Members of the food and beverage industry were out in full force at the 36th annual Natural Products Expo West, held earlier this month at the Anaheim Convention Center in sunny California.

As the leading trade show for natural, organic and healthy products, Expo West is a great opportunity for companies to interact with others who are looking for new ideas, products and services to grow their businesses responsibly.

Expo West 2016 attracted more than 3,000 companies and more than 77,000 attendees this year – including the Tetra Pak ( team, who was onsite to educate people about the role packaging plays in delivering high quality, natural products to consumers. Below is our take on some of the most important trends from this year’s event.

What’s inside counts  

While products “free” of certain ingredients may have dominated discussion at previous expos, this year there seemed to be a shift to highlighting what consumers are getting, rather than focusing solely on what they’re not.

Many brands were emphasizing the unique aspects of their products from a nutritional and sustainability perspective. Health Warrior, for example, launched a new line of superfood protein bars made from a natural blend of chia, quinoa, oats, and peas, boasting 10g of clean, plant protein.

Winning a NEXTY award for Best New Frozen Product, the EatPops brand drove conversation with their line of all-natural fruit and veggie ice pops. With flavors like Green Detox and Cleanse, the “good for you” frozen desserts offer consumers nutritional value and functional benefits, with simple packaging that puts the ingredients front and center.

For companies, the learnings here seem to be that accentuating the positive and practicing transparency goes a long way with marketing to modern, health-conscious consumers.

Plant-based is still popular

Plant-based products were a huge presence at this year’s expo. On the beverage front, botanical waters made of aloe and cactus signaled that all-natural beverages are expanding well beyond the traditional coconut offerings that hit shelves years ago, with no signs of stopping.

Other plant-based beverage innovations included the first dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free ready-to-drink meal replacement shakes from Kate Farms, as well as Veggemo, the vegetable based non-dairy beverage from Global Gardens Group, which was selected as one of the “Top Three Best New Beverages” at the event.

The rising popularity of these beverages indicates that consumers are taking an active interest in health and wellness as they explore alternatives to sugary, processed drinks. This translates into an immediate opportunity to help brands bring the benefits of these innovative beverages to store shelves in a way that preserves the nutritional profile and flavor.

Clean labels

From a formulation perspective, this year the desire for cleaner labels and shorter ingredient lists continued to shine through. This applied not only to brands unveiling new products, but also to those offering more streamlined ingredient lists for more established products.

A great example this year came from GoodPop All-Natural Frozen Pops, who debuted a new addition in their line of clean label frozen treats. The new GoodPop coconut lime flavor boasts real ingredients, including flakes of coconut, all-natural lime juice and coconut milk.

Packaging philosophy

Purveyors of natural products continue to seek packaging that demonstrates a commitment to “natural” as much as their choice of ingredients, placing more emphasis on the environmental footprint of their packaging as consumers become increasingly discerning. More and more, companies are seeking packaging that aligns with what’s inside. They are rethinking how the products they produce align with their brand ethos and extending that strategy to how they are packaged.

Each year we look forward to seeing the trends that will shape the future of the natural products industry, and this year was no exception. From carbonated probiotics to sustainably sourced specialty meats, this year’s showcase featured trends from all over the world, proving that not only are natural products here to stay, they’re gaining more traction every year – especially when it comes to food and beverage.

With countless innovative products stretching across its showroom floor, Expo West gives us reason to believe that 2016 will indeed be an exciting year for natural products.