If traffic was a little crazier than usual in your commute through Anaheim over the weekend, it's because it was about that time of the year again when the city becomes the world's epicenter for health foods. The 34th annual Natural Products Expo West took place at the Anaheim Convention Center, and it was as crowded and congested as ever–Around 67,041 out-of-town registered attendees, to be exact. This year's event was bigger than last year, and at least twice the size of the year before that–and there's no sign of it slowing down.
For the uninitiated, this event is the biggest expo for the natural products industry. Everything from foods, drinks, supplements, clothing, makeup, packaging, pet products and so much freaking more are all showcased in hopes of being the next health trend. The event attendees are mostly hungry entrepreneurs trying to hustle their miracle-producing products and powerful retailers, distributors and buyers looking to buy the next hit. If you didn't hear about it, that just means that you probably aren't allowed to come, since it's not open to the public. But no worries, you can read all about it here without having to deal with the hellacious parking and triathlon-like conditions of seeing the entire million-square-feet show floor.
This year's main trend was kind of a surprise (*drumroll): grass and pasture-fed protein! But then again, Carl's Jr. just added a grass-fed “natural” burger so I guess it is not really a shocker. That doesn't just mean grass-fed beef anymore. It means grass-fed yogurts, lassi, ice cream and pasture-raised eggs. The second biggest trend was seeing so many new packaged adaptations of ethnic foods that have been around for a long time. For example, there is now an industry on ayurvedic oil-pulling (the action of swishing oil to to clean your mouth) and things like the Southeast Asian kaya, marketed as coconut spread.
The gluten-free lifestyle is holding on tight and not going anywhere anytime soon. There were a lot more gluten-free pastas and frozen pizzas this year in addition to a gluten-free version of just about anything that you grew up eating. Even Mr. gluten himself, Bob of Bob's Red Mill, was on site signing copies of his latest gluten-free cookbook. Bone broth is in too, with pre-made blandish boxed broths ready to conveniently heal your joints soon.
On the decline: paleo specialty foods. And low-calorie stuff is super out. This correlation probably goes hand in hand with the fact that omnivore products outnumbered vegan stuff this year, except for Daiya cheese: they're kind of taking over the world now with their vegan cheesecakes and fake cheese wedges.
Last but not least, it appears that coconut water and kombucha is now officially so last year. Instead, being replaced with waters like wood ear mushroom water, cactus-prickly pear water, birch tree water and freshly tapped maple tree water.
Until next year!