Seeds and Coconuts Bring Dozens of New, Unexpected Products to Expo West 2012

Nature's Path Hemp Bar© R.Cruger
-- Munch on nutritious hemp seeds in crunchy bars.

Organic ingredients were abundant at the 2012 Natural Products Expo West, from cognac to chocolate to teas to sunscreen. Fair trade and non-GMO goods were emphasized, too, as well as gluten-free, vegan and superfoods. Flax is still big and ancient grains are gaining ground as a healthy alternative to hybrid wheats.

But there was an explosion of chia and hemp seeds, joining sesame, sunflower and pumpkin. Also, coconut is in everything. Here are some of the many highlights I’ll be reporting on:

Is Chia the New Flax Seed?

Mama Chia juice drink© R.Cruger
-- Drink your Chia seeds.

The tiny power-packed Chia seed is found suspended in juice bottles of Mama Chia fruit juice drinks, stirred into NutZo peanut butter and sprinkled in breakfast bars and breads. Nature's Path has introduced crunchy breakfast bars filled with Chia and flax seeds and it's added a Chia Coconut cereal to its collection.

Last year, Salba which farms Chia and packages it whole and ground, claims it delivers energy, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, with the benefits like eating fish, popping blueberries and gulping milk -- quite a wallop for the size of poppy seeds.

Blueberry Hemp Snacks© R.Cruger
-- A bit of blueberry with your hemp?

Is Hemp the New Seaweed?

Edible hemp is also becoming ubiquitous as a superfood -- packed in snacks, shakes, available as an oil as well as milk. All on their own, hemp seeds are touted as a great source of protein in salads and baked goods and considered nutritionally beneficial with fatty acids in the recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3s and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA).

Edible Hemp Products© R.Cruger
From soup to nuts, adding hemp packs a protein punch.

Musician Ziggy Marley, a big proponent of non-GMO foods, is launching three versions of organic hemp seeds, appropriately enough. I sprinkled a sample of Caribbean Crunch on baked fish last night which gave it a nice spicy crunchy kick. His Hemp Rules' seeds are roasted (not cracked as usual) and also come in Sea Salt & Pepper and pure unadulterated with flavor, available on shelves in May.

Is Coconut the New Acai Berry?

Ziggy Marley's Coconut Oils© R.Cruger
-- Ziggy Marley's smoking with Hemp Rules and Coco'Mon.

Marley is also in sync with the coconut craze that's found in everything from waters to palm sugar. Coco’Mon offers the first organic culinary coconut oil flavored with Curry, Orange/Almond and Lemon Ginger, as well as unflavored.

I'm unsure of all the health claims, from beneficial triglycerides for good cholesterol levels to increased immunity, improved digestion, etc. attributed to the presence of lauric acid and caprylic acid and the antifungal and antibacterial properties, per the Coconut Research Center, but I bet the flavors are tasty.

Earthbound Farms snack mix© R.Cruger
-- The perfect snack: seeds, nuts, fruit and coconut.

Vitamin-Packed Salads

At one of the only fresh food booths on the immense Expo floor, Earthbound Farm had a line clamoring for real green salad! New offerings include its Power Greens with baby chard, baby spinach and baby kale, that naturally deliver vitamins, minerals, beta-carotene, phytonutrients, and antioxidants.Also this year, Earthbound added frozen organic fruits and vegetables, squeezable organic herbal purees from basil to dill, and nut snacks like Cracked Black Pepper Cran-Walnut Mix and and Mandala Spice Coconut Cashews -- yes, more coconut...with not a Chia or hemp seed in the bag.
Seeds and Coconuts Bring Dozens of New, Unexpected Products to Expo West 2012
From chia to hemp, seeds were a prominent force among the 500-plus new products at the annual tradeshow in Los Angeles.