ANAHEIM, CALIF. — A growing interest in plant-based eating and digestive health are among factors fueling growth of the natural, organic and functional food and beverage industry, which last year surged 6.6% to $152 billion in sales.

“When we look at natural, organic and functional food and beverage sales compared to conventional food and beverage sales, it’s not new news that natural, organic and functional is growing at a far faster pace than conventional food and beverage,” said Carlotta Mast, senior vice-president of content and insights at New Hope Network. “The conventional food and beverage category actually began to shrink last year… Last year conventional food and beverage sales totaled $634 billion, but the growth was negative 0.2%.”

At Natural Products Expo West, held March 5-9 in Anaheim, numerous products on display cater to specific dietary preferences, with a growing emphasis on dairy- and meat-free formulations. Plant-based stalwarts such as Tofurky and MorningStar Farms are expanding into new formats, while emerging brands are carving a niche with first-to-market innovations.

“Consumers are waking up to the social, environmental and health benefits of plant-based foods, (and) natural and organic brands are meeting this growing interest with innovative products that make it easier, healthier and more delicious than ever to ditch traditional meat and dairy, even if it’s only temporarily,” Ms. Mast said during a presentation at Expo West.

A prominent trend in new product development is convenient nutrition, seen in a number of snacks and beverages featuring prebiotics or probiotics, protein and vegetables as “brands are responding in creative ways to changing consumer perceptions around nutrition, including the growing appreciation for healthy fats and understanding that sugar isn’t all that sweet when it comes to health and weight management,” Ms. Mast noted.

Also prevalent at Expo West is a trend Ms. Mast called “the modern pantry.”

“Today’s pantry looks very different than perhaps the pantries that our parents had,” she said. “These modern pantries are designed to connect with more diverse consumers, have real stories behind the products found on the shelves in that pantry and are leading a changing array of needs, desires and beliefs on the consumer front … creating opportunities for brands to update stale categories … ensuring convenience is always met with real nutrition and great taste … creating more permissible indulgences through the incorporation of veggies and less sugar… and it’s allowing brands to connect with consumers by reinforcing their brand values in everything they do.”

View a slideshow of products debuting at Expo West.