Healthy Reinventions of Classic Favorites

Editor’s Note: Mining food trends for beverage innovation is nothing new. With that in mind, here’s Expo East through the trusty eyes of our Project NOSH team.

Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you just need to figure out how to make a more efficient one. At this year’s Natural Products Expo East, there were plenty of brand new foods, but many of the most important, talked about and interesting products were classic favorites, such as brownies, mayo and pasta, reinvented for the health-conscious consumer.

One example is Pure Genius Provisions, a brand that launched at Expo East. The gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, non-GMO brownies and blondies weren’t just remarkable because they were delicious –despite missing the typical baked goods ingredients of eggs and flour — but because they also include an unlikely ingredient: beans. The blondies include chickpeas in the formulation while Pure Genius brownies are made with black beans, giving both higher protein than a typical baked good.

Another classic American baked favorite was found at Capellos. After seeing success with its grain-free pastas and cookie dough, Capellos previewed its new grain-free frozen pizzas at the show. The pizzas will be available in cheese, pepperoni, and plain crust. The cheese, according to founder Ben Frohlichstein, is “as close to paleo” as you can get in a frozen pizza.

The frozen aisle saw lots of reinvention at Expo East. As consumers increasingly shop the perimeter of stores — where produce and fresh foods are often located —  frozen food brands are infusing more vegetables and fruits into classic items in an attempt to draw more traffic to the aisle. Veggie Fries showed off frozen french fries that have a traditional texture and flavor but are also made with broccoli, carrots, kale and more. Similarly, Kid Fresh had frozen favorites such as chicken nuggets, frozen dinners (including macaroni and cheese), meatballs, and fish sticks, with vegetables and whole grains hidden in every entree.

While adult shoppers may be produce fans, children are still clearly a little wary. Like Veggie Fries and Kid Fresh, many other products featured familiar kid favorites formulated with a vegetable boost. That even extends to cookies. Fresh off a promotion in Target, Bitsy’s Brainfood has created alphabet cookies in familiar flavors but with the addition of sweet potatoes, beets, zucchini and other fruits and vegetables. Hidden Garden was also at Expo East, showing off veggie-fied red velvet, chocolate chip and gingersnap cookies.

For even younger consumers, the next generation of baby food had a big presence at Expo East. Little Spoon debuted a line of sophisticated flavor varieties packaged in BPA-free containers (complete with spoon). The first high pressure processed (HPP) baby food on the market, Little Spoon is launching at Whole Foods Market, where the retailer has agreed to cut branded, refrigerated coolers into the baby food aisle to highlight the products. New company Once Upon a Farm also showed off HPP squeeze pack baby foods, launching widely during the event.

That’s not to say that all the “classics” at Expo East were dishes and products your great-grandmother would recognize. As consumer preferences have shifted, new classics have emerged. Paleo, primal-and gluten-free diets and products are now familiar, while non-GMO and nut-free seem like the basic level to enter many categories. One hot ingredient reflective of these diets was avocado. The ingredient was seen in everything from Aveyo’s avocado-based mayo to Avoke’s HPP cold-pressed avocado pudding bowls. Moreover, the winner of “The Best of East Awards,” Chosen Foods, won for its Avocado Oil Mayo.