Gluten Free Trends and Finds at Expo West | Rachel Begun, MS, RD

Every year I attend the Natural Products Expo West conference, the country’s largest gathering of natural products, including food, cosmetics and household products.

I believe the foundation of a healthy diet comes from fresh foods.  However, as a person with a dietary restriction I do understand the need for packaged foods beyond basic convenience needs. I have to rely on them when traveling and in other situations where fresh foods are not an option for me.

I am also a realist, knowing that a good majority of our nation’s population does rely heavily on packaged foods for the mainstay of their diet.  I will never give up on conveying my fresh foods most of the time message, but will temper it with advice that makes sense, and that includes sharing my recommendations for the healthier packaged products on the market.

These are the reasons I am a consultant to and supporter of the natural packaged foods industry…to play my small role in helping to improve the safety and nutrition profile of the packaged products out on the market and to know which products are best for recommending.

I attended this year’s conference with two purposes:

1)      To identify gluten free trends and share best new products
2)      To identify products that help Americans eat more healthfully (these recommendations are gluten free, too)

I am tackling #1 in this post and #2 in my Thursday, March 15th post. 

Gluten free hit Expo West with a vengeance about two to three years ago.  It is now a veteran category here to stay and for which we will see improvements and trends in coming years.  This is what I observed for gluten free products this year:

Gluten Free Certification – more and more gluten free food companies are using a third-party organization to certify their products, assuring consumers they are meeting the industry’s strictest standards for safe manufacturing practices.

Non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) – this was a trend across all food categories, not just gluten free.  I call it out within the gluten free category because ingredients used to a great extent in making gluten free products contain a high percentage of GMO, most notably corn and soy products.  According to the USDA Economic Research Service, 81-86% of all corn planted acres and 87-90% of all soybean planted acres in the US are GMO. While we will have to wait years for conclusive research about the health effects of GMO ingredients, many do not want to take a risk in the meantime and feel it is our right to know whether our food contains GMO ingredients.  I am one of those people.  Click on the link to learn more about the Non-GMO Project and certification.

USDA Organic – When clients ask about the importance of purchasing organic and where to focus their organic food dollars, I recommend saving your money for purchasing fresh organic foods, including fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy and eggs. I raise the organic issue with respect to the gluten free packaged foods category, because you can feel good knowing the organic label implies non-GMO as well, even if the product is not specifically certified to be non-GMO. Click here to learn more about the National Organic Program.

Raw – The raw and gluten free categories go hand in hand. I am not a raw foodist, nor do I recommend a 100% raw lifestyle, but I do think most Americans can improve their diet by eating more fresh raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  I enjoy and recommend raw packaged food products for their heavy reliance on wholesome, nutrient-dense ingredients.

Frozen Meals  – Frozen gluten free meals are not new, but I did notice many gluten free brands are starting to expand into the frozen category and they are using organic, non-GMO and wholesome ingredients.

These products stood out for me. Did you attend Expo West?  What products stood out for you?


Bold Organics Gluten Free and Dairy Free Pizza – I had yet to find a gluten free (and dairy free to boot) pizza worth eating until now, and that includes freshly-made pizza. Kudos to the partnership behind this company for creating a truly outstanding product, including a professionally-trained chef who is passionate about the ingredients that go into these truly delicious organic (and non-GMO) vegan, vegetarian and meat pizzas.



Pure Market Express Gluten Free and Dairy Free Thaw and Serve Desserts – I love this product line of frozen, thaw and serve gluten and dairy free desserts, such as Chocolate Truffle Pie and Apple Crisp. They are made from TRULY healthful ingredients, not the semi-healthful ingredients you see with the many better-for-you dry, ready-to-eat, gluten free sweets. This product stands out as both a more upscale and healthful dessert option.



RP’s Gluten Free Pasta – All I have to say is FRESH gluten free pasta. Maybe my head has been in the sand, but this is the very first time I’ve seen a fresh, gluten free pasta option at retail.

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3 Responses to Gluten Free Trends and Finds at Expo West

  1. Pingback: Gluten Free Trends and Finds at Expo West | CookingPlanet

  2. Pingback: Trendsetters: the Latest in Natural Foods from Expo West « Performance Nutrition

  3. I, too, attended the expo with the purpose of discovering new, healthful gluten-free packaged foods. This was my first time, and I loved every minute! Like you, I was impressed with Bold pizza. How did they get their vegan cheese to stretch like that? RP’s pasta was very good, and I found a gluten-free ravioli that was incredible: Pasta Prima’s 5-cheese ravioli (fresh, not frozen). Click on my website link above if you’d like to see my list of expo favorites. Perhaps we’ll meet at next year’s expo!

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