Representing more than 25 food associations globally including nine based in the U.S., Kellen is proud to provide unique insights and information across its Food and Nutrition Group. Our team stays ahead of the trends, regulatory activities and industry events to promote, protect and advance your association.
Recently, Kellen’s registered dietitians Berit Dockter, Karima Kendall and Diane Welland attended the first in-person Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) since 2019. FNCE is the world’s largest conference of registered dietitian nutritionists, nutrition science researchers, policy makers, health care providers and industry leaders, with nearly 9,000 attendees (7,000 in-person and another 1,800 participating virtually) and 225 exhibitors. We have consolidated some of the key trends and takeaways from FNCE for your quick reference.
We hope you will find this report informative and valuable. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me or your association’s Executive Director.
Many thanks for your continued partnership,
Group Vice President – Food & Nutrition
TRENDS FROM THE
Plant-based food was a theme that dominated the Expo exhibit spaces as well as the educational sessions. Examples of processed plant-based products being promoted on the floor included a cauliflower pizza crust, vegetable-based muffins, quiches and ketchup. These products often touted special benefits such as improved brain health or immunity.
On the other end of the spectrum were food commodity boards such as the strawberry council, mushroom council, peanut board, almond board, honey board and canned pears (as well as fresh). There was a good balance of vegetarian, vegan and plant-forward products. Expo educational sessions also focused on plant-based themes and highlighted peanuts, protein powder, fruit consumption, immunity and prune juice (and bone health). For companies in the plant-based space or thinking of entering this emerging sector, highlighting the many health benefits of a plant-forward diet is key. Highly processed plant-based foods are also still popular, especially if positioned as a healthy and sustainable alternative to meat products. Plant-forward recipes and meal plans are and continue to be trending.
Manufacturers were quick to point out “clean labels,” even for products which list water, nonfat milk, corn dextrin and sugar as the top four ingredients. Clean labels will continue to be a driving force for consumers and dietitians.
Snack Foods and Sweet Indulgences
The snacking trend continues to gain steam with crackers, nut bars and bites, biscuits, chips (mainly vegetable-based like black bean and sweet potato) and corn nuts. Sweet treats with health benefits were another common theme. For example, there was chocolate with added flavonols for extra health benefits and another company selling snack crisps made with chocolate and quinoa in a variety of flavors. A session on snack hacks was featured on the Expo floor from a protein powder company. For high calorie products, mindful snacking is a core message point. Incorporating healthy foods or ingredients (like bioactives) is another selling point. All types of snacks are gaining ground, as more people consider grazing more appealing than the traditional three-meal-a-day model. Healthy snacks are particularly appealing for those on-the-go consumers. Top ingredients found in snacks: protein and protein powders, fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds (especially seeds for those allergen-friendly products).
Prebiotic, Probiotics and Postbiotics
Another key theme was a continued high volume of foods, drinks and supplements containing prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics. Drinks and drinkable products were particularly popular. As emerging science touting the benefits of a healthy gut microbiome evolves, foods containing prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics will continue to expand in popularity. In addition, it is likely products containing these functional ingredients will become more targeted – gut health, mood, energy etc. – as more evidence comes to light. Companies should consider incorporating these ingredients into their product formulation or recipe development.
Protein, Protein Powders and Supplements
Although they did not have a huge presence, brands representing foods containing protein like dairy, eggs and meat promoted benefits such as natural, organic and antibiotic-free and catered to a steady flow of dietitians. A company making egg white wraps touted its products as gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and cholesterol-free. There were also a number of protein powders and supplements targeting athletes, older adults, children and general good health for people of all ages. Many companies were moving away from traditional protein powders to more allergen-friendly versions. Several exhibitors also promoted products specifically for dysphagia (swallowing issues), something we have seen little interest in, in the past. Protein is particularly important for the aging generation to prevent sarcopenia and for younger consumers to feel fuller longer and also promote muscle growth.
The theme of companies “doing good” to promote health and nutrition is directly aligned with the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health and healthy meals initiatives, as well as the push toward food security. It also resonates with many dietitians. Community involvement and support to end hunger and promote higher quality, healthy diets are highly valued, particularly among the Gen Z population and in the dietetic community overall. Industries and Associations should seek to include a sustainability component (environmental, social or economic) in all their campaigns.
KEY TAKE-AWAYS FROM
THE FNCE SESSIONS
Over the years, FNCE has been addressing cultural diversity inside the profession by encouraging schools to attract and train a wider variety of people interested in dietetics. On the practice side, the Academy has stressed the need for dietitians to be more culturally inclusive and sensitive when dealing with clients, encouraging a more flexible approach when counseling. This year, there was an emphasis on Tribal communities and melding traditional and indigenous foods and cultures into dietetic practices, which echoed the recent White House Conference. Here are the top themes.
Malnutrition and Undernutrition in At Risk Populations
Several sessions addressed malnutrition and undernutrition – clinically in healthcare/hospital settings, related to patient care, in the school system and from an operational perspective related to supply and demand.
Data-Driven Interventions Designed to Improve Community Health
These sessions presented data to help design community programs and identify disparities between populations. They also assessed and evaluated practices, barriers and positive outcomes related to the Food as Medicine concept.
Plant-Based Nutrition and Chronic Disease and Cardiometabolic Health
Unlike past sessions which focused on vegetarian and vegan diets, these sessions looked at various plant-based meal patterns and the scientific evidence associated with them as a tool for treating and managing chronic illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. Other sessions looked at general cardiometabolic health and athletes.
Benefits of a Healthy Microbiota
Emerging science around the microbiome continues to evolve and support the importance of the microbiome in general health. Several presentations discussed microbiota profiling and testing and health benefits related to chronic illness and neurocognitive function.
Public Health Initiatives Supporting the White House Conference Initiatives
Sessions such as “Fireside Chat with USDA Director, Dr. Sara Bleich: The Role of the Nutrition Professional” encouraged dietitians to get involved with public policy, promote public health initiatives like universal school meals, nutrition labeling and the healthy meals incentives, as well as support nutrition research.