2016 Natural Food Trends: A Look at the Highlights from Natural Products Expo West

The natural foods industry is bigger than ever.

That’s especially evident following the Natural Products Expo West that just wrapped up in Anaheim, California.

I didn’t have an opportunity to attend, but have been closely watching the news coming out of this major trade show.

The coordinators of the meeting announced six macro forces and related trends that are driving innovation in natural foods:


Ancient Wisdom
Harkening back to the days of pre-industrialized foods and a simpler way of life, natural products companies are focusing on whole, nutrient-dense ingredients and a “closer to nature” approach to processing. Related trends include: Superfoods 2.0, fermented foods and beverages, and natural fats.


Transcendent Transparency
Transparency has moved from a marketing buzzword to an essential way of doing business, as consumers increasingly take note of ingredients, sourcing practices and manufacturing processes behind the products they purchase. Related trends include: ingredients upfront, traceable seafood, and transparent packaging.

wild zora

The snackification macro force is symptomatic of an always-on culture that is constantly in need of fuel but that also increasingly demands snacks that are convenient, tasty and nutritious. Related trends include: savory snacking, vegetables reimagined, and global-inspired convenience.

The Rehabilitation of Science
The role of food and nutrition science is being reframed to embrace the spirit of natural products while addressing societal concerns in a pivot that moves toward rebuilding consumer confidence and meeting new consumer demands. Related trends include: clean energy, microbiome-positioned products, and beauty from within.

brothsamplepack_largeFeed me!
A global population of 10 billion will require a serious change in how we go about feeding the world. Natural products companies are rising to the challenge with innovative approaches to sourcing, plant-based nutrition and reducing food waste. Related trends include: next-gen plant proteins, repurposed ingredients, and “nose to tail” sourcing.

The Value(s) Shopper
Consumers are moving beyond price as their single purchasing filter as a new and complex world of values now influences purchasing decisions. Forward-thinking natural products companies are responding with mission-backed products and business models built around purpose. Related trends include: regenerative sourcing practices, sustainable packaging, and mission-based brands.

So what were some of the specific product trends?

Fermentation — from kombucha to kimchi (even kimchi shots)

Vegetables reimagined

Alternative protein — from crickets to plant-based proteins, especially pulses (peas, beans and lentils)



Full-fat — from dairy to beef tallow

Ancient grains and sprouted grains

Paleo and gluten-free — still going strong

Food wasteJicachips_AD_large

Wild game, meat jerky

Snack balls — could balls be the new bars?

Ginger and turmeric — especially in beverages, craft sodas

Tea, including matcha

Chips beyond potatoes, including jicama

Coconut water and beyond


Korean cuisine

Here’s a recap of posts from various trendspotters at Expo West:

New Hope Network

New Hope Network photo gallery

Food Business News

New York Times

Food Navigator

Food Navigator


Kara Lydon


Root Simple

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