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The 7 Coolest Food Trends We Saw at Expo East 2017

The Natural Products Expo, also known as Expo East, is one of the most highly-anticipated events in the wellness calendar, taking place annually on both coasts (in Baltimore, Maryland as “Expo East”, and in Anaheim, California as “Expo West”). From food bloggers to corporate buyers to marketing agents and more, anyone who is anyone in the world of nutrition and wellness considers attending the Natural Products Expo a rite of passage. It is, after all, “the world’s premier trade show for the natural, organic, and healthy products industry.” Did we mention that there are also a million free samples?

Expo East is not open to the public, but this past weekend, Garden Collage made the pilgrimage to Baltimore to see what food, health, and wellness trends are on the horizon for 2018. Below is a shortlist of the coolest discoveries we made there.

Himalayan Salt Grills Are A Thing Now

While most of the food samples at the Natural Products Convention are dry goods, many hot food retailers at the Expo used Himalayan Salt Blocks as a means to grill meat, fish, and veggies. (We also saw them being used to make some epic-looking grilled cheeses.) Himalayan Salt Blocks are an effective, easy way to infuse food with the subtle flavor and associated health benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt (which is high in trace nutrients, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, and iron). Plus, they are super beautiful to look at!

Hemp Oil Is The Next Best Thing to CBD

An often overlooked aspect of Expo East is the educational programming that happens when guests aren’t scarfing down samples in the exhibitions hall. This year, Expo East hosted an enlightening lecture on the future of the endocannabinoid industry and its ties in with CBD oil and other hemp-derived products. One of our main takeaways from the talk was that hemp products, even those that don’t contained concentrated quantities of CBD, can be equally nourishing to the endocannabinoid system in our brains. To that end, Manitoba Harvest Hemp makes an excellent, buttery hemp cooking oil that was on display alongside value-added hemp protein products and samples of virgin hemp nuts that make excellent additions to any smoothie, salad, or baked good.

Emerald Health Bioceuticals, who make “bioceuticals” to support endocannabinoid health, was also on site offering Endo Bliss (hemp seed supplements for mood), Endo Flame (hemp seed supplements for inflammation), Endo Brain (hemp seed oil supplements for memory and cognition) and Endo Sleep (hemp seed supplements for better sleep). Hemp Fusion, a company that offers full spectrum phytocomplex liquid hemp supplements for sleep regulation, stress mitigation, and other common ailments, was also one of the more progressive booths in the supplement section of the expo. CV Sciences, meanwhile, gave out tiny bottles of non-GMO CDB oil (total plant complex) along with helpful information, including a case report by Scott Shannon, MD, and Janet Opila-Lehman, ND, titled The Effectiveness of Cannabidoil for Pediatric Anxiety and Insomnia as Part of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. (For those who weren’t already in the known, CBD has been show to significantly reduce anxiety and the symptoms thereof.)

There *Is* Such Thing As All-Natural Hand Sanitizer

Until very recently, the pervading rhetoric surrounding hand sanitizers suggested that the only effective hand sanitizers had to contain known carcinogens like triclosan. In the wake of the FDA’s ruling that triclosan can no longer be marketed due to safety concerns, Australia-based company Elyptol has emerged as the next generation of hand, skin, and surface hygiene products– and it just so happens to contain all botanical ingredients. The brand’s FDA-registered Natural Antimicrobial Hand Sanitizer gels are infused with eucalyptus essential oil, which is effective at killing “99.9999%” of germs with the added benefit of cognitive aromatherapy.

Endorsed by leading safety and efficacy-certifying organizations, Elyptol is safe for high frequency use (among other avenues, it’s being marketed in particular to doctors, who frequently use hand sanitizer in clinical settings). We really like their antimicrobial spray, which is stamped with a Good Environmental Choice eco label (Australia‘s only independent, not-for-profit, multi-sector sustainability and environmental certification program). In the realm of hand sanitizer, this is one of the safest brands on the market (just remember not to get too clean– a little bacteria is good).

Manuka Honey Skincare Products Are On The Horizon

We’ve been keyed into the health benefits of manuka honey for a while now, having gone so far as to even design multiple DIY skin treatments around it. Wedderspoon— already one of our favorite and most trusted honey purveyors out of New Zealand– used this year’s expo as an opportunity to debut their new Manuka Honey Night Cream (alongside their manuka honey lip balm, manuka honey artisanal soaps, and of course: their iconic KFactor 16+ Manuka Honey.)

You Can Put Collagen in Anything

Collagen chocolate, collagen chili, collagen smoothies! From cookie balls to energy bites, collagen was all the rage at this year’s expo. Neocell made collagen pancakes at their outdoor sample booth while Vital Proteins (a leading brand in the space) made coffee infused with their signature collagen peptide powder. Tonic Collagen, a new Chicago-based brand with inventive, convenient single-serve packaging, was also on site with their hair, skin, and nails beauty collagen powder blends.

Everyone Is Trying To Reinvent Cheetos

Beanito’s Baked White Bean Crunch Mac n’ Cheese Puffs, G.H. Cretors’ Just The Cheese Corn puffs, Snikiddy’s Organic Mac n’ Cheese baked puffs, and Munch Rights Incredi-Puffs are just a few examples of the many “healthy” Cheeto-alternatives we saw at this year’s Expo. From puffed lentil flour to popped brown rice and skinless popcorn, many different companies were experimenting with crunchy, powdery, cheese-covered snacks. Hippeas, a leader in this genre, was also on site handing out a number of flagship flavors including fajita, white cheddar, and happenin’ hickory. (For what it’s worth, LaLoo’s Funny Farm Goat Cheddar Cheese Popcorn is popped in coconut oil and makes a great substitute for Smart Food.)

Energy Bars Are Not Going Away– But They Are Simplifying

In response to mounting consumer demand for quick, healthful sources of energy (and the wellness world’s love of energy bars), a number of snack food companies that this year’s convention were offering new takes on simple energy bar formulas.

R-Bars have only six ingredients (their “Prickly Pear Pecan” flavor contains only chopped dates, pecans, dried apricots, prickly pear powder, sunflower oil, and lemon oil) while Nakd’s Cocoa Delight bar contains only dates, cashews, raisins, and cocoa. RxBars’ new peanut butter flavor has a recipe that consists merely of egg whites, dates, peanuts, and sea salt, and The Protein Ball Co‘s Peanut Butter Protein Balls boast dates, peanuts, whey protein, fruit juice, rice starch, and a hint of Himalayan sea salt. Bars of any kind are typically high glycemic and have more concentrated sugar than their real-food alternatives, but food manufacturers seem to be keying in to consumer demand for simplicity– if not in life, than certainly in what they eat.

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