PHILADELPHIA — More than 1,200 brands are slated to exhibit at Natural Products Expo East at the Pennsylvania Convention Center Sept. 28-Oct. 1. The event, hosted by Informa Markets’ New Hope Network, is expected to draw more than 20,000 attendees.

Ahead of the show, a panel discussed trends and new products to watch during an online presentation. Many exhibiting companies demonstrate a commitment to addressing environmental and social issues, said Amanda Hartt, market research manager at New Hope Network, Boulder, Colo.

“Brands and entrepreneurs are stepping up to solve the hardest-to-solve challenges facing our CPG system, looking to communities around their headquarters to have a more positive environmental and social impact as well as communities around the world from which they depend upon for manufacturing and sourcing and materials,” Ms. Hartt said.

Several exhibitors are showcasing regenerative organic certifications, indicating ingredients were produced by methods that advance soil health, animal welfare and social fairness.

“These days it seems like everybody has a regenerative story,” said Adrienne Smith, content director at New Hope Network. “Brands and suppliers are really leaning into those regenerative practices to support healthier soil, animal welfare, biodiversity. Still, we did a recent survey at New Hope Network, and it showed that only 19% of surveyed consumers knew the term regenerative and knew what it meant … 44% said they never heard of it. So, this is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. Brands really need to be aligning themselves with certifications, with collaboration partners, with third-party validation, so they can not only increase consumer awareness on this topic but also gain trust.”

She highlighted several brands sourcing regeneratively grown ingredients. Dr. Bronner’s, Vista, Calif., partners with cocoa farmers practicing regenerative organic agriculture to produce its line of plant-based chocolate bars. Force of Nature, Austin, Texas, markets meat from animals that are grass-fed, grass-finished and pasture-raised on regenerative ranches. Simpli, Baltimore, offers Regenerative Organic Certified quinoa blends.

Speakers also reviewed brands and new products homing in on climate and sustainability.

“Some of the ways brands are communicating sustainability messaging are talking about carbon impacts, packaging stories, upcycling stories, sourcing stories,” Ms. Smith said.

Airly, St, Louis, offers salted caramel crackers made with ingredients produced using regenerative agriculture practices. The company offsets the carbon that is produced in making the crackers.

Neutral Foods, Portland, Ore., measures the entire carbon footprint of its products and works directly with farmers to implement projects that minimize milk’s carbon intensity. Its whole milk, 2% milk and half-and-half products are made 100% carbon neutral through investments in carbon offsets, including credits from farmers turning cow emissions into renewable energy.

GoodSam Foods, Greenwich, Conn., is committed to direct-trade practices and regenerative agriculture with smallholder farmers and indigenous communities.

Another trend discussed during the presentation is increasing diversity in the natural products industry, as historically overlooked entrepreneurs gain more shelf space and support.

“The natural products industry is making strides when it comes to supporting supplier diversity and inclusivity, both in its makeup and who it serves, but there’s still so much to be done,” Ms. Smith said.

Sofrito Foods, LLC, the Chicago-area maker of Fillo’s beans and grains pouches, has unveiled a line of ready-to-eat, single-serve tamales featuring Latin American recipes and developed for on-the-go consumption.

Fila Manila Filipino American Kitchen, Laurel Springs, NJ, produces pantry staples inspired by the Philippines’ most iconic dishes. A recent launch is banana ketchup, a tomato-less condiment made with bananas, bell pepper, herbs and spices.

Pocket Latte, Los Angeles, earlier this year added a line of coated chocolate almonds featuring Asian-inspired flavors, such as black sesame, matcha and yuzu mango, to celebrate the founders’ heritage.  

Ayo Foods, Chicago, markets a range of frozen meals and sauces inspired by West African cuisine, including a new groundnut stew, with peanuts, tomatoes and chicken.

Such brands “serve these communities whose culture and voice have long been excluded from US mainstream grocery,” Ms. Smith said.

Partnerships and collaborations represent new ways of doing business as brands team up to develop new products and align on shared values, Ms. Smith said.

San Francisco-based pork rind maker 4505 Meats partnered with Tajín, the popular Mexican seasoning brand, to launch Chile Limón Chicharrones.

LesserEvil Healthy Brands, Danbury, Conn., and Rind Snacks, New York, partnered to create a ready-to-eat popcorn tossed in coconut oil and flavored with upcycled cherry and lime fruit powders.

Simple Mills, Chicago, is part of a group of brands supporting the Almond Project, a farmer-led initiative with a long-term objective to make almond farming more sustainable.

Frozen food maker Brazi Bites, Portland, Ore., recently launched an accelerator program to support fellow Latin-owned businesses.

A cultural force shaping innovation is holistic health and well-being, which encompasses trends responding to consumer demand for balanced nutrition and a movement away from products perceived as highly processed, empty-calorie foods, Ms. Smith said. The speakers discussed an evolution in plant-based eating with a focus on “plant-based heroes.”

“As the plant-based market continues to grow, we’re not just seeing plants versus meat anymore,” Ms. Smith said. “It’s all about plants versus plants. Which ethical plant hero outperforms its competitors, which is most sustainable, which has better sourcing, water use, carbon footprint, supply chains, so much more.”

Bay Area-based Spero Foods earlier this year introduced a liquid egg substitute based on pumpkin seeds. Atlantic Sea Farms, Biddeford, Maine, uses regeneratively farmed kelp in its thaw-and-eat kelp, pureed kelp cubes and fermented seaweed products.

“It’s something that really helps remove carbon and nitrogen from Maine’s warming gulf waters,” Ms. Smith said.

Eat the Change, Bethesda, Md., is introducing an organic, chewy carrot snack. Carrots are a water-efficient crop, requiring 23 gallons to produce 1 lb compared with soybeans, which require 257 gallons, according to Eat the Change.

San Francisco-based Twrl Milk Tea is a plant-based twist on a popular Taiwanese beverage. The canned lattes are made with organic, fair-trade tea and pea milk, which, per to the company, uses four times less carbon emissions than dairy milk, 85% less water than almond milk, and less fertilizer than oat and soy milk.