Reflections on the Nation’s Largest Grocery Show

Earlier this month, part of the ChefsBest team walked the halls of the grocery industry’s largest and most significant trade show: Natural Products Expo West. With approximately 85,000 attendees (a 6 percent increase from last year) and 3,521 booths, the halls were packed with people and brands, so much so that, at times, moving through the crowds required some sucking in and squeezing through.

For many in the food and beverage industry, Expo West acts as a helpful gage on current and future trends. A few of the common better-for you claims at the show revolved around protein fortification, probiotics, and non-GMO. Some of the popular formats and ingredients were Dragonfruit, bone broth, coconut, cold-brew beverages, and turmeric.

Despite the plethora of on-pack claims – and brands’ evident excitement about having them – one important type of claim was missing from the vast majority of products: taste. According to survey data, taste has consistently ranked as the top most important factor for consumers when making decisions about food and drink. So why is it that so many of the natural and organic products exhibiting missed the mark on taste claims?

Not to be punny or anything, but it is natural that the categorization of a brand as “natural” inherently causes that brand to focus on communicating this sole quality. Ironically, though, directing all marketing energy toward natural, organic, and health-related claims can cause brands to blend in with their competitors in today’s food and beverage environment.

Ah, yes. There is Differentiation again, waving and jumping around for attention because it knows brands need it to survive. And in one hand, our attention-needy friend, Differentiation, holds out ChefsBest: the trusted, long-standing company that helps brands substantiate and confidently bring third party taste claims to market.