This article was originally published on reverb, Drake Cooper’s reflections on advertising, creativity, and trends. Read more.

Top 5 Food & Beverage Takeaways from Expo West

Last week I went to the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA and checked out a ton of new food and beverage products. There were over 1,500 exhibitors and over 50,000 people attended the show. Here are my Top 5 Takeaways from the show…

1. Nutrition industry sales in the U.S. are booming. Sales totaled $110 billion in 2009, up from $10 billion in 2008. That’s an increase of $100 billion in just one year. (Source: Nutrition Business Journal). NBJ defines this industry by 4 main product categories: Natural/Organic Food, Functional Foods, Supplements, and Natural/Organic Personal Care Products.

2. Social media is exploding as a means to market natural products. One year ago Facebook had 80 million users. Today there are 400 million. You Tube currently has 173 million users. Small and medium sized companies are finding that social media is a very cost effective way to help market their products. Consider this example shared at the “Best Practices in Social Media” workshop. This “Will It Blend” video received nearly 8 million view and their sales increased over 600% after people started viewing this. Everyone knows that an iphone can make calls, play movies and surf the web. But Will It Blend?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg1ckCkm8YI]

3. Of course we all know moms are a critical target audience for natural food and beverages. I heard a lot of buzz at the show around the phrase “word-of-mom,” which is a viral marketing term use to describe online opinion-sharing between moms, often done regarding product recommendations. Used frequently in mommy blogging circles, word-of-mom has become a recent focus of marketers. It could in fact, be the most powerful marketing tool you have!

4. Consumer demand for gluten-free products has been growing at exponential rates. This category was a huge focus for manufacturers at Expo West. Consumers have come to believe that a gluten-free diet will provide some relief for celiac disease, autism, ADD and even MS.

5. Exotic Super Fruits continue to be all the rage. And, they are a personal favorite of mine when cooking. I like to think of them as mini vitamin bombs! In addition to Pomegrante and Acai, the latest super fruits on the rise include Goji, Mangosteen and Noni, all filled with potent antioxidants.

I can’t wait for Expo West 2011!