It's one of two exciting times of the year for me, Natural Products Expo East comes to Baltimore (the other show, Expo West, is in the Spring in California). Even though this is a trade show, I attend to shed light on what's happening for my community who need to know where to go, what to trust, and what's trending.
Being from the east coast, I have an affinity towards the regional brands who emerge into the healthy and natural space with an innovative product. I have my eye on them as well as those who come from afar to reach new distribution to offer products to you and I. It's us shoppers who spend top dollar for their products. Brands come to expo with high expectations and give it everything they have because it's the mecca of natural food shows. What should we expect this year from Natural Products Expo, a trade-show for businesses to interact and learn about each other for growth opportunities?
All eyes are on states who demand the right to know what's in their products for their citizens. If there is a GMO (genetically modified organism) in my food, I have the right to know and I'm very upset that the FDA hasn't mandated this yet. It's quite sad to leave this out of their previous product labeling updates last year. America's eco-system is littered with GMOs and pesticides while most of Western Europe has banned GMOs, hmm mmm. GMOs are far from natural, they're made in a laboratory, so let's get that on the nutritional label and in the meantime support all of the brands who commit to Non GMO foods. There is a high cost to brands including a rigorous research endeavor for non GMO verification due to the demand right now. I have a hunch more brands will be Non GMO verified, bring down the cost to brands and shoppers enabling the marketplace to make smart decisions when they know what's in their food.
The mainstream including general physicians are all giving the gluten-free lifestyle a front and center chance. Unfortunately, it's not always for the right reason, but the educational truths around gluten and avoiding gluten are making a lot of headway. I'm curious to see if this year brands will all have verified gluten-free <20 ppm testing procedures in place on their packaging since the FDA put a guideline together in August, 2014. Gluten-Free is not a diet or a fad, it's a lifestyle that treats those with Celiac Disease, gluten intolerance and various conditions related to the harmful affects of the gluten protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts, durum, spelt, farina, and triticale, to name a few. Since the body has zero dependence on gluten, it's often a smarter lifestyle option to avoid, and that's why it's a trend, here to stay for so many reasons.
Nutrient Dense vs Crappy Alternatives
For years, brands have been providing allergen friendly, gluten-free and dairy free products, for example, but they're not usually healthier, they're just a substitute with an attractive label. Many brands add too much sugar and/or cheap substitutes that lack nutrients and we buy it and gain weight because some are not educated on what's in it. I've already started to see some brands such as breads use more diverse gluten-free baking flours including almond, teff, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet and others, and hope that snacking chips also get a make-over. I'm just soooooo tired of the basic corn chip, even when it has dusty spices with flavor, because the chip market in general lacks nutrients, as if large or small manufacturers can't get creative on their own and figure out a way to balance taste and health. These big brands only buy emerging brands and that's another topic for discussion.
From gluten-free restaurant apps, at home allergen detection technology to mobile coupons, there is going to be a whirlwind at the show of technology, I just feel it. Will any of these help truly shoppers find what they're looking for or get downloaded and abandoned a few months later? Can gluten-free peer reviews ever be trusted by those with leg imitate illness such s Celiac Disease or other auto-immune diseases? Are shopping apps with games and trivia the only option? I'll find out and see what's available.
Cattle and poultry have a horrid wrap in America for their unsafe living conditions, hormone injections, force feeding, lack of grazing land and fertilizer/chemical pollutants. It's not just the meat, the eggs and the milk all get affected and we eat them all everyday, why? It's my hope that even more brands who are in this space surface and they make their way as a fairly priced option to the mainstream. I just hope there is enough land in America that's not contaminated with chemicals.