This year’s Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore hosted more than 1,450 natural product brands, the majority of which were from the food and beverage industry. So it’s no surprise there was a lot to see and taste on all three levels of the convention center–from savory yogurts and responsibly-farmed honeys to gluten-free everything.
As we walked around, trying everything within arm’s reach, a few trends started to emerge. For instance, we were drinking more than we were chewing. The beverage space is booming and seems to be growing at a rapid rate. Fizzy waters, healthier energy drinks, enhanced waters, and teas were sprinkled throughout the aisles. With our minds newly energized and hydrated, we began to zero in on a few of the trends that excite us most here at ThoughtMatter.
The cold brew coffee trend shows no signs of slowing down. For folks working in a hyper-caffeinated studio like ours, that’s a good thing. We now are seeing cold brew–not to be confused with iced coffee–being offered at Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. This slower method of brewing minus heat produces a smoother, less acidic taste that appeals to those consumers who otherwise may not crave coffee due to its bitter kick.
There were about 25 cold brew coffee companies showcasing their lines of bottled brews. Each brand had a unique formula to help differentiate it from the rest. Take Secret Squirrel, which markets a variety of pre-made blends including Vietnamese Coffee, made with real condensed milk to give you the authentic taste in a cold, ready-to-drink format.
This year La Colombe Coffee Roasters introduced their canned draft latte, sold in an innovative pressurized can that, when opened, froths the ingredients to deliver an in-café experience on-the-go. Another trusted name in barista circles, Califia Farms, has developed a line of cold brew coffee to be paired with its dairy-free milks as well as a range of ready-to-drink cold brew lattes for the alternative dairy consumer.
While soy and almond milk have been options at local cafés for years, other nut and plant-based milks are now on the rise to meet the demands of health enthusiasts and the lactose-intolerant masses. For those looking for a convenient non-dairy option, NüMoo’s blended, ready-to-drink beverages include cashew, pistachio, pecan and soy edamame milks.
Ripple Foods offers a range of plant-based milks. It’s one of the first beverage brands to examine all aspects of its products and their impact on the environment. Ripple’s bottles are 100% post-consumer recycled plastic; its line’s main protein source is yellow peas, which require 85% less water to grow than almonds.
Probiotics and Kombucha
Kimchi and sauerkraut can be traced back at least 2,000 years. So even though eating fermented, or living foods, is hardly a new idea, we are seeing a marked increase in brands touting their health benefits. Even Tropicana is hopping on the probiotic bandwagon with the launch of Tropicana Essentials Probiotics line of juices. Brands like Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi offer a collection of traditional handcrafted cabbage and radish kimchis. Meanwhile, Bao Food and Drink delivers the benefits of fermentation in products ranging from hot sauce to kombucha.
Speaking of the beverage space, the kombucha market has gone mainstream with a vengeance. According to a report from MarketsandMarkets, it is expected to grow by 25% a year through 2020. Many kombucha brands shrewdly are taking a page from craft beer brewers. These days you can order Aqua ViTea’s kombucha on tap or find unexpected flavors such as KeVita’s Lavender Melon and Mango Habeñero.
Exhibitions such as Natural Products Expo East and Summer Fancy Food Show continue to inspire us to get out from behind our computers and physically experience the innovations in the food and beverage industry. It is exciting to speak to people who are as passionate about the culinary arts as we are about strategy and design. We can’t wait to see and, more importantly, taste what’s next!