Earlier this month I got the chance to go to the Natural Products Expo West (aka #ExpoWest). This is the largest natural, organic and healthy products expo in the world with over 2,700 exhibitors. As a dedicated foodie, Registered Dietitian and former marketing manager, this trade show is one of my favorite events of the year!
Following each #ExpoWest, I share my predictions of future food trends.
My Expo West was short this year but I still think my predictions for 2015 are pretty solid.
All About the Paleo
The biggest buzzword at ExpoWest had to be “Paleo”. It seems that CrossFit has taken over more than just fitness, it’s made to into the lexicon of food developers and marketers everywhere.
Last year, the keyword was Gluten-Free but this year the spotlight was on Paleo. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still some major shine on the Gluten-Free apple (more and more products were highlighting their Gluten-Free status) but staying within the strict guidelines of the Paleo diet regimen were much more important to product developers this year.
Vegan-friendly and raw were terms that were bandied about quite a bit at the show but not nearly to the degree of Paleo. I think the Paleo movement will be with us for awhile but as an RD, I’m don’t believe in eliminating whole grains and legumes in the name of health promotion (unless you’re allergic).
Green with Matcha
Matcha is Japan’s unique green tea. Unlike regular green tea whose leaves are steeped in hot water and then removed, with matcha the entire tea leaf is finely ground into powder that is whisked into water to make a bright green and frothy beverage. High quality matcha comes from very few leaves that are subject to a special process of cultivation, harvest (leaves are steamed and not fermented) and aged before being released.
The appeal of matcha powder is its nutrient density and antioxidant power. Matcha provides vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K, trace minerals and an antioxidant, a polyphenol called EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) with a number of possible cancer fighting properties and other health benefits.
Matcha was everywhere – as a powder, drink, yogurts, snack and baked goods. Watch your shelves in the future, matcha will be most definitely be there. Personally, I think matcha is delicious and find the whisking process of making the tea very mesmerizing to watch. I’m not sure I’d have the patience to do it daily though.
The popular food messages are super confusing right now – from the “no grains allowed” of Paleo to “if you want the healthiest grains, whole grains aren’t enough, they need to be sprouted”.
Don’t be embarrassed if you’re thinking, “WTF are sprouted grains?”? At the present time, there is no standard definition of what constitutes a sprouted grain but my basic interpretation is below:
Sprouted grains are seeds of plants that have reached the stage between germination and full growth. This unique growth stage allows for increased levels of vitamins (vitamin B-complex, C and antioxidants) and more readily available nutrients (calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc) than conventional grains.
Sprouted grains used to be considered inferior and often thrown away but the wave of “going back to old ways of growing food” is a trend that sprouted grains are definitely riding. ExpoWest had a plethora of products featuring sprouted grains such as nuts, legumes, cereals and breads. Other alternative grains like hemp, chia and millet were represented but sprouted grains were clearly king.
I’m all for the trend of sprouted grains. There are so many refined grains available (which require fortification of vitamins and minerals) that opening an avenue to increase nutrient density and availability is almost a no-brainer.
Even picky kids like sprouted grains! I brought home a loaf of sprouted grain bread from one specific vendor and my family fell in love with it. I’ll share which bread in tomorrow’s post where I highlight some of my brand picks from Expo West.
I was a little premature noting this African fruit as a trend last year but it is slowly gaining momentum as a superfood in the US. Baobab fruit is a monster of Vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, and antioxidants.
Last year I saw baobab in one or two products but this year, it was in quite a few including a drink powder (Bumbleroot Foods), a prebiotic (fiber vs a probiotic which have live bacteria – Kaibae) and snack bites/bars.
Baobab (bay-oh-bab) might be the coconut of 2015. We’ll have to see.
Oh chickpeas, I love you and I’m not the only one! Every form of chickpea you could imagine – from roasted snack, to falafel, chips, hummus and yes, pasta could be found at ExpoWest.
Chickpeas have been present at every ExpoWest but this year, it felt like you couldn’t go down an aisle without some finding some version of chickpea. For the record, I prefer the term “chickpea” versus “garbanzo bean” because garbanzo sounds too close to garbage for my taste (pun intended).
I could eat chickpeas everyday so this trend certainly works for me!
Plain water just doesn’t cut it for everyday hydration anymore. We want our drinks to be fancy in every way we possibly can. From elegantly packaged and interestingly flavored waters (both sparkling and still) to vitamin, electrolyte and fiber added fitness waters.
From what ExpoWest shows, juices now need to be cold pressed, kombucha should be artisinal, coffee sourced from exotic places (and fair trade!) and coconut water has a tipping point for ultimate nutritional harvest.
Yup, water can be boring and who doesn’t want their palates tantalized with drink as well as food? Alcohol has cornered the market on dress-up for years and now other beverages are stepping up to the plate.
The Greek yogurt trend definitely revolutionized the yogurt industry a few years ago and now there are more and more types of yogurt purveyors out there – many with their own unique twist on their product and branding. Yogurts with all different types of milk (cows, goat and vegan alternatives) were fully being showcased.
Personally, I‘ve been open about my love for Chobani yogurt but I’ll admit that I’ve become a Siggi’s Icelandic skyr convert in the past year. Siggi, himself, was at ExpoWest and I was too embarrassed to ask to be introduced. I just picked up a Siggi’s in Mango Jalapeño yesterday and I’m dying to try it.
If breakfast yogurt isn’t your thing, tomorrow’s post might include a yogurt for you. Hint: The developer of the yogurt is from a farm that was just nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award.
Honorable mention: Snack Bites
Looks like I’m not the only one who likes to snack more than a full meal. Tons and tons of healthy bite sized snacks were made available for every type of foodie – paleo, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, nut-free, sugar-free etc. Brands were fun and loose with what they called their snacks: from protein balls to truffles but sweet and savory sphere-like snacks were hot! I’ll share my favorite one tomorrow!
Lucky 7 (or 8 is great with the bonus) in the trend department.
Let’s see if what I saw at ExpoWest as trends will take off in 2015.
Which food trend is most interesting/scary to you? Do you have a prediction?
Disclosure: I was entitled to a complimentary pass to Natural Products Expo West as a Health Practitioner (being an RD has its perks, I guess). Despite the fact that some brands gave me complimentary samples as an attendee, I am under no obligation to write about this event or any of the brands/services that exhibited. All opinions expressed here are my own.