Natural Products Expo a Newsmaker

The 33rd annual Natural Products Expo West ended with record attendee (63,000) and exhibitor (2,428) numbers in a four-day run at the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center March 7-10.

With its heavy emphasis on natural and organic foods, the show has been a natural for big announcements in those categories. This year, Whole Foods Market announced at the event it would require labeling of products with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or ingredients by 2018 (see story on p15 and our Wellness Foods story on WF-3).

The National Cooperative Grocers Assn. also reportedly asked its suppliers at Expo West that they follow the guidelines set forth by Just Label It, a national campaign asking for mandatory labeling of GMOs.

Ingredient-specific show Engredea and conference Nutracon were co-located with Natural Products Expo West.

Greek yogurt, coconut water, sprouts, chia and other product-specific trends took their turns at previous Natural Products Expos, but it was difficult picking just one or two themes for this year’s show. Show organizers reflected on three:

* “Wholegrarian” Revolution: Consumers increasingly want real food over the hyper-processed, nutrient-devoid fare. A few favorite brands at the center of this movement include Lyfe Kitchen, MegaFood, Made in Nature and Brad’s Raw.

* Transparency: In response to growing consumer demand, forward-thinking brands are building next-generation transparency into their supply chains, manufacturing processes and packaging, as well as business and marketing practices. Leaders in this movement include One Degree Organic Foods, Vega, Dolphin Organics and newcomer Veggie-Go’s.

* The Value(s) Brand: Many of today’s best natural and organic companies are aligning their brands with philanthropic missions that benefit the consumer, the industry and the broader society. Examples include Organic Valley and Bhakti Chai.

Older trends still prominent included gluten- and allergen-free products, sprouted foods, healthy snacks, non-dairy alternatives, vegan and paleo (Paleolithic diet) offerings and healthier, cleaner-label kids’ products.

A handful of products caught our attention.

The show’s “Best of West: Press Awards” went to Justin’s Nut Butter, dark chocolate organic peanut butter cups; Aculief wearable acupressure; and Zing Anything citrus water bottle.

MOM Brands, formerly Malt-O-Meal and so best known for budget breakfast cereals in bags, has been growing its organic offerings. Brands such as Mom's Best, Bear River Valley and Better Oats have been around for a while, but Naturally Nora was introduced at the show.

Mamma Chia, which over a year ago launched bottled chia-fruit-vegetable drinks in bottles, put them in squeeze pouches for this year’s show.

Ruby's Rockets launched fruit and vegetable ice pops with probiotics made especially for kids. Flavors are Rocket Red (sweet potatoes, strawberries, carrots and beets – they say it tastes like fruit punch), Galaxy Green (avocados, kiwis, spinach and apples with lime flavor) and Orbit Orange (sweet potatoes, carrots, oranges and lemon).

Lyfe Kitchen, a small, fast casual restaurant chain started by two former McDonald's executives, moved into the packaged foods segment with a line of ready-to-eat breakfast and dinner entrées.

Peas of Mind added Garden Grown Nuggets to its line of natural baby foods. They’re vegan (from vegetables and tofu), gluten-free, hand- or fork-held nuggets in original, cheesy and barbecue flavors.

Hain Celestial claimed it launched more than 100 products during or just before Nat West, including Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea varieties; Earth's Best food for babies and toddlers; and MaraNatha No-Stir Creamy Coconut Almond Butter.

Sprout Foods expanded its organic baby food line with Crispy Fruit and Veggie Chews, a line of textured breakfasts for babies and a Greek yogurt line in squeeze pouches.

Fresh Origins introduced Herb Crystals (available in basil and mint) and Flower Crystals (in fennel and rose), folding those flavors and ingredients into cane sugar crystals. “Their crispy texture and concentrated flavor brighten up salads, pair well with savory dishes and add crunch to baked goods and desserts,” the company says.

Lake Champlain Chocolates unveiled organic chocolates filled with on-trend flavors such as salted caramel, peanut butter and creamy coconut.

Then there’s this: “After serving 15 years in prison for everything from armed robbery to drug dealing and assault, Dave Dahl turned it all around and created Dave's Killer Bread, a line of breads so good it's taken the Western U.S. by storm.”

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