Relevance was the Real Innovation at ExpoWest

I spent a couple of days last week in California at ExpoWest. The mecca of natural, organic, and functional food and beverage products. Every year, I am super excited to see what the next big thing is going to be for the health-conscious consumer. With an industry growth rate of 6.6% to $152 billion in sales, I had high expectations.

As far as innovation goes, honestly it was all pretty disappointing. There were tons of new brands, but not much in the way of truly innovative products. I have been seeing and talking about CBD, Keto, Paleo, Kombucha, and plant-based for the past two years. And that’s what I saw the most last week. So my big question is, how will any these brands stand out in categories that are already too crowded? Not just by making the most noise or trying to appeal to the most amount of people, but by building real connections based on serving their consumers.

As expected, CBD was huge again this year.  With the recent legalization of hemp, CBD oil is on the rise in just about every form. It’s in everything from popcorn to sparkling water to you guessed it, brownies! But the real question is how are these brands going to go beyond just being another product and build the kinds of connections necessary to break away and grow a brand with staying power? Of all of the CBD brands that I saw and sampled, the one I personally connected with the most was Muscle MX, a topical pain relief balm. And of course that’s not for everyone, but that’s not really the point when building a strong brand. This product is perfectly positioned for athletes (and athlete wannabes) who aren’t interested in prescription pain meds and who need something that actually keeps them feeling good and able to work out. This is a very specific and very simple unique delivery system. Muscle MX is clear about who they are and who they are serving. And who it’s for. In my experience in today’s overly crowded market, this is a necessary ingredient for success.

Another interesting brand that I also connected with was HFactor Water (and it’s not because it sounds like I-Factor®, the world’s greatest consumer insights platform)! The “H” stands for Hydrogen. HFACTOR water claims to be engineered through a reverse osmosis process, which its makers say will reduce inflammation, and speed up recovery time. Are you seeing a theme for me here?

The takeaway of all of this? I wandered around this massive expo for 3 days, saw 20+ Kombucha’s, even more plant-based milk and protein products, too many snack and protein bars to name, and the two things I remembered without going back to my notebook, were the two things that spoke to my very current and personal need, muscle recovery. Maybe, just maybe, Seth Godin is right. We don’t need to be all things to all people, especially at the early stages of a brand. Maybe we just need to be really really good at what we are doing for the people who truly need the thing that what we’re making. And if we are, maybe they’ll share with  2 friends and so on and so on….

So how do you get really really clear and focused on a story so compelling, the right consumers can’t help but remember, want and share you? One of the easiest ways to use a tool like I-Factor® is to provide not only quantitative data on how consumers really feel about your brand but also to uncover the why’s behind the data to help you build your most compelling brand story for your optimal consumer. Want to learn more? Let’s talk.

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