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Mushrooms, Mochi and Meatless Alternatives: Key Trends from Expo West 2024

expo west blog

What do mushroom chips, cactus water, cookie dough, NotHotDogs and dumplings have in common? They were hot trends at this year’s Expo West 2024 at the Anaheim Convention Center. More than 65,000 registered attendees gathered to see the latest and greatest in consumer product goods, natural and organic food and beverages and lifestyle items from more than 3,300 exhibiting brands.   

Here are some of the latest trends in the space: 

Plant-Based and Alternative Protein Power Continues 

Plant-based alternatives continue to revolutionize the culinary landscape. According to SPINS, plant-based food dollar sales were $8.1 billion in 2023. As consumers become increasingly conscious of their dietary choices, the demand for plant based and alternative protein options is not slowing down.  

Brands and restaurants need to treat these items as their own category, instead of trying to just replicate and replace existing items. They should also ensure they taste great, so people want to incorporate them into their daily or weekly meals.  

At Expo West, we saw plant-based items and alternative proteins in many forms ranging from alternative milks (oat, almond, macadamia, pistachio, banana, “animal-free” – you name it, and it was there) to NotHotDogs and new chickenless nuggets.  

Mushroom Boom  

Functional mushrooms have emerged as nutritional powerhouses in recent years, capturing the attention of wellness seekers and health enthusiasts alike. Packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, these fungi offer many potential health-forward benefits, such as immune system support and cognitive health benefits. Among them, Lion’s Mane Mushroom is taking the spotlight and has become the go-to choice for those seeking to enhance mental clarity and overall wellbeing. The many benefits were on display incorporated into ground coffee, chips, gummies and more.   

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration  

With an increasing awareness about the benefits of proper hydration, consumers are actively seeking ways to stay hydrated throughout the day. Amidst this trend, sparkling water, flavored water, sparkling tea, and alternative water (i.e. coconut water, cactus water, and watermelon water) have emerged as beloved choices for many, offering a refreshing and more interesting alternative to plain water. In addition, and to no one’s surprise, non-alcoholic beverages, such as non-alcoholic beers and mocktails, continue to be popular as consumers shift preferences towards healthier lifestyles. In a similar realm, pre- and pro-biotic beverages continue to gain traction, with tried-and-true brands debuting new flavors and new players entering the market.  

Protein Power 

Once relegated to “cheat days” and indulgences, many comfort foods like chips or pasta are now getting a makeover with ingredients that deliver health and wellness benefits. At Expo West, brands were offering protein packed reinventions of longtime favorites such as mac and cheese and oatmeal as well as a plethora of protein-packed snacks, like chips, pretzels and pasta in different shapes. There’s a growing popularity for food items that not only taste great, but also keep us satisfied for longer and contribute to a balanced and healthy diet. 

International Flavors Take the Spotlight 

The popularity of global cuisine is soaring due to growing curiosity, appreciation for cultural diversity, and increased accessibility to international ingredients and products. Brands are capitalizing on people’s palates becoming more adventurous, culinary boundaries blurring, and people finding joy in discovering new flavors. International flavors were also seen through items such as seaweed, mochi, samosas, pasta, coffee, tortillas and more.  

Overall, it was apparent the natural food and product industry and expo are emerging from the pandemic with determination. We can expect many new innovations and exciting products to hit shelves in the coming months and years ahead. If the buzz and energy felt at the convention are any indication, I’m looking forward to 2024 and discovering even more new products, snacks and food items to add to my daily routine.  

Morgan Shapiro is a Senior Account Supervisor based in Los Angeles, CA. She works across the consumer, tech and corporate practices.