Day Two at #ExpoWest: One Too Many Drinks

Posted March 9, 2018 by Keith Seiz

No, this isn’t a blog post about what you’re thinking. Shows like the Natural Products Expo West are too tiring to go out much at night. In fact, since I’ve been in Anaheim, I’ve had to patiently wait until the noise dies down from the 9pm Disney extravaganza before I can go to bed.

In this case, the “One Too Many Drinks” in the headline refers to the hundreds of beverage companies I saw walking the North Hall of the show today. I saw countless coconut waters and even some sparkling coconut waters. There were alkaline waters, protein waters, caffeinated water, and ironically, Just Water.

Similar to last year, there were a surprising amount of ready-to-drink cold brews and coffee drinks packaged in a nice bottle or can. Unlike last year, these cold brew purveyors brought a cornucopia of flavors to sample, some of which have absolutely no business being in coffee.

The Natural Products Expo West is always an overwhelming show. An overindulgence of aromas, tastes, marketing and brands. However, the beverage category seemed especially bloated and excessive this year.

I understand why. Large CPG companies that have dominated the beverage aisle for years are losing sales and shelf space. We’re not going to see a resurgence of Pepsi or Coca-Cola. We’re only going to see a slow erosion of sales from these brands as smaller, more innovative, more “healthy” products step up.

But where do all of these products fit in an already crowded marketplace. If I’m a retailer walking the show floor, how do I determine which new coconut water my consumers want, and then how long do I give them to move product before I decide to try another brand of coconut water. Or, maybe give watermelon water a try?

It’s not just me wondering how all of these new beverage companies survive. I ran into a principal at a natural foods investment firm today, and he commented that he was steering clear of any beverage or jerky companies. Simply put, there are too many options and not enough shelf space. Breaking into this market has always been challenging. I’d venture to say it’s getting near impossible.

5 Quick Hits from Day Two

  • Ice Cream Balls: How have I lived 40 years, been to countless Japanese restaurants and still have never heard of, or eaten, mochi. I experienced my first mochi at the Bubbies Hawaii booth, and it was quite delicious. These frozen treats are Japanese in origin and consist of ice cream encased in a pounded sticky rice.
  • Busy Bee Yerba Mate: Of all the beverages I tasted yesterday, this one stood out. I had the Ginger Lime variety and it was the perfect balance of spice, sweet and citrus.
  • Vegan Food Stinks: Well, let me qualify this. Vegan packaged food stinks. That’s probably an unfair statement, but it seemed every bad sample I had today was a Vegan product.
  • Honey Love: If you’re reading this, you most likely know I love honey bees and honey. I was so happy to see so many honey companies at the show not only promoting honey, but also talking about the importance of honey bees.
  • New Shoes: What the hell was I thinking. It’s like I forgot that I was going to be on my feet for 12 hours. Definitely a bad idea to break out a new set of kicks at a trade show.



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