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For the second year, Philadelphia hosted Natural Products Expo East, and the 2022 show had 1,267 companies exhibiting, including 425 companies that presented for the first time.
Below are my key takeaways, observations and thoughts from Expo East 2022.
FUNCTIONAL INGREDIENTS FOCUSED ON MENTAL WELLNESS
With the stigma of openly discussing mental wellness decreasing by the day, compounded with Covid-19 contributing to a feeling of isolation for many people, emotional health has never been more important and prominent in the cultural zeitgeist as it is today.
And the data is confirming this.
This new reality is having a significant impact on how consumers are purchasing organic food, beverages and supplements, as they are actively seeking products that offer serious functional benefits that address mental wellness.
Not surprisingly, the organic companies that offer a solution to this need, by using ingredients such as lion’s mane, curcumin and ashwagandha — similar to what Truvani is doing with its supplements and protein powders — are seeing real results.
Formulating with mental wellness in mind should be front-and-center for every organic company; not only because it is meeting a real market need, but these products may be prioritized if consumers have to make hard choices about which products they can afford if the economic environment becomes more challenging.
The yogurt category remains very popular with consumers, and the innovation in this space continues to impress, in both plant-based and dairy.
Forager Project unveiled a dairy-free, probiotic cashewmilk yogurt made with an alternative (vegan) honey. Company founder Stephen Williamson demonstrates, show after show, why he is one of the best innovators in the industry.
In the A2 dairy sector, one that is exploding in interest, two organic brands unveiled new products.
Alexandre Family Farm introduced its Regenerative Organic Certified®, 100% grass-fed A2 yogurt in two varieties — lowfat and vanilla bean with an extra cream top.
Trimona also introduced a new vanilla flavor of its organic A2, grass-fed Bulgarian yogurt.
UPCYCLING IN ORGANIC IS GAINING TRACTION
According to the Upcycled Food Association, upcycled products prevent food waste by creating new, high-quality products out of surplus food. It’s an innovative approach to food waste because it is the first consumer product-based solution, making it highly scalable and economically sustainable.
There is no question that the upcycling of ingredients is an important and growing trend, but it hasn’t permeated the organic sector as much as it has the natural and Non-GMO space. Not only is the conventional category much bigger, but there is also no concern of having to source all-organic upcycled ingredients in a multi-ingredient product.
Fortunately, the trend of upcycling in the organic sector is moving in a positive direction, and Barnana has been helping to lead the way, with the company having been involved in this approach to avoiding food waste since 2013.
By year-end, Barnana is on track to upcycle nearly 40 million plantains that would have otherwise been wasted, and the company announced at Expo East that it is currently testing biodigester technology (which transforms inputs including plantain peels, manure and microorganisms into nutrient-rich biomass that can fertilize the soil) and the use of leachate tanks (which create liquid from plantain peels to treat plant diseases without the use of synthetic chemicals).
The plantains below, which are often used as a shade crop alongside cacao trees, would have gone to waste if it were not for the efforts of Barnana to put them to good use. And because of Barnana’s plantain chips, the farmers’ income increased from $85 per month to $350 per month.
Other organic brands that unveiled upcycled products at the show were Joolies (with its Joolietes and Date Toppers, both made from upcycled dates) and Fabalish, which uses upcycled aquafaba for its plant-based dips and baked falafel.
WHO DOESN’T LOVE BLUE?
Blue spirulina, widely known as Blue Majik from E3 Live, has a visually arresting presence and offers serious health benefits. Most notably, it contains both phycocyanin (PC) and non-PC compounds, and PC has been clinically shown to relieve physical discomfort.
Interestingly, at the show, I also tasted a new blue spirulina drink from a brand out of Holland called FUL. The company will be bringing its own organic blue spirulina to the U.S. market sometime soon.
SERIOUS MOMENTUM FOR ROC
Last Friday, Dr. Bronner’s hosted a Regenerative Organic Certified® (ROC) happy hour, where fellow ROC brands gathered to network and sample their products.
Regenerative Organic Certified® has become the new gold standard in organic, and there is a tremendous amount of excitement building for this certification. It seems that every week, more brands and farms around the world are getting certified, and in my 12+ years of writing about organic, there is a sense of community and camaraderie among ROC brands that I have yet to experience.
The Regenerative Organic Alliance is in the planning stages for launching its first in-person event for Regenerative Organic Certified® brands and farmers, to take place in Southern California right before Expo West 2023.
MORE GREAT JUICE INNOVATION
Last year, at Expo East 2021, I discovered the very first HPP keg of cold-pressed organic juice from Nourish Juice Bar.
This year, I saw more juice packaging innovation and something that is addressing single-use plastics in a high-growth segment — shots.
With the immense popularity of organic juice shots, DROUGHT, which formerly had a chain of pressed organic juice stores in the Detroit area, recognized this problem and worked to develop an HPP wellness shot dispenser.
Research and development took one year to perfect, and the resulting solution is a box of Immunity Potion organic juice (apple, lemon, turmeric, cayenne, oregano oil and ginger) that contains 25 shots with a 120-day shelf-life.
The company said that sales of these boxes have been very, very brisk, and consumers have been loving this more environmentally-friendly solution.
Max Goldberg, Founder
Organic has a new challenge. It’s not getting consumers to pay the higher prices, it’s convincing enough farmers to get past their organic reluctance and start taking advantage of the revenue pouring in.
Shockingly, this was the first big and official White House meeting to discuss food and nutrition issues in more than 50 years.
A grant of more than $700,000 from the USDA will support a University of California collaboration to improve and expand undergraduate education in organic agriculture, with an emphasis on supporting underrepresented students.
This incredibly generous move will bring Rodale Institute’s renowned research, education and consulting capabilities to the Pacific Northwest -- now to be called the Rodale Institute Northwest Organic Center at Cascadian Farm.
A new report commissioned by the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament show that a large number of European scientists have a serious conflict of interest. Is anyone surprised?
During his first speech at the U.N. General Assembly as the new President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro slammed the use of “poisons such as glyphosate” that have been used in aerial spraying campaigns to kill coca crops.
The total number of US acres dedicated to organic production has declined year-over-year.
The California Supreme Court delivered a major blow to agribusiness and pesticide industry groups, ruling that that insects and other invertebrates can be protected under the state's Endangered Species Act.
Let's hope Mexico stays strong and does not succumb to the pressure from the GMO industry.
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* My Top 5 Organic Products from Expo East 2022.
* Center for Food Safety has a new podcast called The Hero’s Journey.
* The short documentary Soul of the Soil celebrates Vermont organic dairy farmer and grain grower Jack Lazor and his lifelong commitment to healing the earth.
* Thrive Market has just launched Gift Boxes.
* Organic clothing pioneer and QVC veteran Marci Zaroff discusses best practices for e-commerce livestreaming.
* TikTok sensation and the country’s most famous advocate for sprouts, Doug Evans, on Good Day New York.
* These incredible eco-lodges.
* YesAnd has dropped its new organic denim collection for women.
* The farms of Jordan Rubin and Dr. Josh Axe, the founders of Ancient Nutrition, are the first to become Regenerative Organic Certified® in the states of Tennessee and Missouri.
* Natural Grocers’ Alan Lewis asks, Does the GMO Labeling Win Signal the End of Obfuscation?
* Jay-Z’s cousin runs an organic chicken wing concept called Buffalo Boss.
* Have an extra $6 million? Actress Sandra Bullock is selling her 91-acre organic farm outside of San Diego.
* In San Francisco, a $75 organic tasting menu — for canines.