BALTIMORE — Collagen, cannabinoids and other functional ingredients are rising in new product development as consumers increasingly view food as medicine, according to industry experts at Natural Products Expo East.

“When we look at consumers and food as medicine, we see a broad range of ingredients that are seeing dynamic and explosive growth,” said Andrew Henkel, senior vice-president of brand growth solutions at SPINS, during a presentation at the event on Sept. 12 in Baltimore. “Consumers are increasingly seeking out specific ingredients to help them with their overall health and well-being. Things like collagen, which today represents $143 million in the marketplace and is growing at a rate of around 81% versus last year.”

Associated with health and beauty benefits, collagen pops up in a number of products that debuted at Expo East, including two new collections from Vital Proteins, Chicago. Vital Proteins Collagen Creamers are made with coconut cream and contain 5 grams of collagen per serving. Vital Proteins Collagen Bars contain 15 grams of collagen and 2 to 4 grams of sugar per serving. The products are formulated without gluten, dairy, soy, cane sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or added flavors.

Mr. Henkel highlighted mushrooms, moringa and ashwagandha as other emerging ingredients with functional benefits.

Product developers also are zeroing in on added sugars in food and beverage formulations.

“Consumers are taking more ownership and pride in how they nourish their bodies,” said Amanda Hartt, market research manager at New Hope Network, which produces the Natural Products Expos. “The biggest discussion happening in the marketplace is what’s going on with our bulging waistlines… Is fat or sugar causing the obesity epidemic?”

The industry is taking various approaches to address the negative turmoil surrounding sugar, she said. Brands at Expo East showcased sugar-free snacks, sauces, beverages and more. Lily’s Sweets, Boulder, Colo., unveiled nine new products in its portfolio of stevia-sweetened confections, including chocolate bars and caramels.

More than 29,000 attendees gathered to view the latest natural, organic and functional product innovations from 1,550 brands, including 537 first-time exhibitors, at the annual trade show.

“Every fall the exhibit halls at Natural Products Expo East are bursting with products that are increasing consumer awareness about the importance of organic and supporting trends within plant-based, hemp and agricultural innovation,” said Lacey Gautier, group show director. “It’s inspiring to also see the organic pioneers continue to strengthen the impact organic has on the natural products industry.”

Click for a slideshow of products featured at Natural Products Expo East.