March 22, 2022

Expo West 2022: The Breakdown!

After a two-year in-person hiatus, Expo West finally returned in full force last week! Over 65,000 people attended one of the biggest food shows of the year, and several AdAdapted employees were on the floor learning about the natural product industry. Amid all the buzz, several things stood out to the team. Here are a few takeaways we had from Expo West!

New product innovation has not slowed down…

While in-person events have been few and far between over the last two years, this did little to prevent thousands of people from creating exciting new foods! The exhibit halls featured a seemingly endless supply of new products ready to be sampled by passersby. 

Plant-based products dominated Expo West; many established brands and new players took the opportunity to introduce plant-based chicken, pizzas, cheese, fish, deli meats, and much more. Daring revealed the first gluten free breaded plant chicken, which will hit stores in April, and Current Foods showed off a vegan sushi. 

It is harder than ever to stand out…

With so many new brands and products coming to market, it’s crucial for emerging brands to stand out from similarly sized and larger companies. The sheer number of plant-based products guarantees that there is a fair amount of category overlap. 

Many brands may not survive to next year’s show unless they secure more funding and drive sales, which creates a sense of urgency at each booth. Notwithstanding exhibitors’ best efforts to get in front of as many people as possible, it would be difficult for a retailer or venture capitalist to spend time learning about every brand. 

Driving velocity is priority number one…

Emerging brands at the show were extremely focused on breaking into new retailers and improving their relationships with existing partners. To do so, they need to prove that they can drive sales and foot traffic to any retailer introducing their products. Vendors that can help in driving velocity on behalf of an emerging brand have a special opportunity to build a lasting partnership. 

Store placements matter for emerging brands…

Several different founders reported challenges in determining what aisles their products should be located in. If a company places a chickpea-based pasta product in an organic aisle, they risk missing a pasta shopper who might not pass it. Alternatively, gluten-free shoppers may never learn about the product if it is placed in the pasta aisle. No matter where a product ends up, many brands must dedicate resources to educating consumers on where to find their products in-store.

Social media advertising might not be the move…

Many attendees expressed dissatisfaction with social media advertising performance and doubts that it was engaging their target audiences at the right moments, much less driving conversion. With most of the brands at Expo West at precarious points in their existence, few can afford to waste money on inefficient marketing spend. 

Unless social media platforms can provide emerging natural products brands with better utility, expect these companies to seek out different ways to distribute their initial marketing budgets.

This year’s Expo West indicated that shows will be back in full force throughout the rest of 2022. To learn more about when and where to find AdAdapted, click here or email!

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