What did we see at this year’s Expo West? Here are some key trends

This year, we headed over to sunny California to attend Expo West, one of the most innovative trade fairs around.
May 2024
What did we see at this year’s Expo West? Here are some key trends

After attending the (literal) thousands of stalls showcasing new, exciting, and sometimes challenging products, we have compiled a report of more than 120 pages explaining the latest product and category trends running through each and every one. Here are some key observations:

Authenticity back in the spotlight

While different markets experience their own “international booms,” this year’s Expo West featured a huge variety of Asian products with a focus on dishes that bring simple yet satisfying flavours in formats which reflect staple foods in East Asian cuisines such as Korean noodles, dumplings, and sauces – accompanied by brands which tell intersectional stories about immigration, identity, and entrepreneurship. Similarly, influence was seen from just across the border with many premium Mexican basics such as organic and authentic tortillas.

Rise of the hybrids

We’ve been meticulously monitoring the state of the plant-based categories over the last few years, and while previous editions have been saturated with realistic meat substitutes, this year’s offering was far more down-to-earth, with many plant-forward and pre-prepared dishes, high-protein snacking, substitutes in emerging categories such as seafood, and the first realistic hybrid plant-based meat substitutes that promise more healthy and sustainable ways of eating meat, enriched with plan-based goodness for enhanced flavours, textures and nutritional profiles.

New nostalgic flavours

Nostalgia is the word of the moment in the food industry, and it was very interesting to see how this aspect is being activated in the US market. Churro is a very-in demand flavour, entering surprising categories such as beverages and protein snacking. A very interesting flavour that has appeared is “birthday cake” … try to find another taste that’s better at transporting us to our golden years! While these flavours may seem American as they come, don’t forget that with the power of TikTok, European consumers will be searching high and low to get a piece of the action in no time.

The barista within

Perhaps spurred by the cost-of-living crisis, brands are seeming responding to a huge demand for barista-quality products at home to make their own fantastic creations. In the birthplace of Starbucks, we saw a huge number of innovative whips and creamers that span both the plant-based and dairy categories.

Some uniquely Californian ingredients

While California may be the ultimate melting-pot of eastern, western, and Latin American cultures, we saw many brands that took inspiration from the Golden State’s unique position between the Pacific Ocean and the Mojave Desert, with seaweed, dates and cactus making interesting debuts in surprising categories.

Female food

While nootropics and supplements targeting a huge variety of ailments and offering a myriad of benefits for consumers have been around for a while, personalisation is definitely the mot-de-jour for this category. We saw some supplements designed specifically for women, segmented by life stage, promising specific and targeted benefits for young professionals, new mothers and more. Furthermore, supplements for school-age children seems to be a rising category.

Lantern’s full report, featuring in-depth analysis of these trends and more than 150 product spotlights, is available for sale. Contact us at hola@lantern.es for more information.

What did we see at this year’s Expo West? Here are some key trendsWill Gittins