Chewy juices and mock meats top natural food trends

by Monica Watrous
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BOULDER, COLO. — Textured beverages, indulgent nut butters and nutritional desserts top the list of natural and organic food trends compiled by Sterling-Rice Group, a Boulder-based consulting firm.

Click here for a slideshow of trends.

The group collected expertise from food industry experts, publications and trade shows to identify emerging trends within the segment.

“A lot of times, (mainstream) trends are born in the natural and organic space because it’s a smaller segment, sometimes the costs and barriers to entry are lower, so it can be a bit of a testing ground for new ideas,” said Christie Wood, account director and culinary strategist for the firm. “So we know our mainstream brands are really looking to the natural and organic segment to see what works and what products they might want to adapt or in some cases buy out or bring to market in their own way that could be appealing to mainstream consumers.”

Additionally, consumers are becoming savvier about health and nutrition, she said.

“Even more mainstream consumers are turning to natural and organic products more and more instead of some of the conventional or processed foods they were eating before.”

The ten 2013 trends include:

Wholesome foods for men. With a food-as-fuel emphasis and dark, bold packaging, male-oriented health foods include high-protein Powerful Yogurt and Tanka Bars, made with buffalo jerky and dried fruit.

“For so long, especially in the health food segment, women have been the targets because  maybe they were early adopters in this space or they’re looking for healthy options for their family or just trying to be healthier,” said Ms. Wood, who is also a certified nutrition consultant. “I think it’s fascinating that men are the next big thing.”

Higher-order benefits. Products that promise clarity, calmness and inner peace include Neuro Bliss, a lightly carbonated beverage with added vitamins that claims to reduce stress and improve concentration.

Salad greens beyond the bowl. Leafy greens such as kale and arugula are sprouting up in teas, snacks and sweets, such as raw chocolate-flavored kale chips from Blue Mountain Organics.

Upscale, fortified water. H20 2.0? Natural ingredients such as birch tree juice and olive oil infuse water with added benefits. Highly alkaline fulvic minerals add electrolytes and a black hue to BLK Water, which promises to counteract acidity from meats and processed foods.

“My hunch is that all of these water brands — it’s a crowded category, everybody is fighting for shelf space — and I think everyone wants to figure out what that next coconut water is going to be,” Ms. Wood said. “Something that’s a natural product that really takes water up a notch for people who are looking for an alternative to a soda or a juice or a sports drink a reason to choose a water beverage.”

Textured beverages. Chewy chia juice, such as Mamma Chia Vitality Beverages, and syrupy flax seed infusions are making a splash in the beverage category.

“I think it’s really going to challenge consumers on their expectations for the beverage experience,” Ms. Wood said.

Fancy faux meats. As meat consumption declines, soy- and pea protein-based alternatives such as Beyond Meat chicken-free strips and Quorn meatless Grounds are herding in.

“In general, we’re always going to have a segment of the population that’s vegan or vegetarian, but what seems to be growing the most rapidly are meat reducers — people who are maybe starting to do a meatless Monday or a vegetarian meal once or twice a week,” Ms. Wood said. “So, they’re looking for ways to still get protein and feel satisfied and full and that they’re eating quality sustaining meal but without the meat.”

Allergen-free alternative proteins. Pea protein delivers a dose of the satiety-boosting nutrient in soy-, dairy- and gluten-free snacks, such as Larabar Alt bars and Simply Protein chips.

“The next level of consumers who have may already been in this (meatless) space for a while are getting more selective about what they want to consume,” Ms. Wood said. “Maybe they’re trying to avoid soy or gluten or dairy, so they’re ruling out a lot of protein options that have been on the market for quite some time. The innovations with pea protein are really exciting because it opens the door for people across the board who are paying more attention to their protein sources.”

Indulgent nut butters. Fruit, chocolate, espresso and seeds and spices are adding flavor and texture to classic spreads. PB Crave Razzle Dazzle peanut butter contains honey, white and dark chocolate and raspberries.

South American superfoods. Nutrient-dense Brazilian acerola cherries, Peruvian purple maize and Chilean maqui fruit are enriching juices and energy drinks.

Nutritional desserts. The Cookie Department’s detoxifying gingersnap and ProYo high-protein frozen yogurt promote wellness within the sweets sector.

“I think that it’s the next generation of the 100-calorie pack, if you will,” Ms. Wood said. “I think now consumers and brands are focusing on positive attributes and positive nutrition more than a lack of calories or fat. Instead of the bad snacks, the processed chips or cookies that people might have grabbed on the go in years past, now the options are healthy and it’s about the positive nutrition they can bring. So, it’s a high-protein yogurt or a detoxifying cookie or something they can grab and not have to change their behavior of needing something on the go but they’re looking for something they feel can bring them some positive health benefits and nutritional benefits.”
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