I hadn’t attended the Natural Product Expo East (NPEE) for some four years but checked up on this year’s event on September 25-28, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Although significantly smaller than its West Coast sibling (NPEW), it nevertheless is a great place to catch up on trends and double-check one’s perception of developments in the natural products industry.
The Natural Product Expos themselves are “must-attends” for anyone monitoring the pulse of LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) consumers, a group and industry that is often year’s ahead of the mainstream/mass market. Examples include earlier adoption of yogurt, omega-3s, antioxidants and gluten-free to name just a very few. Still, observations should be taken within context. That is, the Expos provide clues to the future, but do not predict it. What’s hot in food, ingredients or health and other issues are, for a number of reasons, often modified before adaptation by the general public. Some trends never gain momentum but instead are valued by companies and consumers specifically because they can’t be cooped by the larger world in general.
With that preamble, here are two trends observed from the show:
Trend 1. Enzymes in Raw Foods & Sprouted Grains. Dietary supplements that contain digestive enzymes (lactase, amylase, proteases, etc.) have been around for years. The purpose of these enzymes, a class of proteins, is to improve digestibility with benefits including increased nutrient availability and decreased intestinal distress. An example of the later is the dietary supplement Beeno, which contains the enzyme alpha-galactosidase.
A number of companies at 2012 NPEE touted products in alignment with the raw food movement and sprouted grains trend. The benefits of both types of foods are based, in part, on enzymes. Being proteins, enzymes are denatured (destroyed) by heat, which does not happen when foods are consumed raw. (By the way, destroying certain enzymes by heat can also be a very good thing as well.) Also, when grains and other seeds are sprouted, their enzyme content can be increased.
One example of a company offering such foods is Freeland Foods, which has a range of live grain-based products. Live, meaning when the bar or granola is placed in soil, the product actually start growing. See their YouTube posting. In another example, For Life Baking Company’s Food for Life has number of sprouted grain cereals, breads, etc. This company has been around for many years and uses a number of sprouted cereal grains (e.g., millet, barley, wheat, spelt), legumes (soybeans, lentils) and other seeds such as flax.
Trend 2. Oat-based desserts and drinks. We are not talking about oatmeal cookies, but rather innovative products that utilize the oat components or processed oats such that you’d never guess they contained oats except by their label.
One example is Wayfare Dairy Free Frozen Dessert. Its ingredient statement lists: prepared oatmeal (water, oats), organic cane sugar, vegetable oil blend (safflower and coconut), calcium carbonate and then a selection of stabilizers and flavorings. Oat-based frozen, dairy-mimicking desserts are not entirely new. For example OatsCream™ debuted at Natural Product Expo West in 1998. The product appeared, and tasted somewhat like a soft serve ice cream. Overall, the products don’t quite match the creamy dairy notes of ice cream. That being said, they still can be darn good tasting and good for you.