The Top Food Trends from the Grocery Innovations 2014 Show

By Abby Langer, Foodable Contributor

Food shows draw all sorts of people and products, and the Grocery Innovations Show is no different. Set at the Toronto Convention Centre, it features the newest products from small and large in the food industry. I went looking for the latest food trends that will soon be featured on grocery and food supplier’s lists, and on menus around the country.

Everything Coconut

Coconut was absolutely everywhere. Coconut is a super-healthy addition to any kitchen, and it seems like it’s being added to everything. I saw everything from coconut whipped cream and coconut brie. Some of the products I tasted seemed to be flavored with coconut chemicals, not real coconut. If you use coconut, use the real thing. Fake coconut tastes fake.

Water Substitutes

Coconut water better watch it, because other water substitutes are angling to take its crown, and they are much better tasting!

Tea is hot right now, but have you heard of protein fortified tea? This product from BluDot won one of the ‘most innovative product’ awards from this year’s show. Containing 12g of whey protein per serving, this tea is also non-GMO, gluten free, and has no artificial ingredients. It also has 6g of fiber per serving, making it chock full of what consumers are looking for right now. The teas come in regular, which are sweetened with cane sugar, and reduced calorie, which are sweetened with stevia. They have 60 calories per serving.

Seva maple water was another product that made its debut at the show; made in Quebec from pure maple sap (not syrup, the sap becomes syrup when boiled), Seva is a clear beverage that’s naturally sweet. Claiming to have 46 nutrients in it, it’s a low-calorie choice for people who don’t like plain water but are wanting to get away from sugary drinks.

Zpirit naturally infused water comes in flavors like peach basil and mandarin mint, and features both herbs and real fruits in its formulation. At only 30 calories per serving, Zpirit’s ‘infuzions’ are a lot healthier than a sugary drink, and it’s refreshing.  

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

Gourmet Popcorn

The newest millennial snack, popcorn, is still going strong. Not only did Smartfood release new flavors after 19 years – I saw dill pickle and a Chicago-style caramel and cheddar at this year’s show – but there were other boutique popcorn makers showcasing their wares as well.

One of the best products I saw at the show was a product called From Farm to Table, which is made by a Canadian company and sold mostly in foodservice to schools. GMO-free and sourced in the US from one of the only GMO-free popcorn growers in North America, this product comes in a wide variety of flavors. Their new product is made with fruits and vegetables, ground into powder and sprinkled on plain popcorn. It boasts a serving of fruit and vegetables in each serving of corn, though as a dietitian, I’m not sure if vegetables and fruit that have been reduced to dust would still qualify as fruit and vegetables. I’m thinking not, but the popcorn was still delicious!

‘Healthy’ Everything

As with all food shows, I was amazed at the amount of junk food that companies continue to produce. It’s sometimes hard to imagine that the ‘healthy’ products that companies come up with are anything more than marketing ploys, because when you read the label, they’re full of junk. Still, many companies showcased products that contain ‘superfood’ ingredients. There was Dempsters bread with purple wheat and flax, with an ‘earthy and soft’ claim on the label and a big red check indicating that it’s approved by Canada’s Dietitians (I must have missed that memo).

There was yogurt that contains chia seed, which is a gelling agent that contributed to the thick, rather goopy mouthfeel of the product. It also has 18g of sugar per ¾ cup, so maybe it’s not as healthy it seems.

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

I saw whole wheat panko from Kikkoman, which was actually higher in fiber than regular panko and a good choice for increasing fiber content of your fried goods, but they’re still fried, so does the whole wheat base really matter?

Country Harvest bread was showing two ‘Power Up’ breads – one with 16g of fiber and one with 17g of protein per 2 slices. They both have ingredient lists as long as your arm, containing many unpronounceable chemicals. I’d stick to homemade bread.

All in all, I think there wasn’t much new at this year’s show.  I wasn’t super impressed with most of the products (chocolate Woolwich goat cheese, anyone?) and it felt either like ‘been there, done that’ or very over the top (who needs 16g of fiber in 2 slices of bread?).  You can see what I mean when you look at the list of ‘most innovative product’ winners for this year.

Bottom line? Stick with whole foods, not gimmicks.