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What's hot from Expo West 2013? Top 3 food trends

What's hot from Expo West 2013? Top 3 food trends

We've made it through another show. I landed in snowy Denver on Monday. While I'm pleased to be back in my routine, I do feel some sadness that the spectacle has ended. Preparations for the show began months ago. With a bit of anxiety, my fellow editors and I travel to Anaheim wondering what will happen this year. We sample, discuss, network, connect, party and then the joyful chaos ends just as suddenly as it began.

On the show floor, people frequently ask what trends I’m seeing. Imagine trying to zero in on a single light bulb on the Vegas strip—impossible. The same could be said for trying to identify trends after two days assaulting the senses at Expo West. It's after the show, when the constant stimulation has subsided, that things begin to stand out. Here's what I saw:

Pouches the next bar?

While I appreciate their functionality and convenience, I've yet to find a bar that I actually enjoy eating. Each week I receive new bars promising yet another superlative but after one bite, they hit the trash. I'm not the only one; many of my grocery buyer friends won't even consider introducing new bar launches. We've had enough!

It seems some manufacturers are getting the message, though the verdict is still out on the solution: pouches. Like a bar, these pockets of pureed veggies and fruits offer nutrition and convenience. What about flavor? I was reluctant to try this grown up baby food. Surprisngly, most weren't as awful as suspected. In fact, I actually enjoyed one flavor. Would I buy food in squeeze form? Likely not. Will consumers? I suspect bar fans will appreciate a new way to fuel on the run.  

Products: Mamma Chia Chia Squeeze, Smooch, Squoosh, Sili Squeeze

Dessert, please.

Sugar may be a dirty word in some circles, but natural products consumers have no qualms about indulging. Our favorite treats offer healthful benefits that makes giving in just a little sweeter.

Take for example Ruby's Rockets popsicles, which use pureed fruits and vegetables or Sweet Loren's ready-to-bake cookies and brownies, which use whole grains and cut artificial ingredients. Because I admittedly have a sweet tooth, this show was heaven. I fell in love with Ek Choc, a nutty chocolaty confection made with high quality cacao. DF Mavens debuted the best non-dairy ice cream I've ever had. I'm still dreaming about the Alfonso Mango flavor.

Products: Ek Choc, DF Mavens, Sweet Loren's, Udi's Soft baked Cookies, Ruby's Rockets

Chia, chia, chia.

This is certainly no surprise. I predicted we'd see a lot of chia at Expo West in Natural Foods Merchandiser's March issue. Noted for its fiber, protein and omega-3 content, manufacturers can't get enough of this super seed, which appeared in everything from bread to chips to cereal.

An unexpected favorite product was the new Chia Cup from The Chia Co. By adding coconut milk to chia seeds, these cups have a tapioca-like consistency that's just as fun to eat as it is nutritious. They also come with their own little orange spoon making them convenient for a quick snack. Sometimes simplicity is the best innovation.

Products: Chia Co., Mamma Chia, Nature's Path Qi'a, LesserEvil

Agree, disagree? What trends did you see at Expo West?

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