There were more than 1,200 exhibitors and an estimated 20,000 attendees at Natural Products Expo East 2022 this week in Philadelphia. Informa Markets’ New Hope Network hosts this annual event.
Key trends observed on the expo floor and insights heard during the education sessions present numerous opportunities for dairy marketers to invest in efforts to keep dairy relevant with today and tomorrow’s consumers. And, when you remove fluid from the equation, there were more dairy-based cheese, ice cream and yogurt brands than plant-based alternatives at the expo. That’s correct. Real dairy—value-added and premium-positioned products—rocked Natural Products Expo East 2022.
The New Hope Network Trend Framework identified the top trends at the show. They originate from these three cultural forces that are the most relevant to shaping the future of natural products: “Purpose-Driven Commerce,” Holistic Health and Well-Being” and “Modern Life.”
“New Hope Network is on the front lines of the natural products industry and offers a unique point of view when it comes to identifying trends that will be most impactful to the future of the industry,” said Jessica Rubino, vice president of content at New Hope Network. “This year, we’re pleased to see that CPG companies continue moving the natural products industry forward as they leverage innovation as a force for good.”
The U.S. natural and organic products industry grew an estimated 7.7% to $272 billion in 2021, with sales on track to surpass $300 billion by 2024 and $400 billion by 2030, according to New Hope Network’s State of Natural and Organic. While growth slowed in 2021, it was higher than the industry saw pre-pandemic.
Food and beverage momentum, specifically, continued throughout 2021, driving nearly 70% of industry sales. Natural, organic and functional food and beverage sales grew an estimated 7.1% to $186.5 billion in 2021, with sales on track to surpass $220 billion by 2024. Organic food and beverage grew an estimated 2% to $48.7 billion in 2021, as industry ups its focus on climate-friendly supply.
That brings us to the top-food trends.
Regenerative agriculture has become the poster child helping to mitigate climate change. The problem is that without clear definition, the term is at risk of greenwashing or being another ill-defined “natural.” This trend is about how companies are obtaining third-party validation, achieving seed-to-shelf traceability and forging powerful partnerships to amplify their efforts.
A recent study from New Hope Network showed that only 19% of surveyed consumers knew the term regenerative and knew what it meant. Two out of five (44%) surveyed said they never heard of it.
Regenerative agriculture is one of the dairy industry’s stories to tell. This presents an opportunity.
Neutral Foods received the Natural Products Expo East 2022 Nexty Award for being the Best Planet-Forward Product. The company produces milk and creamer that helps fight climate change. Neutral Foods was founded in 2019 in Portland, Oregon, with a mission to reduce the carbon footprint of agriculture. The company works with dairy farmers to implement a number of strategies to drive down the carbon emissions of milk, and what can’t be reduced is offset through the purchase of carbon credits from U.S. dairy farmers who turn cow emissions into renewable energy.
Consumers seek brands focused on sustainability, effecting climate change. Brands are doing much to reduce their environmental footprint and transform their business models. But developing the sustainability plan is only part of the challenge. This trend explores how companies are communicating efforts to effectively educate consumers and increase demand for planet-friendly products.
The CPG industry’s future is very much rooted in how companies partner to drive innovation, increase brand awareness and amplify positive impact. As a result of collaboration, the industry is making meaningful progress in waste reduction, sustainable packaging and regenerative agriculture.
Consumers find joy through empowerment. As people strive to regain control of their lives, happiness and love have become intrinsically linked with empowerment. Supplement and functional food and beverage companies are embracing this message as they deliver positive health results and connect emotionally with their customers. This trend highlights how companies use messaging like “inner love,” “good vibes” and “radiant glow” to communicate the benefits of products such as immunity shots, energy snacks and beauty chocolates.
Consumers most concerned about harmonious mood. Given the state of affairs over the past few years, it’s no surprise that the leading cognition condition appealing to consumers today is mood. This trend explores the sales boom of products addressing mood, adrenals, stress and sleep, which have all increased 100% since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
The Expo East 2022 Nexty Editor’s Choice Winner was Clover Sonoma for its Golden Moon Milk. This product speaks to the empowerment and harmonious mood trends.
As the first dairy in the U.S. to become American Humane Certified, Clover Sonoma is no stranger to doing things right. As a Certified B Corporation and member of the OSC2 J.E.D.I Collaborative, Clover Sonoma uses business as a force for good, while delivering exceptional dairy products. The winning Golden Milk is one of three Organic Moon Milks the company introduced earlier this year.
Steeped in ancient Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems, Clover Sonoma’s Moon Milks blend 2% organic milk with herbs and spices. The three varieties are Golden Moon (Turmeric Ginger), Blue Moon (Blueberry Lavender) and Pink Moon (Cherry Berry Hibiscus). The soothing botanicals infused in all three flavors of Moon Milks can help promote relaxation and wellness throughout the day and can be enjoyed cold, warm or in a variety of recipes.
Mintel named Moon Milks as one of the “Three Drink Trends to Watch Out for in 2022,” stating “over the course of the pandemic, the home has become the center of life, including work and relaxation. As a result, consumers are increasingly looking for rituals combining experience with indulgence and comfort.”
Putting the “I” back into personalized nutrition. Intuitive eating and individual health markers, plus values-based decisions, make it harder to put consumers in a box and blur the lines of food’s future. Though specific diets haven’t totally disappeared, consumers are increasingly embracing the nuance and individuality of nutrition. This trend manifests in product marketing and positioning less tied to a defined eating regimen and more focused on product benefits and healthful ingredients.
Plant-based brands support environmental, animal-welfare concerns. As the plant-based market evolves, many brands are digging in and standing out among a sea of veggie-ful options by illustrating how their plant heroes support big sustainability efforts. This trend proves that it’s no longer enough to just be animal free; the plant-based heroes of today and tomorrow are transparent about nutrient density, sourcing, water use, carbon footprints, supply chains and so much more.
This evolution of the plant-based sector is not reducing consumption of real dairy.
Cheese and Butter Keep Dairy’s Per-Capita Consumption on an Incline.
Preliminary USDA data show that domestic use of butter and cheese reached records in 2021. Though other dairy products have had their ups and downs (mostly up), for the past decade butter and cheese have been “old reliables,” with neither ever seeing consumption decline a single time. Their rising popularity has offset drops in fluid milk consumption (the typical, and inaccurate, trope that anti-dairy activists use to pronounce death upon the industry) and is a big part of the industry’s continued success and bright future.
Dairy, as an industry, is in constant evolution, from advances in science to innovations in sustainability. But throughout, “bring on the butter” and “more cheese, please” have been continual refrains. The data shows it, and there’s no reason think those words won’t echo for years to come, according to National Milk Producers Federation.
Butter Boards and Charcuterie Concepts
Charcuterie concepts—meats and cheese, along with other goodies—as well as butter boards are predicted to be the big hits this holiday season. Butter boards are going crazy on social media and are even being called the “new charcuterie boards.” They include a range of butters with varied toppings—included flavored sea salts--and carriers, everything from breads to dippers.
Don’t let these opportunities to keep dairy relevant with consumers slip by. The time is now to get innovative.