The natural foods space evolves and grows, and the peanut butter aisle is a perfect example. A generation ago, variety in this corridor was creamy, crunchy or the jar with alternating stripes of peanut butter and jelly. To find natural or flavored peanut butters back then, you would probably have to go to a small natural grocer or make it yourself at home. Now, there are dozens of varieties available from brands with simply peanuts and salt to exotic flavors like garam masala.
The natural foods space is still innovating and expanding and the newest and brightest players are on display at several trade shows during the year, including Natural Products Expo East, Fancy Food Show, the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. At these events thousands of brands are showcased and many further missions centered on health, wellness, community building and sustainability. These new products will end up on store shelves heading into the new year.
While there are lots of trends at these types of shows, two of the most prominent are functional foods and clean labels. Functional foods bring something more to the party, like specific nutrients or formulations that are ideal for a certain purpose. For example, Bonafide Provisions line of veggie drinks with bone broth that have 6-11 grams of protein and are available in different varieties including Revitalize, Thrive, Glow, Renew and Revive. In the world of busy families and working professionals, those functional descriptions have real impact.
Peanut products that play into this functional trend were on display at Expo East as well. Protein Plus has a new line of peanut protein powders that include probiotics and 17 grams of protein. Available in banana, honey, chocolate and original flavors, Protein Energy Power is a plant-based vegan protein powder that’s marketed to everyone from bodybuilders to busy moms as a snack or meal replacement. P-nuff Crunch is a crunchy, puffed snack with peanuts, fiber-rich navy beans and brown rice. These superfoods are a vegan source of complete protein, which is important for building muscle in athletes and in growing kids.
Clean label is also an important trend, and older and new brands are responding. Crazy Richard’s started making single-ingredient peanut butter in the late 1800s, and the recipe hasn’t changed. Their brand mantra is “clutter-free PB,” making it easy to enjoy the simple pleasure of 100% peanuts or easily pair with other nutritious foods like fruit, oatmeal and smoothies. Also embracing the clean label trend, Elmhurst 1925’s line of plant-based milks recently extended their line with six new additions, including Milked Peanuts and Milked Peanuts Chocolate. Milked Peanuts includes 31 actual peanuts in each serving and just water, salt, cane sugar and natural flavors. Nakd snack bars are also embracing the clean label, whole foods trend with ingredients like dates, nuts, raspberries and blueberries. Bucking the processed food trend, Nakd calls their product-creation process “smooshing.”
So, what do some of these latest food products say about the natural foods market? Not only do consumers want foods that have few and recognizable ingredients, they also want those ingredients to serve a higher purpose and function. Consciously or subconsciously, American shoppers are asking the question, “How will eating this product enhance my life?” And, brands from peanut butter to probiotic drinks are seizing the opportunity for success.