Niche Naturals

    The Natural Products Expo East may not be where all the grand launches are but it’s still jammed with great finds. Held at The Baltimore Convention Center, September 13-15, there were 1,500 innovative brands in food and beverage, personal care and home, and supplements and ingredients.

    According to New Hope Network’s Nutrition Business Journal, the U.S. natural products industry grew 6.3% to hit $206 billion in annual sales last year, and industry sales have been more than doubling since 2007. The combined U.S. sales of natural, organic and functional foods and beverages increased 6.5% to $143 billion in 2017. This growth was about 10 times that of the overall $280 billion total food industry, which saw another stagnant year of about 0.7% growth.

    We were there to check out the innovations and new flavors.

    The Granola Boom – Over the last 10 years the granola options have grown from a 4-foot shelf to a 12-foot high, 8 feet wide shelf because of healthy eating habits and a backlash to cereal. Expo East hosted the players in the granola game who appeal to the hippies + hipsters. As people are learning more about fats, granola is once again being embraced for its good fat content. One of the pioneers, GrandyOats going into its 40th year in business in 2019 is one of the first small batch granola companies to go grain free with Coconola, a line of grain-free coconut-based granola made with 4g of protein per serving. Coconola is an all-natural, organic, vegan, paleo, non-GMO granola blended with organic coconut to create a yummy alternative to traditional granola. During the expo, GrandyOats — an organic business with eco-conscious initiatives and processes, and earth-friendly ideals hosted an interactive smoothie bowl bar hosted by Instagram star Caroline Fausel, @oliveyouwhole who shared her tips for making the most delicious, nutritious, Instagram-a-bowl smoothie bowls.

    Crazy for PB – You couldn’t keep the influencers away from the Crazy Richards Peanut Butter booth, one of the most instragammable nut butters on the market because of its silky consistency and rich nutrients without any added clutter like added salt, sugar and oils. The crowds didn’t just come for the peanut butter, Crazy Richard samples were donated to Hunger Relief Month through the Specialty Foods Association instead of handed out at the booth. People lined up to take selfies with the CR peanut butter heiress, Kimmi Wernli, who established “Healthy Kids Happy Future”, donating over 350,000 servings of peanut butter to children and families in need with a goal to reach 1 million by 2020.

    Kidding around – Goat people love goats because the’re cute, healthy people love goats for their digestible nutrient dense milk. It is well tolerated by the lactose intolerant and doesn’t cause inflammation. It also has A2 beta-casein protein which is far better and safer than its counterpart in cow milk. Goat milk also prevents allergic reactions and is environment-friendly. There is some evidence that the lipids and linoleic acid in goat milk influences brain development. Funny Farms, the makers of La Loo’s famous goat milk ice cream are bringing the many nutritional and digestive benefits of high quality goat milk and cheese from family goat farms to a variety of products with a focus on flavor and happiness including ready to eat cheeses, mac & cheese, popcorn and soon to be out pizzas.

    Italian take on dairy-free – Leave it to the Italians not to scrimp on flavor or texture when it comes to vegan cheese. MozzaRisella’s rice based dairy-free products look and taste just like the real thing. The whole-grain rice used to make the mock mozzarella and other imitation cheese products are rich in proteins, dietary fibers, vitamins, minerals, common and special amino-acids, which include GABA, or γ-aminobutyric acid. In addition, ferulic acid and its esters, phytosterols (γ-oryzanole) and phenolic antioxidants which seem to play an important role in maintaining human health are in there too. The antipasto spread at the booth was to die for, for any former cheese eater.

    Be your own blender – Meal prep is about to get even more creative as Ariston, the Greek olive oil and vinegar brand that first introduced the “refill & save” containers at retail showed up to Expo East with a new concept in dressing – stand alone dressing centers so shoppers can master their own blends right in the store. These self-blended dressings featuring Ariston’s superior oils and vinegars makes everyone who uses it a master blender.

    Mercury testing fish instead of yourself – There is now a diagnostic tool to test the mercury level of fish before consumed, and Safe Catch is using it to ensure they are selling the lowest mercury tuna on the market. The company claims it’s even safe enough for pregnant women and children as it keeps its mercury limit to ten times stricter than the FDA. The hand-cut tuna steaks are slow cooked with an artisan process making them taste as good as they are for you.

    Hunting, fishing and foraging meet in supplements – We learned about the healing powers of antlers and new reasons to take medicinal berries, fungi and bovine talking to the hunter and gatherer behind the Surthrival supplement line, Daniel Vitalis. Known for its Immortal Velvet Elk Antler extractions, Immunity Quest Colostrum, Medicinal Mushroom tinctures and Perpetual Youth Pine Pollen products, we got most excited about the new Schizandra berry which has more nutritive and adaptogenic properties.

    Meaty mushrooms – Pan’s has turned mushroom into jerky with a meaty treat that wouldn’t quite trick a carnivore, but it gives a herbivore a satisfying snack. We think mushroom jerky is a hearty, healthy snack and an emerging category to watch.

    Fresh flour on demand – There weren’t many appliances at Expo East, we would like to see more but we love playing with the MockMill, an affordable home mill that uses old grains in new ways. The best bread starts with freshly ground flour and this handy tool makes it easy to make when you need it.

    Eggs re-imagined – We tried several hard boiled eggs at Expo East. From cage-free to free-range to pasture-fed but the eggs we enjoyed the most were the ones that Perfectly Peckish coated in delicious seasonings and served up ready to eat.

    Bread-free crumbs – A new way to enjoy nuts, Appel Foods Nut Crumbs took the bread right out of the crumb and created crushed nut crumbs that coats just as well and give everything a nutty flavor and lots more proteins without the carbs.

    Juice style water – That’s what Rethink water did by putting slightly flavored water right in the old-style juice boxes your kids love to sip from. While Petal Beverage boosts our tastes up a notch with subtly delicious floral drinks.

    Keto snacking – We would be missing a chunk of the expo if we didn’t bring up Keto, the lifestyle DuJour.  Summit Naturals among other brands had keto-friendly snacks so decadent you wouldn’t know they are good for you.

    Vegans get more organic – Clean eaters want cleaner options that don’t scrimp on taste.  VeganSmart, a nutrient-dense shake that’s free of everything but fun, announced an organic line at Expo East. It could take all day for a vegan or anyone to consume the nutrients (protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber, prebiotics and digestive enzymes) found in one scoop of VeganSmart. We find it easier to get it out of the way by mixing it water, coffee, juice or a smoothie with no prep work. Everyone benefits, not just vegans, especially meat eaters who may be depleting nutrients.

    On the nose of health – If you’ve ever used a neti pot you know how good it is for your breathing and how difficult it can be to maneuver. Nasopure makes nose rinsing as easy as mouth washing with a burn-free sinus wash that will keep your sinus ph in balance.

    The charcoal bar – Charcoal has gained popularity in the cosmetics industry due to its toxin-absorbing properties which is perfect for maintaining healthy teeth, skin, and hair. Brittanie’s Thyme, a certified organic and vegan personal care brand, expanded its USDA certified charcoal collection with a sugar scrub, capsules, masks, deodorant, soaps, teeth whitening and washes. 

    We’re already getting ready for the Natural Product Expo West in Anaheim March 5-9 where more products will be unveiled to try.

    Nancy Trent is a writer and speaker, a lifelong health advocate, a globe-trotting trend watcher and the founder and president of Trent & Company, a New York-based marketing communications firm with an office in Los Angeles. Trent & Company, which launched many fitness brands, grew out of Nancy’s personal commitment to helping people live longer and healthier lives.  A former journalist for New York magazine, Nancy has written seven books on healthy lifestyles, serves on the editorial boards of several magazines and travels around the world speaking at conferences and trade shows on trends in the marketplace. She is a recognized expert in PR with more than 30 years of experience creating and managing highly successful campaigns. Nancy can be reached at (212) 966-0024 or through e-mail at  You may also visit