Top Trends from Expo West Include Evolving Plant-Based Protein

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March 14, 2023
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Natural Products Expo West 2023 was full of energy and inspiration last week. New Hope Network and countless leaders put the creative vision of brands on full display.

Here’s a look at the trends that were most apparent in Anaheim on March 7-11:

1. Plant-Based Proteins go Deep Not Broad

The trends this year in plant-based protein are more focused on refinement and craftsmanship of the plant-based versions of chicken and beef protein and in delivering the right texture that mimics the taste and texture delivery of chicken nuggets, chicken cutlets, chicken wings, and beef steaks.

Meati’s line of beef steak and cutlets that are made with 95% mushroom roots delivered on taste. Other innovators like Daring Buffalo chicken wings, Tindle plant-based chicken popcorn or PLNT pulled beef & gravy are changing the perception of plant-based meats.

Plant-based dairy products that are nut and seed-based continue to have a strong presence.  However, Bored Cow introduced animal-free protein milk that uses microflora – a type of bacteria – and then incorporates plant-based inputs (flora food) while mixing with the genetic blueprint of cow’s milk and converting the flora food into animal-free protein. The product taste delivery is fantastic.

2. Seeds in New Heights

Seeds are purposed in different formats with both nutrition and sustainability stories. Seed Wise, Humbe Seed Crackers, and Simple Mills are using seed flours to make their line of cracker and cookie products. Lilbucks uses whole buckwheat in their Clusterbucks, which is a buckwheat seed snack and similarly Blake’s Seed Based Chewy granola bars are sprinkled with seeds. Meanwhile, Tiny Sprouts created a line of seed booster products with high protein and fiber content that you can add to food for infants and toddlers.

3. A New Twist on Asian Comfort

A big theme this year is different Asian comfort innovations.  This could be a new and modern twist on familiar favorites like dumplings, mochi, and Vietnamese coffee. Mila soup dumplings is leading the way by modernizing the traditional soup dumpling while Too Good To Be showcased their pork vegan dumplings or Chim Chim’s pork-less gyoza. Frozen mochi treats like Nada Moo, My Mochi and Mochi Doki are elevating the mochi experience with interesting innovations such as Smoothie Mochi from My Mochi. Konscious Food also launched a line of 100% Plant-Based sushi and onigiri including the popular California Roll.

The other big sub-theme is KPOP Food Domination with different brands showcasing their modern take on favorite Korean comfort food such as Mother In Laws cold fermented kimchi broth, Plant Spired plant-based steak with Gochujang flavor and Blackbird wings Korean BBQ.

4. Regenerative Seed Plants

Regenerative farming and agriculture in animal-based products continue to be a big theme this year with brands pushing their commitment to storytelling and sourcing.

However, seaweed and kelp-based brands are also telling their sustainability story. Akua shared a line of delicious kelp-based burgers that are 100% plant-based and gluten-free. These burgers are made with kelp, mushrooms, and superfoods. 12 Tides continue to tell their sustainability mission and introduced innovative “truffle & pepper” organic puffed kelp chips.

5. A Fun Take on Gut Health

Gut health continues to be a big theme this year with different ways to incorporate both prebiotics and/or probiotics into food and beverages. Wildwonder has a take on prebiotic and probiotic sparkling beverages that are inspired by the healing tonics of the founder’s Chinese grandma with whimsical flavors.

Vina’s prebiotic soda with plant fiber and minerals tastes very similar to soda pop. Kevita’s approach to probiotic drinks is by leveraging approachable lemonade into their probiotic drinks.   Additionally, Coco June’s Overnight Oats has probiotics with fun flavors as well as fiber-filled oats.

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