With a record 47,000+ attendees and over 3000 exhibitors, it was obvious from Natural Products Expo West 2007 in Anaheim, California that the natural foods industry is still charging full speed ahead. Overall, the number of new and improved products presented was mind-boggling. Yet beyond the dizzying array of supplements and energy drinks, some interesting food trends emerged.
Gluten-Free is Gaining Ground
The low-carb craze may be fading, but it has left behind a gluten-free legacy. With the growing awareness of food intolerance, Celiac Disease, and other diet related issues, it seems that gluten-free living is here to stay. Luckily, several manufacturers are addressing this demand with delicious new natural foods for adults and kids:
- Pamela’s Products: To appease their growing customer base of busy adults and moms, Pamela’s Products has come out with new Simplebites Mini Cookies. Available in Chocolate Chip and Ginger Snapz, these bite-sized gluten-free, dairy-free morsels are perfect for lunch boxes, treats-on-the-go, or a low-guilt cookie indulgence.
- Amy’s: This premier vegetarian convenience food manufacturer is expanding their line of mom-pleasing options. Suitable for all gluten-free/casein-free little ones, their new Baked Ziti Kid’s Meal contains ziti pasta, broccoli and sauce, rice focaccia bread, and apple crisp.
- Enjoy Life Foods: With great appreciation from many special dieters, the gluten-free and food allergy-friendly product line from Enjoy Life Foods just keeps growing. In addition to their recently released cookie packs for lunch boxes (chocolate chip and snickerdoodle), Enjoy Life has just added two new cookie flavors to their already excellent line up of soft baked cookies. Keep an eye out for Happy Apple and Lively Lemon, which will appear on their website and grocer’s shelves soon.
Candy Ventures into Health Conscious Territory
It seemed only a matter of time before organics and functional foods swept into the candy aisle. Beyond the feel good factor, many consumers will be singing sweet praises for the exotic new flavors, which are sure to appeal to taste buds of all ages:
- Pure Fun Confections: I can hear the little voices now, “but mom, it’s organic!” Canadian based Pure Fun has introduced new hard candies and lollipops in an array of insanely tempting flavors, including Nature’s Goji Berry, Ginger, Raging Raspberry, Pomegranate, Grimy Green Apple, Canadian Maple, and Root Beer. By mid-April they hope to be rolling out these Certified Organic sweets in select stores across Canada, the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
- The Ginger People: Deliciously sweet candy that helps with carsickness? Oh how I wish this product had been invented during my childhood! These potent little candies are packed with 30% fresh ginger. Their slogan, “a little potion for the motion,” really makes the experience that much more amusing.
Vegan Foods Bridge the Non-Dairy Divide
With so many dairy-free alternatives, the cow may soon become obsolete! Okay, I exaggerate slightly, but two new vegan products really turned some heads:
- Organicville Foods: Organic Vegan Ranch Salad Dressing…have I died and gone to a dairy-free heaven? Believe it or not, Organicville has released the first ever organic, shelf stable, non-dairy ranch. But wait, it gets even better. The dressing is also gluten-free and contains no added sugar! If you are too eager to wait for it in stores, their salad dressing is already available online at Vegan Essentials.
- Hemp Milk: Tired of rice and soymilk? Need an omega-3 boost or an allergy-friendly option? Meet “the new soy,” hempmilk. This little seed has so much potential that not one, but two Canadian manufacturers have just spun out a hemp-based dairy alternative. The first to hit U.S. shelves, Living Harvest Hempmilk, won top honors at the show from VegNews magazine. Not to be outdone, Manitoba Harvest announced the release of Hemp Bliss, the first Certified Organic Hemp Milk. In addition to carrying the organic label, Manitoba Harvest focuses on lower sugar options, and will have an unsweetened hempmilk and lunchbox sized “milk” boxes available soon.
Chocolate as the New Antioxidant Powerhouse
Last but certainly not least, consumers and manufacturers alike are overjoyed with the latest scientific research from the Mars Company touting chocolate as a potential new “superfood.” Mars of course acted quickly, releasing their antioxidant rich CocoaVia line, of which a few new bars were at the show. Nonetheless, several other high quality chocolatiers were making a bid at the Expo West to share in the antioxidant spotlight:
- Dagoba: Apparently, rich dark chocolate alone simply isn’t enough “nutritional” oomph for this organic manufacturer. Dagoba has released the Superfruit chocolate bar. Yes, it is 74% dark and infused with the magical powers of acai, currants, and goji berries. Not in a fruit mood? Your health need not be sacrificed. They have also created three other dark chocolate bars packed with Cacao Nibs, Lemon and Ginger, and Omega-3 rich Seeds (hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower to be specific).
- Sweetriot: Just when you think it couldn’t get better than incredibly earth-conscious chocolate covered cacao, Sweetriot emerges with a “cherry” version of their nibs (limited edition). For the ultimate antioxidant and flavor rush, it seems that Sweetriot has also added straight cacao beans to their offerings.
- Cocoa Camino: This Fair Trade, Organic chocolate company our of Canada has launched several new dark bars (Chili & Spice, Matcha Green Tea, Cranberries & Almonds, Panama Extra Dark). Their U.S. counterpart, Equal Exchange, has also added three dark chocolate bars (with Cocoa Nibs, Espresso Beans, and Mint) to their already impressive line of bars, cocoas, and chocolate chips.
Most of the above products are or will be available to U.S. and Canadian customers (see websites for purchasing information). Several are also rolling out to the U.K., Australia, and beyond. If you aren’t ready to take a chance on the unknown, keep an eye on our product reviews. I will be reviewing several of the above products in coming weeks, including Pamela’s cookies, Hempmilk, and Organicville’s Ranch Dressing.