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Guest Correspondent Corrie Reilly Delivers 7 Take-home Trends from Expo West

For this year’s Expo West show in Anaheim, Calif., our guest correspondent, Corrie Reilly, marketing and communications at Agropur Ingredients, shared her key takeaways with us after attending the event.

Let me quiet the noise and tell you what Expo West was really about: 7 take-home trends

As a first timer to the legendary Expo West, I had been ready for months to check out the natural foods mayhem. It was Agropur Ingredients’ first year exhibiting at more of a finished product show but paired with our sister company Agropur Division Natrel – USA―who has retail lines of milk, coffees and indulgent creamers―we had an ‘in’ and a story to tell. We honed in on our ability to source, formulate, process and package a variety of products built for the food philosophy followers. And let me tell you, we were on point; claims―vegan, non-gmo, gluten-free, etc.―were painted throughout the convention.

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While the show was packed to capacity, for someone that does a fair share of trend investigative work, it was easy to point out some of the most popular and prominent food and beverage movements. Check out the full article below on my 7 quick snapshots of Expo West discoveries.

1. Protein, everywhere and anywhere

Protein is by no means a new concept to myself or our business sector. In recent years, the appreciation for products that have a naturally high-protein content or have been enriched with protein has grown by leaps and bounds. While it’s fair to say that protein has gone mainstream for good reason, not all variations are alike and not all consumers look for the same characteristics from their protein. That is where this show really stood out from the rest for me. Due to the fact that Expo West is geared toward consumer pools that have very well-defined preferences of food types and origins, it was the mecca of alternatives and diversity. Our private-label business sector frequently does work for dairy-free and green brands so it was really fun to see which of the other protein sources might be, ‘the next big thing.’ Whey remains the top protein source if you consider the protein market as a whole, but we were able to try foods that explored flax, quinoa, cashew, pea, rice, hemp and plant proteins. I missed tasting the insect protein that has so much buzz around it but I must say it does pique my curiosity in terms of its sustainability abilities. It’s hard to call out one specific favorite as I collected a hoard of samples ranging from ready-to-drink shakes to cheesy crackers.

2. Functional & nutrient callouts

We had been diving into insight reports on the global food markets to get ready for the show. According to reports, one of the biggest trends in the Asian-Pacific market was that the brands there are keying in on health functionality attributes. Meaning, on package, consumers would see products advertise for things like bone strength, eyesight, brain health, etc. With consumers being so knowledge hungry and conscious of long-term health value, I see this trend having a lot of potential here in the U.S., especially in regards to the natural foods space. Omegas and fiber were big nutrients noted prominently on front of package. Vitality showed a series of ‘RE’ superfruit beverages; one of which, Refocus, was a beverage brand that claims to help to enhance mental focus and concentration.

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3. Vegetable incorporation & switching up flavor expectations

What happens when you taste something savory that your memory equates to sweetness? Well first, you think whoa…weird. Next, if you’re adventurous at all in your taste experiences, there is a 50/50 chance that you might realize that…it works! Maybe not in a familiar way but in a way that you discover that the textures, temperature and packaging lend well to this new foreign flavor. In regards to vegetable incorporation, we had noticed this in a trends insight report regarding the frozen dessert global market. After walking Expo West, it’s evident that more than one food area is taking hold of this ideation. Lifeway Kefir had some really interesting Veggie Kefirs that brought in tomatoes, cucumbers and beets! Sensible Portions had on display a variety of different chip and puff-type products that were made with full servings of the good stuff. One of my favorite takeaway products from the show came at the flavor 180 from the opposite side―savory to sweet. The company, HOPE, showcased chocolate spreads made from what traditionally is considered a hummus component―chickpeas! I am tracking this down in the store and stocking up.

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4. Probiotics – Give me some of that ‘good bacteria’

We actually have been doing a good amount of focus on probiotics right now and how they will build momentum in the healthy products area. Our team predicts more growth in product categories as well as further discovery on its benefits. Probiotics play a big role in human digestion. GoodBelly distributed shooters of its probiotic juices. Another example, and my second take-home product from Natural Products Expo West, was Lifeway’s ProBug Bites, which are probiotic-packed freeze-dried kefir melts designed for infants. While my toddler niece joined me on the show floor Saturday and referred to these little nuggets as candies, it would be hard to say who enjoyed them more, her or me.

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5. Tell me a mealtime story

This one I think has a lot to do with our fascination with understanding where our products come from. We want to know that the core of what we’re eating has roots and why it’s something we specifically should be eating. All good brands have a story and this show was no exception. Similar to a bedtime story, consumers want to be soothed before they take their first bite.

6. Fair Trade certified – Show me your hand

If there was a message I heard consistently it was, “We are Fair Trade Certified.” I heard it while representatives told me their jingle, and I overheard it as I was eavesdropping on the conversations in neighboring booths. This feels like a mission with the natural brands and I’m 100 percent in. Seems like it’s a good approach to increasing the balance of respect between all parties participating in the creation of a product. I can have a slightly rose-colored perspective on these types of issues, but I’m all for improving the treatment toward the trade and promoting transparency.

7. Convenience – Make sure I can eat it/make it on the run

We live in a world that never stops. Single-servings, kits and creative approaches to packaging were all ways brands were tackling the need for products that can be prepared quickly and eaten on the go. As someone that never has time to go grocery shopping as I’m running from one place to the other, I appreciated Hak’s Paks One Pot product―easy to store and conveniently flavored pouches that can be popped in the slow cooker when you need to put together an uncomplicated dinner.

Thanks to Corrie Reilly for her report on this year’s Expo West.

corrie bio image

Corrie is a young marcomm professional who is oddly knowledgeable regarding the world of food and food ingredients. She currently represents Agropur Ingredients, a business of Agropur Dairy Cooperative. Agropur Ingredients has three main business types: functional ingredients, ingredient distribution and private-label contract packaging for dry powder blends. Experts in application and formulation, Agropur’s team is a valued resource to its customers with their extensive understanding of ingredient interaction and advanced capabilities. Corrie came to discover the food industry shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with a degree in public relations. She enjoys sharing the world she’s come to know and love with those around her, both within and outside the industry. She can be reached at corrie.reilly@agropur.com for any questions or discussions.

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