In Crossing the Chasm, author Geoffrey Moore made a compelling case that trends and products don’t grow seamlessly up a bell curve. Rather, they hit a chasm in the growth curve between the early adopters and the mainstream market. Early adopters want to try everything new in a market and they want to be the people others turn to for advice on what’s good. But the mainstream market isn’t interested in risk. They want to know that the pioneers have taken the risk, safely “crossed the chasm” (where most new products fall), and the reward is now theirs for the taking.

While Moore’s adoption curve was written with new technologies in mind, marketers have found it applies to any growing market. And at 2018’s Expo East, New Hope’s VP of Business Insights, Eric Pierce, and Nielsen’s VP Growth and Strategy, Sarah Schmansky, shared their insights into developing ingredient trends in the natural products market. On one axis of their exploration of trends from birth to maturity are ingredients that have achieved broad adoption. Think almonds, coconut and kale. The other axis is defined by growth of purchase. Think moringa, maca and ashwaganda. These ingredients are embraced by a small group of early adopters, but will the mainstream market ever evolve for them? The trick for manufacturers, retailers and investors is where on that spectrum does one invest time, energy and resources?

Just as in any market, there are opportunities for success all along the adoption spectrum. Here are a few brands exhibiting at Expo East that offer strong appeal to both the early adopter and mainstream segments of the adoption curve.

Early Adopter Hopefuls

Taali Water Lily Pops:  While water lily seeds may have a long way to go before achieving broad adoption, popping them into a lower calorie/lower fat substitute for popcorn certainly makes them extremely accessible. Early adopters love to be the ones to whom friends turn to get the latest and greatest and “try my Himalayan Pink Salt Water Lily Pops” certainly fits that bill. Kudos to Taali for inventive ingredient and standout packaging.

Buddha CBD Teas: CBDs – the non-psychoactive compound (cannabidol) in the cannabis plant, with purported medical benefits like anxiety and pain relief, were big at the show across product categories. Coca-Cola admitted they were “closely watching” this ingredient and market, which definitely still falls in the early adopter market as products infused with CBDs are legal in 28 states where medical marijuana is legal but retailing and shipping state-to-state legalities are still a bit grey. Buddha has Macha, Chamomile, and Turmeric teas with CBDs. Seems like a natural fit for a drink renowned for its soothing qualities.

Navitas Boosts: This superfood ingredient stalwart helped to popularize organic and nutrient-dense superfoods like Maca, Goji Berries and Lucuma. But which of these and many that have followed are the essential superfoods to consume? Not many of us will fill our cupboards with lots of big bags of these ingredients and mix on our own. At this year’s Expo East, Navitas introduced new products that make consuming a wide blend of superfoods easy – with their new Boost and Essential mix packs. These savvy products make it super easy to ingest anywhere from 8 – 15 superfoods in your beverage or smoothie each morning, along with fiber, protein, probiotics. I particularly like the benefit-focused (versus ingredient) Daily Superfood Boost line. Choose among Immunity, Detox, Beauty, Wellness and Focus packs. 

Mainstream Hopefuls

Truwhip: There are few food products more accessible and broadly popular than a great big dollop of whipped cream. General Foods solved America’s desire for a convenient topping with Cool Whip in 1966. It wasn’t until 2007 that the folks at Peak Foods gave us all that delicious convenience in an all-natural profile – Truwhip – with no high fructose corn syrup, polysorbate 60 or GMOs. At Expo East, Truwhip rolled out a new vegan SKU that would easily pass the taste test at your family’s Thanksgiving dinner this year. Bring on the holidays!

Peckish: Not much more mainstream than the incredible, edible egg. But leave it to Sonoma Brands’ John Sebastiani and Chelsea Bialla – founders of Krave Jerky, Zupa Noma and Smashmallow – to bring their playful sensibility to make even a hard-boiled egg exciting. Each “peck pack” contains two hard-boiled organic, free range eggs and crispy dip in 5 flavors – Fried Rice, Everything, Rancheros, Salt & Pepitas and Maple Waffles. These guys so clearly have fun identifying an under innovated, mature space and blowing it up. And they put that fun in the product and the package.

Hail Merry: One of the perceptions of natural foods by mainstreamers is the belief that taste is ultimately sacrificed at the altar of better-for-you. But whether it’s Truwhip’s vegan topping or one of Hail Merry’s diminutive refrigerated bars, tarts, cups or pies – Taste is King. Hail Merry’s plant-based, gluten free, grain-free, vegan, paleo, kosher, non-GMO treats deliver convincingly, and surprisingly, on their promise of “mind-blowing” indulgence. Mainstreamers – you don’t know what you’ve been missing until you find one of these chilling in a retailer’s refrigerator near you.

Is the world waiting to eat a water lily seed? Probably not. But by popping that seed into a puffed and crunchy popcorn-like bite and flavoring with global and exotic spices, Taali has made the unfamiliar, familiar. Conversely, Hail Merry has taken a familiar indulgence – sweet potato pie – and converted it into a surprisingly better-for-you experience. Regardless of where all of these brands live on a consumer adoption curve and what unique ingredients they use, what they powerfully share is a sense of imagination, freshness and originality.

Michael Bollinger
Michael Bollinger

Thanks to Michael, clients benefit from the breakthrough brand storytelling skills of Smith Brothers’ creative heritage, delivered with the speed, efficiency and real-time optimization demanded by today’s digital environment.

Michael joined Smith Brothers in 2005 as Director of Client Services, after spending the previous 20 years with DDB Worldwide where he was Senior Vice President, Group Account Director of the agency’s flagship, Chicago office.

Excited by Smith Brothers’ creative firepower and entrepreneurial spirit, Michael joined the Smith Brothers’ team with a vision for delivering big agency resources on a dramatically more nimble and effective platform.

Under Michael’s leadership the agency acquired digital agency, Hot Hand Interactive, in 2007. It added its Social Media practice in 2008. Developed an Analytics practice in 2009 and a Product Innovation specialty group – Sliced Bread - in 2016.

Layered onto its existing strategic planning, creative and media capabilities, Smith Brothers is now a force in the CPG marketing world – working with brands like Nestle, Del Monte, Heinz, Ghirardelli, Red Bull, and more.

Michael holds a B.A. in English from Union College