Natural Foods Expo East 2011 – Trends

by Jennifer Fugo on September 27, 2011

Food — it makes our world go round.  At least here in the States, that is.  Though I’m the biggest fan for whole, unprocessed foods, there certainly is a place for certain food products in a busy life. I wanted to see for myself the wide array of new products that were coming out in the following months as well as connect with some of my favorite companies in person who have already support events that I’ve hosted.  It was, to say the least, incredible, exhausting and overwhelming all at the same time.

If you’re wondering what exactly a food product is, then you’re smart to ask.  Basically once something is packaged and processed in any way, you could consider it a food product.  Even salt or raisins in a box — those are food products.  They’ve got a brand that’s being built so that you’ll become a loyal follower and buy it regularly.

Just an FYI – I do not have any photos from the event.  Attendees were not permitted to take photos of products or companies booths.

Though I shall not recap all the moments of walking an enormous show floor and being completely unable to sample another bite of anything, this experience was definitely interesting.  It is my hope to also attend Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, CA in the spring which I’ve been told is even bigger.  However, we as consumers will start to see some major shifts in the way that we purchase food products.  The two biggest trends that really JUMPED out at me immediately – single serving packaging and gluten-free items.

Single Servings seem to be all the rage.

I believe that partially the idea is driven by the more mobile, dining out culture in which we all live where everyone under the sun wants to have the control to customize their meal.  For example, San-J food company which makes many gluten-free asian-esque products is pushing single serving pouches of their Wheat-free Tamari (a great alternative to Soy Sauce).  Real Salt is now making individual sized canisters filled with their Real Salt sea salt that can easily be carried in your pocket or handbag to salt your own food.  And many other companies are following suite re-packing their popular brands to be more accessible for you.

Companies are going gaga for Gluten Free.

It was quite surprising how many companies are either re-formulating their existing products or present a new line of products that are gluten-free.  Just about every other booth had a big sign displaying their status.  Clearly food companies are looking to jump into the expanding gluten-free market.  Though that’s all well and good, it does concern me.

1) The gluten-free community already has a difficult enough time not being viewed as a ‘trend’ that will eventually go bust in the way many other fad diets have.  It’s easy to understand this perspective seeing just how many companies are getting on board to provide me and others in the GF tribe something good to eat.  Perhaps journalists need to consider that the fad is within the food products industry and NOT in the actually customer base.

2) Consumers will have more options – however this increase will only serve to underscore the importance of learning to read food labels.  I cannot continue to stress enough that the ‘gluten-free’ label is not necessarily synonymous with ‘healthy’.  If you eat gluten-free, please educate yourself on the art of eating healthy in a way that just HAPPENS to be gluten-free.  Your quality of health will be directly impacted by this simple, yet powerful idea.

For me, I’m just spending this week detoxing from all the food that I tried.  Some good, some bad, but either way a new idea that a company would love to see you buy.  Stay tuned as I’ve got some great food reviews coming up from the show that I know you’ll not want to miss!

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