Tens of thousands of people from the natural and organic food and beverage industry will converge on the Los Angeles-nearby Anaheim Convention Center this week for the return of Natural Products Expo West, or Expo as insiders affectionately call it, the New Hope Network by Informa Markets trade show and conference.
Due to Expo West’s reputation as a hotbed for emerging brands (many of which make their national debut at the show), food and beverage trends, and new product innovations, with a slew of companies launching additional flavors and formulations during the five-day event, the show is always packed with brands looking for retailers and B2B buyers on the lookout for star products.
“At Expo West, we help establish connections between up-and-coming companies that are changing the industry and established companies that have been blazing a trail for years. This event highlights the importance of community engagement and the role everyone plays to create a more sustainable packaged goods industry,” said A former group show director for New Hope Network, Lacey Gautier is the vice president of events.
60,000 Expected Visitors
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better show in terms of quantity for CPG brands in the natural and plant-based space. The Covid-19 pandemic forced the show’s cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 events, but it returned with 2,700 exhibitors and more than 57,000 registered attendees in 2018. This is down from 3,600 booths and 86,000 visitors in 2019. 3,187 exhibit booths are listed on the official Expo website this year, and according to a BEVNet social media post, 60,000 attendees, the majority of whom are product buyers, are anticipated to attend.
Booths are not cheap. According to reporting by Forbes last year, booths usually start at around $15,000 (though there are more budget-friendly options for very early-stage companies), and if you factor in travel, booth design, samples and other related costs, companies can end up spending close to $100,000.
Over 100+ Alternative Proteins Making An Appearance
Alternative protein and plant-based brands are prominently displayed on the show floor even though Expo West does use animal products and is not entirely vegan.
There are over 100 alternative protein companies exhibiting at the show this year, or roughly 3.2%, according to the non-profit The Good Food Institute, a global think tank for the industry working to make alternative proteins affordable and accessible. In their dedicated event guide, the authors write that the list was “created by compiling all exhibitors tags related to alternative proteins and cross-referencing with GFI’s alternative protein company database to filter for companies creating products that contain direct replacements for animal products (meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy)”. Further, they specify that brands and “companies focused on inherently plant-based foods, such as chickpeas and kale” were not included in the list.
Of the more than 100, the vast majority were businesses that produced goods using plant-based technology. Only two of the six companies we identified in the list under the fermentation category use precision fermentation, including The Urgent Company (better known as animal-free dairy pioneers Perfect Day) and Tomorrow Farms, a business that produces milk using Perfect Day’s whey protein made without the use of cows. Except for Eat Just, which will be showcasing its plant-based JUST Egg products at Expo West and is the owner of the producer of cultivated chicken GOOD Meat, there won’t be any startups focused on cultivated meat there.
25% of the Booths Have Vegan Products
PBFA is a U.S. organization that promotes plant-based foods.-based trade association that represents over 350 A list of 76 of their members (or 2.5% of the show booths) was published by North American plant-based food companies.
Based on Green Queen‘s own analysis, 333 exhibitors describe themselves as plant-based, or 10.5% of the total. Not all businesses that sell plant-based food are PBFA members. 785 exhibitors identify as vegan (25%), while only 71 use the term vegetarian (2.2%).
Additionally, 29 booths (just under 1%) claim to have products made using regenerative agriculture, a concept that has gained popularity in recent years, as opposed to 268 booths (8.4%) marked as certified organic. 237 exhibitors feature gluten-free products (7%).
Future Food Tastings Galore
There will be tastings at the event from a variety of future food brands, including TiNDLE, a company that makes plant-based chicken, which will offer samples of their recently launched retail line, and Mwah, a company that just bought a plant-based gelato brand.; New recipes will be featured by the Nestle-owned SweetEarth, Planet Based Foods, Upton’s Naturals, who will highlight their seitan products, Daiya Foods, which will try out new chicken frozen pizza and flatbread SKUs, Voyage Foods, which will introduce a vegan, cocoa-free, and nut-free alternative to Nutella, and OMNI Foods, which will showcase new packaging and recently launched crystal dumplings.
In addition to the trade show, Expo West holds a conference with a lot of in-depth talks and fireside chats. One highlight of the programme? A panel discussion on “Navigating Challenges Women Face in Leadership Roles in Natural Foods” will feature Miyoko Schinner, the founder and former CEO of Miyoko’s Creamery, who is currently the target of legal action from the business she founded. The panel is expected to draw a large audience.
A Make Or Break Show
It’s been a challenging few months for consumer-facing brands with rising inflation, high energy costs, continued supply chain disruptions and a decrease in VC funding. US plant-based businesses have experienced particularly rough skies. Expo West might make or break the event. As one Forbes editor writes, Expo West could be make-or-break: “The over-correction, brought on by overly optimistic investors, inflated valuations, and high deal multiples, is now underway, and #ExpoWest, the Super Bowl of the food industry, will be the place to see it all in action the following week. Within a few months, the market began to demand more, such as profitability and more reliable metrics, in place of the overvaluation of food startups. Due to these factors, hundreds of brands are struggling because they are out of money and must now ask the same investors—who are much more risk-averse and are attempting to make up for bad previous deals—for more money.”