Last year, it seemed there were nutritional tribes vying for your dietary allegiance- e.g., paleo vs vegan vs gluten free. This year, it felt like better nutritional balance was driving product development and expansion. Now don't get me wrong, these features were still paramount but they seldom were a sole benefit for any particular product. For me, this is an encouraging sign that food is becoming simply better fuel (www.culinaryfuel.net ) for our bodies.
It was exciting to see so many new products being debuted. In some instances, there were no sales materials prepared or product information available on company websites yet. You had to be there to see and taste the products. It was a great way for marketers to get feedback and even more importantly, to encourage retailers to send their buyers to engage in dialogue with the sales staff at the conference.
The show was so large that it's tough to boil it down to only a few trends but here are some themes that stood out to me.
Plant based protein was the mantra
As higher protein has become a major health trend, vegans and vegetarians are faced with how best to get the additional protein in their diet. A multitude of companies have stepped up to solve this issue for them and the range of ingredients used to deliver against this goal was plentiful at the show (e.g., soy, nuts, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, whey and hemp). There were surrogates for all types of meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy. It has never been easier to be vegan or vegetarian.
Sugar has always been a health issue but recent backlash against refined white sugar has opened up the door to a lot of other alternatives. Honey and maple syrup have been well known substitutes but now dates as well as coconut and monkfruit sugars were being touted as healthier choices. Found to be low on the glycemic index, these alternatives provide slower metabolism of the sugar, a positive option for everyone but especially for diabetics.
Healthier Convenience Foods
Millennials are both busy and demanding of their food so it comes as no surprise they want convenience foods with a healthier bent. The most basic of single serve meals - ramen and mac 'n cheese - were now available in healthier forms. New ideas in heat and eat meals brought healthier choices for vegans and vegetarians too.
Korean and Indian cuisines
The influence of both Korean and Indian cooking was evident in flavors, ingredients and finished products. Turmeric, curry and chickpeas have found their way across a wide range of categories from beverages to snacks to sauces and prepared foods. Korean BBQ sauces and kimchi have become favorites and there were a number of offerings.
PRE and PRObiotics
Millennials have put better gut health on the map with their interest in kombucha and other fermented products. The yogurt category is exploding and with it, an awareness of the role of 'live' cultures in your diet. Enter 'prebiotics,' a necessary partner to making probiotics work. What they are will remain as mysterious as probiotics but the goal is to help educate consumers they are necessary. Communicating they are a one-two punch will be critical so no one thinks it's just a typo when they see the word. Several bars and beverages were already touting this and it is likely to continue its rollout.
There were many fun and potentially big ideas. But only time will tell which will be the start of a trend or simply flame out as a novelty.
Here are a few that got my attention. What do you think? Trend or novelty?
Jada Spices Chicken Salt (#jadaspices #chickensalt #jadaspiceschickensalt) was the foundation of a line of vegan salts that bring the savory appeal of chicken to vegans. Two enterprising young guys, one American and one Aussie, teamed up to bring this Aussie favorite to the U.S. The latest addition to their line, Turmeric Salt, received a lot of interest while I was at their booth.
Varieties included Enchilada, Teriyaki, Pasta and Curry.
Available in 4 varieties - Original, Zesty Thai, Applewood BBQ and Sea Salt & Pepper. It promises to help mushrooms enjoy their growing healthful image.
The six flavors include Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper, Kale, Pumpkin Seed & Lemon, Smokehouse Barbecue, Blueberry, Cranberry & Vanilla, Dark Chocolate, Coconut & Sea Salt and Caramel, Almond & Sea Salt.
The 4 flavors include Chipotle Black Bean, Coconut Lime, Kale & Potato and Coconut Chimichurri.
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