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Natural food trends on display at Natural Products Expo West

March 13, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Every year the Natural Products Expo West attracts thousands of people looking to see the next big thing in natural food, beauty care and more.

The world of "natural" is big business. So what can you expect to see hitting stores soon?

"Every one of these companies, they have a PR team. They have a public relations piece going on," said registered dietitian Ashley Koff. "So not only are they telling you what's in their product, they're also trying to differentiate themselves."

Five convention halls are packed with products claiming to be natural at the Natural Products Expo West. It's challenging to know what's truly healthy.

"It is mind-blowingly confusing," said Koff.

For years Koff has trekked the Expo to scrutinize labels and note the hits and misses.

"Coconut: huge. Chocolate: huge. But a lot of the things that are being done to coconut or chocolate aren't things that your body is going to go 'Woo hoo!'" said Koff.

Having a gimmick clearly helps. Take Dave Dahl, who created Dave's Killer Bread after learning skills in prison.

"The bread didn't exist without the story. The story didn't exist without the bread," said Dahl.

Now his 100-percent whole-grain organic loaf is sold at Vons and Pavilions.

Along with the word "natural," some of the big buzzwords that are strong selling points include "organic," "fair trade," "gluten-free" -- and now this year especially is the "non-GMO" foods. GMOs are "genetically modified organisms."

"Now that consumers know that genetic modification can be in their foods, they want the right to know through a label," said Maria Emmer-Aanes, a Nature's Path brand strategist.

Non-GMO verification is not government certification. But the trend is so strong that Whole Foods Market announced the company will carry only non-GMO products by 2018.

Chia seeds are another show favorite, especially the Chia Pod.

"It is on-the-go nutrition for the entire family. It's coconut milk, chia and real fruits," said Amy Fisher, a dietitian with The Chia Co.

The pod offers omega-3 fats, plus 7 grams of fiber for under 200 calories.

The Gardenbar was another hit. A line of savory, not sweet, energy bars in Indian, Italian and Asian flavors.

Also a big hit were chips made with beans, eggs, kale -- anything but corn.

Beyond gluten-free you'll see multiple allergen-free foods hit store shelves as well.


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