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October 3, 2019

A Summary of Natural Products Expo East

MHT Partners  | Consumer Investment Bank

MHT’s Consumer Growth team recently attended Expo East in Baltimore, MD, and despite the blistering, humid conditions outside, the interior halls of the Baltimore Convention Center were filled with the always refreshing air of entrepreneurship. We walked the aisles for two days, visiting existing relationships and establishing new relationships. As usual, Expo East was smaller and a bit more manageable than Expo West, both in terms of logistics and the sheer number of exhibitors. Further, the ‘Hemp Pavilion,’ basically a separate venue, served as a helpful micro-enterprise showcase for the rapidly growing and highly fragmented CBD/Hemp consumer product space. Here are a few general themes that MHT noticed from this year’s show, many of which were also abundant at Expo West 2019:

  • CBD everything – Easily the consumer product industry’s largest ‘wild west’ segment right now, we saw CBD and hemp-infused products for humans and pets in virtually every category. Many startups are leveraging CBD as their core positioning, while simultaneously we saw established food, beverage, personal care, and cosmetics brands launching new products and/or sub brands containing the unregulated, non-narcotic ingredient. Interestingly, most of the experienced consumer investors we spoke with at the show were adamant about staying on the sidelines in the pure CBD space…for now.
  • Endless bubbles – While La Croix had a large booth and was giving away full cans of pomelo-flavored sparkling water (will they ever run out of fruit flavors?), there was an abundance of me-too sparkling water brands exhibiting. Our favorite was Minna, a ‘lightly brewed sparkling tea,’ and the beauty of all of these infused still and sparkling waters is the breadth of claims that catch the eye of the myopic shopper. XYZ’s Sparkling Waters are Certified Organic, Non-GMO, and have zero sugar, calories, and sodium – yes, it is water.
  • Keto-compliance and endless protein – The hottest trend in lifestyle dieting today has driven food and beverage companies to make formulation changes and/or launch new products that conform to the high-fat/low-carb Keto lifestyle. Unsweetened beverages, Keto energy bars, crackers produced with pea/legume protein, dehydrated unsweetened snacking vegetables, and our favorite emerging ingredient-turned-beverage, bone broth. Bone broth checks so many boxes from Keto compliant to gut health to on-the-go lunch, it is no wonder that several brands have raised venture funding and are expanding into national grocery chains.

Always one of the best shows in the consumer products industry, Expo East did not disappoint, and we, a leading consumer growth investment bank, look forward to seeing how the landscape evolves over the next six months.

We welcome further discussion! Please contact Craig Lawson (clawson@mhtpartners.com), Patrick Crocker (pcrocker@mhtpartners.com) or Gavin Daniels (gdaniels@mhtpartners.com).

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