MONTVALE, N.J., Feb. 21, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Following is an article written by Rick Klauser, CEO at Sprout Foods.

Expo West is THE place for natural products companies to showcase ideas that will inspire and drive the industry for the next 12 months. But with over 3,000 exhibitors, how do you pinpoint the most important trends in a vast hall of products? In addition to being an exhibitor and meeting with retailers, the Sprout Foods team will be focused on tracking key consumer and product trends, particularly with today’s parents. Here are my predictions for the top four trends to watch in the organic baby food category at Expo West on March 8-12, 2017.          

Plant-powered picks up speed. Consumer demand for organic, simple and clean ingredients has driven a major expansion of plant-focused food across all categories, and this year the movement will begin to gain momentum in the organic baby food industry. Nearly 1/3 of babies and toddlers aged 9 to 24 months do not eat vegetables on a given day, but plant-based food can help change that. The health benefits are hard to ignore: Children raised on a plant-based diet are less likely to be overweight, have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, less inflammation, and a reduced risk of chronic illness later in life, including heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. As more parents consider plant-based diets, expect to see a lot of plant-focused innovation on the trade show floor.

Non-meat protein sources are on the rise. Meat alternatives are expected to reach $5 billion by 2020, driven by concerns about health and wellness, animal welfare, and sustainability. Many parents worry about getting enough protein in their children’s diets, but according to Russell Greenfield, M.D. and Clinical Professor of Medicine, UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine: «Most people only require a small amount of protein-rich food each day to meet nutritional requirements. It’s relatively easy to get adequate protein in the diet, even for families who primarily eat plant-based foods.» A number of new baby and toddler food products are leveraging alternative protein sources such as organic soy products (tempeh, tofu), whole grains (quinoa, bulgur, freekah), legumes (beans, lentils, peas), Greek yogurt, nuts, and leafy greens.

Sourcing moves to the forefront. The sourcing of organic ingredients will be a big topic this year, as Millennials push for transparency about what’s in their food, where it came from, and how it was grown or raised. When it comes to their growing babies and toddlers, their standards are higher than ever. At Expo West, industry leaders will provide further transparency by having an honest conversation about sourcing with both their organic buyers and consumers. For example, Sprout Foods has partnered with a third-generation California family farm, Pitman Farms, to make a co-branded line of Stage 3 Organic Blends (delicious vegetable and meat purees for babies aged 8 months and up) with organic, free-range meat. Sprout’s packaging will communicate other benefits such as meat raised without antibiotics or growth promoting hormones.

Package innovation takes center stage. With ever-multiplying products on shelves, brands are leveraging innovative package design to stand out and build consumer trust. One innovation that’s taking the category by storm is clear pouch packaging, which taps into growing consumer demand for transparency about how food and beverages are produced. Sprout® will be the first organic baby food brand to have a 100% clear pouch portfolio in 2017. So what’s next in package innovation? All signs point to clean labeling as the next big movement. When trying to choose which products to buy, consumers want the most important information – such as ingredients and nutritional value – to be communicated to them in ways that are visibly clear and easy to understand. Sprout’s commitment to transparency is visible on our packaging – each product contains a pledge that the ingredients on the front match the primary ingredients in the recipe. The spotlight will be on food manufacturers’ plans to improve the labeling of products in these ways.

While these trends reflect broader themes that are shaping the food and drink industry overall, they are also a window into what consumers will care about for years to come. As Millennials become parents, they are hitting the «re-set button» on nutrition and focusing on making the right decisions for their children. The fact that these trends are important now when they have infants and toddlers means they will continue to be important as their kids grow up. Be on the lookout for innovations in organic family nutrition at Expo West – it can tell you a lot about your consumer.

Rick Klauser is the CEO at Sprout Foods, Inc. Klauser’s career has spanned three decades across multiple functions in corporate and private equity companies, which evolved into his passion for healthy foods and global expertise in infant nutrition. He was Nestlé U.S.’s first chief marketing and medical sales officer and created an age-/stage-based portfolio strategy, which redefined the infant nutrition category hierarchy. As global head of Nestlé S.A.’s «Start Healthy, Stay Healthy» campaign, Klauser led the largest unbranded corporate education initiative of its kind, designed to help parents and medical practitioners around the world understand the lifelong impact of proper nutrition in the first one thousand days of life.

About Sprout Foods, Inc.
Sprout Foods provides premium organic foods for babies, toddlers and their families that encourage happy and healthy eating. Founded in 2008, Sprout® was the first company to introduce baby food in a pouch, triggering the explosion of the organic baby food pouch segment in the U.S. Sprout® uses only unadulterated non-GMO ingredients, with whole foods from the source, and unique cooking methods to create tasty, nutritious combinations that appeal to all ages. Sprout® believes that a meal is more than nourishment: it’s a chance to inspire and grow together. That’s why the company is committed to developing an early love of healthy, whole ORGANIC foods. For more information, visit http://www.sproutorganicfoods.com.

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SOURCE Sprout Foods