Five pizzeria-friendly natural food products at Expo West
Expo West, the largest natural foods and products show in the U.S., saw record attendance of over 53,000 at its opening on Thursday. That's proof of the natural foods market's momentum. In fact, the industry is worth nearly $68 billion, according to Natural Foods Merchandiser's "2009 Market Overview" -- twice the sales of the U.S. QSR pizza market.
 
Health-positioned pizza chains like Pizza Fusion make it a point to visit the expo for a one-stop shopping experience for green or greener food supplies.  
 
"We'll be tweeting and blogging over the next couple of days so stay tuned!" founder Vaughan Lazar said in a blog post last week. "I won't be giving away too many of our secrets though!"
 
Indeed, adding even a few sustainable, healthy or natural food items can differentiate pizza chains and help increase average check sales. Here are some promising candidates from the exhibitors' floor:
 
Harvest Moon Mushrooms
 
Practically every pizzeria uses mushrooms, but not certified organic ones, as Harvest Moon provides. And they're not just the everyday variety: the lineup includes shiitake, porcini, maitake, even morel – exotic options that make formulating an original but healthy pizza easier. 
 
Racconto Italian Foods
 
Organic suppliers aren't always easy for restaurateurs to find, so it helps when vendors carry a suite of segment-specific solutions in one place. Racconoto Italian foods is one of those solutions for the pizza industry, offering Italian natural, organic, kosher and whole-grain products including pasta, olive oil, vinegar, sauce, tomatoes and condiments. They also offer a line of "health & wellness pasta" and sauces that address specific health conditions like heart ailments, digestive conditions, and glycemic concerns. The products are also available for private label formulation.
 
VitaminSpice
 
Capitalizing on the functional foods wave, VitaminSpice combines premium spices with various vitamin and mineral formulations for foodservice customers. Garlic, crushed red pepper, cinnamon and black pepper are among their offerings.
 
Brain Toniq
 
What do you get when you cross the insuppressible energy drink market with the seemingly contrary health products arena? Brain Toniq – and the chance to cash in on a potentially popular drink. It's the world's first non-caffeinated "think drink" that supposedly increases mental clarity and focus. It has no processed sugar, instead sweetened with the increasingly popular agave syrup.
Truitt Bros.
 
This Food Alliance Certified processor of shelf-stable fruits, beans, chili and entrees is a favorite of pizza companies like Pizza Fusion. They also produce chili, cinnamon apples, cherries, and  green, black, pinto, kidney and garbanzo beans.
 
*Photo courtesy Natural Products Expo West

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