The intrepid FoodTrients team braved Southern California freeway traffic, severe parking shortages and wearing out the soles of our walking shoes to explore and evaluate the nearly 1 million square feet of exhibit space at this year’s Natural Products Expo West. This is the largest natural products trade show in the world and this year’s event broke records—more than 2700 exhibitors and over 71,000 registered attendees—up 7% over last year and double just two years ago. As in previous years, it always amazes us to see the level of passion, creativity and innovation at the show.
We observed overall trends—some continuing from recent years, some new. There were many overlapping trends as well. Here’s a sampling of things we saw that just scratches the surface.
New flavors – Spicier, more ethnic and international influences like chocolate bars with chipotle and cardamom from Bixby & Co. Indian spices and rice/grain blends from companies like Ecolife, Vietnamese and other Asian-style soups from World Soups, Inc.
More exotic, health-boosting ingredients – Our FoodTrients Editor-in-Chief, Grace O, has been writing about the benefits of these ingredients for some time: Moringa which is high in potassium; ashwagandha for relieving stress; baobab, which is full of antioxidants
More super food ingredients – Cranberries, blueberries, kale, palm oil, coconut, nuts, lean animal protein. Extreme Health USA was one of the many companies sampling a large line of healthful snacks featuring chia seeds, goji berries, goldenberries, mulberries and acai, many enhanced with dark chocolate.
Earth and cause-conscious – Companies such as Niman Ranch All-Natural Meats and Dreaming Cow grass-fed artisan yogurt raise their animals humanely as well as supporting family farms; suppliers of imported ingredients included baobab from London-based Aduna that is grown and processed by women in developing countries who are part of micro-economies. Businesses with conscious is an encouraging trend!
Simpler, cleaner, fresh ingredients — Products that are minimally processed and have few ingredients. Even the labels have clean, simple designs. PUREnola, a company that makes raw, organic cluster snacks and Choctál, which makes luscious, single origin chocolate and vanilla ice creams have simple ingredient lists, simple packaging and delicious tastes and textures.
Coconut is everywhere – in waters, fruit drinks, snack bars, jams and sauces. This super food is being re-imagined in lots of new ways. Some of the most interesting we saw include, CocoVie, which offers everything from coconut oil, spreads, flour to seasoning sauces and Cocomels by J.J. Sweets, coconut milk caramels.
Protein bars just keep coming – with more exotic flavors. The familiar Kind Bar company showed some unfamiliar flavors for protein bars including Thai and roasted jalapeño. Mediterra was sampling savory bars including a sundried tomato/basil bar and one with black olives and walnuts. For the truly adventurous, Exo was sampling sweet, tasty bars made with protein-loaded cricket flour. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!
Kalemay not be quite the sensation of recent years, but it has settled in as a popular ingredient in many products including bars, chips and other snacks. Kale successfully crosses over with the raw foods trend, as we tasted many fruit/nut/kale bars and ssnacks.
Turmeric is popping up everywhere, too, and apple cider vinegar is having its day in the sun. Bragg Live Food Products was sampling its new ginger flavored apple cider vinegar beverage. We tried TuMe turmeric-infused sports drinks in mango, citrus and berry essences.
Ginger is kicking up flavors in more meals, snacks and drinks. www.GingerPeople.com . We saw many ginger flavored yogurts and ice creams. One particularly delicious ginger-flavored item was Forte High Protein Gelato.
Raw foods are continuing to grow as bars, snacks and replacing traditional breakfast cereals. We tried a (cross-trend alert!) Hero kale/cashew bar from Apicius Nutrition and a variety of sweet and savory raw snacks from Gorilly Goods all local, organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan.
Yogurt re-invented – More international styles– Tarté Asian Yogurt and Smári Icelandic Yogurt both offer smooth texture with unique flavors like Tarté’s green tea and honey. Blue Hill Yogurt has come out with the first line of savory yogurt including tomato, carrot, beet, parsnip and sweet potato. They make great snacks but there’s also a recipe on the underside of each lid.
Whew! There’s so much more to report on. Stay tuned for the FoodTrients commentary on trends in healthful Snacks, Beverages, enhanced Coffees and Teas, Oils/Sauces/Dressings and more.