Food Product Inspiration From Nature

Posted on April 01, 2014 by

Last weekend I got to spend the afternoon at the New York Botanical Gardens, which is hosting its annual Orchid Show! I found it particularly intriguing because there were a number of displays highlighting the medicinal and healing properties of plants, some of which can be (and are!) used in food products.

Nature's Lab

One of the rooms in the conservatory is the rainforest room, where they simulate a tropical rainforest climate in the middle of New York City. The rainforest hosts an incredible number of species of plant and wildlife. Nature has been coming up with creative and practical solutions through the process of evolution for millions of years, so it's a constant source of ideas for us humans. And why not apply it to food products?

Exhibit A: The Cacao Plant

Plants like Cacao and Curare were a couple of the species highlighted at the exhibit that really opened my eyes, utilized by locals for hundreds of years and exported to the rest of the world.

The cacao plant is used in many food products

Lightly processed cacao beans do wonders for hypertension - and taste great.

We all know that cacao seeds (beans) are used to make chocolate. Lots of you have probably noticed the explosion of high cacao content dark chocolate products in health and grocery stores as well as articles about how chocolate is good for you. As it turns out, the less you process cacao, the more health benefits it provides.

Cacao Science

Cacao dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart attack. In eastern Panama, where the locals drink a lightly processed form of cacao several times a day the population exhibits practically no trace of hypertension. The more you process it though, the less of a positive effect it has.

Pretty cool, huh? Maybe that's part of the recent growth and marketing of the high quality dark chocolate industry. You'd be amazed by how many new products are using ingredients like Raw Cacao Powder.

Can You Apply This To Your Food Business?

The point I’m trying to make is that if you can take these plants and create food products out of them there is HUGE potential to market them to a population that struggles with health issues and craves solutions backed by science. That's powerful marketing ammunition.

And it’s not limited to the couple of plants mentioned above. Everyone knows about foods like kale and chia seeds that have recently emerged as entire industries. They have been around forever, but for whatever reason (books, media, new research) have become very popular just in the last five years.

What’s the next healthy food product around the corner? Do your research and you could create the next big food product. It could be sitting right under your nose - in your garden, or in the forest hiding behind your next vacation hotel. You don't have to be a scientist, just open to new ideas and a little bit of exploration.

About Lev Berlin

Lev Berlin ReciPal SlantShack Author Bio

Lev Berlin is the founder & CEO of ReciPal. Having previously been a founder of SlantShack Jerky, he needed nutrition labels and simple tools to start and run the business. He's read the FDA food labeling code countless times in the process of creating ReciPal and helping small food businesses with their labels. He's reviewed and created thousands of food labels, and been a mentor and guest speaker at food incubators, food business courses, and regulatory conferences, like Brooklyn Foodworks and ICE.

After graduating from Princeton with an engineering degree, Lev was a management consultant, then founder or early employee at half a dozen startups. He loves nothing more than helping other small businesses get off the ground and achieve their goals.

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