The first quarter of the year is a big time in the packaged foods industry: It's when expos like the Specialty Food Association's Winter Fancy Food Show and Natural Products Expo West take place. These events are the best place to spot trends in food and drink products; if you get in enough steps on the expo floor, you'll be able to spot which food and drink trends are poised to hit the mainstream (as well as the ones that are past their prime, or just coming into the fray).
Based on my observations over two days at the Winter Fancy Food Show, here are some of the biggest trends that I'd expect to see on store shelves this year and next.
The world is already running out of coconuts, and it's only poised to get much, much worse. Aside from already-popular coconut water, I spotted plenty of coconut snacks: Coco-Roons, Coco-Thins, coconut jerky, and coconut and seaweed snacks. There were also plenty of products that used coconut oil, including an avocado and coconut oil blend and a vegan "butter" made with aquafaba and coconut oil.
Mark my words, though: The year's biggest non-dairy trend will be coconut yogurt. Kite Hill and Anita's both make coconut yogurts that were on the floor of the show, as well as a ridiculously expensive brand called The Coconut Cult, which claims to be a coconut probiotic yogurt (note: probiotics and probiotics were big on the floor, too). You can also find coconut yogurt products by Trader Joe's, So Delicious, Erewho and Co Yo.
Vegan Jerky Products
Jerky products made from plant-based products were probably my favorite trend from the show—so much so, in fact, I recently wrote a story about this for Brit + Co. On the floor, I spotted eggplant "jerky," chewy coconut strips, and shiitake mushroom jerky.
I'm looking forward to seeing where else this trend takes us, as a lot of health-based snacks seem to be of the high-carb, high-sugar variety. So far, my favorites—the ones I'll be repeatedly buying—are Cocoburg Chili Lime Coconut Jerky and Pan's Original Vegetarian Mushroom Jerky.
I was surprised to see how much bananas appear to be taking off in the specialty and health foods industries, especially given how polarizing I've found them to be. (Most banana haters can't even stand to be in the same room as the fruit.)
Bananas are not the star of plantain and banana chips (even ones with savory flavors), sweet brittles, and non-dairy frozen treats.
Thanks to media brands like goop, adaptogens—herbs that are considered to help with stress—are on the upswing, and they're just getting started. Maca, guayusa, ashwaghanda and other variants were all over the show, but the biggest name being thrown around is moringa. The herb is showing up as a supplement, in energy bars, in tons of herbal teas, and even in snack puffs.
Apple cider vinegar Drinks
People have been using apple cider vinegar as a cure-all for a long time, and companies are finally taking advantage. At the show, I spotted fruit-flavored drinking vinegars with apple cider vinegar as base; on-the-go packets of dehydrated apple cider vinegar at the Republic of Tea booth; and Fire Cider, a longtime herbalist remedy that has a slew of purported benefits. (You can see what I thought of Fire Cider here.)
What do you think is going to be big on shelves this year?