Trend Tracking at Expo East
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
At most conferences, the primary focus is on education sessions; but Expo East is all about the show floor. Held earlier this month in Baltimore, MD, the challenge at Expo East is to navigate the show floor and determine which food trends have staying power vs. those which will quickly fade away. Here’s a recap of trends retail dietitians can count on to be worth promotional effort:
- Milk in every variety except cow. While soy and almond milk are common on grocery store shelves, there are now products that blend the two. Two new additions to the alternative milk category at this fall’s expo were camel milk and milk made from pea protein. Camel milk claims to have half the saturated fat of cow’s milk, 10% of the Daily Value for protein, 11% for potassium, and 30% for calcium. It is produced on camel farms in various parts of the U.S. The camels are pasture raised, never given growth hormones, and fed feed that is not developed through biotechnology. The major downside of the product is that it sells for $10 per 8 oz. bottle. Ripple milk is made with pea protein, sunflower oil, cane sugar, algal oil and added vitamins and minerals. The product’s selling point is that it has a lower carbon footprint that cow’s milk or almond milk. While these new products may be extreme, the reality is that the segment of non-dairy milks continues to grow and more consumers are making this switch.
- Avocados. While fat is the macronutrient seemingly on the back burner right now, the exception is avocados. Consumers can’t seem to get enough of them. My favorite new product on the show floor was Avoke Spoonables, which include a half avocado plus added fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seasonings. In flavors like Spicy Carrot, Greens & Ginger, and Coconut Curry, these are perfect for a snack or a main lunch dish and have nailed the definition of nutrient dense. They’re conveniently packaged and could be merchandised in deli, grab-and-go or on a front refrigerated checkout lane.
- Water as the beverage of choice. With soda sales on the downswing and juice being scrutinized for its sugar content, water is all the rage these days. But it’s no longer in vogue to simply drink it plain. There are detox waters, recovery waters, maple water and watermelon water. The water craze provides a great opportunity for retail RDs to lead classes or demos on how to create your own flavored and unique waters using a variety of ingredients already available in stores.
- Whole Grains. This trend continues to gain momentum and is one which retail RDs are comfortable getting behind. The two whole grains that really shined on the expo floor where popcorn – also leveraging the snacking trend – and quinoa. Popcorn is all about flavors as well as minimizing calories. Convenience is the latest twist on quinoa, now seen in a variety of “cups” that are easy to transport for lunches. According to Nina El-Chebli, RD, LDN, In-Store Nutritionist at Giant Food who also attended the expo, "ancient grains are great products to intertwine into our health and wellness events at Giant Food. Customers are looking for trendy ‘it’ foods that are both nutritious and easy to prepare. Quinoa, for example, is a great source of protein and is also versatile in a myriad of dishes such as salads, soups, and casseroles."
- Protein. Definitely the macronutrient of the decade, protein just won’t go away. There’s an obsession with jerky, and new companies at the expo are trying to define a compelling twist on this Paleo-friendly snack. “Grass fed” jerky was by far the most common take on jerky at this fall’s show, but combinations of jerky and dried fruit either in a bar or mix weren’t far behind. The other key protein trend is pastas made with ingredients like chickpeas to increase the protein level of this traditionally high carb food. The flavor can vary greatly based on the protein source, and consumer acceptance is a key consideration.
- Portable Snacking. Another Giant Food RD and show attendee Emily Craft, RDN, CSP, LDN, indicates she is a big fan of the continued trend towards delicious, portable snacks indicating industry is booming with better-for-you snackable items, from quinoa bites to portion packs of well-seasoned nuts and seeds. Emily comments, "I love teaching my customers about ways to incorporate snacks with health benefits such as healthy fats and fiber, and I saw plenty of new inspiration at Expo East. My absolute favorite was chickpea snacks. I love the idea of making beans an on-the-go item."
- Legumes. It has been deemed the year of the pulses, and Min Kirshnamurthy, MS, RD, LDN from Giant Food believes the blending of various legumes into items such as snacks and pasta has tremendous potential in helping individuals incorporate these nutrient rich foods into their intake. "Legumes are still a very untapped nutrient resource in the Western diet" Min comments. “Making them more accessible and familiar will get folks interested in trying them and hopefully adopting them into their daily repertoire."
As you prepare for upcoming promotions as well as meetings with buyers on assortment planning, consider how these trends and new products will meet the needs of your shoppers and your business.