(Bob from Bob’s Red Mill and Hemi from Fooducate)
We’re in Baltimore for Expo East, a semi annual food show of the natural food industry. You can see more pictures from the expo floor show here. As you know, we have a hard time with the term natural because it is not really well defined. A much more sensible approach is to call it the REAL FOOD expo, because most of what is shown here has much fewer funny-sounding ingredients than you’d find in standard supermarket fare.
Here are some interesting highlights so far.
Hummus – seems like the chickpea is trending. We all know about the health benefits of hummus dips. But here at the show we got to see hummus chips as well as green garbanzo beans offered similarly to edamame (green soybeans).
Sustainability – more and more companies are talking about their sustainability practices. Stahlbush farms from Oregon is the first to use biodegradable freezer bags for their frozen fruit and veggies. They generate electricity for their packaging facility from vegetable waste. The excess wattage provides electricity for another 1000 families in their vicinity!
There were some ironic sustainability stories, for example the icebox water company. Instead of plastic bottles, this company is using biodegradable cartons to house their mineral water. In a landfill, the carton paper decomposes within 12-18 months. Pretty cool. However, the water is sourced in Norway and shipped halfway across the world to reach the US…
We met several husband and wife teams who are building a food business together. Arobind Velagapudi quit his job as a software engineer 3 years ago to start selling Indian Curry that actually tastes good. His company Spicy Nothings now sells into Safeway and other supermarkets on the west coast. His wife, an engineer as well, is helping out while still working in the computer industry.
And of course there are the natural food juggernauts – companies that have been around for a while or are growing like mad riding a popular trend. Chobani Greek Yogurt seems to have doubled their booth size since the last show. Greek yogurt is very popular these days and Chobani is considered the category leader. Bob’s Red Mill is expanding its line of products from single ingredient grains and flours into granola. Earth Balance is pushing its coconut spread, now that saturated fats from coconut are becoming less evil in the public’s mind.
There are also some big food manufacturers represented here, although you wouldn’t know it from their signage and branding: Honest Tea is owned by Coca Cola. Lara Bar and Cascadian Farm are part of General Mills. Stoneyfield is owned by Dannon. Luckily for these companies (and for consumers), they mostly get to operate independently of the mothership.