If you work in the natural or healthy products industry, chances are you were at Expo West this past weekend. It’s the world’s largest natural products trade show and though the process was somewhat of a disorienting experience – hacking our way through rows of nearly 3,000 exhibitors, trying out hand creams, puffed quinoa and vegan burger patties alike – FBU found the experience to be equally exhilarating. Our mission while roaming these halls was, of course, to find and report on the newest and hottest trends for the benefit of our food and beverage entrepreneurs.
While there were the usual suspects – paleo-friendly, gluten-free, GMO-free, vegan-friendly, FBU wanted to focus on the newest and latest trends, many of which were found in the expo’s offbeat zones: a Hot Products exhibition, Fresh Ideas tent, and Next Pavilion floor featured some of the most innovative products.
Here are some trends we found of note, supplemented with with literature from around the Interwebs just to prove our point.
Hemp products made a big showing at Expo West this year, both as brand and as ingredient. We saw it in nutrition bars, cold-pressed juices, chocolates, protein powders, yogurts, tofus, hummus, cereals, and in stewed fruit. Companies are using hemp in powdered, seed, and oil form.
While the ingredient has been controversial in the past (and yes, the source of that controversy could be nasally detected all over the event, as well), hemp as a crop is largely imported from Canada, and its seeds offer a ton of nutritional value, especially when it comes to omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients with anti-inflammatory and mood stabilizing properties. In addition to containing all 10 essential amino acids, hemp has no known allergens, which is great for manufacturers.
Products of Interest
Living Harvest Tempt Hemp Yogurt: This product was created at the University of Saskatchewan, where scientists were seeking new sources of vegetable protein and started experimenting with hemp. Living Harvest has a line of milks, tofus, and yogurts all made from hemp.
BrandStorm Himalania Chocolate Hemp Seeds: The seeds from this snack are grown sustainably on the fields of Canada. The hemp seeds are toasted and covered in dark chocolate, resulting in bite-sized chocolate niblets.
Evo Hemp Bars: These are raw, cold-pressed nutrition bars with hemp seed. They come in such varieties as cacao dragon fruit, apple pecan, pineapple almond, and mango macadamia.
Like hemp, Chia seeds were rampant throughout the show in a variety of forms: making their way into seed butters, apple sauces, nutrition bars, and even into pudding cups. The seed, which is known for its richness in omega-3 fatty acids, follows the superfood trend; considering the variety of product categories it was in, it may be more versatile than entrepreneurs first imagined.
Products of Interest:
YumButter Chia Seed Peanut Butter: The makers are a nut and seed butter company incorporating superfoods like chia, hemp seed, and goji berries into their mix. Apparently, these “seed butters” are something even Men’s Fitness magazine has taken note of.
The Chia Co. Chia Pod: This product is made by an Australian company that is also one of the world’s largest chia providers. It resembles something close to a fruit pudding cup that contains cold-processed chia seeds mixed right in to preserve all the nutrients.
Nutiva Apple Sauce: The apple sauce-like product was infused with chia seeds packaged in both a jar and pouch form. Nutiva is a nutrition company that works with hot products coconut oil, hemp seed, and chia seed alike.
There was a lot of talk about gut health on Expo West’s floors and educational seminars, of which FBU will be doing additional coverage. Long story short: experts are saying that gut health has a huge impact on overall health, and probiotics are something that consumers want more of in their daily diets. The probiotic products seen on the floors went beyond your typical drinks and yogurt smoothies. FBU saw probiotics in nutrition bars, chutneys, cookies, burritos, and even water. Many of them contained commercial strains, such as Ganeden’s BC30, which is now contained in more than 100 product types.
Products of Interest:
Attune Probiotic Chocolate Bar: This is a dairy-free, chocolate, probiotic nutrition bar, which comes in flavors like dark chocolate, milk chocolate crisp, and mint chocolate.
Fast Track Nutrition Pro Cookies: If cookies don’t scream mainstream, then what does? These probiotic cookies come in 100-calorie snack packages and contains vitamins and nutrients to support healthy immune and digestive systems. And in case you’re not into cookies, FBU found this probiotic chocolate chip muffin recipe that clearly shows probiotics are moving beyond just yogurt and supplements.
Karma Probiotics Wellness Water: Probiotic water seemed very different. This drink comes with a small capsule of flavor and probiotic on top of the cap to keep them fresh. When consumers are ready to drink it, they combine the agents into the water.
There has been a lot of talk about millennials desiring easy, on-the-go packaging, and modern families of reduced sizes wanting packaging that can be resealed.
Evidently, packaged food companies listened because all throughout the expo floors were products, some of which you may not have thought, packaged in resealable, easy-to-handle pouches. Now, if you’re not quite sold on squeezing peanut butter out of what seem to be Capri Sun juice pouches just yet, check out numbers two, three, and five in this recent article by Packaging Digest.
Products of Interest:
Farmhouse Culture Kraut in a Bag: This product, which is usually seen in a jar, is made by a raw, organic, small-batch sauerkraut company based out of Santa Cruz, California. Kraut in a Bag comes in resealable pouches with flavors like smoked jalapeno, garlic dill pickle, and ginger beet.
YumButter: YumButter was mentioned earlier. While we are starting to see on-the-go, single serve packaging for spreads like nut and seed butters, YumButter’s products are in squeezable pouches with a resealable bottle cap top.
Smooch Snacks Fruit Sauce: Smooch Snacks is a healthy snack foods company targeted at adults. They brought chia-infused fruit purees similar to apple sauce and packaged them in resealable and squeezable pouches.
Superfoods are a catch-all category FBU saw on all of the expo floors. Examples of superfoods, a term used for foods that have unusually dense nutrient content, include the African baobab fruit, maca, Peruvian ginseng, kahai – a highly nutritious Amazonian nut – and, of course, the chia seed.
Such superfoods were present in everything from fruit snacks to pasta sauces to hummus. Superfood powders, which you could add as a supplement to any product, were surprisingly pervasive as well. In fact, Harper’s Bazaar UK just did an article on superfood powders featuring several of the superfoods we mentioned.
Products of Interest:
Baobest Bao Bites: This was a superfruit fruit snack from a company, who also makes superfruit powders. The company recently had a rebrand, which resulted in convenient resealable packaging and bright, bold labeling with the superfruit baobab front and center.
Hope Hummus and Superfood Dips: These lentil and garbanzo bean dips do not contain an actual superfood, but are high in protein and come in flavors such as super hemp, habenero lentil, and sriracha.
Mushroom Matrix Mushroom Powder: This powder contains powdered mushrooms rich in amino acids, dietary fiber, antioxidants, prebiotics, and a host of other good-for-you properties. The powder is raw, gluten-free, non-GMO and can be added to foods like soups, stews, salad dressing, and eggs for a richer flavor. If you’re not yet convinced by the power of mushroom, maybe this article from national food blog Eater from will push you over.
We know protein is in, but what’s more in are plant-based proteins and bugs. Consumers are focusing on health and sustainability and are turning to algae, hemp, beans, and even insects as their source of protein. Check out Time Magazine’s trend list — numbers three and six — to find out exactly what we mean.
Although still somewhat exotic even after a year of good press, talk of the Exo Cricket Flour Protein Bar was on the lips of many entrepreneurs. Make sure to catch FBU’s interview with Exo as we talk to them about the concept and the manufacturing process of working with such protein-packed critters.
Products of Interest
Exo Cricket Flour Protein Bar: These all natural, soy-free, gluten-free, dairy-free protein bars are made from ground up crickets and contain 10 grams of protein per bar. Flavors come in apple cinnamon, blueberry vanilla, peanut butter and jelly, and cacao nut. (They don’t taste a smidgen like cricket, I promise.) Here’s an article from Forbes covering Exo and the insect-eating trend.
ProTings Protein Chips: These are protein-packed chips (15 grams per 10-ounce bag) made from pea protein, flax seeds, and sunflower oil. Pea proteins are said to be a very nutritious protein and can even fight high blood pressure and kidney disease. The chips come in such flavors as spicy chili lime, tangy southern barbeque, and zesty nacho.
New Hope Natural Media, who produces Expo West, recently noted that traditional ingredients like turmeric were making a comeback among consumers. FBU saw turmeric in a variety of products like tea bags, chutneys, chocolates, and of course, in beverages. Surprisingly, we didn’t just see turmeric in the fancier and more exotic drinks like Temple Turmeric and Fire Cider, but also in more common ones like Uncle Matt’s Orange Juice.
Health-wise, this warm and peppery root has been used to treat inflammation since early times. Turmeric is now used as an antiseptic, supplement for heart health, and an antioxidant. Not surprisingly, Shape Magazine called turmeric one of the biggest nutrition trends for 2015.
Products of Interest
Uncle Matt’s Turmeric Orange Juice: Uncle Matt’s produces a traditional line of juices including orange, apple, grapefruit, and lemonade. They recently extended their line to include flavors such as orange turmeric, orange coconut, and matcha lemonade.
Spicely Organic Chocolates: These are 60 percent dark chocolates flavored with exotic spices such as turmeric and coriander. Spicely is an organic producer of spices, teas, and chocolate.