7 Food Trends Spotted at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2018 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo #FNCE

I just returned from Washington, DC to attend the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE).  It was a particularly good conference, full of excellent presentations on some of today’s hottest nutrition topics, including debates on intermittent fasting vs. calorie restrictions, and weight management vs. Health at Every Size (which rejects weight as a measure of success) — which I’ll address in a future post.  I also enjoyed the sessions focused on nutrition communications, including a tremendous panel on food porn and a session I moderated on mastering video — featuring a trio of dynamite RDNs:  Ellie Krieger, Regan Miller Jones and Manuel Villacorta.

Once again, the exhibit floor was full of new products from a range of exhibitors, including large CPG companies and smaller brands in the natural/organic arena.  Here are seven of the top food trends I spotted:

Digestive Wellness and Gut-Friendly Foods

Gut health was a mega trend at FNCE, as evidenced by the Healthy Gut Pavilion at the expo.  The exhibitors showcased an array of products — from probiotics in many forms (including beyond dairy), gluten-free items and foods low in FODMAPs, an acronym for Fermentable Oligoaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccarides and Polyols — short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols that may be poorly absorbed and trigger IBS and other digestive discomforts for some people. Low-FODMAP foods have been trending for awhile, but expect this category to get even bigger.  Some of the brands included Fody, Fodmapped, Rachel Paul’s Foods, and Lo-Fo Pantry, the first line of low-FODMAP flours and baking mixes.  Even Prego has released a low-FODMAP pasta sauce.  Because this trend is getting so big, there are now programs that will certify low-FODMAP foods.  Two of these programs were at the expo:  Monash University and the FODMAP Friendly certification program.

Probiotics were popping up in a lot of foods — going beyond yogurt in products like Good Belly’s plant-based beverages and shots with live active cultures.  Kellogg’s debuted an interesting new whole grain cereal called Hi! Happy Inside that contains prebiotics, probiotics and fiber — which they described as the “power of 3 in 1” to support digestive wellness.

Not only were gut-friendly foods popular on the exhibit floor, one startup company called Day Two promoted a test that registered dietitians can use to evaluate a client’s gut microbiome for personalized nutrition counseling.

Instagram Trends Crash Freezer Case

I loved how Vegolutionary Foods jumped on two big Instagram food trends to make them conveniently available in your freezer. Their CAULIPOWER cauliflower pizzas and pizza crusts have been out for awhile — I especially liked the uncured turkey pepperoni pizza. Their latest product is Sweet PotaTOASTS, frozen slices of roasted sweet potatoes that you just pop in the oven or toaster and top with nut butters, avocado, nutella and more.  Maybe you’ve seen how #sweetpotatotoast has taken over Instagram — with more than 21,000 posts and counting.  How clever to make this picture-perfect trend available as a convenience item (only one ingredient:  roasted sweet potato).  This company is another example of a founder-led brand.  It was created by Gail Becker, who said CAULIPOWER was born out of a Pinterest fail.  She wanted to find a nutritious gluten-free pizza crust that actually tasted good for her two boys with celiac.

Vegetables and Fruits Transform

Vegetables were not only transformed into toasts and pizza crusts, they were showing up in unexpected places and in a variety of forms — from pasta and burgers to bars and beverages.  Fruits were often showcased as fresh, but they were also packaged up in various ways for convenient snacking, including dried and dehydrated.  I liked these carrot sticks from Rhythm Superfoods, which also sampled beet and kale chips. Seneca featured USA-grown apples that were dehydrated into chips.

Protein Get Portable

Now that snacks represent half of all eating occasions, companies are clamoring to offer new snack options.  Protein continues to be a top snack attribute — often with a front-of-the-pack call-out of grams per serving.  I really liked these hard-cooked egg snacks from Eggland’s Best. Pictured below is the egg, olives and feta variety, but there are three additional flavors:  egg, salame and provolone; egg, chocolate-covered almonds and cheddar; and egg, bacon and cheddar. 

Veggicopia sampled shelf-stable dip cups, including hummus and black bean dip.

A company called Vegetarian Traveler exhibited Protein Toppers — portable, shelf-stable packets of plant protein for adding to salads, vegetable side dishes, stir-fries, oatmeal and other dishes for a protein boost.  This was just one of the many examples of how beans/legumes were trending.  The toasted bean blends included garbanzo, soybean and peas.

Nuts and Seeds Were Soaring

Nuts and seeds were featured throughout the exhibit floor — as nut and seed butters, nut powders and oils, nut and seed milks, and a variety of snacks.  Sunflower seed butter was featured in multiple booths and promoted ‘nut free’ to appeal to those with tree nut allergies.  New products included Sesame Milk and Barukas, a previously unknown nut in the U.S. that comes from the Amazonian savanna.

Old School Brands Are Reinventing

While there were lots of small niche brands at the expo touting innovative new products, many of the large CPG companies who have exhibited at FNCE for many years were upping their game.  Quaker Oats gave us a sneak peek of a new Oat Beverage that will be out in January.  This is a dairy alternative that is formulated with oat bran so it qualifies for the FDA heart health claim (setting it apart from competitor’s oat milks).  The new drink is a good source of fiber and an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D.  I really like Campbell’s new Well Yes! sipping soup — in trendy flavors like Harvest Carrot & Ginger and Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato.  It’s a great way to eat more vegetables as a snack.  Starkist featured ready-to-eat pouches of tuna and salmon, along with their latest line of Chicken Creations:  Bold Buffalo Style, Ginger Soy, Zesty Lemon Pepper and Chicken Salad.  Minute sampled really tasty whole grain cups that are ready in 1 minute in the microwave.

Purpose-Driven Brands

Many brands were elevating a mission and showing how they give back, including The SoulFull Project. These makers of innovative oatmeal and other hot cereals contribute to a local food bank for each product sold. The company is a Certified B Corporation that is committed to using business as a force of good.

A Few Additional Trends

Bean cuisine. Healthy indulgence (chocolate). Fiber. Free-From. Allergy-Friendly. Turmeric. Paleo/Keto/Whole30.  E-commerce (sold only on Amazon). Food-tech (DNA testing for personalized nutrition from Nutrigenomix; gut microbiome testing, and stem cell-based  rejuvenation from Prolon).

Here’s what others are writing about FNCE 2018 trends.  I’ll report back and link to additional posts I find, or let me know your thoughts.

Food & Health Communications:  FNCE 2018 – 5 Essential Trends and Takeaways

Food Navigator:  Trendspotting at FNCE  

Chew the Facts: Food Trends: Is the Future of Food Drinkable Nutrients?

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