6 Not-To-Miss Trends Shaping the Future of Food
This week over 80,000 health and wellness leaders will gather in Annaheim, CA for what some call the Fashion Week of food: Natural Products Expo West is where the world’s top food companies, healthy-food innovators, retailers, and even potential investors as come together under one roof to ask “what’s next?”
Here area some of the biggest trends to watch for at this year’s show that are already reshaping how we eat and drink in 2018.
- Foods that are “Net Positive”
For many forward-thinking brands, it’s no longer enough to be sustainable: the best brands capturing consumers’ attention today feature ingredients and business practices that go a step further to focus on being regenerative for both people and planet (For example; pea protein and peanuts aren’t only tasty plant proteins associated with a healthy diet, they help replenish soil health, reducing the need for fossil-fuel heavy fertilizers). This trend includes beef and bison products that use regenerative grazing to restore soil health, companies funneling back profits into a strong strong social mission, or brands that have 3rd party certifications such as Biodynamic.
Upcycling of ingredients
Food entrepreneurs are creating delicious new foods and drinks from upcycled ingredients previously been cast aside as food waste. According to the USDA between 30-40% of all food in the US goes to waste and this movement keeps nourishment and resources out of our landfills. This trend includes fruit leathers and cold-pressed juices made from “ugly” veggies and fruits, bars baked with “spent” grain leftover from craft beer brewing, or antioxidant tea made using coffee leaves (which in conventional farming are considered waste or fed to livestock).
- Expanding Organic Access As a More Just Food System
Leaders in the good food movement are striving to bring the benefits of organics (such as ingredients grown without potentially harmful synthetic pesticides) to more eaters. Earths’ Best Organic ® Baby food (one of my partners I am proud to collaborate with), for instance, is focused on making organics an everyday affordable option through things like simple packaging and traditional recipes. Plus is the only national organic brand that’s authorized for WIC, a federal nutritional assistance program for women, infants and children.
- A Mighty Microbiome
Our keen interest in cultivating a healthy gut health continues to show up at the grocery store. No doubt this is boosted by a flurry of that science which suggests our microbiome. The term microbiome refers to the collection of microbes that live in and on the human body. It acts almost like a hidden organ, forming a complex ecosystem that constantly interacts with our own health. Researchers believe the microbiome plays a critical role in influencing the pH of our gut (which can encourage or prohibit the growth of unwanted pathogens), helps us synthesize essential vitamins, influences our brain chemistry and mental health, and even more, regulates our own genetic activity in ways that can spur health or fan inflammation. While science is still far from fully understood (and zealous marketing in some cases leaps ahead of the evidence), look for this trend to play out across the grocery aisles in everything from drinking vinegars and “gut shots”, snacks and condiments promising a probiotic boost, to foods rich in prebiotics (indigestible fibers that our “good bugs” need to thrive).
- The Plant Protein Revolution
This category continues to soar, and is driven by two trends: our unwavering interest in plant-based eating and a passion for protein. In addition to next-generation plant burgers bent on mimicking the look and flavor of real beef, look for innovations in beverages (such as peanut milk, which delivers an impressive 8 grams of protein per 8 oz, on par with cow’s milk), snacks (crunchy chickpeas, anyone?), pastas (plant proteins are addition nutritional oomph with garbanzo bean, lentil, or almond flour), plus plant protein powders (such as hemp) as a protein and omega-3 rich DIY base for the smoothie bowl craze.
- Functional Ingredients to Power Well-Being
Call it superfoods 2.0: from adaptogens to mushrooms, there is a whole new generation of functional ingredients that show promise in helping us soothe away stress, rev-up our immune system or give us a mental boost. These compounds are showing up in energy bars, chocolate, coconut creamers, teas and other wellness beverages, coffee drinks, smoothie packets, and more.