If you’re looking to spot trends, there’s no better place than at the Natural Products Expo East® in Baltimore in September. There were more than 1,500 exhibitors this year, with an increased big brand presence—because we all know that natural and organic have gone mainstream. But if you want to really find where the industry is heading, you’ll want to spend your time, as we did, upstairs where the smaller companies are. In the last few years, they’ve become the tail that wags the dog. In part because Gen-Zs and Millennials have a mistrust of large CPG brands, small has become big. According to Nielsen, small companies now account for 19% of food and beverage dollar sales and more than half of the sales growth—mostly at the expense of large brands.

We spent two full days walking, tasting, looking and talking. We brought back plenty of samples and a lot of new insights. We’d like to share a few of them with you. The insights, we mean; we ate all the samples.




There’s a new sweet spot for sweets. It’s one that ideally balances indulgence and reward with a better nutritional profile and functional benefits.

K’UL® Chocolate is ethically sourced and positions itself as a superfood, not a candy.

Snow Monkey® Superfood Ice Treats is a vegan ‘ice cream," it’s so nutritious; they want you to eat it for breakfast.

Goodie Girl® Cookies promise a better-tasting gluten-free cookie experience.




Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. The big change is where it’s being eaten. New products are delivering on-the-go convenience with better nutrition and ingredients.

Flapjacked® muffins upgrade this breakfast staple with protein and probiotics. And it bakes right inside its microwave cup. Grass-fed cows provide milk with more balanced nutrition. You’ll be finding it in more dairy products, like Organic Valley® Grassmilk Yogurt and Maple Hill Creamery® Drinkable Yogurt. Both source their milk from family farms.




Snacking isn’t just for between meals. For a growing number of people, it is the meal. Snacking now accounts for half (50%) of all eating occasions. (Hartman Group). Millennials snack on average four times each day. The trend is snacking with a purpose—with naturally sourced, less processed ingredients; innovative flavors and better nutrition.

RXBAR® is so proud of their ingredients, they list them on the front label, even the number of nuts. High-protein Wilde Boldr® Bars one-up jerky with certified sustainable meats combined with superfoods. Taking its cue from puffed snacks, crunchy HIPPEAS™ is made with high-protein chickpeas assertively flavored.




Conventional soda? Nope, not here. The trend is beverages that are fresh, clean, healthy, natural and with less or no added sugar. Functional beverages are moving towards naturally derived functional ingredients.

SOS® Hydration Drink is a sports drink powder made with organic ingredients. It’s also available as an IV-drip, but we’ll stick with the glass.

LIVE Kombucha is a naturally carbonated, naturally probiotic beverage that tastes like soda. Sound® Sparkling Tea offers a simpler, no-cal effervescent alternative to soft drinks.




-Ingredients, ingredient benefits and ingredient sources really, really matter.

-Ingredients, nutrition and health benefits are front and center on the package.

-Establishing shared values between brand and audience is paramount.

-Healthy is not optional.

-Clean labels are not optional.

-Transparency is not optional.

-Honesty is the currency.