Food Forum
Regenerative Ag

ExpoWest 2023: A Quick Take on Consumer Trends

The continued rise of regenerative sourcing, sustainable ingredients and alternative protein in consumer goods

ExpoWest, and East, are some of the biggest shows for the consumer goods (CPG/FMCG) industry, and it’s always telling to see which consumer trends brands are choosing to act upon, and how it shows in their consumer-facing materials.

This year I have picked up on the following trends:

Alternative protein space is still seeing new brands

The relative success of alternative protein brands, including our friends at Oatly and Miyoko’s, as well as many now larger brands like Beyond and Impossible, has brought to light an untapped consumer need.

From dietary restrictions to climate-first thinking, various consumers are choosing these brands, and the category is growing [1].

This has no doubt played a role in encouraging new brands to crop up and launch another variation on a plant-based burger, or take on a special rendition of alt-based mince into Asian-inspired foods, like gyozas and baos. This shows that the “deliciousness” aspect of this category isn’t saturated yet. Consumers are still looking for something that tastes amazing,has just the right texture, and cooks or stores as they expect it to. On the flip side, this also means no brand has quite nailed it yet in the broader category. Something to noodle on! ;)

Climate, sustainability and “regenerative” messaging

From established brands to completely new ones, a growing percentage of ExpoWest booths featured climate messaging. Clearly this is something that consumers care about [2,3], and brands are taking this into account. From the frequency of the word “regenerative” being used on ExpoWest Climate Day (pre-opening of the Expo) to the appearance of this word in company and product branding (more on this below!) it is certainly getting more air-time!

I thoroughly appreciated that brands like General Mills (disclosure: our company, Regrow, works with General Mills), Organic Valley, Applegate, and Lundberg have presented a more comprehensive educational story — from soil health to biodiversity — about what climate action can look like for brands. These displays, as well as the Climate Day talks, featured a high amount of humility and appreciation that we are all on the journey together. No one has it nailed yet, but this is a path worth investing in, and embracing together (brands with cross-brand collaboration, as well as consumers of any kind).

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Brand booths featuring climate-related messaging

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What about the word “regenerative” on pack and in branding? Given the full name of the event is “Natural Products ExpoWest”, the combination of the words “regenerative organic” have been featured on multiple booths.

Even more interesting, some of the new up-and-coming brands have directly used the word “regenerative” in connection to their ingredients or systems they support as a part of their company branding.

As you can imagine, seeing a new brand of alternative milk or crackers feature this branding piqued my interest, and I have asked a few questions to see what meaning the brand puts behind the claim. In some cases, the answers that I got were as simple as, ‘we source sustainably, and seek to promote regeneration where possible’ (any action is better than no action, it all counts!), and in other cases the answer included a more in-depth run down on the carbon footprint of crops they are sourcing (often only a few key ingredients), and the work they are doing to enhance it with regenerative practices. So, it runs the gamut! It is encouraging to see that these younger brands are testing out “regenerative” messaging in connection with their brand and product positioning. ll these efforts will no doubt advance consumer education about the regenerative movement.

New and more ingredients with sustainability-related credentials

The investment into sustainability- and climate-related messaging was visible not only from consumer-facing brands, but also their major suppliers. There were sessions on total carbon footprint reduction (that looked quite rigorous!) from palm oil suppliers, and new upcycled products brought to market like “EverPro” from EverGrain by AB InBev.

All this is showing that climate action is a cross-supply chain movement that all partners need to be involved in.

Brands that will quantify their footprint, identify opportunities to lower it, and build coalitions to execute on it will likely gain the level of resilience that will allow them to weather the economic and literal (weather) storms of the decade ahead. Something to pay attention to, and invest in early!

Have you attended the Expo? What have you observed? What piqued your interest?

Let’s continue this conversation at the World Agri-Tech and Future Food Tech events in SF this week! See you there! (Or online)

[1] "Market size exceeded USD 60.45 billion in 2021 and is estimated to grow at over 18.5% CAGR between 2022 and 2028" - from Global Market Insights

[2] "At least 65% of consumers want to make the right spending choices to live a healthier and more sustainable life." — from World Economic Forum

[3] "Eco-labels on food encourage people to eat more sustainably." — The British Psychological Society

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