There was certainly no lack of innovation at the 29th Natural Products Expo East, held in Baltimore, Maryland September 17-20. The United States’ second largest, organic and healthy products event brought together more new exhibitors and new products than ever before. More than 23,000 attendees and 1,277 exhibitors—450 attending for the first time—filled the convention center with an exciting air of entrepreneurial energy.
The team at New Hope, the show organizer, identified 10 product trends that were hot at this year’s Expo East. Within each trend, we highlight a product or two that caught our attention. We also showcase a few of our O.W.N favorite finds. While not all of the products below are certified organic, they offer insight into the kind of creative direction happening in the marketplace.
1. Protein power: From peas and hemp to insects, yes bugs—brands at Expo East incorporated innovative protein sources to pack more protein per serving into everyday foods. One example of this is Banza, a gluten-free pasta made from chickpeas that offers 13 grams of protein per serving. Chickpeas are a great source of phytosterols, which are clinically proven to lower cholesterol.
One of the most talked about new protein products, however, was the Exo bar, made from cricket flour. In comparison to beef sirloin, crickets offer double the protein to weight ratio and require 6 times less feed—making cricket protein a much more sustainable option. While it may never replace a steak, Exo’s mission is to normalize the consumption of insects by creating great tasting products that can introduce this protein to the masses. The next opportunity: certified organic insects?
2. Paleo on parade: The Paleo Diet—which focuses on protein and simple whole food ingredients and eliminates grains, processed sugars, dairy or legumes—has become so popular, that there is now a Paleo certification (certifiedpaleo.com). Several brands at Expo East were already “Paleo Certified” including Yawp!, an organic bar combining nuts, seeds and dates. One thing that makes this bar unique is that it’s both Paleo and vegan. Most Paleo products on the market feature animal proteins.
3. Mission matters: More and more companies are starting with a philanthropic mission and using the production and sale of products to grow that mission and create a positive social impact. An inspiring example of this is Coexist Coffee, which was born out of the Peace Kawomera project, a coop of Jewish, Muslim and Christian farmers based in Uganda, Africa. Through growing coffee, Peace Kawomera, has fostered collaboration between these groups. Every bag of organically grown Coexsit Coffee helps provide the farmers’ children access to further education.
Bill’s Best Organic BBQ Sauce is another product brought to market with a mission in mind. In 2009, when the creator of this beloved family recipe, Bill Fehon, was diagnosed with fronto-temporal degeneration, a brain disease, his family decided to sell his sauce in honor of his legacy. Ten percent of profit goes toward research to find a cure for this disease.
4. Heritage to hipster: Traditional ingredients are getting a modern makeover in hip new products. One example of this is Turmeric Alive, a cold-pressed, ready-to-drink beverage featuring the super root it’s named after. Revered in India for both culinary and health properties, turmeric has gained popularity in recent years due to benefits that range from decreasing inflammation to balancing blood sugar. By mixing turmeric with honey and fresh botanicals, Turmeric Alive offers an easy way to add this healing ingredient to your diet without having to make a curry sauce.
5. Coconut re-imagined: People are still nuts about coconut. This year Expo East saw the debut of several new products featuring this delicious fruit—often in place of less-healthy ingredients. One of these is Jackson’s Honest, an organic potato chip fried in coconut oil. This offers a healthier alternative to most chips, which are often fried in some combination of highly processed and denatured vegetable oils. Another innovative product is Pure Wraps, a tortilla-like wrap made out of dehydrated coconuts. This raw, superfood alternative is also packaged in non-GMO cellulose instead of plastic.
6. Probiotics pop: Probiotics keep showing up in everything. The latest and greatest place—chocolate. Ohso Probiotic Chocolate boasts that its treats are three times more effective than most dairy drinks at delivering good bacteria to your intestine.
7. Clean, simple ingredients rule: Ingredient lists are being shortened and are featuring clean, whole foods. At Expo East, the move to cleaner ingredients could also be seen in supplements. Highlighting this is Garden of Life’s new organic, whole food, non-GMO multi-vitamin line that features a patent-pending Clean Tablet Technology.
8. Vegan on the down low: Many new brands are vegan, but instead of touting this fact, they are focusing on the quality of their ingredients. The end result is a much more accessible offering for mainstream audiences. Fig Foods is one of these companies. Their 10 gourmet organic vegan soups are so flavorful, you won’t even notice the meat is missing.
9. Farm-to-face: In the beauty category, products are featuring nutrient-rich, organic certified, food grade ingredients such as açaí, coconut, ancient grains, hemp and chia. A couple of companies with so-good-you-could eat them ingredients include the Balanced Guru and IKove. The Acai & Chocolate lotion from IKove, a Brazilian brand, combines powerful açai antioxidants with the moisturizing properties of cocoa butter.
10. Back to the source: Companies are proud of where their ingredients come from, whether it is a local farm, or a community on the other side of the world. The supplement company Tangut, for example, sources all ingredients from a 10,000-acre certified organic, fair trade farm in Tibet ,which is known for having the purest air, soil and water in the world.
A Few of Our O.W.N. Top Finds:
No-Guilt Chocolate: Brands are combining chocolate with healthy ingredients to create indulgences we can feel good about. The latest chocovation is an unbelievably delicious chocolate hummus. Hope Foods’ Dark Chocolate spread combines garbanzo beans with dark chocolate and coconut sugar to create a low fat, low glycemic version of Nutella. Hope Foods also offers extra creamy version that includes coconut.
Superfood Sweetner: Coconut sugar has been all the rage lately, but Conscious Food’sSugaVida offers yet an even sweeter proposition. This new sugar alternative, made from the rare Palmyra palm tree, states that it’s “the only bio-available plant-based source of vitamin B12 found in nature.” Plus, it’s sweeter than sugar, meaning you only need use half as much SugaVida when subbing it for the white stuff.
Chia on the Go: Chia has become a well-known superfood and now companies are developing ways to make it super convenient as well. Chosen Foods launched organic certified ChiaSlim Stickpacks in three varieties: Orginal, Detox, which combines chia, lemon juice, coconut sugar and cayenne pepper, and Meta Powder, a high fiber version that includes chia, Nopal cactus, agave inulin and hibiscus flowers. Just pour a packet in a glass, add water, stir and drink.
Snacks from the Sea: Seaweed is one of the most sustainable superfoods on the planet, and it also has recently become a popular snack. Ocean’s Halo Seaweed Chips combine the nutrition of nutrients of seaweed with the crunch of a chip.