ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Drawing more than 77,000 attendees, the 36th annual Natural Products Expo West featured cutting-edge innovation from more than 3,000 exhibiting companies. The event, held March 9-13 in Anaheim, serves as a “launching pad” for product development from emerging and established brands alike, said Carlotta Mast, executive director of content and insights for New Hope Network, which produces the show.

“Evolving shopper tastes and values have positioned the natural products industry as a major force in what products end up on shelves from natural stores to more conventional supermarkets,” Ms. Mast said.

A driving force behind product development in the natural, organic and specialty food category is increased “snackification” among American consumers, who seek healthier alternatives to traditional chips, cookies and crackers. New launches at Expo West were designed to deliver on demand for simple, nutrient-dense ingredients, free-from attributes and functional benefits. Another snack trend identified by New Hope Network is a foray into savory and spicy flavors.

“(We’re seeing brands) taking foods and snack products that are traditionally sweet and making them into a more saltier version,” Jenna Blumenfeld, senior food editor for New Hope Network, told “That might have to do with a sugar fatigue and also all of the documentaries that have arisen around sugar and negative health effects.”

As an example, Kashi, a business unit of Kellogg Co., is introducing a line of culturally-inspired savory bars in three flavors: basil white bean and olive oil, chickpea curry and chili, and quinoa corn and roasted pepper. Slated to arrive in July, the bars are gluten-free and Non-GMO Project verified with 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugar per serving.

Click for a slideshow of new products debuting at Expo West.