tea.
There were several diet-friendly products on the show floor, but keto was by far the most common. Products highlighted keto on the label and called out ingredients that align with the diet like no sugar and healthy fats.
Other diets called out on the show floor were paleo and Whole 30. Several brands had signage that their product was Whole 30 Approved.
Growing with the plant-based trend are vegan claims on product labels. Some of the claims include vegan, vegan-friendly, and 100% vegan.
Studies suggest that a significant number of consumers are limiting the amount of sugar in their diet in order to live a healthier lifestyle.
Brands are responding by reducing, replacing, or completely removing sugar. “No added sugar” is an increasingly popular claim as changes to the nutrition facts panel loom. Other sugar claims include zero sugar, no sugar, sugar-free, reduced sugar or calling out how many grams of sugar are in a product or serving.
Imbibe is an industry-leading beverage development company focused on formulating and commercializing cutting-edge products across all beverage categories. Visit www.imbibeinc.com for more information.
Originally appeared in the July, 2019 issue of Prepared Foods as The Floor Show.