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Expo East Trends

Natural Products Expo East returned to Baltimore this past week, which helped boost attendance numbers, as it also co-located with All Things Organic and the Organic Summit. The traffic was heavier than expected, in no small part due to the ongoing strength the natural and organic industry is showing in interest, sales and product development.

There were more than 1,300 booths covering every aspect of the health, wellness and sustainability business — from food and beverage to personal care and ingredients. Just over 260 companies are first-time exhibitors…. not bad, since the East Coast accounted for 40% of natural products sales in 2009, according to the 2010 Market Overview conducted by our sister publication Natural Foods Merchandiser.

Here are some of the more interesting trends we found during our tour of the show floor. While none is exactly new, the presence of line extensions, reformulations or new companies offering these products tell us these are categories to watch in the coming year:

Snack Ingredients: Black bean from Michael Seasons, hummus from Plockey’s and Simply 7, veggies from Inventure Foods, lentil from Mediterranean Snack Food Co., nuts from Blue Diamond, and flax/pinto bean from Beanitos….. Each of these is the main ingredient in snack chips. A whole galaxy of healthy new ingredients is updating the chip category like never before.

Spices: Premium salts in cork-topped test tube-like containers, frozen cubes in pop-put trays, finishing blends (including sugar) and portable sprinkle-able mini containers are all catching attention as a way to add flavor to any food or beverage. Almost all are organic and many are fair-trade certified.

Veggie Burgers: I was never a fan of these (not being a vegetarian), but the flavors and mouthfeel keep improving. New varieties are toaster-friendly , or contain raw or vegan ingredients… something that is a step beyond earlier generations of the veggie burger category. What’s more, pack sizes are smaller, which makes them easier to trial. One brand made with quinoa comes in a frozen two-pack, while a vegan brand is sold refrigerated (due to the raw components) with an 18-day shelf life.

Of course, the current mainstays of the industry were in full force: Gluten-free, energy beverages, healthy kids’ foods and supplements were in each aisle. But watch out for these new items as the weather turns cool and the holidays approach. Some of those spice sets are ideal for gift-giving.