The determined FoodTrients team took on legendary Southern California traffic, parking lots filled to capacity by 8:00 a.m., and the threat of a monsoon-like storm to visit and evaluate a million square feet of exhibit space at this year’s Natural Products Expo West at the Anaheim Convention Center, in the shadow of Disneyland. This is the largest natural products trade show in the world and this year’s event broke records—again! There were more than 3,000 exhibitors and over 77,000 registered attendees—up 6.9% over last year. This included 600 first-time exhibitors. Besides its enormous size, the most notable characteristic of this show is the level of passion and innovation among the companies that participated.
In spite of the crowds and the parking, this is one of my favorite food events of the year. I am encouraged to see so many of the ingredients that I have been using for years in my recipes show up in many new products – such as moringa, ashitaba, turmeric, jackfruit, cassava and so many more. The show is also a chance to meet inspiring entrepreneurs and taste their new creations, and it’s the perfect opportunity to see what’s trending in the natural food world.
Of the many trends we observed, some carried over from previous years, but others have popped up like mushrooms after a rain. There is something for everyone, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, paleo or looking for foods to extend your health and well-being. Here is just a taste of what we tasted and saw. We’ll zero in more during the coming weeks:
Hemp – No, not the one that’s legal in Colorado, but the variety that’s associated with rope. Eat it, drink it, wear it — it’s everywhere. Hemp seeds are about 25 percent protein, 10-15 percent fiber and contain minerals such as phosphorous, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Hemp oil contains essential fatty acids that benefit cardiovascular health and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. Some of the hemp products we saw included hempseed burgers, hemp milk, beverages, snacks and fashionable hemp fiber clothing. We loved the moisturizing feel of Hempery’s Miracle Oil, too.
Maple syrup – Not just for pancakes anymore! Maple syrup contains minerals, antioxidants and probiotics. We saw maple water, beverages like lemonade and smoothies with maple, maple mixed in with nut butters, in dressings and as a healthful vegan alternative to honey.
Nut butters and milk – The variety of nut butters was astonishing—peanut, sunflower, almond, cashew, pistachio, sesame. We also saw nut butters flavored with honey, maple, chocolate, espresso, raspberries and bananas. You’re probably familiar with almond and soy milk, but we tasted cashew milk, macadamia milk and pistachio milk. The benefits of various nut milk products are that they are vegan, gluten-free, non-dairy, non-GMO, kosher and are lower in calories than cow milk.
Matcha – We’ve talked about the benefits of green tea for years, and the fact that it’s a good source of antioxidants. At the show we saw matcha everywhere—in bars, snacks, hot and cold tea. Matcha is super-concentrated green tea. When drinking matcha you ingest the entire leaf and receive 100% of its nutrients. Matcha powdered green tea has 137 times more antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea. Drink to your health!
Good-for-you-candy – There are companies making candy that have added benefits! We tasted chocolate covered candy coated almonds with moringa. I’ve touted the benefits of moringa for many years. It’s rich in antioxidants, minerals and can lower blood sugar as well as cholesterol. Now it’s in a sweet treat! We saw unbelievably good chocolate peanut butter cups that contain crispy quinoa. Addictive! We also tried a number of single source, sustainably grown chocolate bars with 65 to 85 percent organic cocoa. Dark chocolate is a highly beneficial FoodTrient providing most of your daily needs for iron, copper and magnesium. It’s also high in antioxidants, may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and even protect your skin from the effects of the sun.
Jerky – Beef, bison, lamb, turkey, chicken and pork versions were all out there. Not just by themselves, but in a number of highly nutritious trail mixes. A company called Dick Stevens sampled a beef jerky mix that contains almonds, macadamia nuts, dried cranberries and blueberries—a superfood snack if there ever was one! Another company, Fusion Jerky, offered flavors such as garlic jalapeño, basil citrus and chipotle lime. All the jerky products we tried were made without preservatives, msg, nitrites or corn syrup.
Within the miles of aisles (a member of our team logged over three miles one day!) we saw energy bars made from cricket flour; both crunchy and green, raw chickpeas; marinara sauce containing sea vegetables; barbecued jackfruit; almond flour tortillas; body lotion made from organic beef fat, and vacuum-packed dried, seasoned pasta created for an Italian astronaut. Watch this space for more great finds and trends from the 2016 Natural Products Expo.