Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics 2016 Conference & Expo

Every October, several thousand dietitians descend on a U.S. city for our yearly Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics meeting. The Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (as it’s called) is an opportunity for dietitians like me to connect with colleagues, as well as engage in meaningful learning and discussion about the latest topics in nutrition. The “expo” part of FNCE enables us to see what’s new in the food and nutrition industry, and to see what will soon be hitting supermarket shelves. I was on the lookout for the trends and topics that will be the cornerstone of our upcoming webinar: 2017 On the Shelves: Food Trends Lookout (Wednesday, December 14th at 12pm EST). Consider this your sneak peek!


Let’s start with the education themes present at FNCE this year, which I am eager to pass onto you in the coming months.

Coconut oil: As a retail dietitian, I see how coconut, with all of its saturated fat, has made its way onto supermarket shelves throughout the store. I frequently remind consumers that just because an ingredient is in the market and a clear trend doesn’t make it a nutritious choice…just a popular one, which is underscored by recent research.

Saturated fat: Beyond coconut oil, it seems that saturated fat rich foods in general are becoming an increasingly popular choice for consumers. The latest research on saturated fat from dairy and animal hasn’t changed significantly and remains a type of fat we should keep to 7-10% of our total calories for the day.

Bacteria and healthy gut: Gut microbiota, as well as the gut/brain connection, is a space of emerging research and will no doubt be a 2017 highlight as more of this research becomes available.

It’s interesting to note that in 2016, the message around balanced diet goes beyond vitamins and minerals, and instead emphasizes diet patterns. To put it simply, it’s okay to be a flexitarian who sometimes loves meat and generally wants to only eat ecologically produced food but then occasionally just picks up a frozen meal….and the good news is that the industry knows this is what you want and is making strides to enable you to do this in the most healthful way possible.

The expo floor had the foods and trends that drive home the unique attributes of today’s consumer.

From millennial shoppers who aren’t doing so much food planning, but are rather going to the store to be inspired to pull together a meal, to families that are managing households with varying allergies and preferences, the food industry is innovating to fit it’s consumer’s needs.

Better frozen meals: Frozen food companies are putting together better-for-you frozen options, while also offering ideas that turn those frozen meals into complete dishes with the addition of fresh vegetables/greens and whole grains.

Healthy snacking: Ensuring that you have the perfectly portioned and balanced food as part of your mini-meal pattern is no doubt a food industry goal. Manufacturers know that you are seeking snacks low in sugar and rich in nutrients and they are answering the call.

Vegetable-based protein: Alternative proteins are increasingly popular and no doubt that plant-based proteins are the cornerstone of this trend. Last year, FNCE brought the introduction of pea protein to create non-dairy desserts and meat alternatives. This year, the pea protein trend continued to expand, along with other plant based proteins from a variety of manufacturers.

FodMap: The popularity of the FodMap diet has grown dramatically. This once little known diet for managing IBS and GI discomfort has become the next trend to hit the industry with foods formulated to fit the needs of consumers seeking to follow this restrictive diet.

Allergy-friendly foods: More and more allergy-friendly foods will hit our shelves in 2017, a welcome trend for individuals and families that manage specialized diets in their homes. From frozen meals and snacks to marinades and ingredients for pulling together easy, safe meals, the food industry is trying to support their consumers with unique needs.

Look for Guiding Stars blog posts and webinars in 2017 that highlight these trends and health messages. And keep an eye out for these new foods in your supermarket and on the Guiding Stars food finder!