Slideshow: Ten trends shaping the natural segment

by Monica Watrous
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BALTIMORE — Paleo, protein and probiotics were among top trends on display at Natural Products Expo East, held Sept. 18-20 in Baltimore.

“The number of new companies, products and ingredient innovations debuting at Expo East was once again highly impressive this year,” said Carlotta Mast, senior director of content and insights at New Hope Natural Media, Boulder, Colo. “From innovative uses of plant-based proteins to the emergence of truly healthier nutritional profiles to new ways companies are providing ingredient traceability, the Expo East show floor was filled with some breakthrough product concepts that will make our food system and the consumer packaged goods world healthier, more sustainable and better aligned with shifting consumer preferences.”

The latest formulations and product claims in the natural and organic market pave the way for innovation in conventional packaged foods. Researchers and editors from New Hope Natural Media identified 10 trends at the show.

Protein flexing muscle

Make way for innovative new sources of protein, from chickpea-based pasta to baked crisps made with pea protein, and snack bars with protein derived from crickets.

Also on the rise are products with protein blends, such as Fit Patties from Pulmuone Foods USA, which combines chicken and vegetable protein in a fully cooked frozen patty in honey barbecue, tangy chipotle, and island teriyaki flavors.

Paleo power

Caveman-inspired diets are gaining mammoth momentum, thanks in part to new paleo certifications and packaged foods free of grains, processed sugars, dairy and legumes. Developed for the lifestyle’s strict standards, Yawp! bars contain organic almonds, dates and seeds and are available in such varieties as mocha and coconut chai.

Brands on a mission

Social cause is a common ingredient for many natural food companies, connecting consumers to a philanthropic mission through product offerings. Sales of Coexist Coffee, for example, support education for children in communities in conflict. Bill’s Best, a maker of organic barbecue sauces, gives a portion of profits to research a cure for degenerative brain disease.

Going old school

Apple cider vinegar, turmeric and other traditional ingredients with functional benefits are emerging in new ways. Fire Cider, billed as a holistic health tonic, contains organic raw honey, produce and vinegar.

Nuts for coconut

A longtime darling of the natural food segment, trendy coconut is being tapped in creative new ways, particularly as a substitute for less healthy ingredients. Pure Wraps from Improveat, for example, are gluten-free, raw tortillas made with coconut meat, coconut water and Himalayan salt.

Probiotics expanding

New products with digestive health benefits extend well beyond yogurt. Probiotics are popping up in fresh-pressed juices, snacks and chocolate. Ohso Belgian chocolate bars include live bacteria cultures and contain 72 calories or fewer per serving.

Clean label

The number of products with short and simple ingredient lists is growing across categories. An example is Neat, a meat substitute that contains only pecans, garbanzo beans, oats, organic cornmeal and seasonings.

Stealthy vegan

Many vegan brands are adopting a more mainstream-friendly focus of quality ingredients and taste rather than aligning products with the lifestyle. Hampton Creek Foods, maker of Just Mayo, bills the egg-free product as healthy, affordable and environmentally friendly with non-bioengineered ingredients.

About face

Beauty products with such edible ingredients as acai, coconut and ancient grains were exhibited at Expo East. Shoosha, a line of organic skin care products, uses certified organic green tea, hazelnut crème coffee and coconut cream.

From the source

Bowing to a growing demand for transparency, more products are packaged with stories of how ingredients were sourced. Examples include First Field Jersey Ketchup, created with tomatoes grown in New Jersey, and Omena Organics, which manufactures canned, dried and frozen fruit with a farm-to-table positioning.
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