By Sara Harper
Last week, I journeyed across country to attend the Natural Products Expo West 2018 food show. So did some 80,000 other people! The event brings together new and emerging food companies sampling their latest creations and retail food buyers and suppliers from across the country. It is a great chance to taste, see and learn the stats behind the latest trends and hot ingredients coming to your grocery store soon.
The show, which lasts almost a full week, contains educational workshops and trend reports as well as a giant trade show floor where some 3,000 food companies offer wall-to-wall samples of the latest trends. This year’s hot ingredients (as far as I could see) consisted of an amazing array of tried and true favorites — but made with healthier ingredients. Some of my favorites:
- Grainless baked goods (made with nut flours)
- “Cheetos” made out of chickpeas
- Pre-biotic ingredients like sour kraut turned into chips
- Cauliflower pizza crusts
- Tumeric and beets — in everything!
And, I’m happy to say, this year there were more booths claiming a connection to farmers that supply them than when I attended the same show in 2017.
There was a whole day of educational panels focusing on the climate change issue — including an announcement Annie’s, a company now owned by General Mills, that they are taking regenerative agriculture directly to consumers — telling the story of soil restoration being done by farmers that they buy from on the package of an upcoming macaroni and cheese and honey bunny graham products.
Seeing so much potential for farmers to connect to brands — and ultimately to consumers was tremendously exciting. But, as is often the case at these kinds of events, there were not nearly enough farmers at the table. The whole topic of regenerative agriculture is being defined right now. Some want to only see it apply as a subset of organic — others, like us, want to see a big tent approach that measures and includes everyone capable of storing carbon in the soil. My policy days from Capitol Hill taught me how important it is to engage early in defining and creating opportunities for an issue like this — and how to (hopefully) avoid the pitfalls of making the perfect the enemy of the good. Through the Climate Day and regenerative agriculture workshops held at ExpoWest, I was able to share this perspective.
Stay tuned for our next blog post sharing more about the regenerative agriculture workshop at Expo West — and some ideas on how farmers of all stripes can and should get involved in this promising movement!
Or check out some of our other Blogs to learn more about Regenerative Agriculture, or how Noble Growth Network Launches First-of-its-Kind Regenerative Food Peer Group. And don’t forget to check out our Facebook page where you can join the conversation about how we can fight climate change by the food we chose to purchase and eat!