For me, the 2010 convention season started with an energetic Natural Products Expo West (NPEW). Trekking along with 56,000 attendees, to view offerings of over 1,800 exhibitors, was worth the effort.

Besides being an “ideation session” on a grand scale, the show’s success is partly due to its focus on consumer interests in natural and health. A Freedonia Group’s March 2010 report, “Food & Beverage Additives,” notes U.S. demand for food and beverage additives is forecast to expand 3.5% annually to $8.5 billion in 2014. The greatest annual growth was predicted for the category “nutraceuticals” at 6.3%.

NPEW trends included gluten-free baked goods, açai, probiotics (many products quantified microbial levels), and a multitude of bars, beverages and yogurts (many were Greek-type). Ready-to-drink dietary supplements for brain health (often mentioning relaxation), products for immunity, virgin coconut oil (heck, anything coconut, such as beverages, coconut milk-based ice cream and fat-replacer pastes) and kefir-based products were also abundant. Natural sweeteners, such as agave nectars/syrups, were prevalent. Omegas and dietary fiber continued strong. One non-health-related “sprout” of a trend was lavender flavoring, which showed up in salad dressing and ice cream (this trend appeared a few years ago at the Research Chefs Association’s annual meeting). Some products combined trends, such as Turtle Mountain’s certified gluten-free, Coconut Milk Kefir with 10 Active & Live Cultures, which also noted it was rich in MCFAs (medium-chain fatty acids).

Other interesting products (and apologies to the hundreds not mentioned) include Marathon of Miracles’ Baked Cashews in Added Calcium and Added Fiber varieties; Stone-Buhr’s Find the Farmer bakery mixes, which allow one to locate the farms from where grains for the flours were obtained (go to; Jans’ 100% juices, in varieties such as lychee and soursop; and SunOpta’s frozen Garden Green Garbanzos, with the label claims of “heart healthy,” “boosts immunity,” “provides energy” and “supports weight loss.” One guarana-flavored, caffeinated beef jerky was even offered.

An undercurrent of the shifting regulatory landscape was also felt. An effigy of John McCain, who promoted and then withdrew his support of bill S. 3002 (which would impact dietary supplement regulations), was seen hanging over a toilet in one booth. Rumor also had it the FDA was “out in force” at the show, gathering information on products. As always, the show continues to both entertain and educate. pf