Friday, March 14, 2014

Expo West 2014, Increase In Certified Gluten-Free But Not Majority


I spent the past weekend attending the largest natural products food and beverage trade show in the USA if not the world. This show is probably 3x as big as Expo East was in Baltimore recently. It was an eventful show that shed light on new ingredient trends and a deeper analysis from my Celiac point of view. I spent time with Steve Distefano from, a gluten-free and allergen friendly shopping store and retail health food store on Long Island, NY unlike any other with the highest gluten free standards, kudos!


Gluten-free products were everywhere at EXPO WEST 2014. Many new products have obtained gluten-free certifications, self label, but still many didn't and therefore their labes were not justified to be safe for gluten-free consumers. Since neither the FDA nor other food governing leaders regulate and police gluten-free claims, brands continue to label without 3rd party certification, choose to self test at their own discretion or neither which is dangerous. The lack of gluten-free policing continues to effect the health of innocent gluten-free consumers, an outcry for public health decency. It's in all of our best interest to not trust gluten-free labels without conducting ample research... Continue supporting brands that have gluten-free certification or provide transparency into gluten-free claims (not all companies want to pay for certification but still can prove to consumer that they are gluten-free). Ask brands  if they test for at least the FDA guideline <20 ppm, but preferably <10 ppm or preferably <5ppm before purchasing. 



My first press privilege was to vote for my top 3 products out of over 50 that were featured in this innovation category, Best of West. Since many of these had gluten and those that were gluten-free were not certified, my vote was narrowed. Pamela's Products' Figgies & Jammies in my opinion had the best combination of fun packaging, delicious taste, innovation in category along with commitment to gluten-free via gluten-free certification.


  • Giving Back - More brands show support to countries who make their product or hire victims of human trafficking, donating water, food to these foreign communities instead of donating % of profits. 
  • Water - Cactus and aloe break into the scene. Maple water seeking national distribution and  coconut waters expand into new pulps and flavors like lemonade
  • Milk - Algae, corn, flax milks should be added to your non dairy rotation
  • Plant Protein - Whey protein manufacturers now offer plant based, also.  As Vegan enters mainstream the natural food market innovators grow by demand.
  • Chips - Lots of chips and popcorn continue to break into the scene. Will all of these organic and non GMO brands survive?
  • Bars - Even more than chips, there are countless raw, plant, fruit, chia and even cricket bars. It's clear now which have too many added "natural" sugars and which are gluten-free, and allergen friendly with taste. 
  • Shapes & Flavors - Often products are launching new shape, textures and flavor combinations in unexpected categories. Re-inventing the chip, for example, is something I would support especially the ingredient base to be more healthy while being tasty and hold dips and salsas without breaking.
  • Nutrients - The gluten-free market was notorious for high sugar and/or calories without iron, omegas and other key nutrients and minerals. Brands felt pressure to match their gluten counterpart which typically was a lot of crap food to sell products to new gluten-free consumers who were dependent.  I noticed an effort to properly pack proper fiber, sugar, carbs, and protein more responsibly into food and beverages with alternative grains and natural fruits, flax, chia, quinoa, amaranth without added sugar, but there needs to be a lot more effort.... I have a few suggestions :)
  • Gluten-Free Labeling - Few companies choose to "certify" but when they do they are very proud of it... and few do their own gluten ppm batch testing and have the transparency behind their self labeling. But if I had to guess the total legit gluten-free safe products on the market that label their packaging remains < 30% safe for gluten-free consumers, not good! 


  • Where Were Farm Fresh Fruits & Vegetables? All of these brands source their ingredients from farms all over the world and local, but I didn't see any of them at the show or I missed their booths.
  • Lack of Gluten-Free Accountability - It's still a non regulated disaster since FDA has not passed any binding laws and won't be policing brands to protect consumers.  Even at this show which is one of few Celiac and gluten-free consumer's only hope for the future there are still giant obstacles to face for true regulation in the USA food and beverage industry.

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