Natural Product Expo West: Health & Humor Abound

Working this show makes me glad I’m a marketing consultant who is blessed with clients in diverse industries who make a range of products, from natural foods to wireless telecomm. I get to attend and work at such events as Natural Product Expo West, to see and taste all things healthy. As at any trade event, some products hit the sweet spot of the market, while others land with a dull thud and a “heh”?! Some notes from a couple of categories follow, plus some “out there” ventures:

Salts, Sweeteners
The makers of NutraSalt maintain a “health-oriented” website to introduce their line of Mediterranean-origin, low-sodium sea salts. They’re taking a different tack than most leading sea salt providers by de- emphasizing the pure, healthy allure of the salt’s origins. (yes, some parts of the Mediterranean are a bit dodgy!) Rather, they’ve branded their products in much the same way as do the makers of non-sugar sweeteners … think Splenda with its light, über-healthy brand image.

In my opinion, NutraSalt’s brand image and website messages position the company very well for an effective, global viral marketing campaign; which in turn should attract the retailers they still seek.

Providers of natural sugar substitutes have added retail shelf space since the 2009 Expo. The booth messages have gone from preachy/greeny to product-focused, value-based marketing messages that signal growing retail sell-through (and acceptance in the ingredients sector, too). Emerald Forest Sugar‘s Xylitol brand scores high in vital benchmarks: extremely low on the glycemic index table vs. sucrose and honey, making it ideal for diabetic management. Prevents dental cavities, FDA-approved, has 45% fewer calories than sugar. Found in the fibers of many fruits, trees, and vegetables. (in the US, from hardwoods like birch). Taste, healthy benefits, low-calories… what are we waiting for? Price adjustment… as with all specialty-natural foods, sprinkle with caution until makers of this and similar products can cost-reduce!

The Xylitol brand ranges from bulk, ingredients-based supplies; to products like gums, mints, and “coffee shots”. I don’t know of any other supplier in this space who’s made so much progress. I’d drop that clinical-sounding Xylitol brand pronto for any consumer-facing messages, and find a new one that’s airier and friendlier.

Every year, new brands stake the claim as “world’s purest”. Bottling at the source – Norway, Australia, France, Hawaii – creates pricing challenges due to hefty transport costs that usually can’t be overcome without much heftier government subsidies at the source. I tasted Glacia Ice Box from Norway — in freezable, eco-friendly cartons — and another fine product from Hawaii, Hawaiian Springs Artesian Water. Now, find both lines in an impressive array of retailers throughout the western US and Asia.

Just Zany
CocoPop Smasher-Heater-Flinger. Retailers seeking a way to entice and amuse shoppers, look no further than this point-of-sale machine that smashes wafer-sized rice cake patties, quick-bakes them, and flings them into a bin at warp speed. As the company’s tag line says, “Flying Thin, Make You Thin.” Heh?
Performance-Enhancing Meat Snack. Perky Jerky, caffeinated beef jerky. Started up by two guys who went skiing one morning, their story goes like this: “Hey, you spilled your energy drink on my jerky!” “Hey, you dropped your jerky in my energy drink!” And, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the rest (they hope) is history. Visit the website and read the packaging, and you just know these guys are having a blast.
“Must Eat” Superfood for 2010? Chia seeds, we’re told. Aztec Warriors used them as a kind of Red Bull. But my friend who’s challenged up there in the hair department plans to sprinkle some on his dome before showering.
Sharks & Jellyfish Got Your Back. Collagen-based treatments are touted as the healthiest of ocean-based products, for topical and internal use. Trout mouth, anyone? I’d say this is a good use of by-products from the seafood industry… but you try it first!
Marketing Foul. How’s this for a mashed-up web address? The sign was longer than the booth. Pity the marketing ace who’s leading this product launch!

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