Enzyme and Oat Trends from 2012 NPEE

Posted on:October 5, 2012
Photo of WayfFare ice cream mimicking desserts

As at all the Natural Product Expos, the use of sophisticated food science provides consumers great tasting, unique products such as this oat-based frozen dessert line.

I hadn’t attended the Natural Product Expo East (NPEE) for some four years but checked up on this year’s event on September 25-28, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Although significantly smaller than its West Coast sibling (NPEW), it nevertheless is a great place to catch up on trends and double-check one’s perception of developments in the natural products industry.

The Natural Product Expos themselves are “must-attends” for anyone monitoring the pulse of LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) consumers, a group and industry that is often  year’s ahead of the mainstream/mass market. Examples include earlier adoption of yogurt, omega-3s, antioxidants and gluten-free to name just a very few. Still, observations should be taken within context. That is, the Expos provide clues to the future, but do not predict it. What’s hot in food, ingredients or health and other issues are, for a number of reasons, often modified before adaptation by the general public. Some trends never gain momentum but instead are valued by companies and consumers specifically because they can’t be cooped by the larger world in general.

With that preamble, here are two trends observed from the show:

Trend 1. Enzymes in Raw Foods & Sprouted Grains. Dietary supplements that contain digestive enzymes (lactase, amylase, proteases, etc.) have been around for years. The purpose of these enzymes, a class of proteins, is to improve digestibility with benefits including increased nutrient availability and decreased intestinal distress. An example of the later is the dietary supplement Beeno, which contains the enzyme alpha-galactosidase.

A number of companies at 2012 NPEE touted products in alignment with the raw food movement and sprouted grains trend. The benefits of both types of foods are based, in part, on enzymes. Being proteins, enzymes are denatured (destroyed) by heat, which does not happen when foods are consumed raw. (By the way, destroying certain enzymes by heat can also be a very good thing as well.) Also, when grains and other seeds are sprouted, their enzyme content can be increased.

One example of a company offering such foods is Freeland Foods, which has a range of live grain-based products. Live, meaning when the bar or granola is placed in soil, the product actually start growing. See their YouTube posting.  In another example, For Life Baking Company’s Food for Life has number of sprouted grain cereals, breads, etc. This company has been around for many years and uses a number of sprouted cereal grains (e.g., millet, barley, wheat, spelt), legumes (soybeans, lentils) and other seeds such as flax.

Trend 2. Oat-based desserts and drinks. We are not talking about oatmeal cookies, but rather innovative products that utilize the oat components or processed oats such that you’d never guess they contained oats except by their label.

One example is Wayfare Dairy Free Frozen Dessert. Its ingredient statement lists: prepared oatmeal (water, oats), organic cane sugar, vegetable oil blend (safflower and coconut), calcium carbonate and then a selection of stabilizers and flavorings. Oat-based frozen, dairy-mimicking desserts are not entirely new. For example OatsCream™ debuted at Natural Product Expo West in 1998.  The product appeared, and tasted somewhat like a soft serve ice cream. Overall, the products don’t quite match the creamy dairy notes of ice cream. That being said, they still can be darn good tasting and good for you.

Organic Thoughts from 2012 Natural Products Expo East

Posted on:September 28, 2012


Photo of organic spices and herbs

When various criteria are met, such as the unavailability of organic versions, non-organic ingredients can be used in organic foods in the U.S.A.

Exhibitors and presentations at the 2012 Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore emphasized organic, “natural” (regardless of the lack of a universal definition), and relatively unprocessed, healthful foods.

This, of course, is the Expo’s niche. It’s a great way to get updates in these areas, but care should also be taken that it does not represent the overall food industry. As one exhibitor told me, “We have a lot of other products in our line, but we only show our organic items here because of that is what this show is about.”

A number of quite good presentations discussed organic foods, including the formulation of these products.  (Links to several relevant sites are provided below.) A key point made by Lisa Brines, National List Manager, USDA – National Organic Program was that the USDA’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances includes non-organic ingredients that can be used in organic foods (assuming a number of criteria are met). An important criterion is that an organic version of the ingredient is not available. A “Sunset Review” for these non-organic ingredients exists where every five years an ingredient receives a reviewed to be sure it still qualifies for an exemption.

Jeff Rakity, national sales manager, Natural Flavors, pointed out that organic flavorings need to be certified by a third party. NOP compliant flavors can be self-certified, but the company must maintain internal documents for verification. One comment was that it takes a LOT of acreage to provide the raw materials needed for an organic flavoring.

Grace Marroquin, CEO, Marroquin Organic International, Inc. noted that an over-riding benefit of organic ingredients (beyond the consumption of the ingredient itself) is that it reduces a population’s overall exposure to toxic chemicals from synthetic pesticides that end up in the ground and water supply. It was also noted that organic ingredients can be more difficult for a processor to use in that there often is more variation in the ingredients than non-organic alternatives. The take away message is that systems must be set up to deal with these formula variations [because consumers will not accept them].

Other presenters included Gwendolyn Wyard, regulatory director, Organic Standards and Food Safety, Organic Trade Association and Steve Peirce, president, RIBUS, Inc.

Mary Ellen Molyneaux, NMI, reviewed results from a consumer study on organic. The company divides the population into various “buckets” in regards to attitudes toward organic products. Some 17% are categorized as “Devoted,” 23% “Temperates,” 38% “Dabblers” and 22% “Reluctants.”  She noted a progression in a consumer’s adaptation of organic. Interest moves from use of conventional products to “natural” products to organic and finally to products from Mother Nature. She offered that this is why unprocessed produce is so closely linked to organic. She also provided the audience a thoughtful warning. While the industry well understands the difference between certified organic and natural products, consumers don’t.  Natural is so closely linked with organic that when the image of one is damaged, the other is as well. “When you denigrate one, you denigrate the other,” Molyneaux advised. “We have enough people picking on us that we don’t need to pick on each other.”


Click here for a related 2011 presentation by Lisa Brines, PhD, National List Manager,  National Organic Program NOP Standards Division

Click here for the State of the Industry: NEXT Report Overview (video) by   Laura Batcha, Executive Vice President – Organic Trade Association and Maryellen Molyneaux, President – Natural Marketing Institute

– Claudia Dziuk O’Donnell, managing partner, content development, Global Food Forums, Inc., a seminar and conference provider

Whey Proteins Trending Up

Posted on:August 23, 2012
Whey protein sports drink

The global market for whey powder, whey proteins and whey protein fractions is predicted to be US$ 6.4 billion in 2014 with WPC80, whey isolates and hydrolysates growing by double digit figures.

A while ago my business partner, Peter Havens, and I were discussing what would be a hot topic for a conference theme. We settled on proteins. The one-day seminar (plus an opening reception the preceding evening) will be held April 10, 2013. It is entitled “Protein Trends & Technologies.” Indications from consumer packaged food company surveys to data on consumer “hot buttons” to world food trends all point to proteins as a subject of high and on-going interest. For more information on statistics and examples on the protein trend, click here.

The word “proteins” covers a broad range of concepts. In the foodservice industry “proteins” usually refers to center-of-plate type components like steak, fish and poultry. Food scientists often work with proteins at the fundamental level. That is, protein molecules, whether from beef or milk, soybeans or peas have many characteristics in common. Our developing schedule of speakers all excel in their fields. For example, Dr. Erika Smith, leader of the protein program at General Mills, Inc. and Dr. Rene Floris with NIZO in The Netherland are presenting information on the use of various types of protein ingredients to solve technical formulation problems in foods and beverages.

One protein category, whey proteins, has been of much interest to the food and nutritional products industries for many years. Whey proteins are incorporated into foods and beverages for their functional characteristics such as ability to form gels to their nutritional benefits. A recent report by 3A Consulting “Global Opportunities for Whey and Lactose Ingredients 2010-2014” shows their popularity continues. The report predicts that the global market for whey powder, whey proteins and whey protein fractions will experience a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4 percent, reaching US$ 6.4 billion in 2014. The 3A Consulting report notes that high-value protein products with a high protein levels and further processing – WPC80, isolates and hydrolysates – are growing by double digit figures driven by sports and energy nutrition products. The growth of whey proteins with lower protein levels is more static. I can promise you that there is more to come on THIS topic.

Heritage to Canned Tomatoes

Posted on:August 21, 2012
Hybrid, heritage, canned tomatoes

Large, bountiful hybrid tomatoes on the left; small tasty heritage tomatoes on the right and canned tomatoes in the middle. They all have a place in one’s diet.

I haven’t blogged for a bit. What can I say; I’ve been busy. That, in fact, is the bases for this blog. Back in January, I wrote a blog entitled “Why I Love Processed Foods.” At the time I was in the middle of a northern Minnesota winter. Since I had not stocked up on venison jerky to carry my family through the season, I was glad to have non-local foods with extended shelf lives.

It is now summer in the Chicago area and I’m writing from the opposite situation. My vegetable garden has been producing fresh garlic, eggplant, green peppers, onions (bugs got the broccoli) and tomatoes…lots of tomatoes. We have been eating hybrid cherry, Big Boy and/or Early Girl varieties for two months with surplus to feed retired and unemployed friends and neighbors and, well anyone that shows the slightest inclination to accept the big juicy veggies being forced upon them.

I experimented this spring and also planted an expensive little heritage plant. It finally just delivered three, small, blemished but noticeably delicious tomatoes. As my husband said, “The ugly ones taste the best.” So, are heritage better than hybrid tomatoes? Are fresh tomatoes better than canned versions?

Yes and no. Yes…little can compare to the taste of sliced fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil smothered in balsamic vinegar (a favorite “pig out” food of mine). And no…my lack of kitchen time means canned diced tomatoes and sauces have been the cornerstone of many meals this summer. A fast meal of freshly sliced and battered eggplant, pressed garlic, mozzarella all smothered in [canned] Ragu tomato sauce…wonderful. Fresh green peppers stuffed with grains and fresh vegetables and Del Monte’ canned diced tomatoes and chilies…quick, healthy and tasty. The small quantity of heritage tomatoes feeds one’s “inner gourmet.” Fresh hybrid tomatoes feed the neighborhood. Canned vegetables feed the harried cook and the masses, all year long.

— Claudia Dziuk O’Donnell, Co-owner, Global Food Forums, Inc.

Is Gluten Free a Trend or Fad?

Posted on:May 22, 2012


Cover slide for May 2012 presentation on food trends

A May 2012 presentation on U.S. food trends resulted in an audience discussion on the gluten free products. The whole presentation can be viewed through a link in the blog. 

This last week I gave a presentation on trends in the food industry at the May 2012 Food Executive Women’s meeting. The Chicagoland-based group ( was founded about 21 years ago and its membership profile is somewhat similar to the Institute of Food Technologies, just all female.

The presentation covered trends previously mentioned in this blog with further details.  It also included comments on a few additional trends. The audience had questions and comments on one trend in particular…that of “free from” foods for which gluten free was used as an example. Although they differ from each other, statistics from both Packaged Facts and New Nutrition Business show phenomenal growth in the U.S. gluten free market. Many in audience were nutritionists and the question arose as to whether gluten free was a trend or a fad. They also asked from where were the statistics on gluten sensitive people derived? Were they self-diagnosed?

Although I am not aware of a quantitative way to differentiate a fad from a trend (I’d appreciate comments), interest and attention to gluten free is here to stay. There are simply too many people legitimately impacted by gluten for it to go the way of low carbohydrate foods (although I’d argue that hasn’t disappeared either, just morphed into interest in new eating patterns).

While certainly many have falsely self-diagnosed gluten issues, clinical research does support very high rates.  One study (Fasano A, et al. 2003. Arch Intern Med. 163(3):286-92.) places the prevalence of Celiac disease at 1 in 133 in the U.S. based on the presence of serum antibodies and intestinal biopsies.  Another study (Sapone, A, et al. 2001. BMC Med.9:23.) places the number of gluten-sensitive individuals at about 10% of the U.S. population. They again identified Celiac patients by antigen typing and intestinal biopsies and gluten-reactive individuals by a gluten challenge carried out for about four months under clinical supervision.

Anyway, for anyone that has the interest (and patience…it may take over a minute for the slides to load), the presentation can be viewed by clicking here.

— Claudia O’Donnell, Co-owner, Global Food Forums, Inc.

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