Every October, several thousand dietitians gather for the annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE). Hosted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, FNCE is the world’s largest meeting of food and nutrition experts. They have a chance to connect with one another, hear the latest nutrition science, and learn new approaches. The expo is also an opportunity for food companies to share their products and offer insights into consumer trends. Here are five takeaways from this year’s FNCE.
The free-from movement is alive and well. As consumer demand for food products that address allergies, intolerances, and preferences continues to grow, food companies are responding. This year’s expo showcased an assortment of free-from foods for just about any occasion. Innovative seed blends to replace traditional nut butters. Grain-free flours to create gluten-free goods. And protein made from peas or chickpeas to enhance various vegan products. What was once a limited section is now nearly the entire expo floor! And as free-from alternatives flourish, so does their customer base. What used to be a fairly small consumer community is now a fast-growing population. Get in line!
Food Is Medicine
Another strong and growing trend is “food as medicine.” And functional foods that go beyond simply satiating you are leading the way. Today’s consumers are seeking to better their health through their food choices, and companies are answering the call. FNCE featured many bars, breads, beverages, chips, and other snacks—all enhanced to provide benefits and assist with the prevention and management of various health issues.
Gut Health Galore
In previous years, and this year as well, the most popular functional foods were for gut health. Throughout the expo floor, there were yogurt drinks, canned beverages, and pre and probiotic blends or supplements. Look for these products to continue to migrate from the dairy section to the produce department and the beverage aisle. As more drinks become available, the need for Guiding Stars to navigate this expanding section will grow as well.
Plant-based protein isn’t just having a moment—it seems to be ruling the industry. Protein-enhanced beverages, breads, nut and seed butters, bars, and more filled the expo. And while protein is not a macronutrient Americans are deficient in, it’s certainly appealing for a variety of reasons. For example, protein-enhanced products with low or no added sugar are especially popular with consumers on certain specialty diets.
Pass on the Sugar
Foods with no added sugar and very few net carbs made a big splash at this year’s FNCE. These products are attractive to those on a keto diet, diabetics, and anyone who just wants to consume less sugar. Allulose appears to be the non-nutritive sweetener of choice among food companies, and they’re banking it is for consumers too. Allulose is easier to digest, versatile, and doesn’t have negative attributes, like aftertaste, that other sweeteners have. It also won’t raise the blood sugar and allows for foods made with very few net carbs. Look for it in an array of products, including both kid-friendly foods and those marketed to the keto culture.