There are a few things that get me really, really excited when it comes to food. Well, actually…. food is a topic that tends to get me very excited in general, but especially when it comes to whole, healthy food and spotting new trends. That’s exactly what I spent last Saturday doing at the CHFA West Tradeshow, an annual event organized by the Canadian Health Food Association.

In case you haven’t heard of CHFA before, they’re Canada’s largest trade association dedicated to natural health and organic products. I attended CHFA East last fall when I was still living in Ontario – an amazing experience – and therefore was super pumped to check out CHFA West here in Vancouver.

Trendspotting at CHFA West, Vancouver

Getting ready for some food trend spotting (and lots of sample tasting) with my Vega buddies

The Vancouver Convention Center is HUGE, and so were the number of exhibitors. Everything from kale chips to natural skincare to organic pet food was under one roof last weekend, and to a foodie like me it was a bit like trick or treating, all while getting to know some great companies whose mission it is to help create a healthier population.

Many of the ‘trends’ I left the show thinking about aren’t really brand new at all, but there were definitely some strong themes this year. Here’s 6 that I noticed:

1. Nuts, dried fruit and seed mixes laced with superfoods

If you’re a fan of trail mix, you’re probably also familiar with how addictive it can be. We know it’s great to eat various nuts and seeds for their healthy fats, vitamins and minerals, but some companies are taking this a step further and mixing their traditional ingredients (think almonds, brazil nuts and sunflower seeds) with more exotic, less conventional ones. Prana for example, had 2 blends available to sample: the Machu Pichu Mix (includes Incan goldenberries, white mulberries, Brazil nuts, goji berries, and European pumpkin seeds, among others) and the Kilimajaro mix (almonds, walnuts, salty cashews, Sultana raisins, naturally sweetened cranberries and chocolate chips).

Prana Superfood Snacks

Similarly, Navitas Naturals has come out with some innovative new products and my favourite one by FAR was these:

Superfood nut and seed mixes from Navitas Naturals and Prana

Those guys in the middle are Maca Maple Cashews, and friends, these things are like crack. The nutty, slightly sweet taste and crunchy texture is addictive, and as a long-time maca lover they’re one of my new favourite products. The cashews are all clustered together inside the bag (making it hard to eat just one!) and I’m already finding ways to incorporate them into as many meals as possible.

Navitas Naturals Maple Maca Cashews

What’s cool about products like the maca cashews and Navitas Naturals’ Chia Rosemary Pepitas is that they create a new way for us to consume some of the ‘newer’ (and by that I mean new to the mass market) superfoods that previously we’d only really been throwing into smoothies. You wouldn’t normally just go eat a scoop of maca root powder out of a bag (at least I wouldn’t), and I like that these nut and seed mixes make these awesome nutrition boosters more convenient to consume.

2. Fruits and veggies in dehydrated form to help you hit your 10 a day.

For those of you who say hitting your daily fruit and veggie quota is hard because you don’t have time to peel and chop, there are a number of companies that won’t let you get away with that excuse any longer! There were seaweed crisps and kale chips of all forms and flavours at the expo, but one of my favourite, more unique finds was the new Garden Chips from Hippie Foods. You may already know this brand because of their very popular coconut chips, but the veggie junkie in me really enjoyed the Snacking Stir Fry blend of Garden Chips.

Hippie Garden Chips from Hippie Foods

Here’s what’s in it:

organic zucchini, organic sunflower seeds, organic carrots, organic almonds, organic kale , organic red cabbage, organic tamari soy sauce, organic onions, water, organic agave syrup, organic sesame seeds and organic chia seeds.

Quite the mix, right!?

In addition to veggies, there were lots of different dried fruit and freeze-dried fruit products like these ones from Greenday:

Greenday freeze dried fruit and pineapple chips

I really liked their pineapple chips for their sweet taste and crispiness, and think they’d be a really good addition to a homemade trail mix (the kind you smuggle into the movie theatre.. or is that just me?). They’re pretty kid-friendly too and a good substitute for some of the fake fruit snacks on conventional grocery store shelves.

I’ll always be an advocate of whole foods first (as in, without the dehydration, the way they fell from the tree/sprouted out of the ground), but all these dehydrated fruits and veggies do add convenience for those looking for healthy on-the-go choices. They’re good substitutes for greasy potato chips and many contain organic ingredients which is another big plus.

3. Coconut everything – not just the oil

This was probably the biggest trend I noticed at the tradeshow, and it’s one that’s been growing over the past year or so thanks to people learning about the vast range of uses for coconut oil. Let’s start with coconut water, because that’s probably the next most common and talked about coconut product these days. There are tons of coconut water manufacturers and I’ve tried several, but to be honest, I’ve never really been able to drink it in anything but smoothies. Yes, it would be great if I loved it because the naturally-occurring electrolytes would be perfect mid-workout, but based on previous taste tests, it’s one of the last things I’d pick. That was until I found this one…

Feeding Change Coconut Water

… which totally changed my mind. Feeding Change is a company with an awesome vision, and some pretty awesome raw, non-GMO and organic products too. At the show they had virgin coconut oil, coconut water, coconut meat, and for those of you who love the ‘roons, chocolate macaroons. (I had one and I don’t even like macaroons.. or so I thought. These were awesome.) This particular coconut water is unpasteurized with no added sugars or preservatives. Ice-cold, it was delicious.

Until the tradeshow, all coconut waters I’d ever seen were in cartons or bottles, ready to drink. However, one unique find was Navitas Naturals’ powdered coconut water. Sounds kinda crazy right, powdered water? As you may have guessed, you need to mix it with water, but I suppose it would be a handy thing to have on hand while traveling if you can’t get cartons/bottles easily. It’s also a lot lighter to carry, and could me mixed into smoothies and sports drinks.

Navitas Naturals coconut water powder

In addition to coconut water, there were a number of companies with tubs of coconut manna, which is the pureed meat of the coconut (not just the oil, which as the name implies is what’s in the jar of coconut oil in your kitchen or bathroom.) I had a taste of coconut manna on its own, and again, was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Watch for it popping up as an ingredient in curries, stir fries and dressings (it’s a good sauce thickener), desserts, bars, icing, and natural skincare products.

4. A savoury spin on snack bars

When you think of your average bar, whether it’s a protein bar, granola bar, or other ‘snack’ type bar, is it sweet or savoury? My guess is that most of you would say sweet, and that’s what pops into my head too. Challenging this notion though, are savoury bars made by companies like Mediterra.

Mediterra Savoury and Sweet Bars

The inspiration for Mediterra’s bars comes from their Greek founder who wanted to incorporate some of the key components and staple foods from the Mediterranean diet into a convenient bar format. Two flavours (Sundried Tomato & Basil, and Olive & Walnuts) are savoury, whereas the other 4 in the product lineup are sweet. Regardless, all 6 are made with high-quality ingredients, no processed crap, and are non GMO and gluten-free.

Mediterra bar samples at CHFA West

While the convenience factor is obvious, I can also see these being considered by endurance athletes looking for an alternative to sugar-packed gels and bars that have been on the market for years. Yes, that sugar serves an important purpose from a performance perspective, but coming from someone who has been chugging back her fair share of sports drink throughout my half Ironman training, I would certainly welcome a savoury option once in a while!

Aside from athletes, I think savoury bars can also benefit the general population by reducing our reliance on sugar. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that the more sweet things I eat, the more I crave sweet things. Perhaps with more convenient savoury options on the market like these bars, as well as the dehydrated veggie chips mentioned previously, we’ll be able to reduce daily sugar intake and also reduce the incidence of lifestyle-related diseases that go along with it.

5. Cereal companies expanding their product lines

In addition to some new-to-me companies, I also had the chance to catch up with some of my long-time favourites like Maddy and Alex from Love Grown Foods. You may already know them for their granola, hot oats, Super Oats, and Power O’s, but they’ve just launched a wicked new product called Mighty Flakes.

Maddy and I at CHFA West- Love Grown Foods

Like Power O’s, it uses their innovative bean blend (navy beans, lentils, and garbanzo beans) as well as brown and white rice to create a flaked cereal that’s similar texture-wise to the Frosted Flakes I remember from my childhood – only a squillion times better from a health perspective. They’re wheat and corn-free meaning that I’m able to tolerate them with my gluten sensitivity, and have been loving the Cranberry Almond flavoured ones as a pre-workout snack. If you’ve got little kiddies at home, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t mind this in their breakfast bowls every morning!

cranberry almond mighty flakes from love grown foods

Nature’s Path is another cereal brand that’s extending their product lines, adding bars to the mix for Qi’a and Love Crunch, two of their existing cereals. Like many other companies at CHFA that are already in the breakfast category, moving into bars creates an opportunity for these brands to be part of your life a little later in the day as well. And like I mentioned above in trend #1, Nature’s Path’s Qi’a bars are another example of a company making superfoods (chia, hemp and buckwheat in this case) more accessible and convenient to consume.

Nature's Path Qi'a and Love Crunch Bars

6. Natural skincare that looks pretty, smells great, and actually works!

Admittedly, food items are the ones that draw my eye most at events like this. But in between bites of kale chips and swigs of kombucha, there were a few natural skincare companies that caught my attention. It was a combination of beautiful packaging, clever branding (yes, the marketer in me loves this kind of stuff), and high quality yet simple products.

I’ve experimented with making my own body scrubs in the past, but when it comes to things like deodorant, I tend to buy the same traditional (read: the kind with all the supposedly horrible ingredients inside) sticks every time. Maybe it’s because I’ve always figured any sort of natural alternative wouldn’t be powerful enough to mask the lovely odour that wafts from my armpits after a long workout? Whatever the reason, I came across Routine at the tradeshow, a Calgary-based company with the prettiest deodorant I’ve ever seen.

Routine’s product line consists of 11 deodorants (some of which are vegan-friendly), but all of which are made without nasty chemicals. Each deodorant is scented with essential oils, and the ingredients are safe enough to eat (although eating deodorant seems like a rather unusual snack choice.) I was given a few samples – Maggie’s Citrus Farm and Blackberry Betty – and put the latter to the test this weekend. After 2 hours and 45 minutes on the bike, plus a 35 minute run, I did the old nose-to-pit test and guess what? I still smelled like blackberries! Each full-size pot is 50mL but lasts 3-6 months with regular use, so a little goes a long way.

Routine Natural Deodorant - Handmade in Calgary

While the price point of natural skincare products still tends to be on the high end compared to the conventional alternatives, I like seeing new businesses come up with gorgeous products like Routine’s that really work. As more research is done on the effects of chemicals in the products we use daily, I’d like to think people will be willing to pay a little extra, knowing they’re doing what’s best for their health.

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Phew. That was a big one. Let’s turn it over to you…

  • Dehydrated veggies, savoury bars, coconut everything…. what food trends are you loving right now and which ones do you wish the world would just get over?
  • Have you come across any especially innovative products lately? 
  • Are there any ingredients that you see popping up everywhere that you wish you knew more about?
Disclosure: All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own, and no compensation was provided by any of the companies mentioned in this post.