23 March 2016
By Eliseo Barcas, vice president of sales, Tetra Pak U.S. & Canada
Members of the food and beverage industry were out in full force at the 36th annual Natural Products Expo West, held earlier this month at the Anaheim Convention Center in sunny California. As the leading trade show for natural, organic and healthy products, Expo West is a great opportunity for companies to interact with others who are looking for new ideas, products and services to grow their businesses responsibly.
Expo West 2016 attracted more than 3,000 companies and more than 77,000 attendees this year – including the Tetra Pak team, who was onsite to educate people about the role packaging plays in delivering high quality, natural products to consumers.
Below is a snapshot of some of the most important trends we identified from this year’s event.
What’s inside counts 
While products “free” of certain ingredients may have dominated discussion at previous expos, this year there seemed to be a shift to highlighting what consumers are getting, rather than focusing solely on what they’re not.
Many brands were emphasizing the unique aspects of their products from a nutritional and sustainability perspective, while others differentiated their products’ functional benefits with simple packaging that puts the ingredients front and center.
For companies, the learnings here seem to be that accentuating the positive and practicing transparency goes a long way with marketing to modern, health-conscious consumers.
Plant-based is still popular
Plant-based products were a huge presence at this year’s expo. On the beverage front, botanical waters made of aloe and cactus signaled that all-natural beverages are expanding well beyond the traditional coconut offerings that hit shelves years ago, with no signs of stopping. Other plant-based beverage innovations included the first dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free ready-to-drink meal replacement shakes.
The rising popularity of these beverages indicates that consumers are taking an active interest in health and wellness as they explore alternatives to sugary, processed drinks. This translates into an immediate opportunity to help brands bring the benefits of these innovative beverages to store shelves in a way that preserves the nutritional profile and flavor. 
Clean labels
From a packaging perspective, this year the desire for cleaner labels and shorter ingredient lists continued to shine through. It appears that purveyors of natural products are looking for packaging that demonstrates a commitment to “natural” as much as their choice of ingredients.

A great example this year came from GoodPop All-Natural Frozen Pops, who debuted a new addition in their line of clean label frozen treats. The new GoodPop coconut lime flavor boasts real ingredients, including flakes of coconut, all-natural lime juice, and coconut milk.

Packaging Philosophy
More and more companies are rethinking how the products they produce align with their brand ethos and extending that strategy to packaging.

As consumers become increasingly discerning, it seems that purveyors of natural products are using packaging, as much as their choice of ingredients, to demonstrate their brand’s commitment to “natural.”
Each year we look forward to seeing the trends that will shape the future of the natural products industry, and this year was no exception.
With countless innovative products stretching across its showroom floor, Natural Products Expo West gives us reason to believe that 2016 will indeed be an exciting year for natural products.

Eliseo Barcas, Vice President of Marketing and Sales, Tetra Pak, U.S., has extensive expertise in understanding and maximizing market trends and supporting customers through strategic portfolio deployment. For more than two decades, he has collaborated with customers and served as a leader on sales and marketing teams in Europe, North America and South America, focusing on fast-moving consumer goods and business-to-business sectors. He currently leads commercial and marketing efforts for Tetra Pak U.S., including defining strategy for the shelf-stable carton portfolio and directing its successful execution.
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