What do regenerative organic gut-friendly ice cream, mushroom chips, and adaptogen gummies have in common? M Booth’s Food & Beverage team sampled all of these and more at Expo West, the leading trade show in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry. We joined 65,000 hungry explorers wandering the cavernous halls of the Anaheim Convention Center to discover innovative new products, network with clients and community, and get inspired by the world’s leading consumer packaged goods and retail brands. We return with full bellies, full hearts, and full of inspiration about the future of food and beverage. Here, we serve up takeaways that you need to know from the Super Bowl of the CPG world. 

Celebrities are Hungry for the Food Future

Celebrities are just like us and that means they too eat to live and live to eat. Big names are putting their money into the future of food by creating their own brands and investing in the brands they believe in. Celebrity-owned food and beverage brands abounded and we sampled offerings from Blake Lively’s Betty Buzz to Jennifer Garner’s Once Upon a Farm. Michael B. Jordan unveiled Moss, a line of sea moss water designed to provide the functional antioxidant benefits of sea moss without the ick. But that’s not all. Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Simu Liu, and Scott Eastwood actually toured the Expo halls to find the future of food and perhaps lucrative investment opportunities. 

There’s nothing more authentic than sweat equity and dollars on the table. Especially in a world with more and more celebrity-backed CPG brands, we want to make sure our celebrity partnerships are authentic and longer-term vs. one-off, flash-in-the-pan pay for plays. It’s important for marketers to find truly authentic brand fans and strategic brand ties in partnership with celebrities. For example, we partnered with client noosa yoghurt and longtime brand fan Ally Love to bring breakfast into the #GRWM (get ready with me) social media trend and show the world how much Ally loves noosa in the morning. She was such an organic brand fan that she mentioned noosa on a national morning show. 

In Our Bold and Bright Era

Bright, modern branded packaging that stands out in crowded aisles was all over the show floor, designed to entice the eye first and sell the health claims later. Carbe Diem and client Good Measure brought beautiful, eye-catching contrast and exciting packaging to staple products. Likewise, classic comfort foods continued to get their good-for-you glow up and remerge as things like high-protein cheesy Brazi Bite waffles and gluten-free prebiotic Goodles mac-and-cheese. Also spotted: Impossible Foods sporting a meatier brand identity. Bold was the name of the game in packaging design at Expo West.

From Better for Me to Better for Us All

“Better for you” claims continue to move beyond personal health as food brands take responsibility to shape a more sustainable future for us all. Renewable energy, regenerative farming, B-Corp, Fair Trade, Certified Humane and social impact claims were all over this year’s show and are increasingly making their way on pack. Case in point: Brita Lundberg, a fourth-generation farmer at Lundberg Farms, created a gorgeous layup for communications when she talked about the success of their Ducking Good Rice campaign and the responsibility for brands to tell a story about food, who it comes from, and the impact it has on the planet when it’s on the plate. The campaign was hilarious and got consumers talking about regenerative-organic rice-farming practices by way of ducking adorable baby animals. Marketers have an opportunity and marketing workstream to storytell and create educational programming around social impact attributes to make it easier for consumers to evaluate what matters. 

Macro Benefits in One Product

For people who lead busier and more multifaceted lives than ever, pantry staples offer instant upgrades and quick fixes. Think functional beverages, hydration sticks and water, protein bars that double as energy bars, sleep aids, and recovery tools with a focus on added nutrients like antioxidants and adaptogens. Marketers will need to work through the balance of functional claims vs. taste attributes with very little package space and mindspace. Enlisting expert storytellers who can help nail this balance and communicate the most effective messaging in the most effective channels will be key. 

Our Guts Take the Spotlight

This year’s bingo buzzwords are gut health. In practically every aisle, we found food designed to take care of our bellies, from gut nuts to fermented everything to kefir and prebiotics and probiotics. Supermarket shelves will soon be supporting our immunity and digestion in all forms. Our nutrition team is masterful at distilling personal health buzzwords into clear messaging and we spend countless creative pitch brainstorms finding the right way to tie product claims into the pop cultural lexicon on tummy issues.

More Merch, More Brand Love

Brands like Poppi,  De La Calle, and Saint James are upping their merch game by collaborating with designers to create stylish and unique pieces. Instead of simply slapping a logo on a t-shirt,  they are now incorporating more artistic elements like patches, embroidery, and artwork to create merch that reflects the brand’s identity and ends up in consumers’ closets. This approach is making merch an extension of their brand, making consumers want to not only consume their products but wear them, too. We’re adept at designing swag that not only slays but also tells a strategic brand story, like the coveted “Marinara” for Rao’s Homemade and the groovy “Sandwich Studio Line” for GoTo Foods Schlotzsky’s brand.

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