Greetings from NatExpoEast. Two words for this season's show: Very Nice! The new product-oriented NatExpo show featured over 4,000 vendors showing off wares in categories from cosmetics and skin care to supplements to snacks and beverages. If it had a health component and could be eaten, imbibed, swallowed, lathered on, rubbed in or even worn, it was on the Washington, D.C. Convention Center floor Friday, September 16 through Sunday, September 18.
The show provided a comprehensive look at what is driving wellness food processors' think tanks and, in turn, the trends wellness ingredient R&D experts are seeking to drive.
Green tea and chocolate seemed the hottest trend ingredients. In fact, green tea or green tea extracts seemed to be in nearly everything. Chocolate is taking full advantage of the health connection - controversial though it may be - to proudly proclaim its benefit beyond just plain making everything right. In fact, I would have to call this the year of green tea and chocolate. There were even several green tea-infused chocolate products to back me up on this.
Gluten-free - that disco-era trend - shows the promise of a big revival. Let's hope it's the only thing from that time period that does hit it big again. Tropical fruits have become so mainstream odder, more fringe items are finding room to swim into the flow: About four groups were touting goji berries, plus the more offbeat Asian, African, antipodean and South/Central American flora (think agave, dragon fruit, tea tree, rooibos, etc.) were boldly claiming territory. But ethnically, Indian is still a growing flavor movement.
On the non-veggie side, two big standouts were goat milk and boutique meats (bison, elk, ostrich and lots of clean-raised, free-range poultry and beef).
The 30,000-foot view of the show revealed rivers of beverages, though. Liquid, specifically soy-, juice- and tea-based, seems to be the overwhelming preference for delivering nutraceutical and other health components to the body American today. So much so that one is tempted to ask, "Doesn't anybody eat anymore?"