Trendsetters: the Latest in Natural Foods from Expo West

If you love organic, gluten free, pesticide free, non GMO and incredibly tasty foods, Expo West is the place to be. A few colleagues introduced me to this show years ago and I am hooked, it is by far my favorite food event of the year. The energy, the people, the food, ingredient knowledge and of course the nightlife (and SoCal) make it one experience I look forward to every March. And this year, I had had the opportunity to speak about “Success in Beverages” at Nutracon, (which is always held a few days before the Expo) the premier conference for ingredient and technology innovation.

So, onto the trends.

1) The 4 C’s represent Flavor, Form and Function

Coconut, Cacao were by far the hot flavors. From coconut flakes to coconut in bars, coconut desserts and coconut yogurt I loved everything I tried. Liberte yogurt was just one of the many delicious brands I tried. Cacao was also huge and in a number of places you would expect it including bars, nut mixes and beverages.

Chips – better for you versions of chips were everywhere! From Corazonas formulated with plant sterols to Popcorn Indiana’s chip’ins, there are many options on the market place. Speaking of popcorn, that was another huge trend!

Chia – chia seeds are the hot new ingredient that comes as a stand alone product so you can sprinkle it on your food at home or include it in baked goods and chia is formulated into many products as well. I spent a little time talking to the people from Health Warrior because I knew Ray Rice was a huge fan.

2) Bars make a Comeback and Beverages Race Forward

Functional beverages are still hot, especially energy shots and kids drinks (though lacking in new product introductions in the past year). And bars, a lagging category in years past are stepping up their game with new gluten free introductions and kids bars. I especially loved KIND, PureFit, ProBar and Clif.

3) Gluten Free and Non-GMO

And finally, gluten free is hot and growing as is the Non-GMO debate. Both were prevalent on the show floor and in discussions among the 60,000 + attendees. I personally look forward to trying this pasta I picked up from Jovial Foods. I don’t care for American pasta but like authentic Italian pasta so this should be a good taste test – especially since it is gluten free.

What else do I love so much about this industry? The marriage between sound scientific research, subsequent science-based food & beverage product development, communication of  nutrition science in a consumer-friendly manner and of course trends in consumer demand. Thank you NewHope360 for yet another outstanding year!

To read more about impressions from Expo West, check out blogs from a few of my colleagues:

Rachel Begun, the Gluten Free RD 

Corrine Dobas, Eat Better, Feel Better, Live Better 

Vegan Cuts, for everything Vegan

Susan B. Dopart, MS, RD, CDE

Images from Food Expo West via Food Product Design

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