Highlights from Natural Products Expo West

This past March was my first time at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, and I felt like a kid in a candy store. Except this time, the candy was free and unlimited!

The three-day show was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time. All the latest food trends were there, from artisan milk alternative beverages to countless natural jerkies with innovative flavours. Then there were those trends that I would be happy never hearing again, like “superfood” anything. Here are a couple of trends that stood out to me.

Crickets are the new kale

Yes, crickets the insect. The cricket flour bar eXo even trademarked the above phrase. eXo is making nine flavours of bars with nuts, seeds and fruit purees and using cricket flour to boost the protein content. With flavours like BBQ, PB&J and Cocoa Nut, eXo bars offer an average of about 10 grams of protein per bar.

However, eXo wasn’t the only cricket bar featured at the show.

Chapul has come up with four flavours of cricket flour bars inspired by cultures that have been dining on crickets for decades. Chapul’s Aztec bar offers 5 grams of protein and tastes of dark chocolate, coffee and has a kick of spice from cayenne pepper. The Thai bar is flavoured with coconut, ginger and lime and has 8 grams of protein.

From a dietitian’s perspective, I LOVE products like cricket bars.

Edible insects could be one answer to finding a more environmentally and agriculturally sustainable protein alternative compared to raising livestock. Gram per gram, crickets dish up nearly twice the protein of an equal serving of beef or chicken: in a 100 gram serving of cricket flour there’s 60 grams of protein; the same amount of steak has 34 grams of protein and chicken just 30 grams.

Farming crickets takes significantly less water when compared to livestock. To produce 10 grams of protein from crickets, it requires 7.5 gallons of water, which is 7 times less than for chicken, and 13 times less than for beef production.  Crickets also need only one-third the amount of feed that chickens get and 12 times less than beef.

So on paper crickets and cricket flour stacks up well, but of course there’s the taste, which is earthy much like sunflower seeds.  Cricket flour bars are a great way to introduce this novel food to the squeamish North American consumer. With that said, Entomo Farms’ whole roasted crickets have been flying off the shelves with our West Coast customers in the past year.

Turmeric Takes the Lead

It seemed like turmeric was in nearly everything at the expo, from beverages to snacks to ready-made meals. The bright orange rhizome is a relative of ginger and is the ingredient that historically gives the vibrant colour to many curries and even prepared mustard. While dried or even fresh turmeric is nothing new, turmeric-flavoured beverages definitely stood out. Healthee’s Organic Turmeric Drinks has a mixture of ginger juice, concentrated turmeric, sea salt, and black pepper extract. Black pepper being the key here, as turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory food that’s more efficiently absorbed by the body when consumed with black pepper.

While retail dietitians have been recommending that consumers add more turmeric to their diets for years, products like these beverages make it easy. They’re also a way to avoid having turmeric-stained hands and kitchen tools.