What’s Next From Natural Products Expo West 2016?

More than 3,000 exhibitors took up every inch of the Anaheim Convention Center during the March 2016 trade show.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Each year, Natural Products Expo West (NPEW) is a bellwether of what’s really new, trendy and healthy in the food & beverage industry.

Somewhere in each show is the next Greek yogurt, the future coconut water, the most recently discovered superfruit or supergrain.

We can’t tell you off the bat which of this year’s new products will be the next Greek yogurt – only time will tell. But it was in there somewhere among the pulses, sprouted seeds, root vegetables and other novelties at this annual affair.

With another record crowd of 77,000 attendees, the March 2016 show continues to outgrow the Anaheim Convention Center. More than 3,000 exhibitors take up every inch of the building, including upper and lower floors, as well as ballrooms of the two adjoining hotels, the attached basketball arena and even the open-air plaza outside the center.

The show doesn’t need the United Nations declaration of this as the International Year of Pulses to put plant-based foods – especially dry beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils – front and center; they’ve starred for several years now. And while Congress was busy debating labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), that subject seemed a little less evident in booths – but not in conference sessions, which devoted plenty of time and passion to the subject. Ancient grains also were in a lower profile than in past years. Gluten-free (and free-from in general) appeared as robust as ever. The Paleo diet and protein were evident in many new product introductions.

Pulses have been NPEW mainstays for a few years now, but in the past they were relegated to hummus, flours and chips. This year, the high-fiber, high-protein, gluten-free legumes appeared in pastas, granola bars and other newer applications.

Let chickpeas be chickpeas appears to be the mantra for Biena Chickpea Snacks. The pulses are simply baked and dusted with various flavors. Biena used the show to introduce what it claims is “the only ranch-flavored chickpea snack on the market,” Rockin’ Ranch.

Pulse-based pastas are the specialty of Explore Cuisine. Products include Red Lentil Penne, Green Lentil Penne, Chickpea Fusilli, Red Lentil Spaghetti, Chickpea Spaghetti, Green Lentil Lasagne Sheets, Adzuki Bean Spaghetti, Black Bean Spaghetti, Edamame Spaghetti, Soybean Spaghetti, and Edamame and Mungbean Fettucine.

Plentils lentil-based chips have been in the Enjoy Life portfolio for a few years, but this year the free-from company introduced ProBurst Bites, golf ball-sized bites of both sweet and savory plant proteins rolled in a crunchy blend of seeds and spices. Also smaller, snack-size versions of its cookies: Soft-Baked Cookie Minis and Crunchy Cookie Minis.

Engredea is an ingredient suppliers show attached to NPEW, and there Ingredion Inc. was promoting its Homecraft line of pulse-based flours. They include yellow pea flour, yellow lentil flour, faba bean flour and chickpea flour.

You don’t have to be into trendy diets to like the Paleo diet. Its emphasis on caveman-like eating – favoring vegetables, fruits, nuts and meat and avoiding overly processed foods – appeals to the Neanderthal in many of us. NPEW has always been a friendly show for vegetables, fruits and nuts, but the Paleo diet allowed beef jerky to share the halo.

Krave, the year-old acquisition of Hershey, debuted new jerky flavors, will launch a meat bar in August and is working on a snack bar with fruit and quinoa, as well as meat. Durham Ranch is betting bison will be the next frontier for jerky. Dick Stevens blends his/its jerky with raw nuts, berries and seeds.

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