In spite of complaints last year that the expo has grown beyond all sense, last month’s expo, the 35th, topped 2014’s record-breaker with more than 71,000 attendees. Four solid days still was not enough time to visit every booth from #100 to the 8500s, what with a double-sized Suppliers’ Night, huge spillover exhibits at two adjacent hotels and the always great Fresh Ideas tent.
Many trends are still in evidence. The strongest themes involved nuts, seeds and grains (including a gazillion granolas); chia, quinoa and kale; and paleo everything.
“Paleo” is a fad that’s come and gone in the ‘70s, ‘90s, and now 20-teens. Let’s recognize that, as buzzy a word as paleo is, it’s essentially meaningless. Let me clarify and say that some paleo products taste fine. However, presenting “paleo” as healthy is oxymoronic. Our ancient ancestors were lucky to live to 35 and typically died of digestive/nutrition-related diseases with teeth worn to painful stumps.
Vis other trends, having been raised by women, and currently living in a houseful of women (even the dog), it’s truly pleasing to be able to say the words, “I was right!” Several predictions I’ve made arose front and center, especially regarding the crossover of nutraceutical mushrooms to foods and beverages. This year’s expo showed about a dozen companies using medicinal/nutraceutical mushrooms in various foods and beverages; wider use of exotic mushrooms (porcini potato chips and black truffle chips from Oolala! LLC; black truffle popcorn); and plain, naturally vitamin D-rich or UV light-enhanced button mushrooms.
Something else I got right: growth in meat analogs (I know; that was a softball), including a spot-on imitation tuna from Atlantic Natural Foods LLC and Gardein Inc.’s new imitation crab cakes. (Gardein launched a truly impressive breaded faux fish filet last year.) Gardein and Morningstar Farms continue to be to the meat analog industry what Tesla is to the electric vehicle industry.
Bean flour cereals and snacks
(Finally! I called for this years ago), lentil chips, hummus plus purple corn and potato products, boutique ice creams (best: Jeni’s lemon buttermilk!) and a new wave of coconut water all surged. Speaking of water, five tree water beverage processors (four using maple and one birch) showed that domestic, pure, sweet, high-electrolyte water—tapped right from sustainable domestic trees—can give imported coconut waters serious competition.
In this issue, and in coming issues, keep your eye out for evidence of these trends and other trends coming. And feel free to reach out and share your opinions with us about where you think the food and beverage industry this time next year.