Select cities and regions across the U.S. become known as hotspots of innovation. As a food writer, I’m continually making notes about interesting products hitting the market. This year, the Almond Board of California has been fueling this pursuit with shipments of samples from key locales like the Pacific Northwest and most recently Austin, TX.

A variety of factors can contribute to food product innovation, but a key element in this mix is often a close connection to agriculture—a consumer base interested in digging into farm-to-table dynamics leans more toward new product experimentation.

Seattle and Portland, OR have long catalyzed food inspirations. The Almond Board’s shipment from the Pacific Northwest included some tasty coated almonds from Ceres Roasting Co., showing that the ever-healthy almond can also easily cross over into the indulgent side of the aisle. It also included a fantastically original Pistachio Dates Almond “grown up” nut butter from Eliot’s Nut Butters. While this nut butter was wonderful all on its own (nut/peanut butter is a daily part of my diet), I promptly integrated this uniquely flavored nut butter into a “Breakfast Ball” recipe I’ve been developing of late—a breakfast bar concept in no-bake ball form that’s heavy on whole-grain oats and healthy monounsaturated nut butter, but low in sugar. And while I call them Breakfast Balls, frankly, I eat them throughout the day… This “grown up” nut butter did wonders for the recipe, and now I’m looking for new ways to diversify the concept through flavor differentiation.

Austin, TX is booming, and that energy trickles into the food industry innovators in the area. The Austin shipment from the Almond Board offered up three healthy-leaning applications of note:

  • Nufs Superfoods, clean, nutrient-dense, lightly sweetened superfood snack bites containing almond flour—in flavors like black sesame, orange ginger, coconut pandan, and brownie
  • Good Good Food Co., protein collagen cookies containing almond flour and available in flavors like chocolate chip and peanut butter chocolate chip
  • BodyBar Protein bars with almond butter formulated for those with digestive diseases or dietary restrictions in mind, in flavors like apple cinnamon, chocolate brownie, and sweet cocoa

While it’s the unique ingredients and flavors presented in these products that grab me first, the origin stories really resonate. We are living in a time where more product innovation seeks to meet highly specified needs for select groups—from diabetes to autoimmune conditions, as with two of the above products. All three share a desire to bring more healthy snacks to market. And that’s an ongoing trend that resonates with an increasing number of consumers.