Kel’s Corner: A West-Coasty Creative’s Guide to Healthy Food Trends

Posted by | October 3, 2018 |

Posted by Kelly Criswell

Notes from Expo West 2018

With over 3,500 exhibitors packed within 1 million square feet (and boy did my feet hurt), Natural Products Expo West showcases the newest innovations in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry. Over the course of the 5-day show, I noticed some exciting trends that stood out above the rest.

Functional foods have to taste good now!

“Functional” food (or food/beverages that have a positive effect other than basic nutrition) has been a trend for a while now. But as more consumers fill their carts with functional foods and beverages, the accepted idea that it “tastes like cardboard but is good for me” is no longer cutting it. Consumers want it all: tastes good and good for me! Thankfully, huge leaps have been made. Meatless meat tastes more like meat, and cereal made from beans tastes just like it’s cavity-inducing counterpart. I truly could not tell the difference between lentil mac & cheese and regular mac & cheese (and I consider myself a connoisseur).

Functional at the core.

Ok, ok- I know I just talked about functional foods but hear me out. In years past, your favorite foods were made functional by simply adding extra stuff. Granola bars become protein bars with the simple addition of protein powder. Baked goods become a health food with the addition of chia or flax. This feels a little like cheating, right? Well, at this year’s show I noticed that the “function” being touted is inherent to the food. This trend champions getting your protein from beef jerky or cottage cheese rather than from a product with added whey powder. Or getting your antioxidants from tea rather than a shake with added acai powder.

Health & Beauty… Food?

We’ve seen it slowly gain in popularity- but it was clear this year that collagen as an ingredient is here to stay. Fans swear by its health-boosting properties, claiming it improves everything from skin and hair to joints and weight loss. Creamer, bars, beverages- you name it they put collagen in it. Another surprising trend is foods that focus on dental health. I tried a beverage that supposedly cleans plaque from your teeth while you drink it, a teeth-whitening charcoal chew, and some oral hygiene products made with ingredients so natural they are safe to eat! This is definitely an area to look out for in the future.

Personalized Experience

Nowadays you can subscribe to all manner of healthy meal delivery services, whether you like to cook or just like to eat. A rising trend is pairing this service with more personalized nutrition based on specific criteria. You can get a personalized eating plans based on new technology and science, creating a very personalized food experience. We expect to see more and more of this approach to healthy eating.

No, I didn’t forget about the growing trends we’ve seen over the past year: plant-based foods, diet-focused (keto, gluten-free), dairy free alternatives such as coconut or banana based foods, and the pre/probiotic trend. And probiotics have really exploded the last few years, as evidenced by the huge growth of kombucha.

As a diehard kombucha lover, I should mention that I made it my mission to drink every single brand of kombucha at Expo this year. There were a LOT. These were my personal favorites: Wild Tonic, Health Ade, Better Booch, and Humm. I did all the hard work for you- you’re welcome.

– Kelly Criswell

VP Creative and Client Services