Pink Lettuce, Golden Berries and Cauliflower Rice

July 13, 2018

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Raise your hand if the first question your mom always asks is, “Did you eat?” closely followed by “Was it delicious?” If so, you’re one of us. Welcome to FH FAB (Food Agribusiness and Beverage) – 150+ food scientists, grown-up farm kids, nutritionists skeptical about keto, and brand marketers crossing 80 cities and 30 countries. We may not all speak the same language, but no need because our shared love language is food.

Last week, we had the chance to expand our FleishmanHillard FAB tribe and meet up with thousands of other foodies at the 2018 United FreshMKT Expo, United FreshTEC Expo and SmartFood Expo in Chicago, a gathering of produce industry players across the entire supply chain from growers, shippers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, foodservice operators and industry associations. Really, there is a tradeshow for all of us.

We geeked out over new trends, products and innovations. Here are a few that you can expect to see in-store, on-shelf and #discovermore in your Instagram feed soon.

Color is healthy: Social media has elevated colorful foods to cult status (for anyone that’s ‘grammed pink lettuce, this isn’t news). Color — whether in whole foods, juices or sauces — is increasingly recognized as healthy. Purple, dark green, gold and blue are all winners. Growers are playing with color to get our attention. Look for new hues to pop up and mash-up in never before seen ways. One of our new favorites: Golden Berries are emerging as an exotic superfood. These bright color-bombs of flavor are a little tangy, a little sweet and rich in antioxidants.

Innovation is happening across the supply chain. Look at United Fresh Innovation Award Finalists and you’ll see lines blurring between categories as big minds work to solve problems that impact growers, packers, retailers and foodservice operators. Our favorite case in point: Plant-derived Apeel doubles the lifespan of harvested fruits and vegetables — without the use of refrigeration. Just launched, it’s made from materials found in fruit and helps protect resources, reduce waste and increase profits. Ground-breaking!

Become internet famous to land major retail attention: Prime grocery shelf space is in limited supply. Many new brands have found a way to buck the system by using digital and SEO strategies to become the #1 seller on internet platforms like Amazon and Instacart. Armed with top seller status and a wealth of consumer data from digital transactions, these brands can negotiate their way to prime on-premise space with traditional retailers.

Food safety is everywhere: From field to fork, the industry is focused on making sure the foods we eat are safe. There were too many innovative food safety solutions to count, from FruitCams to Freshness Cards. Our favorite: Oversight Mobile provides access to real-time temperature and location data of produce in transit to help improve food safety and mitigate food waste. It’s from Emerson Cargo Solutions (which is an FH client).

Vegetables are the new starch: Cauliflower rice is not going away anytime soon. In fact, the trend of using vegetables to replace starches like pasta, rice and pizza is only growing and bringing along more vegetables like sweet potatoes, beets and squash. One of our faves at the Expo: Cece’s Veggie Noodle Co.

The identity of protein is expanding: One in five Americans are trying to consume more protein, according to a Eurormonitor survey, and for 15-29 year-olds that number jumps to 30%. Fresh meat, the biggest source of protein, is forecast to continue to grow, while fish and dairy is expected to lose ground. While there’s a lot of attention on meat alternatives, new high-protein products ranging from ice cream (Halo Top) to natural snacks like RXBar (our favorite at the show) are changing the definition of protein.

Produce as Packaged Goods: Remember when carrots and apples were “the new junk food”? That trend has finally scaled and reached broader availability. Whether it’s because of better fresh cut technologies, more branding or consumer demand, we’re excited that single-serve, portable produce and fresh snacks will be more readily accessible. Thanks for helping us moms out! One we especially loved: Paw Patrol crunch packs.

Up-Cycling isn’t just for HGTV: Reducing food waste is playing out in new packaging and new services…and in up-cycling ingredients left over from food production. Our favorite at the show: Pulp Pantry superfood clusters, which are made from high-fiber pulp left behind when fruits and veggies are pressed to make juice. #PowerToThePulp.

Women Present and Future: Whether it was the passing of the torch from United Fresh Outgoing Chairwoman Susan Reimer-Sifford to Incoming Chairwoman Cindy Jewell, Vice President of Marketing at California Giant Berry, or the vibrant conversations and connections made at the Reception Honoring Women in Produce, the impact and leadership of women in the produce industry was palpable.