The Private Label Manufacturers Association hosted its annual PLMA Show from November 12-14, 2017 in Rosemont, Illinois. Over 1,500 companies from more than 50 countries exhibited at the show. In this article, I will highlight noteworthy trends in foods and drinks that I saw at the show – cauliflower “rice” and pizzas, seaweed snacks, premium fruit snacks, coconuts everywhere, cold brew RTD coffee, and functional coffee.
Cauliflower Was the “It” Vegetable at the Show
Having been born in South Korea, I have been eating seaweed my entire life. Koreans regularly eat gim (dried seaweed sheets that are flame/pan-roasted and seasoned with oil and salt) as a side dish with rice at meals. In contrast, Americans rarely eat seaweed unless they are eating California rolls or other rolls wrapped in seaweed. Things are changing as kids in Generation Z (born 2001 – present) are embracing ethnic foods including seaweed as a snack. Numerous South Korean companies offered seaweed snacks at the show as a healthy, low-calorie snack. Yemat Foods offered USDA Organic Roasted Seaweed Snacks that only contain organic seaweed, organic sunflower oil, and sea salt with 30 calories for a 0.18oz single-serve pack. Under its C-Weed Snack brand, Yemat Foods also offered 20-calorie packs in Bulgogi and Wasabi flavors that are “Great for Kid’s Lunch Box”, Seaweed Crunch With Almonds, and Seaweed Crunch With Coconut. Gim Factory Inc promotes its TrueSea All Natural Premium Roasted Seaweed Snacks as gluten free, vegan, kosher certified, and non-GMO. WooBo offered Artisan Crafted Onion Sea Tangle Crunch made with glutinous rice flour, seaweed, rice bran oil, onion, sea salt, and turmeric powder with 120 calories per 0.88oz serving. Companies are also incorporating seaweed in other snack products. Snak King offered Nori Sesame Cassava Popped Chips.
Premium Fruit Snacks
There is growing demand for snacks that are minimally processed and contain no or minimum added sugar. Exhibitor SunOpta promoted premium fruit snacks with a sale sheet that stated that the $116 million premium fruit snacks category has grown by 14.7% over the last five years according to Nielsen data. SunOpta offers fruit strips, fruit twists, and fruit bits that contain no artificial flavors, no synthetic colors, or high fructose corn syrup.
Coconut was everywhere at the show in food and beverage formats. Laughing Giraffe Organics LLC offered Snackaroons in multiple flavors including Chocolate and Salted Caramel. Snackaroons are dehydrated coconut macaroon styled cookies that are USDA Organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and kosher. ONA Cookies from Tribe 9 Foods uses organic coconut oil in Certified Paleo cookies that are free of gluten, grains, dairy, and soy. Coconut oil sales have increased in the U.S. and benefited from the growing popularity of Bulletproof coffee and butter coffees that combine brewed coffee with ghee (clarified butter) and coconut oil or MCT oil. Beneficial Blends, LLC offered Kelapo Extra Virgin Coconut Oil that is USDA Organic and fair for life Fair Trade. The Kelapo Coconut Oil and Ghee single-serve 0.5 oz packets are designed to be mixed into coffee “For Added Energy & Focus”. Carrington Farms offered USDA Organic Coconut Oil and Coconut Oil & Ghee as well as a Premium MCT LIquid Coconut Oil designed to be mixed into coffee and smoothies. The company states that medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are efficiently utilized by the body for energy production and helps in calorie burning". Exhibitor Mementa Inc focuses on coconut and natural food products by selling everything from USDA Organic coconut oil to coconut flour, coconut sugar, and toasted coconut chips to coconut milk and coconut water.
On the beverage front, multiple companies offered coconut water. The Vietnam Harvest Company Co., Ltd provided Sparkling Coconut Water in addition to Organic Coconut Cooking Oil. Copra offered a line of USDA Organic products - 100% Pure Coconut Water and Organic Coconut Smoothie made with 100% Young Coconut Water & Coconut Meat alongside Frozen Coconut Meat Smoothie Packs. Jasper Products offered CoconutSense Coconut Milk in both USDA Organic and non-organic varieties. Companies are adding fruit juice to coconut to provide more flavor variety. Ace Farm Holdings had their Ace Farm Coconut Drink line that combines water, sugar, nata de coco, and natural coconut flavor. Nata de coco, also known as coconut jelly, is produced by the fermentation of coconut water. WooBo Coconut Fizz mixed sparkling coconut water (not from concentrate) with fruit juice and no added sugar.
Numerous companies offered cold brew RTD (ready-to-drink) coffee at the show to participate in the fast-growing cold brew coffee category. Demand for cold brew coffee is rising because the process of steeping coffee grounds in cold water for 10+ hours creates a coffee with a smoother, less bitter taste. Heartland Food Products Group offered its JAVA HOUSE Cold Brew Coffee Co. in both shelf-stable concentrate and RTD bottle formats. The JAVA HOUSE RTD bottles came in Colombian Black, Coffee Cold Brew Frappe, and Vanilla Cold Brew Frappe varieties. At the Trilliant Food & Nutrition, LLC ’s booth, its Horseshoe Beverage Co. division offered a variety of shelf-stable RTD coffees including cold brew, latte, and energy beverages. Berner Food & Beverage’s shelf-stable RTD coffee included cold brew, iced lattes, coffee energy, and coffee nutrition. Gehl Foods, LLC and Steam Punk’d Roasters Ltd. both offered shelf-stable cold brew coffee. On the concentrate end, Synergy Flavors, Inc offered a wide variety of options to meet different price points including a premium 100% Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate and a Standard Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate with Synergy Pure Coffee Concentrate and coffee solubles. For the do-it-yourselfer, Pod Pack International, Ltd offered Cold Brew One pods that contain ground coffee in a micro-mesh filter. The Cold Brew One pods are designed to make a single 12oz serving at home with no mess in a glass in 8 to 12 hours.
The popularity of RTD coffee energy drinks such as Java Monster (from Monster Beverage Corp.) and Starbucks Doubleshot Energy Coffee Drink that blend coffee with energy-boosting ingredients like guarana and ginseng has led companies to offer private label varieties. Berner and Trilliant Food & Nutrition offered coffee energy varieties while Strategy & Execution Inc offered a 15oz RTD Espresso that contains 13g of protein. NuZee, Inc fused cold brew and functional benefits in its new line of Coffee Blenders shelf-stable RTD Cold Brew coffees – LEAN, THINK, RELAX, and ACTIVE. The THINK variety contains 200mg of American ginseng to enhance mental clarity and concentration while the LEAN variety contains 400mg of green coffee bean extract to promote weight loss. Coffee Blenders also offered its line of functional coffees in a Drip Cup Pour Over format and whole bean coffee format.
Trilliant Food & Nutrition’s Wellnova Consumer Healthcare division offered functional coffee packaged in capsules to be used in the single-serve coffee Keurig Brewers. Wellnova’s functional coffee pods are designed to offer health benefits without the disadvantages of taking pills or vitamin gummies. Its Café Complete Coffee & Protein variety is a 2-item pack, with a coffee pod and a separate protein packet with 10g of collagen protein. Other functional coffee pods in the line include Immune (with Wellmune immune support), Fiber (8g of prebiotic fiber), and Vitamin (12 vitamins and minerals).