By Charlyn Fargo
I make a point of attending the annual Food and Nutrition Conference every year – this year it was in Chicago’s McCormick Place. There are day-long sessions on the latest research on everything from fiber to fat to diabetes management. But my favorite is to attend the trade show to see all of the food manufacturers’ booths with their new products and trends in the exhibition hall. They are often parallel to what we see in the grocery stores.
This year, I didn’t see much on gluten free or new grains like quinoa. The emphasis was on natural sweeteners, added sugars, food myths, organic, plant-based and sustainable foods. There were cauliflower pizza crusts, fresh avocados, sorghum, nuts and cranberries.
The most stunning booth was by Ocean Spray® Cranberries with a huge cranberry bog. The bog was made possible by a swimming pool full of cranberries. I pulled on a pair of red waders and coveralls to see what it is like to be a cranberry farmer.
The purpose? To connect dietitians with cranberry farmers who came to talk about farming, the benefits of cranberries and their love for the red berry.
Cranberries grow on low-lying perennial vines, which can last up to 30 or 40 years. Tiny blossoms form, are pollinated and turn into a green berry. In the fall, when the berries are ready to harvest, they turn from green to red. Inside the berry are four tiny pockets that can fill with water, allowing the berries to float in a bog when the plants are flooded. A picking machine has a spinning wheel that knocks the berries off the vine. Then they are corralled with a device called a boom and swept together so they can be harvested. A pump pulls the water off. Harvest occurs between mid-September and early November – just in time for Thanksgiving tables.
There was also a focus on sugar and sugar substitutes. The classics like honey, granulated sugar and stevia were represented and touting the adjective ‘natural’ as an advantage. Many companies and exhibits were boasting about a lower sugar claim on packages; one company doing so was including Pepsico, who was promising sugar reduction and portion control on their beverages now and coming up in the future for a 2025 goal.
A new sugar substitute is allulose, also known as allulite, represented by manufacturer Tate & Lyle. It is a sweetener that is 10 times more sweet than regular sugar and not absorbed by the body. The FDA requires the manufacturer to place an added sugar claim on the food label but they are allowed to footnote the claim that the added sugar is not absorbed. It’s in new Quest bars, called Quest Hero™. Here’s what’s on the label – “Allulose is a “rare” sugar that is very different than “regular” sugar. It tastes like sugar but up to 100 percent passes through the body without begin metabolized. It has almost zero calories (less than 0.4 calories/gram) and doesn’t affect your body like “regular” sugar. Allulose is found in nature in many fruits and it’s what makes Quest Hero Bars taste great without the extra net carbs and calories.
Here’s a few of the other new products I saw: beet chips by Rhythm Superfoods, a new flavor for Zone Perfect bars of fudge graham, Hemp Hearts (shelled hemp seeds) to sprinkle on your oatmeal or in your smoothie, a Zevia mango/ginger zero calorie energy drink and protein-packed Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes (flapjack and waffle mix).
In addition, there was enhanced coffee called Cold Brew High Brew Coffee drink (comes in a can with 12 grams of protein), sweetened creamers such as Equal Café Creamers (10 calories per serving), EVOO pink salmon (in extra virgin olive oil, comes in a foil packet with 190 calories and 14 grams of protein), dark chocolate covered dried plums by Plus Sweets, and a wild berry and yogurt bar made with whole grain barley flakes by Barley+, which has positive digestive benefits.
One of my favorites was the cranberry-infused water at only 10 calories per 16-ounce bottle.
Look for all of these to be on your grocery shelves in the near future.