Food Companies get Innovative. Are you ready for Meat Bars and Pea Pizza?
The hottest innovation event in the food and beverage industry – Natural Products Expo West – wrapped up last week in Anaheim, CA. About 70,000 industry attendees sampled new products from over 1,000 manufacturers and start-ups at the three-day event.
Past Expo West events hosted the launches of Kashi, Vitamin Water, Naked Juice, Burt’s Bees and other major new consumer brands. Here’s a run-down on some of the hot new items at this year’s event:
- Animal-Free Meats. Forget the old, flavorless tofu-burger. New meat substitutes made from vegetables are tasty, healthy and protein-packed – and they’re not just for vegetarians anymore. They offer a healthier alternative for anyone who craves meat without the fat. Start-up company Beyond Meat is revolutionizing this business with its “Beast Burger” and “Beyond Chicken Strips” that look and taste like meat and even have the exact same texture as meat. The company is backed by Silicon Valley VC Kleiner Perkins and Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams.
- Veggie Snacks. Kale chips were just the beginning. A whole range of tasty new snacks made from veggies is ready to take on potato chips, crackers and traditional greasy, salty snacks. Zippy’s Salad Bites are crunchy clusters made from salad ingredients, like Kale, Spinach, Cranberries and other healthy ingredients. Start-ups Peas of Mind and World Peas make snacks, French Fries and Pizza from peas, and Tender Grown makes Raw Leaf Crisps – chips shaped like leaves made from broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale and other greens.
- Sprouted Grains. Innovative baked goods are taking flour to a whole new level with sprouted grains – grains that have already germinated. Sprouted grains are higher nutrients, lower in starches and easier to digest – making them the new killer app for healthy baking. Alvarado St. Bakery offers a whole line of packaged Sprouted Breads, and San Diego-based Go Raw has new lines of sprouted snack bars, sprouted cookies and sprouted granola.
- Probiotic Drinks. Probiotics, which improve digestive health, transformed the yogurt category over the past 10 years. Now they are expanding into beverages. Good Belly, from Boulder-based NextFoods, is launching orange juice and other fruit juices with probiotics – so you can get your daily dose every morning. Probiotics maker Go Live sells a new line of bottled waters infused with probiotic cultures.
- Paleo Products. The Paleo Diet is a new food trend based on the theory that we will all be healthier if we eat the same foods our ancient ancestors (Cavemen) ate – since the human body has not yet adapted to processed foods. The Paleo Diet is heavy on nuts, berries and unprocessed food, with a little meat. A whole range of new Paleo Diet packaged products are launching – including Paleo Passion Pops (Paleo diet popsicles), and Paleo Chocolate bars from New York’s Hu Kitchen Paleo Restaurant.
- Jerky. Jerky is a fast-growing category, as consumers have less time to sit down and eat, but still need their protein on the go. A number of new jerky treats are on their way, including gourmet jerky from Krave (recently acquired by the Hershey’s Co.) , KOOEE! jerkey trail mix, and Epic Meat Bars to replace your granola bar – made out of Bison, Turkey, Beef or Lamb.
- Better Juice. Odwalla and Naked Juice revolutionized juices 15 years ago by creating more natural, flavorful bottled juices. The next generation juices promise even less processing, more healthy ingredients and cold-pressing to protect the nutrients. Entrants include Crude Juice from London; Forager Juice which includes fruits, greens and nuts; and Suja organic cold-pressed juices with kale and other greens. Harvest Soul even makes a “Chewable Juice” – the particulates are so large you need to chew them.
- Kombucha. This fermented tea drink is gaining traction globally – and may transform the bottled tea category. It is effervescent, giving it a light, bubbly, dry flavor. Celestial Seasonings, Revive and KeVita all have launched bottled Kombucha products in a variety of flavors. Some smaller producers also sell it in kegs.
- Xylitol. Marketed in Japan for years, Xylitol is growing globally as its dental benefits become more widely understood. It is a natural sweetener from plants that has 33% fewer calories than table sugar, while also preventing tooth decay. New chewing gums and dental products are on the way.
- Fair Trade. Products with ingredients sourced in developing countries that are Fair Trade Certified, allowing workers to earn a living wage, are now growing faster than organic products, and account for over $5 Billion in global sales. Several new companies use Fair Trade as a core part of their mission – including Surya, a line of beauty care products from the Brazilian Rain Forest; Alffia, skincare products made from Shea butter from Togo; and Kuli Kuli, nutrition bars made from African moringa.