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Expo East unwrapped

Behind the exotic lotions and raw cacao powders, the sustainable water bottles and natural hand sanitizers, we found some undercover trends at this year's Natural Products Expo East.

Behind the exotic lotions and raw cacao powders, the sustainable water bottles and natural hand sanitizers, we found these undercover trends at Natural Products Expo East.

Trusted sources

My intrigue with sourcing was at an all-time high at Expo East this year, starting when I moderated a session on packaged raw foods. What I hadn’t considered about this trend was that rawness, especially as it relates to packaged foods, starts with the source: If companies aren’t traveling to the countries of the ingredients’ origin, how can we—or they for that matter—truly know if the ingredients are raw?

More and more manufacturers are relying on open communication with retailers and consumers through videos that trace the supply chain (check out Aura Cacia’s and Sunfood’s web sites) and traceability programs such as Gaia’s for transparency.

This trend seems particular relevant for products and claims that don’t have labels and certifications to back them up, such as “raw” (though the new Raw Food Alliance, headed up by Laura Fox, plans to debut a third-party raw certification program within the next six months) as well as the Chinese herb industry, which continues to pose a traceability problem. I expect this demand for sourcing transparency will continue to grow as consumers see that certain companies are setting the bar high. If they’re doing it, why can’t you?

The truth is in the lotion

For many personal care companies, just using natural ingredients is no longer enough; they need to use natural ingredients that are scientifically proven to be efficacious, not just ones that smell and feel good. I saw a lot of hyaluronic acid, like Derma e’s new Hyaluronic Hydrating Cleanser and Hydrating Mask.  Probiotics and prebiotics in skin care has been on my radar for the past year; but at the show, I even saw it in hair care from Earthly Elements, the new body and hair care line from supplement manufacturer, Solgar.

Certification and labeling—NSF/ANSI 305, USDA Organic and Natural Products Association Natural—continues to be the hot topic in the personal care industry. But as a result, another trend has emerged: Personal care manufacturers are being unapologetically honest. Can you handle the truth? Rather than marketing themselves as totally natural and organic, some companies that don’t meet NSF/ANSI 305, USDA Organic, or Natural Products Association standards are explaining why they use certain ingredients and acknowledging where there could be opportunity to change. Ultimately, this leaves the purchasing decision up to the consumer (with a lot of help from the retailer). But don’t think your job is done. Now, more than ever, it’s important that consumers and retailers research companies and products.

Crossing over

Numerous companies, from personal care to green home, have entered the natural products market from other industries, vying for the attention of the coveted natural products consumer. Three notable picks: Guyot Designs, a line of squishy and colorful bowls, pet dishes, and even shot glasses originally marketed toward the camping industry; All Things Pure beauty products from conventional cosmeceuticals company Bioelements; and Bamboo Bottle Company, which manufactures glass bottles encased in sustainable bamboo, also originally geared toward to outdoor industry.   

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