I’m really excited to share that one of my favorite trade shows is right around the corner—Expo West! And, I’m even more thrilled (and honored) to announce that I’ll be speaking this year about a topic near and dear to my heart—innovations for communications in organic.Read More
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.Read More
The Natural Products Expo West is right around the corner and I am thrilled to be part of this event! From March 7-11, 2018, the world's top food pioneers, healthy food innovators and up-and-coming natural product brands shaping the future of food will come together under one roof.Read More
What’s next in natural and organic foods for you and your family from Expo West?
What trends from Expo West did YOU love? I'd love to hear from you!
Trend #1: Our (Natural) Sweet Tooth Reigns
This first trend I noticed within about 10 minutes of arriving: it seems that organic and natural folks have as big a sweet tooth as the rest of America. While I certainly like the fact that the sugar may be organic, or the product may contain stevia (an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener) instead of say, aspartame my first thought as I cruised the Fresh Pavillion on Day 1 was ... things sure tasted sweet. Agave, too, was everywhere. This sugared trend continued in the main expo hall: aisles teemed with sweetened foods from granola to energy bars, smoothies and energizing pouches, desserts to chocolate.
While I absolutely applaud the cleaner ingredients - and in many cases - noble sourcing, the caveat for health professionals and the public is clear: many “organic and natural” products still qualify as indulgences - comparable in sugars (and salt and saturated fats) as conventional - so be sure to read the label. Especially if you are watching your weight. As a good rule of thumb, the American Heart Association recommends no more the 10% of your total calories come from added sugars per day-which I easily sailed over as I sampled my way through the Expo.
Trend #2: Greek Yogurt 2.0
While I did sample some deliciously simple Greek yogurts, there’s a whole lotta newness in this space. Blessed by a health halo and a darling of dietitians for years (thanks to its high protein content, probiotics, and calcium and vitamin D), Greek-style yogurt was everywhere - but in its newer, more adulterated forms. Many products I saw seemed more akin to dessert than a nourishing staple; Greek yogurt coated pretzels, dessert bars, pouches & yogurt drinks filled the Expo. And Greek yogurt packaged with a side of sprinkle-in sweets was big too, like Chobani’s new line of Flips, with indulgent flavors like chocolate-coconut-granola and key lime graham cracker.
Great marketing props go to Powerful Yogurt: This brand new macho Greek yogurt for men boasts 25 grams per cup in original plain, dark manly packaging, and a hefty 8-oz. serving-a nice change from traditional yogurts, which seem to be whittling their sizes down on a regular basis. Other flavors have 20 grams of protein (compared with 10-14 grams for a standard 5-6 oz. cup of Greek yogurt), and are sweetened with a combo of sugar and stevia to keep the carbs and calories down.
Trend #3: Hot Ingredients & Packaging
In addition to agave, gluten-free, chia, and all things coconut were also on the hot list. Closely tied to the gluten-free trend was quinoa. This, to me, is a good thing, as it's rich in protein and iron, quick cooking, and a delicious gluten free alternative that's a lean and green addition to any diet. Chickpeas were another strong trend: in flours, snacks, and main courses (tied to another hot trend-vegan). And when it comes to new packaging, get ready for a sea of pouches for grownups, from fruit purees to energy boosts to breakfasts. This Mamma Chia Squeeze was a great example of how many of these trends came together.
My two top picks for lean and green super-snacks go to two chickpea products that I love for portability, sustainability, and kid friendly protein rich snacking. First round of kudos go to Hope Hummus , who debuted their brand new portable hummus tubes; as a mom and a frequent traveler, thank you! These held up stunningly during our family's Disneyland escapades the next day. The uber tasty Saffron Road Crunchy Chickpeas also should be a pantry staple: made from sustainably-sourced organic chickpeas, these are a great alternative if you’re craving a plant protein snack (with 6 grams of protein per serving). With no refrigeration needed, these are perfect for portioning out on-the-go in advance and stashing in your briefcase, desk or gym bag.
Trend #4: “Better for You” Popcorn and Chips
The quest to clean up chip’s reputation as junk food has been in the works a while, and the chips I crunched my way through continue to move that trend forward: with ingredients including lentil or garbanzo flour (boosting protein a bit), dehydrated vegetables (which may add a few more phytochemicals), seeds (like chia!), and root vegetables. My personal favorite was a new company from the UK called Snapz whose dehydrated fruits like tomatoes proved one of the best taste experiences of the Expo. And the ingredient list couldn't be simpler: tomatoes. Well done, chaps.
Then there was popcorn. By itself, simple (non-GMO) popcorn earns high marks for lean and green: at just 93 calories for a hefty 3 cup serving, it counts as a whole grain and is packed with antioxidants. Quinn Popcorn earns my “best in show” green star award for turning microwave popcorn on its head. Fueled by two parents on a mission to make microwave popcorn healthy (read about the problems with traditional microwave popcorn here), Quinn popcorn starts with non-GMO corn, no rbST added cheese, 100% natural ingredients that sound like they come from your kitchen. The real innovation is the clean bag technology: Made from a 100% all natural bag that’s compostable, wth zero of the potentially harmful chemicals found in traditional microwave popcorn bags. And the taste? Innovative and fresh. Suffice to say I raised a few eyebrows as a 'oohed' and 'ahhed' my way through every sample of their booth.
What other trends are you seeing in natural and organics? Or what's your takeaway from the Expo if you attended? I'd love to hear your take!
Pity the poor acai berry. At the recent Expo West in Anaheim, CA (which drew over 60,000 visitors), one thing was clear: this was the berry to beat when it came to claiming uber health benefits. I saw several older trends still going strong, such as the coconut craze, and chocolate-as-a-miracle-health-food (kinda forgetting it’s still an indulgence to be eaten in small portions). There were lots of newcomers as well- and like any Expo, I had to ask: “what’s hot and what’s hype?” Here’s my take on natural and organic trends from Expo West 2012 that may come to influence a supermarket near you. .
1. Get Ready for Nut Butters 2.0 As a flexitarian, I am slightly addicted to nut butters. Packed with protein, heart healthy fats, and a slew of vitamins and minerals, they are perfect for a power snack or to slather on toast or oatmeal (I often carry single serve nut butters in my purse and car for snacking emergencies). But might we have taken things too far? Goji butters, phytoplankton butters, acaii butters and more joined this increasingly cluttered field-some which were an algae-ish brown color and tasted, well, like something algae-ish brown would taste. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps we’ve taken things too far-we’re back to health food tasting more “healthy” than amazing. I also couldn’t help but question the actual health benefits one might receive from some of these combinations-is a smidgeon of goji berry in a nut butter better than, say, slathering a spoonful of your favorite local 100% blueberry preserves?
Bottom Line: If you love em’, there’s probably no harm in adding them to your cart. But unless you are excited to pay a premium for exotic add ins that may or may not confer an actual health benefit, ignore the hype and stick to flavors and blends where the ingredients have sound science behind them (like nuts and seeds).
2. Pity the Poor Acai Berry “New” berries and superfoods from the remote reaches of rainforest or steppes are still granted an instant health halo. If goji and acai are old news, Sea Buckhorn from Tibet, Murta and Calfate from Chile, and a gorgeous Aronia berry from the USA are all newer superfruits that may be coming to a market (or supplement shelf) near you-all touted ORAC scores higher and more potent than acaii. But are they worth it?
Bottom Line: Until we see the science of real benefits in health outcomes, I put these in a “nice to have” category of eating. While these superfruits may boast ORAC scores that would make a health nut swoon, it’s an expensive proposition, as most come in powder or extract form, that you then add to smoothies or consume daily in addition to food. Paying $25 of $30 or more for a powder that you sprinkle into smoothies is likely a stretch for most Americans, who are just struggling to put enough fruits and veggies in their grocery carts.
. 3. Fancy A Seaweed Snack? Would you nosh on seaweed as a snack? You will be, if the trends at Expo are any indication. A host of different seaweed snack companies were there-and I’ve got mixed feelings about it. Of course, seaweed and sea vegetables are nutrient rich foods that can be a healthy addition to your diet-they often contain trace minerals and vitamins. However, in a perky little snack pack (which can be plain or seasoned), there’s an awful lot of packaging to preserve the delicate nature of seaweed, which felt wasteful to me (there may have been other companies there that I didn’t see who had a different packaging alternative, if so my apologies, I’d love to hear about you). Also, since the seaweed is so light, airy, and the eating experience so quick, I can’t help but wonder...being low in calorie, and have scant amounts of protein and fiber, I’m also worried that the typical American might not feel as satisfied with it-and will end up snacking again later.
Bottom Line: If you like it, could be a healthy addition-but caution with all that packaging. 4. Can you plant your bar in the ground? You’d Better, If You’re Calling it LIVE FOOD. Call it a “full circle moment”. Standing at the “Go Raw” booth the man proceeded to show me how you could literally unwrap the bar (a living pumpkin seed bar), plant it in dirt-and voila-it will sprout! I must admit, I was impressed-it gave me a a deep, primitive satisfaction that this food really was still somehow fresh food (now in a convenient, portable bar). Raw foods are heated just enough to destroy any potentially dangerous pathogens, but to keep the vital living secrets inside the seeds thriving. With all the push I’ve noticed of large conventional food companies trying to remind you how “close to the farm” and “straight from nature” their products are, this was a refreshing, immensely appealing approach.
Bottom Line: This is a trend that’s got real health benefits in my opinion. Will be interesting to see if it catches on mainstream. Loved it!
. 5. You Can Track Your Food Back to the Source.
Want to know exactly on which farm (or even which acre of the farm) your product was grown? Want to track the entire journey from field to bread, from bean to bar? No problem-many companies are now touting QSR codes that can be scanned to your smart phone and the unique story of that bar or loaf comes to life.
Bottom Line: Most people I know already feel overwhelmed with information overload. So while I applaud and admire the concept of transparency in the chain, I have to ask: will consumers care?
. What were your favorite trends from Expo West? What do you think of QSR codes? I’d love to hear from you.
Posted with assistance from Lindsey Toth, MS, RD