This past weekend in Anaheim, California, my partner and I spent some time at the Natural Products Expo West, a food trade show that seems to have grown in popularity. The “Expo Hall” was filled with hundreds of very impressive displays of natural supplements, food and beauty products, as well as educational sessions taking place concurrently. This is the place for companies to display their best products, the newest to hit the market, and some yet to be found in stores making their big debut this weekend. Companies are getting more and more creative with their products: from Lentil, Hummus, Quinoa and even Pomegranate chips to a “Wellness Seasoning” called Undercover Veggies, which provides 20% of the daily value of several essential vitamins and minerals in 1/4 teaspoon!
After walking up and down the aisles for several hours (and tasting LOTS of yummy foods!) there were certain words and trends that were very apparent: Organic, Non-GMO, Vegan, Gluten-Free, and Everything Coconut!
Organic/Non-GMO: Organic is almost assumed at this Expo, but the Non-GMO certification seemed to be ever-present. Most products were either certified or in the process of certification. Even companies selling food products for children (breakfast cereals, snacks, mac and cheese) were very proud to announce that their products might not have been organic or Non-GMO in the past, but the “new and improved” ones are 100% certified.
Vegan: There were certainly enough companies catering to vegans or even just those with lactose intolerance. We found vegan ice creams, non-cheese cheeses, even calzones and strudels! I must say I am personally skeptical of the “impostors” (I’m sorry, no one can make vegan cheese taste like aged Gouda, it should just be called something else altogether!) However, I must admit we did taste some decent stuff.
Gluten-Free: There was an entire pavillion dedicated to Gluten-free products! The gluten-free “revolution” has taken over and with hundreds of new gluten-free products hitting the mainstream stores as we speak, one must wonder if this is all marketing gone a little wild. Products that have always been gluten-free now proudly display large GF signage on the package. My concern with all this is that while I am happy that those who have celiac disease or are truly sensitive to gluten have many more options than in the past, there seems to be a large number of new products selling basically “gluten-free” junk food. These products are highly processed and lack in nutritional value, but they’re selling like hotcakes (probably gluten-free too!) So be careful when shopping the new gluten free aisles; continue to look for whole foods and focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins and steer clear of the packaged stuff, even if it’s organic, vegan AND gluten free!
Coconut: Wow, it simply is the Year of the Coconut! I recently wrote about coconut sugar, and my stories about growing up in Puerto Rico where coconuts were everywhere. But I must admit I had never heard of coconut flour, coconut butter, flavored coconut oils, coconut chips, coconut yogurt and even coconut croutons?! The amount of coconut products was honestly overwhelming, but we did try some creative coconut drinks and I love coconut so I didn’t mind them one bit!
Stay tuned, this month I’ll be reviewing several products from the Expo…I found some great ones, especially for my young athletes!