Recap of the PPAI Expo 

by Brendan Menapace for Promo Marketing Magazine

The PPAI Expo is pretty much the best place to see all of the biggest promotional products trends in the industry. You can walk the show floor and see what new brands apparel suppliers are including in their lines, what technological advancements have made their way into the industry, or just things that make you think, “Wow, that’s really cool.”

Wandering around the show floor and taking it all in is one of our favorite parts of the show. And as much as it might seem like aimless strolling, there’s actually a great deal of learning involved. Here are some of the biggest trends we noticed from our sometimes 10-mile walks around the PPAI Expo show floor this year. (And be sure to check out our apparel trends roundup here.)


Environmentally Friendly Options

With cities and states banning single-use plastic bags, and places like state parks putting a stop to single-use plastic bottles, reusable items are key. Brands like AZX Sport, Brave USA and BIC Graphic are offering plenty of eco-friendly options like tote bags, water bottles and tumblers.

Reusable bags from AZX Sport

Rachel Rosario, product marketing manager for drinkware at BIC Graphic, told us that the Hartwell tumbler even won a Pyramid Award for best new product development.

Hartwell Tumbler from BIC Graphic

Some of them are even using recycled materials too, like bags made from recycled plastic.

One of the biggest new trends is reusable straws. People are trying to avoid creating plastic waste, so traveling with your own metal or plastic straw is becoming the norm. Several suppliers had these items on display, highlighting the popularity of the trend.

Reusable Straw from Ad-N-Art

Get Rustic

Everything old is new again, as they say. And while we’ve made incredible advancements in creating synthetic materials, you just can’t beat the classics. We saw a ton of wooden pieces, from cutting boards to awards and sunglasses.

On the printing side, old technology (like Polaroid cameras) is back in fashion, and it’s making its way to the promotional products industry.

Cannabis Products

People have been saying for a few years that cannabis-related products would make their way to the promo industry as more and more states legalize recreational and medical use. This is no longer an “it’s on the way” kind of thing. Companies like Cannabis Promotions are including items like grinders in their products lines, and apparel companies like Blue Generation are including cannabis-related items in their apparel collections.

Combination Pieces

A lot of suppliers are offering products that have multiple functions. It’s not a new trend, necessarily, but it is one that seems to be growing, especially in the ways suppliers are adding tech functions to classic promotional items. Think water bottles that are also Bluetooth speakers, and business card holders that also prop up your phone.


Even with products like signage and event displays, end-users want the ability to tailor a product to their specific needs. Orbus Exhibit and Display Group had signage that, through the use of magnets, could take on different sizes and designs, or any other use end-users may have.