Last week, several Well+Good staffers, including our co-founders, decamped to ExpoWest—AKA the biggest healthy food convention of the year. More than 3,000 food and drink brands, from just-formed startups to well-known names, set up shop in Los Angeles, touting their latest and greatest products.
And many of them have something in common, beyond an unwavering passion for providing healthy food and drink options to the masses. As we wandered the enormous good-for-you gathering (and peeped hundreds and hundreds of brands), some definite themes started to emerge.
Rounded up here are seven key trends that brands big and small are making a priority—and the products that you can look out for at your health food store, and even your supermarket. Check them out to see how the food and drink industry is changing, for the better.
Get ready for medicinal mushrooms to reach turmeric-level buzz. Purely Elizabeth unveiled a whole new line of snack bars with its own mushroom blends at Expo, and Gaia Herbs will be releasing an entire supplement line around them next month. Amazing Grass is also incorporating ‘shrooms into their new elixirs line, coming out this summer.
While some brands have already been sneaking them in their tonics, like Rebbl, expect to see reishi, cordyceps, lion’s mane, and more varieties on the nutritional panel of even more drinks, supplements, and foods. And considering many varieties are linked to lowering stress, that’s definitely a good thing.
Fun nut butters
The nut butter aisle is about to get a lot more crowded—and that’s definitely a good thing. A few new offerings: Cracked’s brownie batter (with eight grams of protein per serving), Abby’s Better Nut Butter bourbon maple walnut, and Legendary Food’s pecan pie.
Savory nut butters, like Wild Friend’s sesame cranberry peanut butter and Nutty Infusions’ ginger wasabi are definitely becoming a thing, too. And yes, everything is still made with whole foods, not with anything sketchy. Imagine the avocado toast upgrade options!
Specialty coffee brews
Soon, you’ll no longer have to rely on the hipster cafes in your neighborhood to get an iced nitro coffee . La Colombe invented a special valve on its cans so that nitrogen is released into the coffee once the tab is popped open. Genius, right? Califia Farms is also launching a grab-and-go option, with nitrogen layered on top of the coffee before during the bottling process.
But that’s not the only coffee trend happening. New startup Beach Coffee is brewing its, er, brew in coconut water to add a subtle sweetness sans sugar. And Kuju Coffee is making pour-over sachets—perfect for when you’re on the go. Prefer to eat your coffee? That’s happening, too, thanks to Eat Your Coffee’s energy bars. Talk about creating some buzz!
When you get home late, whether it’s from work or a fitness class, chances are you’re hungry and want to eat ASAP. Fortunately, preservative-loaded microwavable meals will no longer be your only options.
A few game-changing dinner options hitting stores later this year: Ancient Harvest’s microwavable quinoa, Caulipower’s cauliflower crust frozen pizza, Love The Wild’s sustainable fish kits, and Vana Life Foods‘ non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free microwavable meals—to name just a few. Being too busy to eat healthy is no longer an excuse.
Even more alt-milks
The nut milk explosion of the past couple years is widening its net to include fruit and, wait for it, veggies. (Three cheers for sustainability!) Banana Wave and Sir Bananas are two brands that are thinking outside the nut category, and as you can imagine, the fruit’s natural sweetness makes the creamy beverage pretty delicious.
The world’s first vegetable-based milk, Veggemo, also launched at ExpoWest. Made with potatoes, tapioca, and pea protein, each serving has six grams of protein. Oat milk is also on the rise, thanks to brands like Oatly and Califia Farms, which is launching a blend using the grain later this year. It all makes that almond milk in your fridge seem pretty basic, right?
New ways to use coconut
Just like brands are thinking beyond nuts when it comes to alt-milks, they’re also going outside the water category when it comes to coconuts—the fruit is an excellent source of protein. Carrington Farms debuted a new coconut oil, which Debbie Shandel, the company’s executive vice president, says she likes to use not only for cooking but also to add to her coffee for a nutrient boost. The brand will also be coming out with coconut oil sticks at the end of April for on-the-go uses.
Also new to the market: coconut mayo from Chosen foods and coconut vinegar from Nuco. And it’s popping up in new ways in food too, like in Siete‘s gluten-free cassava and coconut tortillas and the first-ever all-coconut-flour tortilla chip from The Real Coconut.
Goodbye to sugar
It was very clear at Expo that brands have heard consumers’ request for more zero-added-sugar options loud and clear. Almost every food and drink manufacturer is prioritizing cutting sugar altogether or turning toward alternative sweeteners, like monk fruit and honey. In fact, Icelandic-style yogurt brand Siggi’s crafted their entire line around being low in sugar and using simple, all-natural ingredients only.
Vegan brand Kite Hill revealed that its unsweetened yogurt was a best seller: customers like the option of adding in their own sweetener of choice or using it to replace dairy-laden savory toppings, like sour cream. And Stonyfield says it is lowering the amount of sweet stuff in its products across the board by a whopping 40 percent. It just goes to show the power of the consumer. So, speak up. It matters.
Of the thousands of products at ExpoWest, these are the 5 that stood out the most. And speaking of trends, here’s what Whole Foods is excited about.