Last March, some big changes in the food industry made themselves known at the annual Natural Products Expo West. The show, once again, broke records, with 80,000 attendees and 4,000+ exhibitors at a dozen sites. The growing backlash against negative ingredient messages seems to have reached a tipping point, with processors proudly touting meat (including half a dozen pork rind products!), full-fat dairy, butter, and other ingredients once perceived of as unhealthy. In fact, some companies even are using “whole milk” and “full-fat” as positive marketing tools.
Non-GMO still is huge but, oddly, it seemed as if fewer products were wearing an “organic” label—including many organic products. One widespread tag was “from the farm.” This actually makes sense, letting consumers know that the product manufacturer gets its ingredients from farms at least local to its location.
There still is impressive growth in the vegetarian/vegan arena. In fact, the designation “plant-based” could be considered the new “cholesterol free” of labeling. Speaking of plant-based, milk analogs from plants abounded. But one brand, an almond-based dairy substitute, really stood out. Malk Organics LLC put a lot of R&D into creating a product that really could pass a blind taste comparison with dairy milk.
One of the more surprising developments was the sharp drop in bar products. But if the Natural Products Expo is any indication, crunchy snacks have replaced bars as a primary carrier for new and healthy ingredients. Moreover, these snacks are getting their crunch from such non-GMO sources as teff, millet, tapioca, and legumes. Of the latter, chickpeas definitely are the new darling—chickpeas and chickpea products were everywhere. So, too, were peanuts.
Even the recent trend of fermented foods saw some sideways motion. Apparently, kombucha slowed way down, and fruit vinegars are climbing fast. (What’s the difference again?) And mushrooms are continuing to rapidly expand their footprint, with a variety of new products using them. The best example was TruVibe Organics LLC’s inclusion of medicinal mushrooms in its “Eat Clean” fruit and veg smoothies.
Finally, several new products caught my eye...and taste buds. Kenyan purple tea, a naturally high-anthocyanin strain of tea, is destined for popularity. Newcomer Alpha Foods Inc. created some game-changing, next-gen meat analogs (try the AlphaDogs!). Beets definitely are growing, and fruits such as cactus pears and purple dragon fruit also are ready to paint 2018 purple. Common to all the big shifts is that flavor reclaimed its position as the driving force in new product development. Change is in the wind, but that’s a change for the better.
Opening Keynote Address
Health & Wellness Drives New Product Development, Labeling Trends
Speaker: Andrew Mandzy, Director of Strategic Insights, Nielsen
Consumers are more concerned than ever about health and wellness and—whether they’re wanting to stay healthier, avoid allergens or GMO’s—they’re gravitating toward more better-for-you foods and drinks. Likewise, they’re looking more closely than ever at food ingredient labels. Come hear Nielsen’s Andrew Mandzy, Director of Strategic Insights, identify top-selling foods and beverages and connect the dots to a growing health & wellness trend.
40+ Technical Sessions
This 13th annual event is laser focused on providing food & beverage formulators with practical, non-commercial, “how-to” solutions to specific formulation and application challenges to better understand the functionality of a wide range of ingredients.
The Application Labs feature the use of product samples to more effectively demonstrate an ingredient’s functionality or its use in a finished consumer product or model system.
7 Hours of Networking and Exhibits
You will have plenty of time to network face-to-face with industry peers and ingredient experts. Continue conversations that began in the classroom during breakfast, breaks, lunch and Expo Happy Hour. Solve your formulation challenges.
Closing Keynote Address
What’s Next in Beverages and Better-for-You Ingredients
Speaker: Andy Dratt, Chief Commerical Officer, Imbibe
In 2017, consumers look to beverages to address a wide variety of health benefits – digestive health, immunity support, sustained energy and more. Product branding and marketing is still critical but in today’s market, ingredient choices are now more important than ever before. This session will highlight how trendy, global ingredients are being incorporated into the most innovative beverages.