Expo East proved once again that culinary innovation remains as fast and fresh as the bright, ambitious entrepreneurs who bring it to us. And thank goodness for the inspiration they provide!
Here are the 7 showstoppers you need to know about:
1. This is NOT Your Mother’s Frozen Food.
What: Modern day, good for you, frozen food is truly coming of age. With the days of heavily salted and chemical-laden TV dinners waning, the choices that abound now are not only beautiful to look at, they are organic, gluten free, often dairy or meat free, and are actually pretty darn delicious! A few examples include Alpha Foods’ Burrito Chick’n Fajita; Sun Fed Ranch’s 100% Grass Fed Beef Meatballs, Feel Good Foods’ Beef & Cheddar Taquitos; Sophie’s Kitchen’s Lobster Mac n cheese, Hillary’s Fresh Greek Millet Medley and much more.
Truth: Today’s millennial consumers will simply not accept anything less than everything! They expect their food to be gluten free, artificial preservative free, non-GMO, sugar free, often meat or dairy free, and seek out whole, protein rich (vegan, or at least grass fed) minimally processed ingredients in their place. As millennials transition into a life that is more demanding (think jobs and even kids) they have that same need for time-saving convenience that led to their own parents scarfing down frozen foods laden with salt, chemicals, and questionable meat parts. And yet, in the adapted words of Frank Sinatra, they are doing convenient meals THEIR way.
What It Means For You: There is little margin for compromise with today’s increasingly knowledgeable consumers. Examine every element in your offering. Are there opportunities to swap out any ingredients for ones that are healthier? Are there opportunities to reduce the processing? How about adding in a spice with newly found benefits? And remember, keep the label clean, clean, clean.
2. From Vegan to Paleo to Ketogenic (the new It Girl!)
What: We saw BULLETPROOF coffee and Brain Fuel at Expo West. Now we’re seeing brain energy really take off. Keto is the new It Girl at Expo East! You can chug, sip, or even eat your way into that fat burning state of ketosis (drawing energy from fat rather than sugar) without the standard starvation required. We tasted BULLETPROOF’s newest line of really yummy, buttery Lemon cookies and Vanilla Shortbread bars, with highly refined MCT oil from coconut oils, as well as 2.5 oz Brain Juice shots, whose magic ingredients include Choline, and Know Brainer coffee creamers (with MCT oil and grass fed butter…from the founder of Two Moms in the Raw.) Boy were we feeling smartJ
Truth: Why Ketosis? Because in a 24/7/365 world, we all experience periods of brain fog and energy depletion – not to mention the seductive promise of a short-cut to weight loss (according to their science). Now we are promised a way to attain all of that without the pain (remember the expression, “No Pain, No Gain”? That’s sooo ‘80’s!) Today’s consumer wants energy, focus, and fitness, without compromise.
What It Means for You: We suggest you sit down with a cup of BULLETPROOF coffee and read up on the Ketogenic diet. Think about your product line and where you might be able to pivot to be more Keto-friendly. And remember, function trumps certain ingredients, and permission is fluid. Take another look at your label…can you swap out fats and oils for GOOD fats and oils like grass fed butter or pure coconut oil? Are there additional functional benefits you might allude to? If you can offer physical or mental benefits, delivered in a better-for-you and easy way, you’ve got a no-brainer!
3. When Trends Collide
What: Trends come in fast and furious - just when think you’ve seen all there is to see, the show surprises you with multiple trends combined. We had the pleasure of sampling new Nitro Coffee infused Blue Marble Premium Organic Ice Cream (Nitro Coffee + Premium Organic Ice Cream), Glory Bee Artisan Fermented Honey (Artisan Honey + Fermentation), and Buddha Bowl Popcorn (Organic Popcorn + Organic Coconut Oil + Himalayan Pink Salt).
Truth: Consumers are greedy for good stuff, and want it all. Forget the adage about, “too much of a good thing.” Today, if a little is good, more is better. And entrepreneurs are creatively tapping into that truth with wide open eyes, readily borrowing what seems to work well from other categories.
What It Means For You: Can you open your eyes just a little bit wider? What trends or new twists in other categories have caught your attention? Let your imagination roam a bit, and think about how you might borrow from these innovations to create a mash-up of your own.
4. Playful is the New Black
What: Playful visuals, names, and product descriptions abound. Buddha Bowl popcorn displays a fat, happy Buddha on the package. Smash Mallow’s box proclaims, “Less Naughty More Nice.” NO-GRAIN-OLA comes in varieties like, “Wake Me Up Before You Coco!” and, “Yes You PeCAN, Pumpkin!”
Truth: Eating good healthy foods no longer requires holding your nose while chewing cardboard-like mouthfuls. With the ever-growing availability of nutritious and delicious foods (not to mention how good some of them make you feel), the face of healthy food has literally changed…as evidenced by the colorful, positive, even light hearted personalities of many new better-for-you products.
What It Means For You: Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your products. How can your name, tagline, graphics, or packaging relay the light-hearted optimism and positivity of eating well today, versus the more medicinal, earthy, slightly boring look and feel of earlier generations of natural and organic products?
5. Just a Drizzle Bit of Chocolate Helps the Good Grains Go Down! (You know the tune)
What: You name it and we saw it covered in chocolate…and still being touted as a super healthy snack. We sampled Drizzilicious crunchy bites of chia, quinoa, rice and flax, BIENA dark chocolate chickpeas, and of course all types of chocolate covered nuts.
Truth: A love of healthy eating is no longer at odds with a love of snacking, or even a love of decadent indulgence. Today, consumers are looking for both great taste and good health. And with every new innovation, their high demands are being met.
What It Means For You: Is there a way to take your healthy product and make it slightly more indulgent? Or to take your indulgent product and make it slightly healthier? Remember, just a drizzle of chocolate…
6. Prebiotics are the New Probiotic
What: We saw probiotics explode onto the scene at Expo West. Consumers were highly educated about gut health and valued probiotics in their diet. With so much traction, the industry continues to plow ahead with better and better products. At last week’s Expo East we came upon several products touting the benefits of Prebiotics, (fiber that acts as fuel to help healthy bacteria grow). We saw TIGERNUT, snacks that tout prebiotic fiber and raw superfoods. We spotted ProBiotein, a Multi-Prebiotic Fiber Protein mix (4 Prebiotic Fibers and 4 Digestive Enzymes) intended as an additive to foods. We even sampled one bar actually called, “MicroBiome Bar”, which highlighted its 4 prebiotics. It’s likely only a matter of time, but we wonder if consumers are keeping up with this science, and what education is needed for them to hop on the prebiotic bandwagon.
Truth: The level of consumer education and engagement about gut health is ever-increasing. Once again, the bar has been raised for just how much health you can cram into a bar.
What It Means For You: You may want to jump on this bandwagon early. If your product has probiotics, think about how to make them work harder with this fiber fuel. More generally, think about how to make whatever good stuff is in your product work even harder.
7. Raising a Generations of Farm to Family Gourmets!
What: For those of us raised on Gerber foods and Mott’s apple sauce, boy are there more bright, delicious looking, better-for-you choices for children! We saw Nosh Munchables Organic teething wafers, White Leaf Biodynamic fruit and vegetable cups, kidfresh ORGANICS with Chicken Meatballs and Pasta N Meat Sauce, Once Upon a Farm pouches– pioneering cold pressed, organic baby food blends in fun flavors like Magic Velvet Mango and Wild Rumpus Avocado, and much more.
Truth: Right after their pets, parents will spend big bucks to ensure that their children are eating healthfully. And they take their job very seriously, particularly as millennial parents want to cultivates a love of good, healthy food and foster a more adventurous and natural-friendly palates.
What It Means For You: If you’re a baby/kids brand, how can you make your products healthier, fresher, or more adventurous? And if you’re a tween brand, how do you get ready for these young consumers who are growing up with more sophisticated palates and parents with higher expectations for healthier, more interesting and delicious choices?
What were some of the innovations or consumer truths that stood out or inspired you at the show? Let’s make each other smarter (after all, we’re drinking BULLETPROOF now) …email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and keep the conversation going.
Back in March, we attended Expo West - discover the 5 Truths Not Trends from that gathering.
We also covered the Fancy Food Show in January 2017. Here are the 9 Truths Not Trends from that gathering.