Speakers drilled down into the sales and science behind many of the most significant natural food and product trends happening across Europe, at the Natural and Organic Products Europe -NOPE 2018 show in London this week.

Over 700 exhibitors from 42 countries and 10,500+ visitors had the chance to listen to 70 speakers at three theatres during the dynamic event celebrated at the ExCel fairgrounds on 22 and 23 April. The futures of all markets in the sector were all up for discussion, with experts from big names such as Ocado and Weleda weighing in with their opinions on the future of the natural products sector throughout the show.

Consumers are savvy

Consumers are now “much more skeptical about any health claims” made of food products, said nutritionist and health writer Christine Bailey, in her talk on Sunday: The Key Nutrients, Foods and Product Innovation for Vegan and Free From Sectors.

Confirming that many current trends such as gluten-free and other free-from products were here to stay, she warned that consumers were getting increasingly savvier and forcing the sector to evolve.

“Consumers who were thinking about getting free-from products, who once wanted gluten-free, are now thinking more about what is in it? And what is the nutritional content of that?” she explained.

The “shorter the food label the better,” she added, making clear that convenience foods you could grab and go were still relevant to these consumers.

She further predicted that low-FODMAP foods could start to replace other supposedly ‘gut healthy’ foods and superfoods would be increasingly added to other products or blended.

Trend reports were the order of the day, and Natural Products Global also kicked off with a discussion laid on around Taking the Temperature of Health Food Retailing in 2018, which saw editor Jim Manson unveil the findings from the magazine’s ‘health check’ survey for the sector on Sunday.

Similarly, the Soil Association gave two market reports on Monday. The highlights of the 2018 Soil Association Organic Market Report revealed that organic food and drink sales had risen 6 percent in 2017 to reach £2.2bn, their highest level ever.

The 2018 Soil Association’s Organic Beauty & Wellbeing Market Report argued the case for clean beauty being the most prominent trend in 2017, and looked at where that would go next.

CBD: The New “Big Thing”

Cannabidiol (CBD) proved highly popular at the show with some fresh-faced exhibitors joining more established businesses, such as Colorado-based Charlotte’s Web which was keen to expand its presence in the UK and Europe. While the products on offer tended to focus on CBD oils, there were also skin care brands such as Annabis, displaying their offerings at the show.

In one of the most well-attended talks of the show, Jacek Kramarz, co-founder of HemPoland which produces CannabiGold, discussed the reality of the impact of current regulation on the marketing of CBD containing products in Europe at the moment. At his talk entitled CBD-Rich Hemp Extracts – the New “Big Thing” in the Nutraceutical Industry, he argued that despite sometimes problematic levels of regulation, Europe could be facing a turning point soon due to an announcement that CBD caused no public health problems by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last year.

“This opens a tremendous opportunity for companies interested in CBD, or that want to put their products on the market because we have a strong advocate on our side that is the WHO,” he predicted. 

What next for Probiotics?

Emerging research into our gut could be fueling the ever-growing expansion of the probiotics markets, and Natural and Organic Products Europe 2018 was careful not to miss out on this hot trend. 

Exhibitors displayed everything from established probiotic supplements such as BioKult, through to pre-biotic containing foods such as TrooFoods, first to introduce its product in a plastic-free Earthpouch at Planet Organic early this year and due to become available via British supermarket chain Waitrose next week.

Many of the fermented foods and drinks products exhibited at the show were relatively new, such as Mount Olympus Pure Foods kefir and Eat Wholesome, which both received Great Taste Awards in September 2017. Probiotic supplements for specific ailments such as SolarRay’s line of six new probiotic formulas due to launch in the UK next week also appeared at the show. Probiotics for children proved popular too.

A talk by Graham Botfield, founder of Living Nutrition on Living Culture Symbiotics – The Next Generation of Probiotics focused on how the research was increasingly showing how the multifactorial success of probiotics could be. Focusing on just the strain of probiotic was no longer enough, he said.

It wasn’t only gut health that people were focusing on, as the skin microbiome is also increasingly attracting attention. Marie Drago, the founder of Galinee, predicted on Sunday that more probiotic skin care products could be arriving on shelves in the next year as companies caught up with the latest research, in her talk on How Discoveries Around The Skin Microbiome are Revolutionising Beauty.

“We were the first ones to talk about bacteria as a good thing,” she said.

“Microbiomes have been on the radar since 2012 in science, so there are some consumer products, but they are taking a while to arrive”.

Treatment for acne and eczema, in particular, could “really change” in light of much of this research.

“Up until now the treatment for eczema was always using a barrier cream, so probably the next step for eczema will be to feed the right bacteria on the skin surface and see if that improves the skin barrier,” she said. 

Aging healthfully

Collagen was also another hot topic at the show. Tim Mount, Science Education Manager at Neocell gave a talk on The New Science of Anti-Ageing: Collagen and Supporting Nutrients. This looked at recent research that has demonstrated the role supplementation can play in strengthening joints and bones. Esther Mills Roberts also spoke about collagen in her talk Bone Health Revolution – the Collagen Connection.  She said she felt collagen supplementation was due to become: “a mainstay of joint health.”

Giving newcomers a chance

The NOPE show was well rounded off with the announcement of the winners of Holland and Barrett’s Innovation Pitch LIVE event on Monday which saw companies given the opportunity to pitch for the chance to be sold through the health food giant.

The six finalists going head-to-head among 105 entries included: Aquamamma, Famille Mary, Fruu Cosmetics, The House of Aran, Turmeric Vitality, and Doctor Seaweed’s Weed & Wonderful, which was the winner at this year's Innovation Pitch Live.