Expo West’s 42nd annual conference was held March 7-11, with incredibly positive energy and a great portrayal of returning to normalcy from the previous expos impacted by COVID-19. The Numerator team noticed strong attendance from both brands and retailers coming together to elevate strategies for meeting consumer needs. These consumer needs were prevalent among brand innovation and marketing strategies highlighted on the expo floor.
Trends and Insights from Numerator
The Numerator team noted many differentiated benefits that brands are delivering to their consumer base but identified a handful of emerging trends that were most common. Condensed into four key themes, these trends focus on the needs that consumers are looking for brands to satisfy: brain fuel, gut health, eco-friendly, and plant-based innovations.
There was a strong theme of adaptogens like mushroom extract being present in several new products marketed as “brain fuel,” such as Tattooed Chef’s Oat Butter Brownie Bar with ashwagandha root. While 2021 and 2022 were years of focusing on physical health over mental health, there’s been a universal movement toward a balanced mindset across all generations, ethnicities, and incomes. According to Numerator’s 2023 Annual Report, nearly 2 in 3 Americans want a more balanced focus on health and mental wellness entering 2023 as sentiments around feeling busy, fulfilled, and happy have stayed stagnant between May to December 2022. Products that market themselves as providing mental comfort and tangible mental health benefits could be helpful for brands who are looking to reach the 40% of consumers who have made a 2023 resolution on mental health.
Functional food and beverages centered on supporting gut health– such as Asarasi, a probiotic seltzer, and Mayawell, a prebiotic soda– were prevalent this year. A key demographic for functional food and beverage will be younger consumers, as they will increasingly focus on nutritional and whole-body wellness rather than supplements in the next 5 years. As Numerator’s Annual Report states, the functional beverage categories have done well, with Protein Water, Kombucha, Prebiotic & Probiotic Sodas, and Sports & Energy Drinks seeing increased purchasing among Gen Z households. These emerging categories will be important to watch in 2023, and it will be crucial for emerging brands to continue investing in research and development for nutrition-based products.
Many brands, such as Gaia Herbs, have chosen to put their environmental mission at the forefront of their brand proposition– a wise marketing strategy since Eco-Friendly shoppers are a rapidly growing audience. More than one in three (34%) consumers now identify as Eco-Friendly, according to Numerator’s report “Winning the Eco-Driven Consumer,” and that number is expected to keep growing. The purchasing power of the green consumer has skyrocketed, with Eco-Friendly consumers representing more than 44 million households and nearly $1.3 trillion in projected annual spending power.
To connect with this audience, Eco-Friendly consumers are looking beyond packaging at other sustainable practices. Eco-Friendly consumers said they would be more likely to make a purchase if the company were making eco-friendly strides, including:
- Reducing product waste
- Locally sourcing products / reducing transportation footprint
- Reducing the carbon footprint of the product
- Energy efficiency in production
Plant-Based Proteins Continue to Innovate
Plant-Based brands are continuing to listen to the voice of their consumers. New innovations in taste and texture were introduced at Expo West from brands like Daiya Foods, who recently launched their Chick’n innovation. With Flexitarian consumers poised to be a key consumer segment for plant-based brands, Numerator has identified the largest barriers to their purchase of plant-based products. According to Numerator’s webinar, “Planting a New Strategy: How to Engage the Flexitarian Shopper,” both the Flexitarian consumer and household have listed taste as the greatest factor that would influence their decision to purchase animal-based products over plant-based products. Plant-based brands are strategically focused on the right initiatives in bettering taste to engage key consumer segments such as the Flexitarian shopper.
Expo West was incredibly successful this year in terms of networking and in educating the industry, the expo continued to highlight consumer trends and expectations that are here to stay. Interested in learning about how any of these trends relate to your brand specifically? Reach out to our team today to learn more.