Slideshow: Spotlight on snacks at Expo West

by Monica Watrous
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ANAHEIM, CALIF. — Drawing more than 77,000 attendees, the 36th annual Natural Products Expo West featured cutting-edge innovation from more than 3,000 exhibiting companies. The event, held March 9-13 in Anaheim, serves as a “launching pad” for product development from emerging and established brands alike, said Carlotta Mast, executive director of content and insights for New Hope Network, which produces the show.

“Evolving shopper tastes and values have positioned the natural products industry as a major force in what products end up on shelves from natural stores to more conventional supermarkets,” Ms. Mast said.

A driving force behind product development in the natural, organic and specialty food category is increased “snackification” among American consumers, who seek healthier alternatives to traditional chips, cookies and crackers. New launches at Expo West were designed to deliver on demand for simple, nutrient-dense ingredients, free-from attributes and functional benefits.

Larabar, a business unit of General Mills, is launching a trio of organic nutrition bars made with “superfood” ingredients. Launching in Whole Foods Market in April, Larabar Organic Superfoods varieties include hazelnut hemp and cacao, coconut kale and cacao, and ginger and beet. Each bar contains six ingredients, including organic dates and almonds. The brand’s consumers were craving more variety from the Larabar lineup, said Anne Thompson, marketing manager of snacks innovation for General Mills. The company tested six different options in select markets, including Denver and Portland, Ore., before whittling the range down to three, Ms. Thompson said.

The latest innovation from Kind Snacks, New York, is a new product line of fruit-based bars made with five or fewer ingredients, including fruits and vegetables or chia seeds. A departure from the brand’s granola and nut-based bars, Pressed By Kind bars offer two servings of fruit and 130 calories or fewer per serving.

Another snack trend identified by New Hope Network is a foray into savory and spicy flavors.

“(We’re seeing brands) taking foods and snack products that are traditionally sweet and making them into a more saltier version,” Jenna Blumenfeld, senior food editor for New Hope Network, told Food Business News. “That might have to do with a sugar fatigue and also all of the documentaries that have arisen around sugar and negative health effects.”

Kashi, a business unit of Kellogg Co., is introducing a line of culturally-inspired savory bars in three flavors: basil white bean and olive oil, chickpea curry and chili, and quinoa corn and roasted pepper. Slated to arrive in July, the bars are gluten-free and Non-GMO Project verified with 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of sugar per serving.

Click for a slideshow of more snacks debuting at Expo West.

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