MealEnders Blog

Top Food Trends Coming Out of Natural Foods Expo West

Are These New Products Worth the Hype?

By Kate Schlag, MPH, RD
April 07, 2017

Every year at Natural Foods Expo West, a trade show based in Anaheim, CA, thousands of natural and organic food brands showcase their new products to industry professionals; health, food, and wellness bloggers; and store managers. This year, Expo West brought in over 3,100 exhibitors, 500 of which were first-time attendees. While the tradeshow is meant to give both new and old brands exposure to influencers and buyers, it’s also an unofficial guide to upcoming trends in the health and nutrition industry. These are some of the trends that sparked interest this year–and our take on whether it’s worth jumping on the bandwagon!

Mushrooms

You’re going to find mushrooms in more places than just a side dish for your dinner spread. Certain mushroom species, like reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps, are already popular within the supplement market, they’re also creeping into bars, granolas, crackers, and even coffee and tea. Purely Elizabeth, a Boulder-based granola company, is launching a line of bars made with a unique blend of mushrooms (they still have typical sweet flavors though, like blueberry lemon + almond butter). Four Sigmatic, a new-to-the-US company who popularized drinking mushrooms, has launched a line of mushroom coffee that promise benefits like increased productivity, energy, and metabolism. And mushroom tea is apparently already popular in certain crowds, with brands like Choice Organic Teas, Cap Beauty, Terrasoul Superfoods, and Moon Juice already jumping on board.

Should you try it?
While there is some research to back up the health claims of these mushrooms–and many of them have been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine–medicinal plants always carry the risk of side effects and medication interactions. And it’s important to remember that, despite claims on packaging, mushrooms can’t cure or treat diseases. If you’re interested in adding these mushrooms to your diet, do so under the guidance of a medical professional. Culinary mushrooms, like portobello, shiitake, and button mushrooms, on the other hand, are great choices for vegetables–they’re low in calories and are one of the only plant-based sources of vitamin D.

Savory Nut Butter

Nut butters have already expanded from their simple one-ingredient recipes towards sweeter options, like cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter and blueberry cinnamon bun cashew butter. But savory nut butters are also making an appearance. Wild Friends has added Cranberry Sesame Peanut Butter to their line, and Nutty Infusions offers cashew butters in both Ginger Wasabi and Mango Chili.

Should you try it?
Like other nut butters, savory nut butters are high in healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats that can improve cardiovascular health and promote satiety. And while many sweet nut butter flavors have added sugars, savory ones instead rely on naturally sugar-free ingredients for their interesting flavors. Savory nut butters can be a great choice to switch up your morning toast routine or to add new flavors to curries or salad dressings.

 

 

Alternative Milks

Alternative milks like almond milk and flaxseed milk are nothing new, but soon you’ll have even more choices for your morning cereal, coffee, and smoothies. While Ripple, a high-protein plant-based milk, was introduced a few years ago, the brand now offers convenient single serve boxes as well as half and half creamer. Bolthouse Farms is another brand that will be launching a pea protein-based milk, which is expected to hit markets this summer and comes in unsweetened, vanilla, original, and chocolate. Other brands, like Milkadamia and New Barn (made from almonds), have developed formulations that will appeal to baristas for their creamy, frothy textures.

Should you try it?
Pea protein-based milks are a great option for those who avoid dairy and soy but still want a higher protein milk (both brands have 8-10 grams of protein per serving). They’re also a great option for those who are trying to transition to a more plant-based diet. And if you avoid dairy and soy but still want a creamy, foamy latte, the new generation of nut milks should hit the spot.

 

 

Probiotics Go Beyond Yogurt

Yogurt with live and active cultures is probably the most mainstream way to get probiotics right now, but soon you’ll be able to get a dose of the good microbes from peanut butter, popcorn, chips, hummus, and other snack food. Jus by Julie, a Brooklyn-based soup, juice, and smoothie shop, debuted a probiotic-spiked cashew hummus. Serve that hummus with Farmhouse Culture’s new line of Kraut Krisps, chips made with sauerkraut that offer 1 billion CFUs of probiotics per serving. For an on-the-go probiotic boost, try Vegan Rob’s Cauliflower Puffs–they’re made with sorghum flour,  a gluten-free flour that acts as a prebiotic (nondigestible fibers that provide a nourishing environment for probiotics).

Should you try it?
The importance of gut health and a healthy microbiome is a huge emphasis in the world of health and wellness right now–and for good reason. Emerging research is elucidating how the microbiome influences health in every area, from digestive health and weight to mood and sleep. If you have a craving for salty snacks, you might as well choose products that offer several nutritional benefits, including probiotics. Plus, by eating multiple sources of probiotics, your gut will benefit from an array of health-boosting strains. Many of these products are also a great option for vegans who can’t turn to yogurt or kefir for probiotics. However, it’s important to be aware that these products, which have exogenous probiotics added into them, may not offer the same strength or benefits as foods with naturally occurring probiotics. Because probiotics are live, they may be destroyed during processing or packaging or they may start to decay long before they reach your digestive tract.

 

Ketogenic Products

The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate protein, low carb diet. Similar to the Atkins Diet, it involves significantly reducing your carbohydrate intake–down to about 5% of your total daily calories–while also limiting protein to about 15-20%, boosting your fat intake to about 75-80%. By limiting carb intake, your body begins to burn fat for fuel instead of glucose, a process called ketosis. Initial studies have found benefits in boosting insulin sensitivity and promoting weight loss, and it also can be used therapeutically to treat or slow down the progression of a number of diseases, including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Because the ketogenic diet can be very difficult to follow–almost any packaged snack will have too many carbohydrates–several companies have introduced ketogenic products. Cave Shake offers a ready-to-drink ketogenic (and paleo and gluten free) milkshake with only 4 net carbs, and Ketologie offers low carb, high fat cereals and drinks.

Should you try it?
In order to reap the benefits of the ketogenic diet, you have to get into–and sustain ketosis, which can be difficult (not to mention uncomfortable–many go through the “keto flu” at the beginning, as your body shifts from burning glucose to fat, experiencing headaches, fatigue, and brain fogginess). Just one cheat meal–or even snack–shifts your body out of ketosis, which makes the diet incredibly difficult to sustain (a single beer or slice of bread is out of the question). In addition, you’ll have to spend time measuring your blood sugars and tracking your macronutrient intake every day. From a diet perspective, it’s simply unsustainable–and may lead to an unhealthy obsession with diet.

*Individual Results May Vary