Uncovering the top six 2015 Expo West food trends spotted at this year’s show. From crickets to coconut, check out the most prevalent food trends.
Last Thursday, I met Steve in sunny California for Expo West. He was representing Fancy Pants Baking Company (a local nut-free cookie company) and I was representing…myself! I had a couple clients who were at the show but I really just went on my own to be able to walk the floor, uncover emerging food trends, and connect with cool brands and companies.
On Thursday, Steve and I took the afternoon “off” since it was pretty much the end of the work day back on the East coast anyways and walked to Downtown Disney and had lunch outside. I was the crazy who asked to sit as far away from the umbrellas as possible so there was no chance of us being in the shade. This girl needed to make up for lost time and soak up that vitamin D! We walked around Downtown Disney for a hot minute and then took an Uber to Huntington Beach and made it just in time for the sunset. It was absolutely breathtaking. We then walked to the nearest bar/restaurant on the beach and had drinks outside by a fire pit. It was SO nice. And made us wonder why we are crazy enough to live on the east coast and not move out west?!
Come Friday, it was Expo day and I spent two days walking the show floor. Yes. Two whole days. It’s THAT big! This year was bigger than ever – it brought in 72,000 people and they even had to add an extra floor to accommodate the additional exhibitors. Although slightly exhausting, it was SO cool. I really enjoyed discovering some up and coming companies, cool brands, and new trends. I wanted to share with you some of the top food trends I spotted at Expo this year. Check ’em out!
1. Crickets are the new kale. Cricket products were chirping out of a number of booths this year. And I did it. I tried my first cricket product ever! Slightly skeptical, but mostly curious, I surprisingly enjoyed them and didn’t detect any insect funkiness. So what’s the scoop on the cricks? Insects are a pretty healthy and sustainable form of protein. They’re a good source of B12, iron, omega fatty acids, and contain more protein per ounce than beef. Plus, they’re way more sustainable than meat. According to Chapul, insects require less land resources, emit fewer greenhouse gasses, and have a much smaller water demand than livestock and animal substitutes such as soy, corn, and rice. 10lbs of feed produce 1lb of beef compared to 6lbs of cricket. I know it seems kind of weird to think about eating insects but when you think about it, 80% of countries around the world have them on their menu in some shape or form. And if the crickets are ground into flour and then placed in products and you can’t detect them, then I say why not?
2. Plants are taking over water. Plant waters were everywhere this year. Cactus, artichoke, watermelon, birch, maple, coconut. You name it, they were there. And I tried them all. I recently wrote an article on plant waters for Environmental Nutrition so I was curious on the taste profile. I’d have to say I liked maple or birch the best which are both produced the same way – by tapping the trees for their sap/water. My only complaint with a lot of these plant waters is that many brands are adding sugar to them. Blah. And the research is still out on many of these newcomer plant waters. They all tout a host of nutrition and health benefits but few of them have the science to back it up. So sure, opt for these as a better substitute for soda or sugary sports beverages, but if you’re not interested in breaking the bank, plain water will do just fine.
3. More indeed matters for fruits and veg. Companies are taking notice that consumers are hungry to bring more fruits and veggies into their diets and responding with a host of products made with produce. From chips made with brussels sprout and cauliflower greens, to retro popsicles, to bars, to purees in pouches, fruits and veggies were everywhere and everyone and their Mom was touting “a serving of fruits and vegetables”. I think we’re heading in the right direction with this being a trend in product innovation but it’s important to know that these products are all processing fruits and vegetables to incorporate them into their products, so nutrients and fiber may be stripped. Always check the ingredient lists of products, even if they tout “your daily serving of fruits and veg” and see what other ingredients they’re adding to the mix – aka look for sources of added sugar. And don’t skip on the real deal if you’re going to eat these products. Look at them as a complement to the diet, not as a replacement for real fruits and veggies.
4. Fermented is forever. It seemed everywhere I turned at Expo, I was seeing picked products. Kimchi and fermented veggies were definitely a hot commodity at the show this year. And with good reason. Fermented foods contain good-for-your-gut bacteria, also known as probiotics, which help support healthy digestion. There’s also emerging research that probiotics are good for your immune system as well. I’ve been trying more and more to include fermented foods like real pickles and miso soup in my daily diet. There really aren’t any catches to fermented foods as far as my eyes can see! So please, get your pickled on!
5. Coconut: Not just for water anymore. The coconut water craze was just the beginning. Companies are now looking for every opportunity to tout coconut in their products. From coconut oil baked potato chips, to dried coconut crisps, to coconut dark chocolate, to coconut nectar. Even the beauty section was loaded with coconut-based product lines. Coconut is touted for its healthy MCT (medium chain triglyceride) fat which is metabolized differently than other types of fat and has been shown to raise HDL (good) cholesterol levels. I love using coconut milk and cream in my cooking and do believe that having some coconut fat in your diet is a good thing. But, like any good thing…too much of it…not so good. Just don’t overdo it. And just because it contains coconut, doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Check those nutrition labels.
6. Companies are capitalizing on the Paleo Diet. You know that diet that’s sweeping the nation that says “if the caveman didn’t eat it, neither should you” based on the notion that are bodies are predisposed to eat a certain diet. It’s based on a diet of foods that can be hunted, gathered, and fished: fruits, vegetables, seafood, and meat. No legumes. No grains. No dairy. No sugar. No salt. Cricket products are big on the Paleo craze and everything from bars, snacks, and desserts were touting PALEO as a marketing tactic. Whether or not the Paleo diet is just a fad or here to stay, food companies seem to be jumping on board while they can. It seems kind of funny to me that bars and other “processed” foods can call themselves “Paleo” because to me this goes against the whole notion of this unprocessed diet. But hey, I’m no Paleo expert and don’t follow the diet personally so I’ll stop there.
So there ya have it, ladies and gents. The top 6 Expo West Food Trends. Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Are you surprised by any of these? Wondering if any other trends were present? Curious about more products and brands? Leave me a note!