Innovation, naturally

With record breaking attendance, last month’s Natural Products Expo West show continued to prove its worth and importance to the natural industry.

expow2014From March 7th to the 9th, Anaheim, California was the place to be for anyone and everyone in the natural industry. Natural Products Expo West played host to more than 67,000 industry members and 2,600 exhibiting companies, a 5% increase over the previous year.

While non-GMO and organic products dominated the show floor, items boasting alternative ingredients for consumers following specialized diets garnered attention as well. Gluten-free items led the pack, with vegan and dairy-free products trailing closely.

Nature’s Path Foods, which is primarily known as an organic company, only introduced gluten-free products at this year’s show. The introductions from the Richmond, B.C., Canada-based company ranged from its chia seed-based Q’ia cereals to the new Que Pasa line of traditional Mexican tortilla chips and salsas.

One of the bigger developments on the show floor was the news that Jeremy Seifert’s documentary GMO OMG, would become available to consumers early this summer via Netflix and other video-on-demand services. Industry members hope that the film’s release will spur the same level of concern and awareness for the presence of genetically modified organisms in the American food supply, as the film Blackfish did for the treatment of killer whales upon its release.

Many exhibitors stressed the importance of not only increasing communications with consumers, but retailers as well. “We’re very committed to starting a dialogue with our retail partners. They’re the ones who know best what they need and what their consumers need,” said Steve Sidwell, president and founder of Luvo.

Here is what some exhibitors shared with attendees at Expo West.

Crunchies Food Co.
Expo West served as the official launch of the Organic Little Crunchies line for the Crunchies Food Co. Featuring the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes characters, Organic Little Crunchies are made using 100% freeze-dried USDA organic fruit in four varieties: Strawberries, Strawberries & Bananas, Apples & Bananas and Strawberries & Mangoes.

“Attendees loved the idea of offering a snack clearly geared towards younger children, especially considering they are organic,” said Jessi Brennan, director of marketing for the Westlake Village, Calif.-based company. “We took the advice from moms and category managers during our market research to make this line organic, which was the perfect decision as it is clear that trends are showing that consumers are looking to buy their children natural and organic products.”

Officials say they saw increased traffic from previous years and feel confident that the new products were well received with attendees, especially retailers and category managers. In addition to this month’s rollout of the Organic Little Crunchies and Organic Crunchies product lines, the company plans to focus on the expansion of its freeze-dried vegetable offerings throughout 2014. www.crunchiesfood.com

Diamond Wipes International
With a focus on improving sustainability options for its contract partners, Diamond Wipes International officials are very aware of the conundrum wet wipes present as a convenience and disposable product in the natural and organic arena. At the show, the Chino, Calif.-based company presented its Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance certifications. “Our facility is now able to process certified organic ingredients as more clients develop a desire to formulate their products using ingredients that are held to a higher standard in terms of both the environment and ethical considerations,” said Moto Okawa, marketing manager.

The lifecycle of wet wipes and its packaging is a growing concern among Diamond Wipes’ clients. “They’re considering the biodegradability and compostability of the outer packaging as well as the wipe,” he said.

Diamond Wipes has devoted a lot of its time and resources to advancing its flex-film packaging for wet wipes. Compared to a traditional rigid tub or container, flex-film can account for a 70%-80% reduction in plastic. “The Holy Grail continues to be more sustainable packaging materials and that’s something we look forward to implementing in the very near future,” Okawa added. www.diamondwipes.com 

Harvest Snaps
Harvest Snaps introduced its newest team member, “Pearre.” The brand’s new mascot will be featured on the Snapea Crisps Back to School 12-pack. “We created ‘Pearre’ as an icon for younger kids so that they can get to know how our product is made—actually from peas—and we think this is a marketable character that we will begin to build on,” said Steve Kneepkens, vice president of sales and marketing for Calbee North America, the Fairfield, Calif.-based manufacturer of Harvest Snaps.

Pearre’s introduction will be supported with a digital campaign and interactive web/mobile animation. Kneepkens also spoke of the potential for Snapea Crisps’s line extensions around the holidays, citing a Halloween-themed version for trick-or-treating.

The new individual sized 0.75-ounce bags of Lightly Salted Snapea Crisps speak to the booming snack and convenience trends, added officials, providing built-in portion control for consumers watching what they eat. “Our 0.75-ounce is a 100-calorie pack that fits very well into the healthier-for-you profile that parents are looking to provide their school-aged children. We believe this is a big opportunity because most salty snacks have moved away from calorie counting while we are moving more towards that call-out,” said Kneepkens. www.harvestsnaps.com

Healthy Brands Collective
Healthy Brands Collective was founded in 2006 with the Cell-nique Super Green brand, a full line of ready-to-drink organic green beverages incorporating 31 super foods and vegan protein. “The company began making acquisitions in 2010 at the height of the recession when many brands were unable to stay afloat independently,” said Marcus Gordon, national sales manager.

Today, Healthy Brands Collective enables companies within the fold to share the same marketing, sales, operations and administrative teams, allowing savings to be reinvested into the Collective. Healthy Brands Collective, based in Norwalk, Conn., now includes 10 brands that focus on nationally high-demand goods such as superfoods, raw foods, organic beverages, hemp products, allergen-free foods and healthy snacks.

Expo West marked the first time the Collective introduced Living Harvest—Tempt, a line of all natural hemp tofu, to the natural foods industry. Tempt provides consumers suffering from food allergies, specifically soy, dairy and gluten, a high-protein option that is easily digestible, said officials. The line is available in four flavors: Original, Chimichurri, Mexican Chorizo and Sweet & Spicy Chili Lime. www.healthybrandsco.com

J.R. Watkins
In 2013, J.R. Watkins’ entered the dry seasoning mix category with four spice blends for Taco, Chili, Brown Gravy and Turkey Gravy recipes. Based on the success of these proprietary mixes, J.R. Watkins will expand this line throughout 2014 to include Fajita, Beef Stew and Sloppy Joe seasoning mixes, said officials for the Winona, Minn.-based company.

“Consumers have been eating at home more often in recent years and are looking to bring diversity into their cooking,” said Georgette Moe, director of marketing—consumer. “We’re seeing them try new, multicultural recipes or put new twists on classic dishes by incorporating non-traditional flavors from unique spices and seasonings.”

Moe also cited consumer’s increased interest in spice origins, both where they are sourced and the history of the spice. At the show, the company distributed samples of its Pure Vanilla Extract, which is exclusively sourced from high-quality Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans. www.jrwatkins.com

Luvo_Chicken-Chili-VerdeLuvo
Luvo, formerly known as LYFE Kitchen Retail, introduced nearly 50 products at the show in the frozen category, as well as snacks, beverages and flatbreads. The Chicken Chili Verde entrée with polenta and black beans was one of three products show-wide to receive the Best of West press award.

Expo West served as just one element of what Sidwell calls its simultaneous multi-channel approach. In addition to increasing its distribution to 7,000 grocery stores in the past six months, the Atlanta-based company is now available on Delta Airlines and in airports, hospitals, stadiums and more.

“The products that we’re developing are a fit for all those different channels, which is something really unique, I think. What we’re doing is launching the brand around the consumer experience—their lifestyle rather than the limitations of the distribution channels,” Sidwell said.

In order to be successful in this approach, Sidwell is looking to create meaningful partnerships and relations with its retail partners. “The best thing retailers can do is view us as a partner. We will create programs that fit their needs and bring brand horsepower to the relationship. We are very focused on building our brand so that consumers will go into a store seeking Luvo,” he said. www.luvoinc.com 

Natracare
Natracare’s booth was full of life, vibrancy and new packaging designs. The Greeley, Colo.-based company unveiled color-categorized packaging for its organic feminine hygiene products. Featuring a bold daisy chain motif, the packaging is a revival of the brand’s original design from the early 90s.

Now categorized by product type using bold hues of green, blue and purple to differentiate between Tampons, Ultra Pads and the like, the color-coordinated categorical approach was implemented to make it easier for both consumers and retailers to navigate the Natracare brand.

Natracare chose to revive the daisy design from its original packaging for the unique message it represents, according to company officials. “The packaging is analogous of a daisy chain’s ability to connect people and carry a message forward,” said Theresa White, senior executive officer. “Our message is that women deserve the best health and beauty products available, for both themselves and the environment.” White hopes that the new packaging will inspire consumers to share these products with friends and family, thereby adding new links to the chain and spreading the message of Natracare. www.natracare.com 

San-J International
San-J International officials spent the weekend touting their new gluten-free certification and packaging for its Instant White Miso and Wakame Soups. The Henrico, Va.-based company aims to provide consumers with traditional Japanese-style, restaurant-quality soups at home in an instant.

Traditional miso soup starts with dashi, a fish stock base, and incorporates miso paste, tofu, wakame seaweed and green onions. In addition to being vegan, the Wakame soup blends together ocean seaweed, shitake mushrooms, sesame seeds and black pepper. The new Wakame recipe now includes a dash of San-J’s 100% Tamari soy sauce, which also carries the seal of The Gluten-Free Certification Organization. www.san-j.com

Xlear-Corporate-Logo-(Vertical)Xlear
When Xlear first launched in the market place, its mission was simple: bring xylitol to the masses. Xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol known for its antibacterial properties, is utilized by Xlear to advance oral health by way of toothpastes, oral rinses, candy, gum and more. At Expo West, the American Fork, Utah-based company launched Spry Gems, a line of xylitol-based mints available in Peppermint, Berry, Spearmint and Cinnamon flavors.

The company is also in the process of realigning its image to that of an oral care company. “When we first launched, we considered ourselves a xylitol company first and foremost,” said Nathan Jones, marketing director. “Now that we have a foothold in the industry, we want to focus on xylitol’s benefits for oral health and how we can bring innovation to the oral care category.” www.xlear.com

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