After many years of attending the show, I know where to find the smaller, more innovative companies, and I enjoy catching up with folks I’ve met at past shows to hear how their business is progressing. With so many exhibitors, it’s hard to boil it down to several key themes but here’s what seems to be trending in the food and beverage side of the industry.
Protein, protein, protein!
As the carb aversion continues, consumer preference for higher protein products is being leveraged in many categories. It’s not enough to just have a protein rich product, it’s the higher or highest in protein claim that garners attention. This year there were yogurts and ice cream products dueling around protein claims. Enlightened Good-for-You Ice Cream delivers twenty-one indulgent flavors in lower calorie formulations with higher protein claims (www.eatenlightened.com ). Icelandic Provisions introduced Icelandic Skyr as a new category with more protein than yogurt. It seems that the Icelanders outsmarted the Greeks with a unique culture that naturally delivers more protein (www.icelandicprovisions.com ). Both are deliciously smooth, making delivery of a meaningful benefit easy to eat.
Healthy gut, happy person
For many years, gut health meant high fiber and a not-so-hip elderly association made it primarily valued by those interested in keeping their digestive track moving. Enter Millennials – who embraced the power of probiotics for better gut health. For years, the informed consumer appreciated the benefits of live cultures in yogurt but as many became dairy averse, new fermented products – pickled cabbage, kombucha and apple cider vinegar tonics entered the market. My observation is that those under 30 seem to not mind the sour flavor prevalent in these beverages but as a boomer, I have a hard time getting over the taste hurdle to think of it as anything other than medicinal. So I was really happy to taste chocolate Health-Ade Kombucha, a ‘bubbly probiotic super-tea,’ that tasted smooth without that sour flavor. I didn’t really taste chocolate either and after more careful examination realized it was actually labeled Reishi-Chocolate. And what is a Reishi you ask? Well, it’s a type of mushroom! So while there was no chocolate flavor, there also wasn’t a mushroom flavor but the taste was enjoyable (www.health-ade.com ).
Vegan cheese without a compromise in taste
There were several delicious vegan cheese products exhibiting at the show. Miyoko’s Kitchen sampled a very flavorful cashew-based Fresh VeganMozz which truly delivered on a creamy cheese (www.miyokoskitchen.com ). Punk Rawk Labs also had a creamy fermented cashew milk cheese (www.punkrawklabs.net ). Chao Creamery from Field Roast Grain Meat Company offers vegan choices for sandwich cheese slices and ready-to-eat mac ‘n cheese (www.fieldroast.com ).
As we have seen ‘pan’ continental flavor lines, we now see ‘pan’ health benefit product lines. Purely Elizabeth promoted a 5-flavor wellness bar line where flavor names were benefit specific (Immunity, Mind, Energy, Shine and Refresh). In smaller type, you will find the actual flavors (Coconut+Amond Butter, Chocolate Sea Salt+Peanut Butter, Maple+Peanut Butter, Strawberry Dark Chocolate+Almond Butter and Blueberry Lemon+Almond Butter) and in even smaller type you will learn that the nutritional claims are delivered through ancient grain granola and 2 grams of superfood mushrooms (www.purelyelizabeth.com ). Barlean’s Omega Swirled Fish Oils and Flax Oils had a line of squeeze-on flavored nutritional toppings that offered an easy way to boost nutrition in anything you’d like (www.barleans.com ). I could imagine adding it to yogurt, ice cream or milk (FYI…no fishy flavor).
The mighty legume
Beans of all varieties are growing in popularity. Soy was the first one out of the gates but now we find green peas, chickpeas and fava beans being broadly used. They’ve been popped, milked, creamed and chipped to deliver a natural protein boost over grains. They now enjoy mainstream status across many American staples such as chips, burgers and milk. Shout out to World Peas Snacks for the cleverly named Favarites Fava Crisps made with larger Peruvian Favas (www.worldpeassnacks.com) . Bolthouse Farms debuted the launch of a 4-sku line of pea-based milks which deliver 10 grams of protein per 8 oz serving (www.bolthouse.com ).
P.B., hold the J
Twenty years ago, my nut clients wondered whether they would ever be able to turn around their declining businesses. Fortunately, the nutritionists came to their rescue as we see the continued growth of products offering the satisfying taste and crunch of nuts. In addition to the popularity of tree nuts, traditional peanuts are enjoying renewed interest and a number of peanut powders are providing a family friendly way to add protein. PB Fit Peanut Butter Powder is packaged in an easy to use canister coming from an innovative company looking to offer new products across a range of naturally robust ingredients – plant protein, superfood blend, cacao and baobab powders (www.betterbodyfoods.com ).
Move over chips, healthy puffs seem to be on the scene to capture the Cheetos fan. Please don’t think chips disappeared from the show however, as there were many appealing options, but the entrance of many new puff products got my attention.
Wow, there was an amazing number of companies peddling different flavors of bone broth. They were flavorful, offering a more robust flavor than the broths we normally consider as a soup base. Beef, chicken and duck were standard bases and many were seasoned in appetizing flavors. Claimed benefits included protein and gut health. It seemed like an overnight explosion of products so let’s see how many are still standing next year.
Healthier meat snacks?
Dried jerky products were the purview of cowboys and truck stops for many decades so it creates great irony to see it so prevalent at the natural products show. The gourmet appeal was readily seen at the Winter Fancy Food Show but healthier products were seen here. DNX Bars, a 5-flavor meat bar line that incorporates beef or bison with different organic fruits and vegetables in distinctive flavors (Jamaican Style Bison, Sweet Potato Pecan Beef, Mexican Spice Beef, Dark Chocolate Cherry Coconut Beef, Sweet Potato Fennel Beef) was new to the market. Not only are the flavors unique but they are low in sodium, a powerful benefit in the meat snack category (www.dnxbar.com ). There was also a 4 flavor vegan jerky line from Myrtle Greens (www.myrtlegreens.com ).
Trend or Novelty?
When I stop to inquire about a new product, it’s not unusual for the sales person to bombard me with the benefit spiel – Gluten-free, no GMO, no added sugar, no dairy. The ‘no’ list seems to be long and it simply makes me beg for a description that feels positive. Please, I implore, tell me something about what it is and not what it lacks. Tell me it will be a treat and not a trick.
There’s no crystal ball to know what will be a trend or a novelty but the provocateur always gets attention. Here are a few products that caught my attention. Let me know if you think they will be a trend or a novelty.
P-nuff Crunch Baked Peanut Puffs was an intriguing idea to take the all family appeal of peanuts into the healthy chip aisle (www.pnuff.com ). While peanuts are on the ingredient list, the puffs are made from a gluten free base of navy beans and white rice that enables it to boast 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per serving.
Hippeas was an extremely tasty organic chickpea puff that has been playfully marketed. The bright yellow package, coupled with simple graphics and a fun name, make this the salty snack item to watch (www.hippeas.com ). Available in 6 fun flavors – Far Out Fajita, Sriracha Sunshine, Vegan White Cheddar, Pepper Power, Happenin’ Hickory.
Chao Creamery Vegan Butter was superb. The product, along with a Chao Creamery Vegan Mayo, were so new there were no materials yet available (or on their website). But they were impressive in both flavor and texture.
Maple Water brought the best of Vermont to those of us on the West Coast (www.drinkmaple.com ). I was bowled over by the naturally sweet flavor of the water simply tapped from a maple tree and equally surprised to find out it is a good source of calcium and potassium too.
Coffee Bar from Eat Your Coffee is a 3 flavor product line (Coconut Mocha, Mocha Latte and Caramel Macchiato) that offers a new way to get your caffeine fix without needing a barista (www.eatyourcoffee.com ).
Regrained Bars were an innovative reuse product, turning the used ‘supergrain from urban craft breweries’ into snack bars. While they promote the bar as eating beer, the two interesting flavors – Coffee Chocolate Stout and Honey Cinnamon IPA – did not taste like suds to me (www.regrained.com ).
Bakerly Crepes offered a full line of French baked goods but I was particularly intrigued by the crepe product (www.bakerly.com ). It is shipped frozen to groceries and then defrosted in the store bakery to offer the freshest product for shoppers. Filled with chocolate, strawberry or caramel, they offer a new idea in portable snacks.
Figgy Pops Supersnacks from Made in Nature were a very tasty alternative to some other date based snacks. The flavors with nut butter (Mocha Almond and Nutter & Jelly) were the highlight for me, offering an interesting mix of textures as well as great taste (www.madeinnature.com ).
Fodmapped Pouch Simmer Sauces and Soups,an Australian product line, made its American debut at the show. The interesting name begs the question – what’s a FODMAP? According to the website….”FODMAP is an abbreviation for a collection of short chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols, naturally found in food or as food additives.” Products that have been ‘Fodmapped for You’ have been carefully formulated to minimize typical food sensitivities that create bloating. The Aussies cited that 1 in 7 adults deal with this and thus the importance of FODMAPS. They weren’t sampling them so I can’t tell you what they taste like but the promise is powerful for those in need.
My/Mo delivers a hearty mochi product, taking this ice cream novelty in a new direction. I was really impressed by the size and flavor of this product ( www.mymomochi.com ) and can imagine the My/Mo ice cream truck/cart being a tremendous hit at the beach or at an Off-the-Grid food truck event.
The promise of better health is a powerful motivator and we are lucky to have so many options available to fuel our bodies. While it’s good for the consumer to have so many choices, it can be overwhelming. Good marketing is needed to both educate and promote each of these benefit-driven products. The competition is not for the faint of heart – but all the entrepreneurs I met at the show demonstrated the commitment and passion to propel their businesses forward. I look forward to seeing all of them succeed.
Joanne Haase is the Principal of the Haase Consulting Group, a strategy and research consultancy that specializes in consumer products. Learn more at www.HCGMarketScope.com