In this second installment of our coverage of the East Natural Products Expo event, we look at the growing areas of beverages, snacks and confectionery within the health food and ‘better for you’ sectors. Our previous column offered a comprehensive overview of the innovative products and emerging trends showcased at this major event, highlighting the growing emphasis on sustainability and wellness in the food industry. We’re now focusing on three more specific categories that are redefining how we think about fun and refreshment in a health-conscious age. Along with the ARC Health & Wellness Community video team, we descended into the exhibit space to discover and capture new products and trends…and meet the innovators.
At Expo East, the focus was definitely on beverages and snacks that not only promise nutritional benefits, but also cater to the evolving palate of the health-conscious consumer. From probiotic-rich drinks to plant-based confectionery, the range of products on display demonstrated manufacturers’ creativity and commitment to meeting the demand for healthier options without compromising on taste.
To explore these categories, we visited industry pioneers, innovative startups disrupting traditional snack and beverage formulations, and established brands reinventing themselves to stay relevant in a market that increasingly values health and wellness. sustainability. It’s a look at the latest flavor trends, technological advancements in food processing, and how consumer preferences are driving transformation in the “better-for-you” space. This curated journey of Expo East’s most notable products and trends shows how the future of snacks, confections and beverages is being shaped by a conscious approach to health, wellness and environmental responsibility.
The next generation of drinks
Many of us start our day with a cup of coffee. Samantha Siegel of Death Wish Coffee says, “We need another coffee brand! With roots deep in an upstate New York coffee shop, Death Wish was created to meet the desires of customers who wanted a stronger, smoother yet more caffeinated brew that was fair trade certified and organic. Her recipe is designed for those who live life to the fullest and want to get out of their comfort zone. Their proprietary roasting process and blend is an unusual blend of Arabica and Robusta beans (which gives the coffee an extra boost compared to blends that use only Arabica) that eliminates the bitterness of the beans of Robusta.
FigBrew, billed as “the Mellow Mate of coffee,” is a 150-year-old fig-based coffee substitute designed to satisfy coffee and espresso lovers. Andy Whitehead explained that the success of FigBrew is that it invites sight, smells and of course taste to that coffee drinker steeped in years of coffee culture. Coffee drinkers, he says, seek out coffee substitutes for three reasons: reducing caffeine, stomach acid and increased blood pressure. Figs, Whitehead explained, are the winning trio for counteracting these detrimental health issues. Figs are naturally caffeine-free, alkaline (vs. acidic), and help regulate blood pressure. And most importantly, figs are classified as a “superfood” loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and have been grown sustainably for thousands of years.
For those who add milk or cream to their extra strong or fig-based coffees, New York’s Elmhurst Dairy, established in 1925, has evolved with the 2017 conversion from a cow’s milk-based dairy to a dairy only plant-based. Heba Mahmoud highlighted the difference between Elmhurst’s plant-based milks and their competitors: they only contain 2 to 3 ingredients. For example, just almonds and water, walnuts and water, or cashews and water, their base is very clean, nutrient-dense ingredients with significant amounts of fiber, protein and vitamin E with a delicious taste. Flax milk from Manitoba Milling Company is another tasty alternative to cow’s milk. One of the pioneers of the better-for-you category, Mary Ekman shares the attributes of flax milks: whole flax seeds; which contains all the nutrients of flax – omega 3 fatty acids, fiber and protein. Both flavors, original and vanilla, are unsweetened, sugar-free and allergen-free.
Globally, three cups of tea are drunk for every cup of coffee. That’s why Brad Neumann and Saint James teas have produced a wide range of teas, including black and green iced teas, in a variety of flavors, organic and sustainably packaged, which provides the protection of the teas’ nutrients from UV rays (instead of the typical plastic or glass bottle). According to him, traditional iced teas on the market contain 24 to 45 grams of sugars compared to Saint James which, in its range of black teas, contains no sugars or calories, and in green teas there are only 4 grams of sugars in the entire bottle – both. the lines are all natural.
Global sales of Yerba Mate in 2022 reached $1.6 billion and Guayaki intends to help the category grow even further. Yerba Mate is a plant native to the South American rainforest and one of only seven naturally caffeinated plants in the world. Traditionally drunk from a flask, it is a naturally brewed caffeinated drink. Alex Schirer of Guayaki says it’s a great way to naturally improve your energy levels without any jitters. He explains that the growth of the category comes from several reasons, including the fact that one of the most high-profile footballers in the world carries Yerba Mate in a flask (in front of the cameras) and offers consumers a much gentler option than caffeinated energy. drinks that are on the market.
Hydration is one of the biggest trends in fitness and overall wellness, and Nunn’s Mike Sommers told me that in his consumer research, hydration ranks as the number one strategy used by consumers to achieve optimal health and well-being. Nunn’s products are flavored electrolytes that consumers add to their water, and research shows that consumers are three times more likely to consume water when flavoring is added. Electrolytes help water pass through the gut and enter the bloodstream more quickly, leading to faster rehydration.
Topo Chico is a water company from Monterey, Mexico that has been around since 1895 and was acquired in 2017 by Coca-Cola which gained national distribution here in U.S. supermarkets. Leah Matoney describes the water as having extreme, smooth carbonation with a nice mouthfeel with underground minerals, unlike other sparkling waters. Topo Chico, she says, has a unique taste and balanced carbonation that others can’t replicate.
Americans love their sweets and snacks, and healthy eaters are no exception
Craize is a candy corn snack, a bite-sized hybrid snack that’s somewhere between a cracker and a chip, according to Marissa Arguelles. She says it’s the perfect balance of a clean, healthy, tasty, unprocessed snack. 12 crackers are only 120 calories.
TruFru is a line of chocolate covered fruits, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, strawberries and pineapples, to name a few, which are hyper-chilled and hyper-dried fresh fruits (to preserve the flavor and nutrition) that are picked at ultimate ripeness, immersed in sustainably produced dark and white chocolate or gluten-free and non-GMO yogurt and granola, available frozen or shelf-stable.
In many home kitchens, spices come as an afterthought
JR Wrigley of The Watkins Company wants to change that. The next evolution in spices, he says, is blended spices that are organic, convenient and already mixed to avoid dozens of spice jars and one-bottle meal prep solutions. Watkins has developed special blends for everything from popcorn to barista mixes to add to coffees instead of adding milk or sugar. Younger generations, he says, want much bolder taste experiences. demand innovation and are turning to spices, such as cinnamon (rich in antioxidants, improves gut health and lowers blood pressure) or turmeric (for body aches) for their health benefits – which he says, is the next big trend in spices – and so is pickling. more exotic and ethnic flavors from around the world to the American market.
What’s better for you can be found in supermarkets everywhere and, as we move into a world that is increasingly conscious of health, sustainability and ethics, the role of events like Expo East ( and in spring 2024 Expo West) becomes even more crucial in shaping the future. of what we eat and how we consume. You can meet all these products and watch their stories here.