Ah-Ah-Ah Chia! Natural Foods Ingredients Trends at ExpoWest 2013

sugar free yummi bears vitaminsThe year’s biggest trend was: NOTHING! The phrase “free from” so stood out that at times the food companies giving their spiels were so busy rattling off what the products were free from, they forgot to talk about the actual product benefit. Packaging trends reflected the long list so free from gluten, GMO, transfat…with more information-packed designs, some tapping into the vintage / botanical trends with wild colorful designs.

In addition to nothing, many products featured minimal ingredients “you can pronounce,” which is an ongoing Good Food trend we all can love.  Several vendors did a great job telling this story visually by displaying their ingredients. (As you can see with a full product line this approach can start to look complicated.)

minimal ingredients with food you can pronounce

Reflecting the “minimal ingredients you can pronounce” trend.

My most intriguing ingredient discovery was Chinese lo han (luo han guo) fruit, or Monk fruit. The fruit appeared as an ingredient along with fruit juice concentrate in Yummi Bears sugar free gummy vitamins, which I really really liked — not too sweet, very fruity. The price is a considerable premium over the corn syrup-made gummy vitamins. For those needing sugar free candy (I mean vitamins) they’re really worth it.

Mamma Chia squeezes chia into an on the go (or on the goo) snack for adults and kids, in their organic Chia Squeeze Vitality Snack.

It is the Year of the Chia Seed and they show up in all sorts of snacks and even plastered on an Airstream trailer. (One hapless vendor who hadn’t hopped on the trend-wagon fielded a chia query from a man who  continued on, uninterested in the offering…which made me hope he was a chia salesman and not a store buyer.) By the end of the show I wondered if I’d consumed a toxic amount of chia seeds, given my love of Mamma Chia’s not-too-sweet drinks and the taste of a banana / chia mash which for some reason freaked me out like the first time I tried okra. The  Chia Company, an Australian grower that calls itself the world’s largest chia producer, says their location maximizes the Omega 3 profile in every seed.

Fruit Fruit and More Fruit – Sliced, diced, freeze dried, dehydrated…

Powder Pure fruit crystalsIn addition to freeze dried fruit and vegetable companies Just Tomatoes and Crunchies, a number of other “preserved” produce suppliers titillated my natural color / natural fruit flavor obsession. Powder Pure told a compelling story with a chart on their flier explaining their process for retaining nutrients, color, and aromas in their extremely bright fruit and vegetable powders. The thought of rolling marshmallows in orange, green and purple crystalline powders with a burst of fruit simply will not leave my mind. Companies came from as far as Finland to present berries in every shape and form, for applications from food to pharmaceuticals.

Prediction: Aronia berries will start popping up in drinks and as an overall coloring / superfood ingredient. Sawmill Hollow Farm (which gives workshops in growing this ancient berry) sells juice from the berry which makes an amazing syrup and could be fabulous in a gummy candy. Artemis International was also at the show touting the benefits of the aronia.

Aronia berry juice

Nuts for coconuts and sugar and…

Along with the awesome new coconut powder make-your-coconut-milk on the go trend, coconut appeared in probiotic shakes, as chips, in powders, with coconut palm sugar (some are calling “wildcrafted” sugar) along with many other permutations of tropical fruits like a few Navitas introduced.

As you can see by the New Hope 360’s trend report, the range of combinations of natural ingredients represented extreme innovation. This was my favorite ExpoWest event yet, and I’m happy to share more insights and names of companies I saw — I just have to stop writing at some point…which is now!