Friday, September 14, 2018

Expo East 2018: Three Observations to Assist with Your Future Innovation

Expo East, that distant relative to Natural Products Expo West, is taking place right now in Baltimore. I attended on Thursday, and although there were quite a number of no-show exhibitors because of Hurricane Florence’s impact on travel, which also affected attendance, I still found some noteworthy observations to share.

1. Dairy is a powerful player in the natural products sector and innovation and reinvention is the way to stay in control. For as many alternatives that were showcased, an equal number of the “real deal” were in the spotlight on the show floor, and usually their presence was very noticeable. Fage, Organic Valley and Stonyfield dominated with their walk-in and sit-down premium-sized booths with noticeable overhead signage, while smaller dairies lured attendees over with their artisan, hand-crafted, niche products.

Natural by Nature showcased its new look, which includes a logo and package design to not only honor the animals that produce the milk going into the brand’s products but also to honor the land that supports and nurtures the animals. The logo pays homage to the key ingredients in the products. Packaging calls out other aspects of the product. The whipped cream, which comes in brown sugar and classic varieties, for example, includes the tagline: Making Life Delicious.

As stated on its website:

Sunshine, grass and water. These are the key ingredients that make our dairy products special. Yes, technology is advancing our food system forward. But at Natural By Nature our greatest innovation relies on simplicity, the simplicity of understanding the natural processes and habitat of our animals, and honoring the land that nurtures and cares for them. We believe that the best-tasting dairy products happen when nature is allowed to follow her natural rhythms. Then, what emerges are dairy products that reflect the natural instincts of our animals and the natural cycles of our land. We are indeed Natural By Nature.

2. Fat is back and dairy has the opportunity to be a leader. This is particularly true in the ketogenic lifestyle. From ready-to-drink coffee with butter to high-fat, so sugar-added ice cream, full-fat dairy products are being embraced by the natural products consumer.

Bulletproof Coffee is one such example. This ready-to-drink coffee fuels you up with high-quality fats--not sugar--for sustained energy. Each 11.1-ounce shelf-stable prisma box of Bulletproof Cold Brew Coffee contains 2 teaspoons of grass-fed butter along with a proprietary “brain-boosting fat extracted from the most potent part of the coconut.” Varieties are Mocha, Original, Original + Collagen, and Vanilla.

Another example comes from newly founded Rebel Creamery. Funded through a Kickstarter campaign, the company’s product showcases why fat belongs in ice cream. It’s a premium, high-fat, low-carb, no-sugar-added ice cream made using only keto-friendly ingredients. This product will be featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy this coming week.

Supporting this return to full-fat dairy is a new report published in The Lancet on Sept. 11, 2018. The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study by researchers from McMaster University in Canada is a large multinational cohort investigation of individuals aged 35 to 70 years from 21 countries in five continents. Dietary intakes of dairy products (milk, yogurt and cheese) for 136,384 individuals were recorded using country-specific validated food frequency questionnaires. The researchers found that dairy consumption was associated with lower risk of mortality and major cardiovascular disease events. It is proposed that a variety of dairy foods components, such as calcium, bioactive proteins, milk fatty acids and the whole dairy food matrix, are protective against cardiovascular disease but mechanistic pathways are yet to be elucidated. You can access the study HERE.

The findings from this study made headlines across the world. One of my favorite articles came from New Zealand, which kicked off with:

“If you identify as a modern-day health freak (think hot-yoga-loving, Lululemon-wearing, dairy-free warrior princess), it may be time to switch-up your morning cuppa. The 'full-fat' label has scared off health and fitness advocates for decades, but a new study suggests that swapping your green top for the infamous dark blue may be just the thing you need.”

3. Lastly, protein continues to control the nutrition conversation. And don’t think for one second that the natural products consumer is ditching dairy, meat and eggs. Exhibitors showcasing these foods rocked the expo floor. In fact, many attendees flocked to these booths for what one person I overheard saying, “yeah, real and delicious food.”

This is not surprising, a new HealthFocus International study—Global Opportunities in Protein—shows that shoppers associate protein with a wide-range of functional health benefits, including physical energy, muscle health, daily health, weight management and brain nourishment. This is fueling protein’s strong health halo and driving consumer action globally with nearly 80% shoppers interested in protein. The study also shows that all protein is not the same, as 60% of shoppers have specific preferences when it comes to the sources of protein they consume.

Graph source: HealthFocus International Global Opportunities in Protein

Dairy foods and dairy proteins are viewed favorably. (See graph.) Further, nearly half of global shoppers are extremely interested or interested in whey protein, and of those who are interested in whey protein, nearly a quarter are willing to pay a premium for it in products.

I will end by sharing the one product I found the most innovative at Expo East 2018.

It’s not dairy, but it is animal protein. And, will a little out-of-the-box thinking, I bet the dairy industry could doing something just like this.

The brand is Peckish and it is rolling out with Peck Pack. Each pack consists of two individually wrapped organic free-range eggs with one fun, flavor-forward crispy crunchy dip for the perfect combination of taste and texture that makes for a truly satisfying, real food snacking or mini-meal option. It comes in five varieties: Everything, Fried Rice, Maple Waffles, Rancheros and Salt & Pepitas. The packs are made with completely clean ingredients and include options for paleo, keto, Whole30 and gluten-free diets.

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