From The Desk of Mark Crowell: Food Innovation Insights from Expo West

Mark Crowell Offers Insights on Food Innovation From Expo West 2024


Mark Crowell Offers A Glimpse into the Future of Food Innovation 

At the 2024 Natural Products Expo West, the premier venue for natural, sustainable, and leading-edge of food trends, we had the unique opportunity to dive deep into the evolving fresh landscape of the food industry. With over 65,000 attendees and 3,300 booths, this massive event not only showcased emerging trends but also served as a critical platform for new and existing brands to introduce their innovative products. 

The Impact of Economic Shifts 

The event was markedly influenced by the previous year's economic shifts, notably the collapse of several leading new venture-supporting banks. This disruption, coupled with higher and challenging interest rates, significantly impacted funding avenues for new food companies. The silver lining, however, emerged for well-positioned companies with positive cash flow, highlighting the importance of sound financial health and operational efficiency in navigating economic uncertainties. 

Sustainable and Upcycled Ingredients Take Center Stage 

One of the most compelling takeaways from Expo West was the industry's continued move towards sustainability and the utilization of upcycled ingredients. As we reported last year, brands are increasingly focusing on sustainable ingredients, restorative agriculture, and leveraging underutilized resources to create innovative products. This trend deepens to reflect broader industry commitment to stewardship of the earth and efficient use of natural resources, signaling a shift towards more environmentally conscious food production and consumption practices. In line with this trend is the gathering increase in products based on precision fermentation. These products mimic milk, cheese, and other traditional foods using fermentation rather than animal husbandry in their production. Most brands highlight they have a much smaller environmental footprint.  

The Supply Chain's Role in New Commodity Introduction 

The introduction of new clean label ingredients is challenged to scale and integrate into existing supply chains in order to achieve broad adoption. This is particularly true of upcycled ingredients. The event underscored the importance of achieving this scale to manage supply chain costs effectively. Despite these challenges, there's an optimistic outlook on the normalization of supply chains in general, with geopolitical factors and global dynamics continuing to influence the landscape. 

An Unforgettable Airbnb and Team Spirit 

Beyond the business insights and market trends, our team's experience at Expo West was filled with memorable moments, including our stay at a quirky Airbnb. These experiences, while humorous, underscored the camaraderie and collective spirit of our team as we navigated the event's packed schedule. One of our team members said, "If we can survive this, we can do anything."

Looking Ahead: The Future of Food Innovation 

As we reflect on our experiences and insights from Expo West, it's clear that the food industry is on the brink of significant transformation. The shift towards sustainability, the evolution of supply chains, and the emergence of new product categories all point to a future where true innovation, environmental responsibility, and consumer preferences drive growth and development. 

As we look towards the future, our commitment to embracing these changes and contributing to the industry's evolution remains unwavering. We're excited about the opportunities to collaborate with brands that are at the forefront of this transformation, driving forward with innovations that resonate with consumers and contribute to a sustainable and prosperous future for the food industry. 


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