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?