New product innovations abound each year as brands continue to hone their wares, engage the consumer, and sometimes create a previously unexplored niche in food and beverage. And when about 8,000 registered dietitians are in attendance, better-for-you brands and other on-trend health companies pay attention.
That’s what happened recently at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Denver, where U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack delivered a message from the White House of progressive nutrition.
“Your advocacy and power can help ensure we achieve our shared goals of maximizing our federal nutrition programs, tackling food and nutrition insecurity, and improving public health,” he said in a recorded message to FNCE attendees.
Amid dozens of demonstrations, and educational sessions, here are some takeaways from this year’s Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo, as reported by Janet Helm, a dietitian and food culture analyst, at Progressive Grocer.
On-the-Go Protein: Fish in Pouches
Can fish function as a satisfying (even indulgent) snack for today’s busy consumer? Chicken of the Sea believes it can—the legacy tuna brand debuted wild-caught light tuna and pink salmon in pouches, not cans, in a collaboration with McCormick & Co. for two fresh flavors: Sweet & Spicy and Lemon Garlic. The pink salmon featured Everything Bagel seasoning.
Bumble Bee also debuted its protein in a pouch: Lemon & Pepper and Spicy Thai Chili tuna.
Simplifying the Benefits of Fruit
Most Americans fall woefully short of eating the recommended daily servings of fruit (much less vegetables), and similar to easing the path to protein, longtime breakfast brands are making a play for consumers’ precious time (and money) with new fruit products.
PepsiCo introduced new Quaker Oats Fruit Fusion instant oatmeal, which features whole grain oats and real fruit pieces with flavors like Raspberry Strawberry, Blueberry Blackberry, and Strawberry Peach.
Wyman’s is doing something similar with its Just Fruit cups—cups of frozen fruit and small bites of Greek yogurt, banana, and/or coconut that consumers should shake before eating, drawing on the nostalgia of the 90s as companies like Dippin’ Dots did in the past.
Going Big with Gut Health
As microbiome science continues to accelerate, CPG brands are doing everything they can to promote that good gut health in an age where consumers can truly customize their diets to achieve better gut balance and healthier, more wholesome lives.
Many brands are leveraging advances in prebiotics and probiotics and partnering with major global companies to reach their consumers in novel ways. To review:
- Probiotics – good bacteria that provides a health benefit
- Prebiotics – the fuel that nourishes good bacteria in the gut
Think of it akin to the flowers in the garden bed and the kitchen-scrap compost that continues to feed them.
Danone debuted many microbiome-nourishing products, including brand-new Activia Fiber yogurt that contains billions of live and active probiotics from oat, wheat, and bran. Another company, Wildwonder, showcased “the world’s first sparkling probiotic and prebiotic beverage for gut health,” while Sunsweet Probiotic+ Prunes gave out samples of its probiotic-infused prunes.
Ancient Grains for Contemporary Consumers
The Greeks are widely regarded as a culture who knew, more or less, what they were doing. Today, part of their diet has re-emerged from Olyra Breakfast Biscuits, baked with four ancient Grecian grains (barley, oats, spelt, and lupine), that were staples of the diets of the Greeks, from Socrates to the common Grecian consumer.
Olyra founder and CEO Yannis Varellas Ouzounopoulos is a fifth-generation Grecian farmer whose company uses traditional stone-ground tools to press the grains in their non-GMO, whole grain breakfast biscuits.
Making Eggs Easier and Egg-cessible for All
Innovation continues apace for one of breakfast’s most revered, versatile, and delicious staples—the egg.
To further help consumers get the vegetables they need, Veggies Made Great debuted vegetable-flecked mini frittatas and egg patties for easy breakfast sandwiches. Egglife Foods showcased several tortilla-style wraps made with egg whites for a higher protein / lower carb treat than using traditional corn or wheat tortillas; flavors included Everything Bagel, Southwest Style, and Garden Salsa.
Fuel for the Brain
Many exhibitors jumped at the chance to share and discuss functional products for the most highest-functioning organ of all—the brain.
California Walnuts, wild blueberries, and Pompeian olive oil were rich in abundance among several booths, while plant-based dairy company Ripple Foods debuted a new unsweetened plant-based milk for kids that features choline, a nutrient that helps regulate memory, mood, muscle control, and more, and DHA omega-3s, which can help foster brain development. As the Food Is Medicine movement continues to gain consumer interest (and retail dollars), functional foods will continue to be a boon for companies poised at the edge of innovation, convenience, and value.
Increased Hydration & Reduced Recovery
Many vendors focused on a massive and growing segment of consumer culture—hydration. Tap water doesn’t cut it for many consumers (especially young ones) and several brands believe they have the answer to destroy dehydration where it starts—at home.
Biolyte debuted its “IV in a Bottle,” a physician-formulated drink that packs more electrolytes than leading sports drinks and was specifically designed to help fight fatigue, nausea, and muscle cramps. To capture on-the-go active consumers, Concret offered flavored electrolyte-and-creatine drink mix packets positioned as “clean hydration.” Meanwhile, UP2U handed out packets of protein powder and recovery drinks made with “native” whey protein—the first whey protein sourced from milk and not cheese, which contains higher leucine content to help trigger muscle recovery.
Fighting Food Waste
Finally, the massive amount of food waste accumulated each year is now recognized as a contributor to climate change. Several companies are addressing this problem by upcycling waste products from other goods into healthy, edible, and flavorful byproducts, such as Danone’s Two Good “Good Save” Yogurt, which is made with 100% verified rescued Meyer lemons.
The Food Institute Podcast
What does it mean to be omnipresent in the food channel? Daily Harvest founder and CEO Rachel Drori explains how her company aims to meet consumers where they are via direct-to-consumer and retail channels, and how it supports regenerative agriculture across the U.S.