Food and Nutrition Trends Spotted at National Restaurant Association Show

10176126_10203519690089852_5173295233598687366_nI just wrapped up my visit to the 95th annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show here in Chicago.  On the opening day, I had the pleasure of leading one of the educational sessions with my good friend and RD colleague Carolyn O’Neil.  Our session was Nutrition Trends on the Menu: What You Can Do to Ensure You’re Satisfying Consumer Demand. 

We had a great time during our presentation, and then we headed to the exhibit floor for the international foodservice marketplace.  So many of the trends we discussed were boldly represented as we walked the aisles.  First of all, we talked about “dueling trends” in our presentation.  For instance, on one hand gluten-free is bigger than ever.  Yet, artisanal bread-baking, including micro-milling and seed preservation is a huge trend, too. So we have some folks demonizing grains and others praising them (or only if made in the ancient process).


There were an incredible number of gluten-free products on display, including this Gluten-Free Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza from Kiki’s that was one of the NRA’s 2014 Food & Beverage Innovations Award winners. Yet, there was a celebration of bread in other displays.  I agreed with the signage at this exhibit: Life is short…eat good bread.


Bread took many forms, including lots of interesting tortillas for wrap sandwiches, like this sweet potato tortilla from Maria and Ricardo’s that was really tasty.


Other varieties I found elsewhere included sun-dried tomato and spinach tortillas (with some plain varieties that were gluten-free, made with tapioca and rice flour).


Quinoa was everywhere and in many forms.  Here’s a sprouted quinoa chia burger with sweet potato.


Quinoa was a major ingredient in these new kale burgers from Dr. Praeger’s.


And here’s quinoa milk from Suzie’s.  Although I was surprised about how little protein was in this beverage — only 2 grams per cup vs. 8 grams in a cup of cow’s milk.


I liked these Breakfast Bowls with quinoa and other whole grains from Wild Veggie.  These microwavable bowls are being introduced in supermarkets, as well as foodservice.


Quinoa and other ancient grains are what’s inside these fishless filets from Gardein.  These vegan, pub-style filets were another Food & Beverage Innovations Award winner. Gardein (which means garden + protein) featured other meatless entrees, I spotted additional vegetable protein products on the exhibit floor.


I recently wrote about veggie fries in my Trend Spotlight for Healthy Aperture, and I found these parsnip and carrot fries from Suzie’s.


Non-potato fries and chips are gaining popularity, including these chips made with cassava.


These were great:  Individual packs of shelled edamame from Dr. Praeger’s.


Another “dueling trend” that Carolyn and I talked about in our presentation was the rise of plant-based plates vs. paleo.  On one hand there’s the celebration of the sides and on the other extreme is the glorification of the center.  So we have vegetables moving to the center of the plate at the same time other folks are focused on big pieces of meat.  How meat was raised and prepared were big selling points.  Here is Two Rivers “Certified Tender” prime rib.  I didn’t even realize there was a new USDA certification program for tender.  But there is.


Hand-crafted, artisanal meats were another trend, including charcuterie.


Overheard on the exhibit floor:  Greek is the new Mexican.  Here’s layered beef and lamb gyros at Olympia Foods.


And the seafood was amazing.




I love chiles and hot sauces of all types, so I lucked out.  I found several products to sample — spicy ketchups and other sauces vying to be the new Sriracha.  Here’s fried rice with sriracha sunflower kernels.


Lots of tea was spotted, including Matcha green tea that was being promoted as an ingredient in the Japanese pavilion. Here’s ground green tea powder and green tea salt.


Let me know if you attended the NRA Show and tell me what trends you found.

Update:  Here’s what others are writing about the NRA Show food trends:

Food Business News: Top 5 Food Trends
Nation’s Restaurant News Top 10 Food and Drink Trends
Restaurant Business Eating My Way Through NRA
Restaurant Business Top 10 Restaurant Trends

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