ANAHEIM, March 10, 2013 One of the events I consider to be at the top of the culinary world’s calendar each year took place in Anaheim, California this week. Natural Products Expo West is a showplace for the health industry, from fitness products to supplements.
But, as I mentioned my roundup of 2013’s hottest new foods, up-and-coming trend in gourmet food products is health. Which, in my estimation, makes the Natural Products Expo the essential event for forecasting the food trends we’ll see over the next several years.
One of the biggest surprises at this year’s show was an ancient grain emerging as a hot, new trend. Believe it or not, I’m talking about rice. And not just rice as a base for Chinese takeout, the grain has been transformed into everything from a powdered milk to a protein supplement.
In recent years, more sustainable grains have risen in esteem and interest. Now you can even get bags of farro, bulgar and barley that cook in 10 minutes at your local Trader Joe’s. But with companies like Lotus Foods working to use less water to produce higher yielding, terroir-driven rice crops and Growing Naturals creating a creamy, rich powdered version of rice milk, rice is starting to appear in interesting, new applications.
What might be most intriguing about this trend is a discovery revealed in the press conference hosted by Consumer Product Events in conjunction with the trade show of rice’s previously unacknowledged health benefit. Thanks to a double blind study by Axiom foods, it is now clear that the quality of rice protein rivals that of whey. This opens the door to a host of dairy-free, quality protein supplements in future created from this simple grain.
From science-based forecasting to a fun new trend, peas were surprisingly popular at this year’s event. From dried pea snacks in flavors that go far beyond salted or wasabi (think bacon bbq peas from World Peas), to purees and flours, everyone seems to be giving peas a chance!
Kombucha is definitely a drink having its moment.
Like rice, it is an ancient food suddenly thrust into the spotlight. A cultured beverage with origins in northeastern China, this brewed drink was everywhere at the show.
Although it isn’t a substitute for soda, it seems to be sparking interest among health-conscious consumers who are looking to swap sugar and artificial colorings for ingredients that promise a health function, like enzymes and probiotics.
I think I tasted at least half a dozen brands (and certainly could have taste-tested at least a dozen more) and the standout for me was a notably sophisticated brew from Reeds in a Cabernet Grape flavor.
Other trends on the horizon include the incorporation of hemp into everything from sports bars to salad dressings.
With allergies on the rise, it is no wonder that peanut butter alternatives, like Don’t Go Nuts, a soy butter created by a 12-year old entrepreneur, were everywhere.
And walking an aisle of the convention center without tasting at least one refined sugar alternative was an impossibility.
Honey was particularly big, both straight as a sweetener and blended into everything from breads to nut butters to sweetening chocolates.
The world’s bee population should brace itself for the future demand of this liquid gold aphrodisiac!