New Food: Natural Products Expo Trends and Treats


Expo West spread out over 1 million square feet. Photos by R.Cruger

On entering the Natural Products Expo at Anaheim's immense convention center, one was bombarded with the overwhelming magnitude of displays - more than 3,000 booths with vendors hawking their wares, offering sips and bites. In its 30th year, the record attendance of 56,000 indicated the growing appetite for more healthy options, especially compared to 3,000 in 1981. There were interesting trends, much eco-friendliness and lots of enticing tastes in this cornucopia for cuisine, body, pets, and home. At every turn - there were snacks galore. Yet even among all the munchies, an overriding theme dominated the event.
Functional Foods
Starting at the main doors, the first section encountered was the organic foods and goods, a positive way to begin with signs leading to "inspired" seafood and ancient grains. The trend toward "functional ingredients" was applied to just about everything consumable at the fair - from water additives to the ubiquitous snacks. Food stuffs do double duty, supplying bodies with healthy anti-oxidants, omega-3s, agave sweetener, gluten-free and/or vegan, but without additional supplements.

Among the thousands of items at the Natural Living and Hot Products booths supporting the mind, body, bones, blood, and skin, one example seemed to sum it all up: VitaminSpice. Just 1/2 teaspoon of augmented ground pepper, cinnamon, granulated garlic or crushed red pepper provides 50% of the daily vitamins and minerals (and 1/4 teaspoon for kids). Sprinkle onto dishes to lace meals with nutrients.

Here's a preview of more new foods hitting shelves soon.

Guilt-free(ish) Snacks
Instead of the conventional sour cream & onion Ruffles or other junk food, little bags filled with no-fat baked rice and popped fruits and veggies offer health(ier) nibbles. (Actually, Cheetos by Frito-Lay promotes its Chile Limon Flavored Snacks as free of gluten, casein, lactose, and porcine with 0g trans fat, too, so read labels on what is in the ingredients.) There are spinach chips and hummus flatbreads, Yogavive's organic puffed caramel apple chips, Mary's Gone Crackers organic wheat-free crisps, and Primal's meatless vegan jerky in flavors from teriyaki to mesquite.

On every aisle, every type of protein and trail mix bar showed what's available now. New flavors abound, and many have "functional ingredients" for healthful snacking. There's Nature's Path organic Chococonut, Kind Nut Bars with flax for omega-3s, Probiotic Wellness Bars by Attune, and Octain's Brain Bar with gingko. There's also Dr. Praeger's Froat Bar jammed with flax and chia seeds, acai and goji berries, green tea, plus fruit and oats, dark chocolate, plus more--good for everything. Also, Mariel Hemingway has launched a line of sugarfree Blisscuits. Elements Bars let you custom-design your own ingredients.

I'll Drink to That
Last year, many more bottled water companies were on display, but in 2010, they're fruit and tea flavored, naturally sodafied, enhanced with vitties, and transformed with greens in individual to-go packets. The idea behind Wat-aah! intends to wean kids off sodas with four "flavors" - Brains (with electrolytes), Bones (with magnesium), Energy (with oxygen), and Body with just pure spring water - no sugar or chemicals. And for the adults, other beverages included organic wines and beers, and every configuration of green tea including cacao flavored.

The New Flax?
Each year, some new discovery determines the latest super food ingredient. There's still plenty of goji berries and acai and chia. But this year's magic ingedient is the salba seed, which claims off-the-chart nutrients compared to flax and pomegranates. It's non-GMO and doesn't need to be ground. Sprinkle on cereal and in soups and smoothies or bake in bread and feel the wonders.

Also, the Borojo, a tropical fruit, comes in an array of juice flavored bottles but the natural fruit can be used in smoothies. It provides protein for vegetarian diets, sugar equilibrium in the blood, and claims to increase sexual potency. Agave is the sweetener du jour in everything, including Agave Dream ice cream and sorbets, affording a lower glycemic index than sugar. After sampling all that and then perusing dozens more, it was time to spritz some citrus tinged Urban Moonshine organic bitters as an update on the old-fashioned digestif.


Aubrey Hampton and son Trevor mix up a batch of Green Tea Mask.
Beyond Food
After all the gastronomic delights, dump the non-recyclable garbage in Green Genius' biodegradable bags, which breakdown in anaerobic conditions as microbes feed on the plastic. There were also compostable doggy waste bags and 3B's reusable vegetable bags for shopping at the Farmers Market. Another green item for the home, mentioned in Treehugger last year, is Fuji's minimum impact EnviroMAX batteries containing no toxic materials and packaged with 75% recycled materials.

Star Speakers
Keynotes were given by Oscar-nominated Robert Kenner of Food, Inc. and 350.org's Bill McKibben about the momentum of his environmental campaign. Also, Planet Green's Bill Nye spoke about cleaning without chemicals, and Anna Getty about her Easy Green Organic cookbook.

With this year's switch to online directories and guides, New Hope Natural Media, the organizers of this event, saved 4,000 bathtubs full of water, almost 500 trees and annual energy usage of 3.7 households. Good to go until the next event in Boston in October.

More on natural foods:
Paradox: Natural Pet Food Sales Growing Faster Than Human Ones
US Consumers Prefer "100% Natural" Food Label
7 Food Certification Programs You Need to Eat Green

Tags: Drinks | Food Safety | Toxins | Vegan

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