October 19, 2012 Last week I attended the Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo in Philadelphia. Over 8,000 dietitians attended the event hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics eager to learn and listen to cutting edge nutrition science research, educational presentations, inspiring lectures, exciting debates and culinary demonstrations. While this conference offers me the opportunity to connect with friends and colleagues both on a professional and personal level, there is always something new I can count on learning. One of the best places to find new and innovative ideas is by strolling the exhibits where this year, over 350 companies, associations, entrepreneurs and businesses showed off their food and nutrition-related products and services. Here are a few of my takes on the show.
Wholesome Whole Grains
As a category whole grains has been growing steadily over the past few years, so it’s not surprising that whole grains appeared in a wide variety of products including breads, tortillas, cereals, cookies, cakes, grain mixtures or blends, pastas and flours. I was particularly tuned in to ancient grains as I was doing some research in that area, but I didn’t have to look hard, there was quinoa, einkhorn pasta and sorghum — the sorghum cookies were delicious too and had amazing texture – you’d never know they didn’t contain wheat.
Gluten free went from being a few exhibitors to a gluten-free aisle to now, a gluten-free pavilion. Products have moved up as well from cakes, cookies and crackers to pasta, pizza with a rice flour crust, veggie burgers, gluten-free energy bars and more. There was even a gluten-free deli (boasting all gluten-free deli meats).
Though “low sugar” and “no added sugar” continue to be big buzz words in the industry, driving a number of products, especially fruit and fruit juices, it was the number of sweeteners, artificial and natural that surprised me. Here are just a few of the many: high fructose corn syrup, (their message was simple: High fructose corn syrup is the same as sugar), honey in the raw, pure agave, Domino Light (a sugar and stevia blend), Truvia, Sweet n’ Low and new comers Nectress, a no calorie sweetener made from Monk Fruit and Coconut Sugar, a less sweet sugar made from the nectar of the coconut flower.
Bars, Bars and More Bars
This year nut and fruit bars ruled. Many had specialized product lines like those targeted to children or active adults. Gluten-free bars were big and there were also bars that boasted organic or high protein ingredients. Among the many offerings were Kind bars, Paleo bars, SoyJoy bars, Lara bars and a huge exhibit of Cliff bars and Luna bars. Just a note, this last one was also one of the busiest booths.
Beverages made a big splash and were often featured with different types of sweeteners. Other interesting finds: Silk Coconut Milk, Silk Fruit and Protein, New and Improved Ovaltine, Welch’s White Light Grape Juice, Corowise Heart Smart Orange Juice with Plant Sterols, Keurig’s Antioxidant Rich Green Tea and SmartBalance Milk with Omega-3’s and Plant Sterols.
Vegetables Every Which Way
Vegetables appeared in a variety of guises. Some of my favorites were Swedish meatballs made with 50 percent mushrooms and 50 percent ground turkey, avocado berry smoothies and Frescada, a cross between a romaine and an ice berg lettuce.
Most of the lower sodium products centered around breads and baked snacks like chips but the one that stood out for me was the Tortilla Factories’ low-calorie, low-sodium wraps.
Individual Serving Sizes
Anything that can help people choose appropriate portion sizes is good news. Individual sized frozen meals, oatmeal, cottage cheese, even lite cream cheese containers control calorie levels and help consumers get an idea of how much they should be consuming as a meal or snack. These products are easy to use, convenient and portable, not to mention affordable. What more could you want?
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