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Food Industry Trends on Display at Expo West; ABC Board Member Accepts Award


ABC's President and CEO Richard Waycott and Vice President of Global Market Development Emily Fleischmann visit with vendors on the trade show floor at the Natural Products Expo West tradeshow in Anaheim.

The Natural Products Expo West – the world’s largest natural, organic and health products trade show – was held the first week of March in Anaheim. Several staff members from the Almond Board of California (ABC) were in attendance to monitor the latest trends and innovations in the food industry. 

Charice Grace, the Almond Board’s manager of trade marketing and stewardship, said the ABC’s representatives prioritized interacting with companies that include almonds in their products. It was part of an ongoing ABC effort to offer support to food makers that incorporate almonds in recipes as well as stay abreast of other emerging snack product trends. 

Grace said that sustainability continues to be a dominant theme for brands and consumers. That concern, she explained, has inspired companies large and small to support “regenerative and organic agriculture, upcycling food, and utilizing sustainable packaging.” 

“Consumers expect brands to be transparent about their sustainability initiatives and the progress being made,” she said. “Brands should include consumers on this journey so they feel like they are a part of the process and can make informed purchasing decisions that align with their personal values.” 

ABC's Vice President of Global Market Development Emily Fleischmann and other staff discussed sustainability trends with brands using almonds in their products at the Natural Products Expo West tradeshow.

Another common trend at this year’s Expo West is a focus on “real food and local communities,” said Grace, citing the example of cacao and coconut growers whose crops are grown, processed and manufactured in the same region rather than being exported somewhere else for processing. 

“Keeping these steps within the local community adds value to that community,” Grace explained. 

The California almond industry – with dozens of processors often located within a few miles of the orchards where nuts are grown and harvested – is a good example of this. 

Another consumer preference that works in favor of almonds – an emphasis of the health and wellness of food products – was evident again at this year’s convention, Grace said. 

“Consumers want to know how foods and specific ingredients can benefit their personal health,” she said. “This attitude continues to extend to more indulgent foods, as consumers still want to engage with brands that provide indulgent – but healthy – offerings. 

“We saw products ranging from bars and beverages touting gut and brain health benefits and plant-based products continue to thrive as consumers’ dietary preference range from flexitarian to vegan.” 

ABC Board Member Joe Gardiner of Treehouse California Almonds in Earlimart also was active at Expo West. He participated in a panel discussion on sustainability with his partners in The Almond Project and later accepted the Regeneration & Sustainability Award on their behalf. The Almond Project is a multi-year, farmer-led partnership whose goal is to identify more sustainable almond farming methods to help create a more resilient future for almonds. The project brings together advocates – farmers, scientists, brands, technical services providers, processors and customers – who collaborate to evolve the health of the nation’s food system.

ABC Board Member Joe Gardiner accepted the Regenerative & Sustainability Award on behalf of Treehouse California Almonds for their sustainability program called "The Almond Project".

“My dad told me something years ago, that if you take care of the farm, good things will follow,” an emotional Gardiner said during the award ceremony. “… Without the farms, we don’t have this show. We don’t have our jobs. We don’t have the livelihood that we love, the foods that we love, the communities that we serve.” 

In addition to Treehouse California Almonds, the partners in The Almond Project include White Buffalo Land Trust, Pacific Ag Management, Simple Mills, Daily Harvest and Cappello’s. 

“The project we’re doing here is just a pin prick in the grand scheme of things,” said Gardiner, “but I think what we’re learning is that if we all just make small changes, we can preserve a natural resource, livelihood, the beautiful communities that we live in, and the beautiful people that we serve and that rely on our businesses to thrive. And I think we can all play that part together and that’s exactly what this is – it’s a collaboration of everyone who relies on that farm.” 

Gardiner also paid tribute to the culture that exists among growers, saying to loud applause, “I don’t know if there’s a more creative bunch in this whole world than farmers. The ability to adapt, to accept struggles, it’s something quite remarkable and a life that I love and I’m very passionate about.”