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.