Last week I traveled 3,000 miles to Anaheim, CA for three days at the Natural Products Expo West trade show which hosted over 3,000 exhibitors. Promoted as the “biggest and best, natural, organic and healthy products trade shows on the planet”, Expo West brings together founders, retailers, activists, and individuals with a shared interest in healthier products and environmental choices.

Time flies at Expo West. It’s packed with presentations, networking events, and meetings. While I did not have a chance to cover the entire show (heck, it’s more than 1 million square feet), the thrill of discovering new products is always a highlight. I was primarily strolling the exhibit hall where the first time exhibitors are located. In between the celebrities and warriors, there were a few product trends that caught my attention.

Nuts & Seeds – Simple, healthy nuts and seeds often seasoned and toasted, then packed in resealable plastic pouches. (Here’s a marketing tip: be an innovator and put your products in non-plastic/petrochemical alternative packaging. More on that later in this post.) There were Yumnuts, Saviseed, and the many nut bars such as Kind.

Single Serve Frozen Entrees – Open, heat, and eat; the convenience of fresh, all natural frozen meals. Some come in wraps, such as TaDah!, a flavorful falafel wrap with non-profit partnerships. While many frozen foods have high salt content that’s not so healthy, a few are hitting the mark for healthy, frozen food choices.

Indian Cuisine – There were a number of Indian sauces to help you make interesting, healthy quick meals that your Indian friends would approve of, as well as, desserts and ready-to-eat entrees. To name a few I saw at the show, there was Stonehouse 27, Kaurina’s Kulfi – Indian Ice Cream Bars, and Saffron Road.

Skin Care for Girls and Guys – From the UK, the guys at Bulldog are launching a line of skin care just for the men. With fresh, white packaging and a lovable looking mascot dog, this is a standout among black and dark colored packaging that’s typical of men’s personal care products. As Brits say, “it’s brilliant”.

Mom alert! Another skin care category that’s emerging is skin care products for girls. Launched by a mom-entrepreneur, Joon for girls looks playful and fun. Just like their painted corrugated booth display.

According to the web site, Joon is an affordable product line. Clean ingredient list and affordable, that’s a good combo. And Good for you Girls is also in this girls skin care category.

With over 3,000 exhibits competing for attention, how do you stand out? Bring in a little humor?

Star power? (TV fame fitness trainer Jillian Michaels)

Big inflatables?

The answer: no me-too products or subtle variations, distinctive packaging, clean ingredients that are minimally processed, and new ideas for healthy living.

On a final note, let’s talk about packaging. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that the natural products industry creates lots of packaging waste through its consumer packaged goods. Few companies take this into consideration, so when Seventh Generation introduced its liquid detergent at Expo West in a cardboard based package, it becomes the shining star at the show. Liquid ingredients and paper packages are not a common duo. You wonder won’t the liquid soak through the packaging. They seemed to have figured this out with an inner bag.

Overall, Expo West is about ideas and people with a passion for the natural products industry. Glad to be a part of it and connect with others who share the same vision.