Biggest Trend At Expo West: Your Mama

The biggest trend no one is talking about

The Natural Products Expo West 2024 took place from March 12-16 at the Anaheim Convention Center, offering a comprehensive platform for natural, organic, and conscious products. With over 90,000 attendees, Expo West is one of the largest trade shows in the industry.

It is also affectionately known in the trade as the ‘Superbowl for CPG’.

The event is pivotal for spotting industry trends, networking, and discovering new products which is why it’s a must-attend event for our fund. Particularly for spotting trends and understanding innovation coming out of the food and beverage space.

In addition to several trends spotted (more on that below), the biggest trend we saw was personalization – which we coincidentally wrote about in last month’s blog and is something that venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has been championing in the consumer sector.

Why is this happening?

Consumers want more. They always want more. And it’s the brand’s responsibility to give it to them.

Historically a brand’s opportunity to engage with customers was limited to point-of-sale experiences (remember the Pepsi Taste Test Challenge) and branding of your favorite sports team’s jersey.

Now, in the age of social media and digital currency, you can create dialogue – enhancing the user experience and making them more susceptible to purchase.

Customers are no longer satisfied picking one of two soda pop options on their grocer’s shelf; they now want to know what the brand stands for.

Combine this personal need for consumer’s increased interest in authenticity and individuality with the lower barrier to entry means that brands need to work harder to attract loyal customers. They need to put out content, they need to be receptive, they need to resonate.

Put simply, brands who can do these things will build a relationship and brands who have a meaningful relationship with their customers will win.

The quickest way for a brand to initiate a dialogue is to align with their target customer. The easiest way to do that is to shout about what they stand for and what their values are. This is not as easy as it sounds. People receive up to 10,000 unsolicited ads each day – most don’t make it past the awareness filter.

One way to cheat the system is to use a famous person. Not only may they break the barrier of awareness, but the added value is that the celebrity can efficiently project the brand’s values through mirroring the values of the celebrity.

Some great examples below showcase that you don’t even need to see the branding, the products, or the website to get a feeling for the brand in question:

  • Florence by Mills (Millie Bobbie Brown) projects a youthful, easy going skincare routine for GenZs
  • Casamigos (George Clooney) projects sophisticated drinking for middle aged men
  • Haus Labs (Lady Gaga) projects statement colour cosmetics
  • Yitty (Lizzo) projects shapewear for everyone and every body

However, not everyone can afford (or has access to) a top-tier celebrity.

So what’s the next best option?

The next best option is to create a fictional character or a nod to a generic person that everyone can relate to.

Enter, your mama.

She’s cheap (aka free) on the royalty front and typically won’t get annoyed when you talk about her on your brand’s social media page.

In the case of this year’s Expo many new brands utilized this tactic to differentiate from competitors. From hot sauce to supplements to kids products, the use of ‘Mother, Mama, and Madre’ as part of the brand’s identity was noticeable everywhere, reinforcing the shift we have previously been highlighting.

So if you are thinking about launching a new brand at Expo West next year, maybe you should ask your mama.

Other trends we spotted at Expo West:

1. Moving to a needs-based call to action. Although this still made up the minority of supplement companies exhibiting, it was interesting to see that many of the newest brands have started using being states rather than ingredients to brand their product. For example, rather than ‘Melatonin’ they would name it ‘Sleep’. Randomly we noticed this trend with a number of female-driven supplements (menopause, etc), but it is in line with our latest investment AbsorbCo who have launched with this strategy helping customers with choice paralysis.

2. Edgy & irreverent brand aesthetic is on the rise. Many new brands have followed the Liquid Death vibe, launching in a number of different categories (and all tailored to men).

3. Copycats ramped up. Notably many new brands following the Goodles trend with healthy versions of mac & cheese – we counted at least 10 new companies launching in this category. Suvia and Del Origen went even further by knocking off the colorful Goodles jumpsuit. We also noticed a lot of new brands launching off the success of other product categories like cookie dough (Deux) and chili crisp (Fly By Jing/Mr Bing).

    4. Using celebrities to attract attention. Many celebrities turned up to ExpoWest to promote their brands including our own Ian Somerhalder and Nikki Reed (AbsorbCo). Even when there wasn’t a celebrity partner, most brands found a way to talk about their celebrity involvement – like Violife printing out PR pages of Travis Barker on their stand.