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Natural Product Expo West, the largest natural and organic products event in the world, hosted 86,000 people from 136 countries last month. They all came to Anaheim, California to check out the latest in food and beverage products.

We were there, too, walking the crowded floors and checking out the latest new products soon to be on supermarket shelves. Walnuts were definitely on-trend. Countless food and beverage manufacturers are incorporating walnuts into their products as an indulgent, nutritious, plant-based alternative, and functional ingredient. Here are a few we tasted and immediately added to our list of favorites.

Health + Indulgence

The key to delivering a successful new product in today’s market is crafting a formula that delivers health benefits without sacrificing taste. Walnuts do just that by giving product developers the opportunity to create indulgent snacks and bakery foods while contributing omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats.

One of our favorite snacks at Natural Products Expo West was the gluten-free Chocolate Chunk Walnut Crispy Cookies from Pamela’s Products. The walnuts in these crispy cookies provided the perfect flavor and bite. We also tasted some amazing Chocolate Walnut Brownie dairy-free ice cream from Coconut Bliss.

Plant-Based Alternatives

Food and beverage manufacturers have taken cues from restaurants and foodservice operations and focused new product development on plant-based alternative products. Walking the floor at Natural Products Expo West, we spied countless dairy- and meat-free alternatives, ranging from milks to cheeses to spreads to proteins.

We absolutely loved Elmhurst Milked Walnuts, which contains only two ingredients – walnuts and water – and had 1400mg of Omega-3 ALA per serving! The company also produces a sweetened walnut milk with a nutty flavor profile perfect for coffee. Looking for a delicious alternative to peanut butter? We sampled two excellent walnut butters at the Nutty Gourmet booth. Their sea salt variety was our favorite. We found the texture creamy and the flavor a perfect combination of salt and nuttiness. For a sweeter walnut butter, Wellnut Farms’ Maple walnut butter provided the perfect sweetness to spread on toast.

Functional Foods

From heart health to joint pain, exhibitors at Natural Products Expo West showcased countless functional foods which may reduce the risk of particular ailment or bolster a person’s intake of a specific nutrient.

Two functional foods with walnuts caught our eye. Second Nature Snacks displayed a nut mix high in  Omega-3 ALA, thanks in part to the vanilla-glazed walnuts. B.O.S.S. Food Company focused on brain health with its THINK raw superfood bar, containing walnuts and blueberries.

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