This is the season of conferences and expos. The last few months saw in quick succession the Natural Products Expo West, and the annual conferences for the Research Chefs Association, the National Restaurant Association, and—around the time you read this (you do read this column, don’t you?)—the
Institute of Food Technologists.

With each cycle of these shows, we’re privileged to encounter the vanguard of the trends in food, ingredients, and food tech. You could look at those as sort of the breadcrumbs along the path of where we’re heading in “Food World.” But sometimes, everything converges so that you also get a look at the substance of the path itself.

Over the years I’ve written often about what I call the “social ingredient” in food and beverage development. It’s my catch-all term for sustainability, organic, fair-trade, low carbon footprint, eco-friendly, green, non-GMO, etc. I’ve also noted the progress as these concepts have moved in from the fringes to the mainstream. While such products are, of course, the whole and nominal point of the Natural Products Expo, both the size of that show—about 85,000 attendees this year—and the pervasiveness of these issues at the other expos points to another paradigm shift as leading manufacturers rush to create socially responsible products.

In the excellent “The State of the Natural Industry” presentation at Natural Products Expo, Maryellen Molyneaux, president and founding partner of the Natural Marketing Institute, noted that even in the act of shopping for food products, consumers are focusing on environmental concerns leading to a corresponding increase in consumer demand for purveyors to be mindful of impact on environment and community.

There were more products and sessions focused on the beginning of the process chain: agriculture. Taking organic one step beyond is “biodynamics,” described by the Biodynamics Association as an “holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition.” If this sounds far-fetched, there already are companies making products that proudly note the ingredients are “grown in bio dynamic soil” (See Natural Nectar Inc.’s “Biodynamic Flatbread” line). Driving the industry in this direction are such entities as Kiss the Ground, which promotes regenerative agriculture; and the Natural Habitats Group, which promotes organic products grown in a sustainable habitat. The latter group is turning around the palm oil industry.

So, while fermentation, chick peas, bees, nut butters, plant proteins, purple tea, kale soda, lettuce water, and bananas were the stars at the latest round of shows—food and beverage makers can also count on consumers digging deeper into these trends, right down into the dirt those foods grow in.

Prepared Foods’ 2018 NPC theme is “Invert the Pyramid” and every part of this unique, three-day event will challenge innovation influencers, stakeholders and customers to rethink traditional top-down, bottom-up strategies. Instead, we will explore new ways to recast product development with collaborative, dynamic co-creation involving internal company leaders, customers and consumers.


Rizal Hamdallah
Head of the Futurist Innovation Lab at Tyson Foods
“Moving at the Speed of Life: Connecting Today’s Technologies,Tomorrow’s Needs” 

Stephanie Lind
SVP of Global Sales at Impossible Foods
“Making the Impossible-Possible! Impossible Foods’ Plant-Based Revolution”

Linda Gilbert
Founder, EcoFocus
“Winning Products Deliver ‘Authentic’ Experience—From Ingredients to Packaging”

Special Live Feature
“Gen Z Panel” Teen Consumers—on stage—Talk About Food and Purchase Preferences, and More! Facilitated by Maeve Webster, President, Menu Matters

Minneapolis “Street Dive” Sterling Rice Group leads attendees on an evening out to taste the trends on Minneapolis’ “Eat Street.”

Join us for a look at today’s trends and how they affect theFuture of Food.

Visit regularly for updates on the 2018 program.