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Better-for-you trends to know

Joe Dickson

I’m just back from Natural Products Expo West 2024 and I’ve never been more inspired and uplifted by the event — if you’re seeing an incredibly large number of post-expo inspiration posts on LinkedIn, it’s because it was truly the best Expo West to date. This was my 20th expo and my head is spinning with new ideas, new connections, and deep inspiration. A few of my topline trends, findings and reflections.

Regenerative agriculture continues to grow.

Regenerative agriculture continues to grow and have hard conversations about what it means, who it’s for, and how to appeal to producers and consumers. I started the week at the Climate Collaborative’s Climate day, where I moderated a panel (see photo below) called “Delivering Value Beyond the Soil: The Case for an Organic and Regenerative Agricultural System” with Ryan Zinn of Dr. Bronner's, Sonali Pandithasekera of Serindipol, and Jessica Wright of SPINS, where we tackled some core questions about regenerative practices and benefits, and how to better articulate them to producers and consumers. And I finished the day with a beautiful celebration put on by the Regenerative Organic Alliance at The Ecology Center, with ROA founders Dr. Bronner's, Patagonia Provisions and Rodale. The next year will be critical for the regenerative movement, with fertile conversations happening on foundational questions: Can there be regenerative agriculture that isn’t organic, should the term be regulated (as California is trying to do now), and how do we keep it from getting watered down, like ‘sustainable’ and ‘natural’ have? I think retailers have a big role to play in creating guardrails and setting the conditions under which the term “regenerative” should be used on a label. Huge props to Whole Foods Market and PCC Community Markets for taking this responsibility certified. And to Merryfield member brands Applegate, Lundberg Family Farms, Wholesome, GoodSAM and Pacha for fostering the use of truly regenerative ingredients!

Organic is growing and is as strong as ever.

Organic is growing and is as strong as ever. I spent Wednesday evening at the Organic Oscars, a truly inspiring awards night to benefit the great work of The Organic Center and Organic Voices. Once Upon a Farm’s Jennifer Garner and Stonyfield’s Gary Hirschberg hosted a truly celebratory evening that recognized the most impactful and innovative voices in organic. Among the winners were several Merryfield rockstar brands, including Organic Valley, for Most Impactful Research Finding (with the University of Wisconsin - Madison) and for Best Organic Messaging, and Lundberg Family Farms for Best PR or Social Media Campaign.

Plant-based products can be minimally processed and made with deep integrity.

Plant-based products can be minimally processed and made with deep integrity. I’ve been worried for a while about the tendency of plant-based meat alternatives to be anything but sustainable, with GMO and non-organic, highly-processed options dominating the field over the past few years. I saw a few inspiring brands making truly better plant-based products, including CHI foods (delicious organic meat alternatives made with the Sacha Inchi nut) and MyBacon from MyForest Foods, a stunningly tasty mycelium-based bacon alternative.

Energy beverages are increasingly clean and enhanced with thoughtful ingredients.

Energy beverages are increasingly clean and enhanced with thoughtful ingredients. I’ve always admired Clean Cause as a healthier beverage company with a clear and powerful mission, but their new organic yerba mate formulas and prebiotic- and collagen-enhanced sparklers are truly best in class (spoiler alert: watch for them on a beloved rewards app that rhymes with “berryfield” soon!) I also loved catching up with my friends at Taika, a fast-growing family of cold-brews enhanced with adaptogens like Lion’s Mane and ashwaganda, all dairy free and zero-sugar. 

And that’s just scratching the surface — there was a bevy of increasingly honed-in mushroom-based food and supplement products, lots of pre- pro- and post-biotics for our guts, skin, pets, babies, and so much more. It’s tricky and subjective to identify trends based on a whirlwind tour of over 3,000 brands with 70,000+ people, but those are the ones that stood out. And trends aside, there’s no substitute for face time with so many magical humans — the hugs alone were enough to fuel me until Expo West 2025. 

What trends and topics inspired you at Expo West this year?

Two phones side by side demoing the Merryfield app

Better-for-you brands.Always rewarding.

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