Spotting Trends Like a Strategist

Prepping for Expo West: Spotting Trends Like a Strategist

Lindsay Connors
Expo West is upon us! Natural Products Expo West is the name in natural, organic, and BFY categories, and generally regarded as a must-attend for industry insiders. As a platform for exhibition, networking, and education, it’s also the best place to scope out emerging trends. 
As a brand strategist, I love to dig deep into knowledge, but I also find myself drawn to understanding broader brushstrokes of my work. While some might be focused on the details, I gravitate toward the larger economic and cultural implications, especially in a scene like Expo West
I haven’t been to Expo West – yet – but I’m already thinking about how to scope the big picture from the days’ events. Whether it’s your first or tenth Expo, here are some tips for zooming out like a strategist: 

1. Stay Curious and Observant

Strategists often talk about cultivating a “beginner’s mindset, or a curious and open view of the world. Experts can miss important trends emerging when they’re too focused on their own experience.

A show like Expo is perfect for practicing a beginner's mindset, because you’re bound to see some surprises! Rather than dismiss something that you’ve seen tried before, previously impossible, or seemingly infeasible, set your incredulity aside. This could be your moment to ask questions and learn something that other experts overlook.   


2. Engage!

Like any large trade show, you’ll see that everyone at Expo West is extremely busy. My colleague, Brie Schaezler is an Expo veteran and emphasized that it’s important to plan ahead. “Think about your relationships and the two or three people you most want to see. Make appointments with them, but be flexible – have a backup plan.” At a show as large as Expo, it’s easy to fall into a “more is more” mindset and only skim the surface. Instead, make a plan to ensure you get the engagement you’re after.

3. Think Long-Term and Holistic

Another colleague and industry insider, Gressa Rowland, countered a frequent truism about Expo West: “If you see something at Expo, it’s not really a 'new' insight – brands have identified an opportunity space in the market, are done with formulation and packaging, and ready to hit retailers. BUT this is all several years ahead of mainstream America.” She raises a great point – as insiders we’re exposed to (and get bored of) new trends before they even hit the aisles in earnest. This is another great opportunity to zoom out and look at the big picture to think about what’s poised to go mainstream into the future.

4. Monitor Multiple Sources

Synthesis is at the heart of every strategist’s toolkit. Before, during, and after Expo West, consider gaps in your mental model. Do you rarely speak to one link in the supply chain? Are you informed on changes in Gen Z buying behavior? Do you spend any time conducting shelf audits? There are many ways to get information on our industry – datasets, personal interviews, social listening, observation, and industry journals – but leaning on any one information type can leave gaps. 

5. Track Influencers and Thought Leaders

Thought leaders are an essential source of information that will help you make sense of the chaos – they’ve already done the heavy lifting of synthesis and observation and are positioned to provide a big-picture perspective! As part of our preparation at Moxie Sozo, we’ve partnered with two industry leaders, Mattson and SPINS to provide a holistic overview of the Trends + Treasures you’ll find at Expo West – and what they mean in the larger context. With a wide-ranging expertise in innovation, sales, and design, we’re able to provide a wealth of insight that leaves readers knowing and understanding more. 
You’re welcome to download the Trends + Treasures Report and sign up for an expert-led tour during Expo here! Happy prep, and may your Expo West experience be an illuminating one.