Food Trends Unveiled at Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting

Chicago was host to the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food expo — an ideal venue for tracking trends and learning about new product innovations.  Analysts from two market intelligence agencies, Mintel and Innova Market Insights, discussed the food and flavor trends they’ve been noticing—and the buzzworthy ingredients they think will take off.  Here are some of the highlights.

Soursop or guanabana, the new salted caramel

Soursop or Guanabana on white background

fage yogurtThis tropical fruit is described as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with notes of sour citrus and a creaminess similar to that of coconut or banana.  Part of the appeal of guanabana is that the tree is native to Mexico and Cuba, countries that are on the minds of many American consumers.  You can find the fruit in Fage Total 0% mango-guanabana Greek yogurt and Vitamin Water Zero strawberry-guanoabana enhanced water — but expect it to be popping up in even more new products. Similarly, salted caramel products are booming, featured in breakfast cereals, dairy, snacks, desserts and drinks.

Harissa, the next sriracha

Spoonful of harissa chili pepper spice mix. Traditional mix from Northern Africa. Shallow DOF.

harissa hummus

I absolutely adore harissa, a staple in North African and Middle Eastern cooking that combines hot chili peppers, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway and mint.  Most of the new products featuring harissa are sold in Europe, but Lynn Dornblaser from Mintel said several North American launches have taken the flavor beyond its primary category of sauces into hummus, frozen entrees, and chips.

Jackfruit, the next superfruit

Green jackfruit on the tree

jackfruitI’ve written about jackfruit in the past.  This Southeast Asian tree fruit has been a standout in lots of recent trade shows, and several brands have introduced innovative products featuring jackfruit, such as Upton’s Naturals, the Jackfruit Co., and Yves Veggie Cuisine.  Jackfruit is often dressed in savory sauces to replace meat in tacos or sandwiches.

Aquafaba

Fabanaise970Yes, it’s simply the liquid from cooked chickpeas, but somehow aquafaba has been generating lots of buzz.  The protein-laden liquid has egg-like properties so you’ll find lots of vegan recipes using the liquid from canned chickpeas, including baked goods and desserts.  One new product on the market using the trendy ingredient is Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise, a vegan mayo.  The company describes aquafaba as “chickpeas’ greatest gift since hummus.”  Ha.  Love that.

Pea protein

Plant-based-milk-Ripple-to-roll-out-at-Whole-Foods-Target_strict_xxl

The humble pea is the hot new protein ingredient and it’s showing up in dairy-free beverages, snacks and vegan spreads.  Ripple Foods introduced a “plant-based milk” using pea protein and boasting about eight times the protein of almond milk.  This pea milk is also fortified with omega-3s.

New ‘natural’ processing

classic-fresh-start-lineup-3

No doubt, the concept of processing has gotten a bad rap.  But I think it’s wrong to condemn all “processed food.”  Even so, fermentation, high-pressure processing (HPP), and other processing methods perceived as “natural” are gaining favor among consumers seeking alternatives to artificial preservatives.

Creating a ‘real’ link

kashi

Increasingly, people want to know about the people behind the product.  The number of global product launches tracked with an origin claim nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2015, as more companies feature farmers and use “local” descriptors.

Beyond the athlete

Fruit and Nut Cranberry Almond Cashew

The sports nutrition market has broadened its appeal to mainstream consumers seeking protein and energy ingredients for a healthier lifestyle, according to Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights.  So that means more people are drawn to sports nutrition products, especially because the category now offers more novelty and flavor variety.

The indulgence alibi

Brookside-Chocolate

Health-conscious consumers are seeking indulgent snacks with wholesome ingredients or smaller portion sizes.  So that means more chocolate-covered fruits and nuts, along with mini-treats.

Tastes for new experiences

chobani-simply-100-crunch

 

New products are featuring more front-of-pack texture claims, like Chobani’s new Simply 100 Crunch.  Other texture claims include velvety, silky, rich and oozy.

Sources:  Food Business News, Top 10 food trends of 2016; Five ingredients to watch, The next big flavor trends   

Images: courtesy of manufacturers and iStock 

 

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Appearance of Nutrition B.S. at the RNC

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So this happened today.

A reporter from The Daily Beast texted me this morning.  Actually, I had just gotten out of the shower.

Turns out, he was investigating a story about one of the newly announced prime-time speakers at the Republic National Convention who is a big player in a multi-level marketing scheme called Youngevity.  This was the same reporter, Tim Mak,  who tracked me down for another story he wrote about the Trump Network, which I wrote about several years ago in a post: Donald Trump You’re Fired! as a Nutritionist.

Well, I guess Trump isn’t trying to distance himself from the criticisms of his own, now defunct multi-level marketing program that was widely panned as a scam (or the pyramid selling lives on, Trump just got out of the business).

Here’s Tim’s article that includes my early morning assessment of Youngevity: Michelle Van Etten, Soon-to-be RNC Star, Peddles Pills That Make Alex Jones ‘Crazed.’

“The whole basis of the products and the claims are pseudoscience,” said Janet Helm, a nutritionist and registered dietitian who writes frequently about diet myths, nutrition trends, and misinformation.”

“Don’t get your health advice from someone to sell you products. These are unproven and potentially dangerous, and they’re very expensive,” Helm told The Daily Beast. “There are a lot of products that are very cringe-worthy… They make a lot of claims: weight loss claims, products for kids that are very troubling to me—supplements and essential oils—they have packaged foods would not be what I consider nutritious meals.”

Do my quotes even make sense?  Seems like I’m talking on and on.  Poor Tim can’t even make a full sentence out of my chatter.

The deal is, I was worked up.  I was actually outraged.  These products are total B.S.  And the more I looked into this company and the claims they make, the more troubling it was to me.

They prey on people with cancer, claiming that products like Tangy Tangerine  will help. They sell weight loss products to cleanse and reduce belly fat.  They even promote questionable, potentially dangerous products for kids.

The founder Joel Wallach and his claims have been widely criticized, here and here.

So look for Michelle Van Etten to speak on Wednesday.  Her appearance as a representative for small-businesses in the U.S. has been  challenged, such as this article in Fortune.

Let’s just hope her “business” is challenged as well.

 

Visual courtesy of Bill Brooks on flickr.

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7 Nutrition Trends From the NRA Show 2016

IMG_0402I always enjoy walking the exhibit floor at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. The massive halls at McCormick Place are full of companies touting new products to the restaurant and hotel operators attending the annual conference and expo.  What was evident to me was how taste and indulgence still rule,  yet many consumer nutrition trends are moving over to foodservice — for better or worse.

GMO-free seemed to be the new gluten-free, although there were plenty of gluten-free products to be found.  In fact, the show directory listed 136 exhibitors offering gluten-free foods. But that wasn’t all.  Lots of products boasted about what they don’t contain — dairy-free, hormone-free, wheat-free, soy-free, high fructose corn syrup free.  Why such an emphasis on what’s missing rather than what’s inside?  GMO-free or gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s healthier.

I also saw lots of foods bragging about what they do contain — whether that’s coconut oil or real cane sugar.  But again, that doesn’t make a product any healthier.

Enough with the complaints.  There were lots of products I did enjoy.

Here are seven nutrition trends I spotted on this year’s NRA show:

1. Superfood Grains 

Even though gluten-free was everywhere, grains were big — ancient grains, sprouted grains and convenient foodservice-friendly whole grains.  Earnest Eats Hot & Fit Cereals, a 2016 FABI Award winner, was an interesting new product.  It’s made from whole oats, amaranth and quinoa, nuts, seeds and berries, and coffee fruit — which was described as a “true global impact superfood.”  The cereal is verified vegan and USDA-certified organic.  It comes in premeasured cups or in bulk for foodservice.  Here’s a video showcasing the awarding-winning product.

There were several vendors offering products to make it easier for restaurants to offer whole grains, including fully cooked frozen quinoa, wheat berries, barley and other whole grains.IMG_0363

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Sprouted grains are still going strong.  Alvarado St. Bakery sampled Sprouted Breads that were GMO-free, organic and solar powered.  When did solar powered become a meaningful claim?IMG_0359

2. Living Greens

Is living the new fresh?  Maybe so. Holland Produce, another FABI award winner, showcased living baby butter lettuce that was still attached to its roots, along with other “live” produce.

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3. Healthified Treats

Here’s where I’m really torn.  Do we really need a “guilt-free” ice cream?   Brio! Ice Cream, another FABI Award winner, was touted as the ice cream that loves you back.  The frozen treat has 35 percent fewer calories and 50 percent less fat per serving than premium brands, and is fortified with antioxidants, protein, probiotics, micronutrients, and calcium. It’s described as low glycemic, non-GMO, r-BST-free, and made from organic milk from pasture-raised cows. Well, it’s still ice cream and not a “health food.”  Personally, I’d rather have a small scoop of the real deal.

 

IMG_0379These Hail Merry mini tarts were actually delicious, but they’re no miracles.  Just because it’s Paleo-friendly and made with coconut oil, doesn’t mean you can eat all you want.IMG_0330

4. Fancy Teas, Juices and Smoothies 

I was surprised to see so many juices and smoothies being promoted to foodservice.  Cold-pressed, hand-crafted, small batches, no added sugar and no preservatives were the buzz words.  Teas were  also big, including sparkling teas, kombucha and matcha.

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Matcha green tea remains a big trend, but it’s showing up in all sorts of new places and forms.  How cool are these edible matcha cups from Loliware, a company that recently got a big boost by appearing on Shark Tank.  I also chatted with the woman from 10th Avenue Tea who created the eco-friendly instant tea powder to use in place of tea bags and quick-brewing plastic tea cups.

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5. Shrub Drinks
These artisanal drinking vinegars, with a storied history in America, are suddenly new again.  Various flavors of shrubs were sampled and promoted as ingredients for crafting a better cocktail.

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IMG_03526. Pumped-Up Flavor

Flavor was evident throughout the exhibit floor, including globally-inspired flavors and heat + salt combinations like Sriracha Sea Salt, Chipotle Sea Salt and Habanero Sea Salt.  Himalayan Sea Salt was available in fine and coarse grind, along with salt blocks that were on display for cooking meats and vegetables.  I also loved sampling the unique spice blends, flavorful chutneys and salsas — including the Moroccan spice blends from cHarissa and Le Bon Magot  products inspired by Africa, India and South Asia (pictured below).

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7. Alternatives

Nancy Kruse, a trend tracker from Atlanta who spoke about menu trends at the conference, said it was the year of the alternative.  I agree.  Everywhere you looked you saw substitutes for meats, wheats, sweets, and dairy.   A few examples include Milkadamia, a milk alternative made with macadamia nuts, and Thai Curry Tofu Nuggets from Hodo Soy.

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IMG_0336Want to learn more?  Here’s a recap from other trend trackers at the 2016 NRA Show:

11 Food and Beverage Trends from NRA Show from Nation’s Restaurant News
Hot and New at NRA Show 2016 from SmartBrief
Thorn and Kruse Talk Culinary Trends from NRA Show from Nation’s Restaurant News
NRA 2016: What’s Driving Menu Trends from Food Business News
Food Trends from 2016 NRA Show from Euromonitor
Top Innovations from NRA Show 2016 from Food Business News

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10 Ways To Get In On The Cauliflower Trend

Cauliflower is now the king of all vegetables. Not that we really need to keep score, but it’s true. Cauliflower has officially nudged kale off its throne and is enjoying the major buzz that kept kale on the top of superfood lists for so long.

I’m not really a big fan of the superfood concept. There’s not a vegetable on earth that doesn’t deserve that descriptor. I’m in favor of eating lots of different vegetables – in various forms – not just because they’re trendy.

Even so. Cauliflower deserves the attention. [And I predicted that cauliflower would be the new kale back in 2013.]

Long in the shadow of its bright green cousin broccoli, cauliflower was once dismissed for its pale color – which is often erroneously linked to a lack of nutrients. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, a category of plants named for their cross-shaped leaves. Cauliflower is joined in the cruciferous family by broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and yes, even our old friend kale.

What’s unique about cruciferous vegetables are the sulfur-containing compounds they contain called glucosinolates. That’s why these vegetables often give off a pungent smell when they’re cooking, especially when steamed.

It’s all worth it. These compounds are converted into indoles and isothiocyanates that have been found to inhibit the development of certain cancers. The evidence on the potential role of cruciferous vegetables in cancer prevention continues to grow.

You’ll never be short of ideas on how to prepare cauliflower. Recipes are trending on Pinterest and continuously featured on food blogs.  Do a search for cauliflower on Healthy Aperture and you’ll find more than 1,000 unique cauliflower recipes, including several that are featured below.

The unique thing about cauliflower is how it’s being cleverly converted into so many different things, from rice to pizza crust, and it’s going incognito in everything from pasta, soup and meatballs to smoothies and desserts. A real sign that the trend has gone mainstream is when I spotted a pouch of cauliflower crumbles at the grocery store – pre-shredded fresh cauliflower that’s ready to be steamed and transformed into something new.

Cauliflower, is there anything you can’t do?

If you haven’t explored cauliflower’s ability to take on different roles at your dinner table, here are 10 ways you can get in on the cauliflower trend:

mashed cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower with Roasted Garlic  by Garlic & Zest

Mash it. This may be the original cauliflower transformation, which rose to popularity during the height of the South Beach Diet, which featured a recipe for mashed cauliflower as a lower-carb substitute for potatoes. Simply steam cauliflower with chicken broth and garlic, and mash until smooth. Add shredded cheese and herbs, if desired.

Seared-Cauliflower-Steaks-with-Red-Pepper-Walnut-Sauce2

Seared Cauliflower Steaks with Red Pepper-Walnut Sauce by Foxes Love Lemons

Steak it. Cauliflower steaks are great as a side dish – but they’re also meaty enough to be the main event on your plate. You’ll even find cauliflower steaks on restaurant menus, including Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant in New York, which serves the roasted vegetable steak on a bed of cauliflower puree. To make at home, cut cauliflower into 1-inch slices and roast, broil or grill. Try topping with an herb sauce like chimmichurri, pesto or gremolata.

Rice it. To make cauliflower rice, add fresh cauliflower florets to a food processor and pulse until you get small crumbles – about the size of rice grains. Then microwave in a covered dish or saute in butter until softened (but not mushy). Season as you desire, turn it into fried rice or use as a base for stir-fries and curries.

cauliflower crust calzone

Cauliflower Crusted Calzone by The Iron You

Crust it. This might be the most surprising use of cauliflower – a crust for your pizza. You start with your riced cauliflower, then cook and drain it well. Add to a bowl with a beaten egg, salt and other seasonings, along with grated cheese, such as mozzarella and Parmesan. Combine until it forms a soft dough, and then roll out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until browned, and then add your favorite pizza toppings.

Dip it. Pureed cauliflower makes a fantastic base for dips. Roast or steam and then puree until smooth. Try combining with Greek yogurt, and add all sorts of flavorings, like curry or buffalo. Or make a spinach dip, baked artichoke dip or hummus with pureed cauliflower.

Popcorn it. Turn cauliflower into a tasty treat by roasting popcorn-size florets until golden brown. Sprinkle with garlic salt, a pinch of cayenne and grated Parmesan cheese.

skinny cauliflower mac & cheese

Skinny Cauliflower Mac & Cheese by Damn Delicious

Pasta it. Pureed cauliflower can help fortify your pasta dishes with an extra serving of vegetables. Use in macaroni and cheese, combine with whole-wheat penne or layer in a vegetable lasagna. Swap in the creamy cauliflower in place of traditional Alfredo sauce for fettuccine.

Bread it. Bite into a cauliflower bread by using riced or pureed cauliflower. A quick online search will turn up recipes for cauliflower buns, muffins, tortillas, pancakes, waffles and a delectable-looking cauliflower-crusted grilled cheese. Use the technique for cauliflower pizza crust to make cheesy cauliflower bread sticks to dunk into marinara sauce.

Baked-Cauliflower-Buffalo-Wings-with-Creamy-Blue-Cheese-Avocado-Dip-600x895

Cauliflower Buffalo Wings with Blue Cheese Avocado Dip by Well Plated

Buffalo it. Instead of buffalo wings, make this famous party appetizer with cauliflower. Roast cauliflower florets with a drizzle of olive oil until browned, and then toss in buffalo sauce. Serve with toothpicks to dip into blue cheese dressing, along with celery sticks.

Roasted-Cauliflower-and-Leek-Soup

Roasted Cauliflower and Leek Soup by Running to the Kitchen

Soup it.  A creamy bowl of cauliflower soup is a simple and satisfying way to enjoy this super trendy vegetable.   All you need to do is roast and blend and you’re in business.

 

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Or instead of transforming cauliflower into another form, try it whole in all its glory.  A whole roasted cauliflower, slathered in an herb butter or drizzled with olive oil and spices, makes for a dramatic presentation at the table. Try this Garlic and Herb Crusted Whole Roasted Cauliflower from Connoisseurus Veg.

 

Article adapted from my original column for U.S. News & World Report’s Eat + Run blog.  All photos are featured on Healthy Aperture, with credit to the individual bloggers.

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2016 Natural Food Trends: A Look at the Highlights from Natural Products Expo West

The natural foods industry is bigger than ever.

That’s especially evident following the Natural Products Expo West that just wrapped up in Anaheim, California.

I didn’t have an opportunity to attend, but have been closely watching the news coming out of this major trade show.

The coordinators of the meeting announced six macro forces and related trends that are driving innovation in natural foods:

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Ancient Wisdom
Harkening back to the days of pre-industrialized foods and a simpler way of life, natural products companies are focusing on whole, nutrient-dense ingredients and a “closer to nature” approach to processing. Related trends include: Superfoods 2.0, fermented foods and beverages, and natural fats.

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Transcendent Transparency
Transparency has moved from a marketing buzzword to an essential way of doing business, as consumers increasingly take note of ingredients, sourcing practices and manufacturing processes behind the products they purchase. Related trends include: ingredients upfront, traceable seafood, and transparent packaging.

wild zora

Snackification
The snackification macro force is symptomatic of an always-on culture that is constantly in need of fuel but that also increasingly demands snacks that are convenient, tasty and nutritious. Related trends include: savory snacking, vegetables reimagined, and global-inspired convenience.

The Rehabilitation of Science
The role of food and nutrition science is being reframed to embrace the spirit of natural products while addressing societal concerns in a pivot that moves toward rebuilding consumer confidence and meeting new consumer demands. Related trends include: clean energy, microbiome-positioned products, and beauty from within.

brothsamplepack_largeFeed me!
A global population of 10 billion will require a serious change in how we go about feeding the world. Natural products companies are rising to the challenge with innovative approaches to sourcing, plant-based nutrition and reducing food waste. Related trends include: next-gen plant proteins, repurposed ingredients, and “nose to tail” sourcing.

The Value(s) Shopper
Consumers are moving beyond price as their single purchasing filter as a new and complex world of values now influences purchasing decisions. Forward-thinking natural products companies are responding with mission-backed products and business models built around purpose. Related trends include: regenerative sourcing practices, sustainable packaging, and mission-based brands.

So what were some of the specific product trends?

Fermentation — from kombucha to kimchi (even kimchi shots)

Vegetables reimagined

Alternative protein — from crickets to plant-based proteins, especially pulses (peas, beans and lentils)

Grass-fed

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Full-fat — from dairy to beef tallow

Ancient grains and sprouted grains

Paleo and gluten-free — still going strong

Food wasteJicachips_AD_large

Wild game, meat jerky

Snack balls — could balls be the new bars?

Ginger and turmeric — especially in beverages, craft sodas

Tea, including matcha

Chips beyond potatoes, including jicama

Coconut water and beyond

Seaweed

Korean cuisine

Here’s a recap of posts from various trendspotters at Expo West:

New Hope Network

New Hope Network photo gallery

Food Business News

New York Times

Food Navigator

Food Navigator

Munchies

Kara Lydon

Foodtrainers

Root Simple

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