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A Review of Top Trends and Products at Natural Products Expo East Show

Boston, MA”” September 23-26, 2009
by Kelley Devaney

(BOSTON, MA, Fall 2009) This year’s Natural Products Expo East trade show clearly reflected the changed economy: downsized booths (mostly 10 x 10s) and slow traffic. But the essence of its fresh energy was still there. As a former director of marketing and primary shopper for our family of four, I had a lot of fun exploring and discovering

The founders themselves like Nora of Naturally Nora and Albert Cahana of Ayala’s Herbal Water personally handed out samples and wanted to engage you. I was impressed by the chutzpah of at least two vendors who came to the show with a great product and not a single distributor: Vermont Cookie Love and Red’s All Natural Burritos. And pleasantly, the push toward “green” was obvious: bamboo bowls instead of plastic or paper cups, compostable spoons and recycling bins.

Although I was not able to visit every single booth, and I focused mainly on the food booths, following are some of the noteworthy trends and products I came across at last week’s natural products show in Boston:

Top Product Picks:

Organic B.R.A.T. Diet: I wish this had been around when I was trying to get my kids to choke down Pedialyte. Sweetened with apple and banana puree, it is designed to naturally promote electrolyte balance. It’s based on the B.R.A.T. Diet (stands for the diet your mom fed you when you were recovering from an upset stomach: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce & Toast- only this version is gluten, dairy, soy and corn free) and it really tastes good. This won the show’s “Most Innovative Product Award”. (www.bratdiet.org )

Two great new frozen burritos with a focus on fresh ingredients:

Red’s All Natural Burritos: Turkey Mole, Chicken, Big Green Veggie and Steak4 (11 ounces). (www.redsallnatural.com )

evol. Burritos: eleven mouthwatering varieties including Cilantro Chicken, Breakfast Skillet and Tofu & Spinach Saute (6 to 8 ounces). (www.evolburritos.com )

Native Water: Water from the Berkshires bottled in an earth-friendly plastic bottle. The bottle “returns to the environment within 1 to 5 years” due to the “Ecopure” FDA-approved substance. I can’t wait for this bottle to become mainstream! (www.earthfriendlybottle.com )

Ayala’s Herbal Water: water lightly and deliciously flavored with lavender mint or cinnamon orange peel (and other flavors). I just loved the originality and the taste. (www.herbalwater.com )

Golden Valley Natural Winchester snack bars: This company has a full line of beef jerky, which scared me off initially. However, the Beef and Berry (dried beef & cranberries) and Pork & Fruit (dried pork, cherries & apple) sounded awful but were great! I was also surprised to really enjoy their turkey jerky and Fruit Stix. (www.goldenvalleynatural.com )

Vermont Cookie Love: if you don’t want to make cookies from scratch, or yearn for some interesting new varieties like mocha or pumpkin chocolate chip, look no further. It’s frozen dough shaped like a burrito. (www.vermontcookielove.com ).

Redwood Hill Farm’s Artisan Goat Milk Cheeses: my personal favorite is the Goat Milk Cheddar (www.redwoodhill.com )


Ingredient/Marketing Concepts

Raw Honey: I didn’t realize honey was such a processed food until I kept seeing so much raw honey. Apparently honey is usually heated to ensure that it flows easily into those little containers we buy at the store. Pasteurization destroys almost all of the natural enzymes, antibiotics and vitamins in honey. Raw honey comes straight from the hive, with bits of honeycomb, pollen and propolis. The health benefits range from lowering cholesterol to fighting colds to aiding digestion, among many others. It is even recommended for topical use for wounds and burns! Wee Bee Honey (www.Weebeehoney.net ), Honey Bunny (www.honey-bunny.com ) and Really Raw Honey (www.reallyrawhoney.com ).

Coconut water: I was familiar with coconut milk (and ice cream) for those avoiding dairy and soy, but I had never heard of coconut water, which only comes from green coconuts. Coconut water is a healthy, natural alternative to sports drinks. It needs nothing added- it is naturally a little sweet, rich in electrolytes and has more potassium than a banana. Following are some of the vendors who offer both pure coconut water as well as some great flavors: Zico (www.zico.com), O.N.E. (www.onedrinks.com ), Amy & Brian (www.amyandbriannaturals.com ), and Vita Coco (www.VitaCoco.com).

Agave: It’s everywhere! This all natural sweetener, with its low glycemic index, is not only available as maple syrup flavored, but even as the sweetener in

Pamela’s new gluten free cheesecake (www.PamelasProducts.com )

Flavrz’ drink mixes (www.flavrzdrinkmix.com )

-Organic Valley’s new Organic Low Fat Yogurt with Probiotics (www.organicvalley.coop).

Coffee flavorings (such as amaretto and hazelnut) (www.agavenectar.com ).

I did learn that raw agave is also available. To be converted into edible nectar, agave is heated to a high temperature for a short time, producing a light colored liquid ideal as a multi-purpose sweetener. Raw agave is either treated with enzymes or, as Wholesome Sweeteners prefers, gently warmed over a period of time. Raw agave is darker in color and has a richer flavor more like molasses or maple. Wholesome Sweeteners has a line of agave syrups including a natural maple syrup flavored (www.OrganicSugars.biz ).

· Teas- I couldn’t believe how far teas have come since Celestial Seasonings’ “SleepyTime” tea. It seemed as though every tea vendor had black, green, white and herbal teas, but also promised antioxidants, probiotics, detox, superfruits, heartburn soothing, and probably one promising superior performance in the bedroom that I must have missed. My favorites included GoodEarth’s Yumberry Superfruit Tea (www.goodearth.com), Bigelow’s Pomegranate Pizzazz Herb Tea flavored with real Fruit Juice (www.bigelowtea.com) and Stash Tea’s line of Iced Green Tea powders- just add to a glass of cold water and stir! (www.stashtea.com ).

Top Kids’ Products: (where possible, my picks were verified by an “under 7 year old” taste test panel)

Organic B.R.A.T. Diet drink- (see top products, above) shelf stable until opened; one-year shelf life. Pediatrician recommended for rehydration due to colds, flu or sports! What are you waiting for- go get some!

Kids Greek Yogurt- Chobani, the makers of my favorite Greek yogurt, now has “Champions”, a 4 ounce serving of 2% low fat strawnana, verryberry, honeynana or chocolate. (www.chobani.com )

Top crunchy snacks:

Corners’ popped corn tortillas comes in sea salt, zesty ranch and nacho cheese (www.medorasnacks.com)

Popchips’ popped potato chips (www.popchips.com )

Snikiddy’s baked cheese puffs in cool flavors like mac “˜n cheese, grilled cheese and pizza puffs. Also gluten free. (www.snikiddy.com ).

Jelly Belly’s Superfruit Mix: My children informed me that this all natural version is equal in flavor to its original counterpart (which we had on hand!). I was impressed- can they convert over all of the products?! (www.jellybelly.com )

Late July’s Mini Endangered Animal Sandwich Cookies: the founder developed these organic cookies with her young sons, so they are actually a “good source of calcium and whole grain” in addition to tasting yummy and donating 10% of profits to the Jane Goodall Institute! (www.latejuly.com ).

In spite of these great finds, here are areas where I see opportunity for improvement

Less convenient, squeezable, non-recyclable packaging, even if it is lighter to ship than glass.

Great tasting drink concentrates or flavorings for kids and adults- help us to drink more water and cut down on packaging.

Better tasting non-tree nut alternatives to peanut butter.

Less high fructose corn syrup, especially in hot dog rolls and ketchup. We shouldn’t have to buy organic just to eliminate this ingredient (a controversial sweetener and preservative which is recommended to be consumed in moderation–yet how can we when it’s in everything!).

About Kelley Devaney

Kelley Devaney is a partner of Eat, Drink Marketing, a marketing consulting group based northwest of Boston, Massachusetts. She has an MBA in Marketing from The Kellogg School of Management, and she has held marketing positions at the following companies: Sunbeam-Oster Household Products, Dunkin’ Donuts, Inc., HP Hood (managing The Organic Cow of Vermont brand) and Kettle Cuisine, Inc. (makers of all natural soups made from scratch). She can be reached at

kelley@kelleydevaney.com

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