Saturday, September 26, 2015

Expo East 2015 Gluten Free Findings


Gluten Free Food Trends

It was another successful natural products expo east in Baltimore, MD this year. Crowds of business pros united conducting meetings, showcasing new offerings and opportunities, that one day may result in new product launches for the rest of the shopping world. I set out on the show floor, and I'm here now to report on trends, unique findings, see if GMOs are here (hope not) and educate to you our natural and gluten free community.


To be specific, my show's objective was protecting the Celiac Disease best interest. Why? Celiac Disease is an auto immune disease and the reason behind the gluten free movement. Going gluten free symbolizes your commitment to food education and asking questions to be sure food, beverages and even skin care of hygiene products are legit gluten free labeled. It's vital that phrases in our industry are respected because people have health concerns. Therefore gluten free = no gluten ingredients and no gluten cross contamination. Moreover this process requires lab testing and/or 3rd party certifications for us to trust gluten free labeled food. 

Protein Pushes Forward

Protein continue to be rampant from nut butters to bean based pastries, cookies, brownies, even whey/plant based yogurts, frozen yogurts and/or desserts. I found standard vanilla and chocolate flavors but I see more and more towards the likeness of espresso, cashes, sunbutter, white chocolate, snicker doodle, red velvet, chocolate chip and other dessert like products yet fairly health and protein dense, while focussing on low sugar as well. Various protein sources from plant based, cow whey, eggs and collagen are going big with various flavors and portion sizes. Protein packs can come in one serving size, too.


Probiotics Everywhere

Kombucha teas and flavored kombucha are one of the trends in probiotics that will be here to stay.  Probiotics are the "good bacteria" that is needed in our tummies. Are you drinking kombucha yet or what people? C'mon, even my parents ask me for kombucha hoping I brought some each time I see them! You'll even find smarter yogurts and fortified beverages with billions or trillions of probiotic cultures. Kombucha can be flavored with other fruits, other teas and spices are already here from Kevita. Or you can buy them in in supplements if you're into pill popping (better than other Rx pills) but I like to eat my calories or atlas drink smart calories and nutrients instead of praying on the holy pill mind frame.  If you read my blog before you know I love me some kombucha. Kombucha is great tasting and excellent for your gut and brain health. It's important to have these fermented active live probiotic cultures drank throughout the day. So many people have unhealthy gut bacteria (or none) and research shows this affects our brains as well. I make my own kombucha, but it's just never quite as amazing as Kevita and the brands. However, that doesn't stop me from making it every month :) because homemade is usually the most unique and rewarding.


Cross Contamination

In general, food shows are not responsible for the individual exhibitors who tout health or allergy claims when serving samples. Therefore, I've seen at high rates, contaminated gluten free food made in toasters that have other gluten ingredients, cutting boards that are used for multi purposes and cutlery. In addition to those brands that serve various products that have various ingredients, it's a danger to make any claim verbally, with signage and therefore anyone with an allergy or food sensitivity is at high risk sampling food. The truth hurts, and I hope one day this can change. Many people with Celiac Disease and mainstream gluten free consumers take a lot of unnecessary risks!


Celiac Disease Awareness

I strolled through the trade show asking brand managers with gluten free claims of any sort, certifications or labeling, if they heard of Celiac Disease and if their product was gluten free safe for Celiacs. Nearly everyone said they were aware of Celiac Disease, but roughly half of the products still weren't "safe" for Celiacs. My definition of safe means they did not test for gluten independently or via 3rd party verifications. Often brand reps state, "We know our product is gluten free but won't pay for the certification". Hmm ok, however, they may produce it in a mixed manufacturing facility and still call their product gluten free and that's not safe!  We still have a ways to go here as gluten free labeled products without a verification can still be very cross contaminated and a risk to our health. The FDA guidelines of 2014 barely helped the industry get a grip on handling gluten free health labeling.  In this instance, gluten free shoppers once again are taking on a lot of risk instead of saying, No.


Naturally Gluten Free

Many products with or without a gluten free certification are touting this claim, "Naturally gluten free". Enjoy Life, Simple Mills, some of my favorite gluten free brands have this phrase and have GF certifications on their packaging. Thank you!  Due to the inherent ingredients being naturally gluten free it's a nice marketing phrase. But... despite the ingredient sources to be naturally gluten free in theory, cross contamination in the farms, fields and manufacturing kitchens can still be laced with gluten which is a very big reality. Think about the sacks, buckets, trucks and clothing people wear at a farm and how they're not usually washed or cleaned regularly! Aye, I worked on farms so I know about this.  It's a non regulated phrase, "naturally gluten free" so just be sure to ask for proof behind the claim with the manufacturer if you don't see a gluten free certification. This goes for someone with a gluten related health issue or not, let's all be on the same page here, so that nobody gets sick. Don't take unnecessary risks. 


Low Sugar

It's been a bad word, sugar, but the natural industry is leading it's movement away from traditional cane plant, high fructose corn syrup or beets. I found that we're adding less of it or using a few other types of healthier sugars. Instead of adding traditional sugars in for sweet taste, unnecessarily, it's either coming from pure fruit sources and/or if it's from non traditional sugar alternatives like xylitol or stevia so that it tastes good and is better for you. Some folks don't like the taste of alternative sugars, but I assure you all natural sugars are not like 10-20 year old artificial dangerous alternatives (saccharin and aspartame) that have caused many health issues and have been taken off the market (Saccharin). Do your homework. as xylitol even has health benefits. The yogurts are being sought after for being probiotic, protein albeit with some added fruit or agave, honey but with spices also and are just as tasty without the bad decision to add sugar. Whoever created these artificial sugars should lose their chemist jobs and never be able to work again.


Drinking Snacks & Meal Replacements:

I keep seeing soup like drinks such as Tio Gazpacho, cold pressed drinks with various fruits, veggies, spices, protein and probiotics like Suja. Even fortified coffees with butter like BulletProof or green teas and banana milks that are becoming nutrient dense along with probiotics added or possibly protein. It seems that only mainstream big companies selling us crappy sodas and juices are left poisoning the great people of America. Meanwhile natural product brands are doing more, trying harder, being innovative to provide fantastic quality ingredients and holding themselves more accountable than big profit obsessed Corporate monsters out there who poison our citizens with low quality foods. 

Chips

I haven't bought a typical corn ship or potato chip in years now. Who wants just a single ingredient with oil potato chip that is high in salt and low in every other nutrient? Definitely not educated food cynosures. It's vital that the main stream shopper learns about this and needs to explore the truth around food industry!  Lentil, quinoa, kale, beans, jicama, chia, flax, buckwheat, teff and many other ingredients with character, even protein and more are utilized in chips and i love it! So step one is to put down the cheap GMO corn chips (instead look for organic and non GMO labels). As a chipaholic with high standards, I assure you this chip revolution is a dream come true.  If you're going to snack, at least snack in a more nutrient dense way without GMOs. 


Paleo

I'll add in here the joys of baked good for paleo snacks, desserts and ice pops are everywhere. Paleo symbolizes no grains at all and simple ingredients make a paleo caveman lifestyle of quality and health rich in protein. Each Paleo lifestylist seems to be fit and good looking, haha, or am I wrong? This Paleo lifestyle comes with a solid mind set on health, ingredients, fitness and dedication to the movement. I like that concept a lot and dabble in there while being gluten free safe. 


Ice Cream

Better for you ice cream is making it's way to your freezer door, I hope! Hormone free, free range animals from quality feed and these products are flavored naturally with simple real ingredients. Uses of tea ingredients are a favorite of mine such as Tearrific, since I add teas to nearly all my cooking hot and cold. Companies like Brio and Coconut Bliss are using better ingredients, whether milk or alternatives, per your liking, and they're available. Try Nada Moo as well as a dairy free option with great taste to move away from your traditional childhood brands that are made from crappy ingredients. 


Demos & Events

Brands are spending their hard earned marketing dollars to conduct demos in stores to reach you the shopper!  Sampling occurs at various consumer venues like grocery stores, allergy and/or green eco friendly events, fitness race series, music festivals, farmers markets to reach local and targeted shoppers! I suggest you say hi and learn about products and consider buying them! Nearly every time I go into a natural food market, if I'm not in a rush, I look for a demo specialist with a table near the cash register or end of aisles to see what's gluten free. If nothing is being sampled that day, I am confused as to, why?  I typically buy something that is sampled every time I go to the grocery store, if its' gluten free safe of course, because it's usually something new, likely on sale, and I support natural brands. Brands, keep doing more demos and events!