By John Placko
This month I decided to write about one of the best trade shows I’ve ever been to – the 36th New Products Expo West at the Anaheim Convention Center, California. This is the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products event, with 77,000 visitors this year. More than 2,700 exhibitors made it impossible to see them all in the three days I attended the show.
In addition to taking up the entire convention centre, exhibitors showcased their “Hot New Products” at the Hilton Hotel Anaheim,located next to the convention centre. This is where you find new ideas, with people pouring their life savings into a product they hope will make it big. Here I saw a number of exhibitors with freeze-dried fruits, berries and vegetables from Brazil and the U.S.
The show features exhibitors across many different categories, including health and beauty, pet products, organics and supplements, as well as natural and specialty foods. I was really just interested in the natural and specialty foods. It wasn’t a surprise to see multiple exhibitors with cold brewed coffee, bone broth and flavoured hummus dips. I noticed a repetition of some popular ingredients and products throughout the show, including turmeric-infused products, jerky made from salmon, turkey, pork or beef in many different flavours, protein bars, and coconut water products.
I was surprised to see the variety of products that Chobani was featuring, including dips, extra virgin olive oil, and whole coffee beans. I tried the company’s new Flip yogurt product, which has the dry ingredients in a separate compartment attached to the yogurt that you flip into the yogurt. I had the PB&J – strawberry low fat yogurt with peanut butter clusters, granola and honey roasted peanuts. I really liked the texture contrast and the flavour combination. Other flavours in this range were chipotle pineapple and sriracha mango.
The most unusual items here were the camel milk, a sun protective supplement you drink, and a protein bar made with cricket flour. Bitty Foods Chiridos Cricket Flour Snack Chips was a finalist in the category of “Best New Snack or Convenience Food.” Apparently crickets are also one of the most sustainable forms of protein on the planet. Culinary director at Bitty Foods is Food Network star Tyler Florence. Last year the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published a report concluding that edible insects may be the key to stabilizing the global food supply. So don’t be surprised to see many more products made with cricket flour in the near future.
The number of products that were gluten-free was staggering, and non-GMO labelling on many of the products was widespread.
My favourite products that I sampled included Hope Foods’ new chocolate hummus, which had such a clean label and fabulous taste. Kona coffee tea leaf was very good, as was the green chick pea hummus from Fresh Nature Foods. The elderflower and rose beverage from Belvoir Fruit Farms was also very refreshing. One product I didn’t expect to like was Good Culture’s organic cottage cheese with either sun dried tomato or Kalamata olive. These are both very good in terms of taste and texture. I also loved the beet and kale/spinach chips made by The Better Chip.
Since 2011, event organizers New Hope Network have been giving out Nexty Awards for the most progressive, innovative, inspiring and trustworthy products in the natural products industry. This year’s category winners included EatPops for “Best New Frozen Product,” which puts the juicing trend on a stick. Developed by law student Sophie Milrom, EatPops makes fresh juices more accessible to the masses because of the extended shelf life and lower cost of freezing the nutritious juices. Taste-testers loved this better-for-you frozen dessert, which comes in flavours such as Green Detox, featuring kale, spinach, apple, pineapple, lemon, ginger and cayenne, or Activate, with beet, apple and carrot. This year’s winner in the category of “Best New Organic Food or Beverage” was Rishi Tea’s Turmeric Ginger Chai Concentrate.
Drawing from proprietary data sets, expert interviews, in-market case studies, and the Natural Products Expos, the NEXT Forecast is the industry’s leading source of forward-looking insights. The full report is US$1,995 and projects strong growth for the natural products industry. U.S. consumer sales of natural, organic and healthy products are forecasted to expand 64 per cent from $153 billion in 2013 to $252 billion by 2019, including nine-per-cent growth per year driven in part by new and emerging brands.
There’s also a Natural Products Expo on the East Coast, which will be at the Baltimore Convention Center, Sept. 21 to 24 2016. Natural Products Expo West 2017 is scheduled to take place March 8 to 12 at the Anaheim Convention Center. If you really want to see and taste what’s new in the natural products world, this is a show you shouldn’t miss.
John Placko is culinary director, Modern Culinary Academy, and Bar 120; Cuisine Transformed, Pearson International Airport. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article appeared in the print issue:April 2016 edition, A Culinary Odyssey section