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EXCLUSIVE: 5 Food Trends From UNFI's Selling Show

The hottest categories in grocery now
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
proteinpuck
Protein Puck only uses only 15 ingredients across its entire product lineup.

This was a good week to be in Orlando, Fla., basking in the warm sun and innovative products on display at UNFI's Spring and Summer Show.

The event on Feb. 7 and 8 gave more than 1,000 brands and 2,000 customers the opportunity to meet with experts across natural, GM/HBC, meat, seafood, produce, and bakery and deli departments to see what's trending in a variety of categories.

“Our selling shows are a great way for our customers to discover new products and trends that extend their reach and relevance with shoppers, and in return, help them drive sustainable growth and a competitive edge in the marketplace. Simultaneously, our selling shows create a compelling experience for our suppliers to make connections and lasting relationships with a broad network of retailers looking to motivate shoppers with an on-trend portfolio of products,” said Jillian D’Elia, senior director of event strategy at UNFI. 

[Read more: "UNFI Ramps Up Supplier Diversity Investment"]

The show was full of better-for-you brands that are revolutionizing the aisles of the grocery store. 

Here's five product trends I saw walking the show floor that we can expect to see shaking up the grocery industry in 2023 and beyond:

  1. Biodynamic. Regenerative is so 2022. The new buzzword is biodynamic, and it means taking a holistic approach to farming. Biodynamic farmers like to create farm fertility from the resources of the farm itself, whereas regenerative/organic can buy fertility in. Mike's Organic Foods was one of the exhibitors at UNFI. His organic curry sauces and pastes are biodynamic, USDA Organic, non-GMO, gluten free, soy free, dairy free, sugar free and keto/vegan-friendly. 
  2. Functional is the new plant-based. From Pricklee Cactus Waters to organic energy drinks to non-alcoholic functional tonics to the new kombucha, called Jun; functional beverages and foods are having a moment in 2023, and they are looking to solve all kinds of health concerns, from digestive issues to inflammation to mental well-being. One new product trend is a type of kombucha called Jun, made from green tea and raw honey (conventional kombucha uses black tea and refined or cane sugar as its fermentation medium). Wild Tonic Jun has flavors such as raspberry goji rose, mango ginger, blueberry basil, and blackberry mint. And I can confirm that none of them have that vinegary kombucha taste!
  3. Really clean label. Many of the products on display at UNFI called out their clean labels, but some have gone beyond clean label and entered the "less is more" realm. Take Protein Puck for example. Their bars are formulated with real, simple ingredients. In fact, the company uses only 15 ingredients across its entire product lineup. They don’t use processed foods, protein powders or isolates. Everything is natural. And the bars have attractive names such as wanderlust, daily bliss, mighty moxie and good vibes. Perfect for that millennial hiking trip.
  4. Healthier snacks. Healthy snacks have also gone next-level. BelGioioso has new snacking rolls out, along with gourmet snacking cheese and provolone bites. Wild Planet has ready to eat tuna salad bowls. Partake has chocolate chip, ginger snap and lemon cookies that are free of the top nine allergens. Hail Merry has delicious functional pies in key lime, peanut butter and sweet potato flavors. Like Air has puffcorn snacks in flavors like pancake and white cheddar. And Catalina Crunch and 34 Snaps both have new products designed to appeal to the most discerning snacker. 
  5. DEI suppliers. UNFI's New Product Showcase, which spotlights over 30 participating companies featuring more than 50 new products across grocery, frozen, chill, and bakery and deli categories, gave some love to several DEI suppliers. Some of those brands included This Little Goat (sauces and spices), Heywell (adaptogenic waters), That's It (healthy fruit snacks), Jaju (pierogis), Bea's Squeeze (lemonade), Swoon (zero sugar beverage), Olivia's (gluten free croutons), Tosi (vegan snacks), and Bella San Luci (Italian sauces and more).

And there's more! Tyson has new value-added case ready meats such as extra thin sliced; Frito-Lay is going all in on Americans' mac and cheese addiction with Cheetos Mac 'n Cheese in a variety of bold flavors; Happy Egg Co. has new packaging and the Heritage yolks are the yellowest I have ever seen; La Croix has new flavors out like guava sao paolo and cherry blossom; Lakanto is expanding its monkfruit-sweetened portfolio to include baking mixes and more; Quaker Oats has a new line of instant oatmeal called Fruit Fusion, which comes in flavors such as blueberry blackberry, strawberry peach and raspberry strawberry; Late July's Mexican Street Corn tortilla chips are delicious and flying off the shelves; Kind has new cereal bars in peanut butter, chocolate, honey nut and cinnamon (plus new soft baked squares and thins); St. Pierre has a new frozen baguette product; Bragg is expanding its popular apple cider vinegar products to various supplements (olive oil, nutritional yeast, energy capsules and more); and Lono Life has dehydrated bone broth on the go.

Providence, R.I.-based UNFI is North America's premier grocery wholesaler delivering the widest variety of fresh, branded, and owned brand products to more than 30,000 locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, ecommerce providers, and food service customers. 

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