Jennifer Zegler
Jenny Zegler is an Associate Director of Mintel Food & Drink, blending Mintel Trends expertise with food and drink topics such as health, formulation, sustainability and premiumization.

The annual Natural Products Expo West trade show showcased emerging products, formats and ingredients from more than 3,500 exhibiting companies across food, drink, personal care, household and ingredient industries. This year’s show in Anaheim, California included hundreds of smaller food and drink companies that featured products that offer a wealth of possibilities for the future of the food and drink industry, especially as consumers care more about natural ingredients, inherent nutrition and corporate transparency and responsibility.

Among the thousands of products on display, Global Food & Drink Analyst Jenny Zegler highlights six food and drink products and brands that reflect current and upcoming food and drink trends through their innovative ingredients, formats and/or packaging.

1. Wilde Chicken Chips

This disruptive salty snack takes the trends of protein and meat snacks to the next level by creating a crunchy chip from a blend of chicken and tapioca flour that is cooked to a crunch in coconut oil. The brand takes its flavor inspiration from popular salty snack and chicken flavors with its Barbecue, Buffalo, Jalapeño, and Sea Salt and Vinegar offerings. The texture is much like a grain chip and, in conjunction with its ingredients and flavors,  the result is a salty snack that has potential for mainstream consumer appeal.

2. SorBabes

Nut butter brands and nut butter as an ingredient were a frequent sight on the show floor, making nut butter as dominant of a theme at Natural Products Expo West as meat snacks were to the 2017 National Association of Convenience Store Show. SorBabes is a line of vegan sorbets with what the company describes as “Sundae-style” toppings mixed into fruit- and nut butter-based sorbets. The dairy-free, nut butter-based sorbets are as creamy as ice cream and the flavors resemble those in a gourmet ice cream shop such as Pistachio with Sea Salted Caramel Swirl, Peanut Banana Swirled with Fudge, Creamy Coffee Almond with Chocolate Bark, and Double Chocolate Hazelnut.

3. Iota Sunflower Seeds

In addition to nuts, the Natural Products Expo West show floor is no stranger to seeds, with companies featuring chia seeds, hemp seeds and other seeds as ingredients or product bases. Iota gives sunflower seeds, a traditional snack popular on US baseball fields, a modern makeover. The company offers Original, Umami and Kettle varieties of sunflower seeds in single-serving pouches, as well as a handy multi-serving grab-and-go pouch with a resealable spout that’s perfect for pouring seeds into one’s hand – or directly into the mouth. Iota’s flavors add to the intrigue, especially the Umami variety’s blend of gluten-free tamari, apple cider vinegar and sea salt that results in a satisfying savory flavor.

4. One Degree Organic Foods

Traceability and transparency were recurrent claims made by many companies exhibiting at this year’s show, including several dairy, meat, poultry, seafood and egg companies that offered information on their farmers and animal welfare commitments. One Degree Organic Foods builds its business model around transparency with front of pack design for its breakfast cereal, bread, tortillas, seeds and flour, emphasizing “all ingredients from farmers we know” almost more prominently than the brand name itself. The clean packaging design and an opportunity to trace the product online can appeal to the multitude of consumers who want to know more about where their food and drink comes from, as observed by Mintel’s 2018 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Full Disclosure.’

5. HawaiianOla Kona Coffee Leaf Tea

Provenance was another common claim on the show floor with brands emphasizing their origins, including a few companies that developed products featuring native Hawaiian ingredients. HawaiianOla leverages consumer awareness of Kona coffee, but uses the leaves from the coffee trees to make its mild, slightly sweet Tulsi Berry and Lemongrass Mint ready-to-drink teas. The ready-to-drink teas are made from leaves that are sustainably harvested during regular pruning of mature coffee trees. The reuse of leaves from coffee trees provides another revenue stream for farmers, which is HawaiianOla’s overall mission as a food and drink manufacturer, and is a commitment that aligns with rising attention toward food waste as noted by Mintel’s 2017 Global Food & Drink Trend ‘Waste Not.’

6. Paleo Powder

Natural Products Expo West is a often a show that features products designed to provide convenience to consumers who are following specialty diets. In addition to products developed to appeal to the enduring gluten-free and vegan diet trends, this year’s show displayed food and drink products designed for paleo, keto and FODMAP diets. Targeting a specific niche, Paleo Powder offers a range of seasonings designed for followers of paleo, autoimmune protocol and FODMAP diets. The seasonings are free from ingredients that the diet plans recommend avoiding, such the Autoimmune Protocol-friendly blend made with Himalyan pink salt, garlic, onion, oregano, basil and sage. The products also reflect another trend at this year’s show in which seasonings, sauces, condiments, cooking kits, baking mixes and other products were designed to fuel more creative cooks or aspiring home chefs, a group that includes consumers who follow specific diet plans.