It has been a week after my (nearly) annual pilgrimage to The Natural Products Expo West (Expo West for short), the veritable health-conscious foodie’s Disneyland across from Disneyland in Anaheim, California. I have so far made no less than three trips to Sprouts, Whole Foods, and Natural Grocers in search of the amazing flavors my taste buds were exposed to at the Expo. Sadly, those products have not yet made it to the stores (something I was warned about by a number of vendors but wouldn’t believe), so I shall settle for the next-best pastime: reminiscing while waiting.
Without further ado, my favorite foods from this year’s Expo West, in no particular order.
1. Umm, Honey
I know, I know, HONEY IS NOT A VEGAN FOOD! But I can’t be the only vegan who up can’t quite give up bee products, because her Earl Grey tea just doesn’t taste right without orange blossom honey, and believe you me: Glory Bee has the best orange blossom honey money can buy outside of California, and non-GMO Project Verified, to boot. The Longan Fruit Fermented Honey is a 2018 Nexty finalist, which typically means the product is both original and delicious! I can vouch for the latter. The flavor is similar to a honey vinaigrette, but with less of a bite.
Here’s a little something to assuage a vegan gourmand’s guilt: Glory Bee has partnered with coffee bean farmers in Chiapas, Mexico, to provide them with beekeeping equipment. This not only helps farmers support their families between harvests, but increases their yield by as much as 50%.
Also, coffee blossom honey contains caffeine.
2. Non-Dairy Beverages
The variety of non-dairy milks at this year’s Expo West was nothing short of dizzying. If you fancy yourself a cup of milked walnuts or peanuts, Elmhurst 1925 is your people. Boathouse is offering a line of non-dairy milks made from peas, which boasts no nuts (=allergens) and 10 grams of protein per serving. Good Karma’s flaxmilk (admittedly, old news) is 100% omega-3-rich, B-12-fortified yumminess. Swedish company Oatly’s branding is as fun as their oat milk is delicious (especially in lattes). Obviously, the growing competition in the vegan food sector has led to some most wonderful developments, and not least among them is a move towards cleaner ingredients. The original flavor of So Delicious’ almond-cashew blend is sweetened with coconut sugar, while Silk’s version contains prebiotics (inulin, the fiber our gut bacteria require to survive and to benefit us). The WanderNuts keep it clean with just nuts, water, and, demerara sugar.
If you are wondering what to do with all this cornucopia of vegan milk, may I suggest a turmeric latte! At Expo West, turmeric lattes were being whipped for the insatiable masses by The Ginger People and the UK brand Wunder Workshop. Both beverages were absolutely delicious, with the main difference between them being that The Ginger People’s version comes in single-serve packs, while Wunder Workshop’s is unsweetened. Code WUNDER15 will get you 15% off Wunder Workshops’s products online. I hope they were able to secure a contract or two with US grocery stores!
3. Vegan Cheese
The best news from the vegan cheese department is that the perennial favorite of every vegan foodie, Miyoko’s Kitchen, has amped up production, so its Smoky Farmhouse and Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash should be back in stock soon. In the meantime, I shall make do with the Double Cream Sundried Tomato & Garlic and the smoked mozzarella. Let this be know, however: the showstopper this year was VioLife’s feta. I do not know how they gave it that goat-cheesy flavor, nor do I care. My only question is, how much longer do I have to wait for it to become available in stores?
Probiotics were a definite trend at Expo West 2018. They appear in all kinds of products, from nut milks to, I don’t know, soap bars. Seriously, they seemed to be everywhere. Knowing what I know about gut bacteria, however (mostly gleaned from Ed Yoon’s book I Contain Multitudes, which I cannot recommend enough), I am super suspicious of this trend. I prefer my probiotics naturally-occurring, that is, in fermented foods. Thankfully, there was no shortage of those at the Expo. The usual suspects Wild Brine and Farmhouse Culture were there, touting both their existing product lines as well as the newest fermented cabbage elixir, Golden Kraut. The best Golden Kraut I tasted, however, was made by small-batch manufacturer GoldMine from San Diego. Its blend of turmeric, ginger juice, curry, and cayenne offered a superb counterpoint to the acidity of the sauerkraut.
5. Vegan Meals
And now for the most exciting discovery of the year for this busy, always-on-the-go vegan: Foodies! A 2018 Nexty finalist, this family business from Cincinnatti, Ohio, is turning the industry of frozen vegan meals on its head, and for all the best reasons: amazing flavors and, at long last, clean, wholesome ingredients. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of reading “isolate this” and “powder that” on the box of every vegan meal I buy. Foodies’ vegan burger patties have a base of cashew nuts, and their frittatas are made with, wait for it, pumpkin seeds. So long, tofu! Most importantly, it is next to impossible to pick a favorite flavor (I sampled a total of eight of their burger and frittata flavors over two days and failed, gleefully). I shall be stocking up my freezer with these puppies (figuratively speaking), hopefully soon.
Now that I’ve covered healthy grubs, let’s get to the stuff that matters most. Great news for all vegan chocaholics hailing from Europe: the days of selling your animal-rights-loving soul for vegan- and budget-unfriendly morsels of praline heaven (I’m looking at you, Lake Champlain) are over… or at least will be as soon as Rhythm 108’s organic, vegan, gluten- and guilt-free Swiss chocolate bars hit the stores.
Sorry not sorry for the picture of an empty Hazelnut Praline wrapper. I have waited a long time for this.
Another European indulgence: Belvoir’s Elderflower and Rose Lemonade. It tastes just like it sounds: fancy and nostalgic. Side note: my grandma made the best elderberry lemonade EVERRR!
Virtue Energy Water, another UK import, will give you the proper energy drink high thanks to yerba mate, ginseng, guarana, caffeine, and B vitamins, but none of the sugar or sweeteners. A step in the right direction, I’d say.
Fruitivity’s apple chips, this most humble and wholesome of snacks, is made with zero oil or sweeteners. When I have kids, this is what they will be munching on while I hide in the closet with my hazelnut praline bar.
I shall end on a healthy note with the hopefully familiar brand Love Beets, whose newest product is beet juice powder. Add it to your morning smoothie and feel that blood flow!
This is far from an exhaustive list of the awesomeness the Natural Products Expo offers. There was so much more to see and taste there, but only so many hours in a day and room in my belly. So, if you were there too, I would love to hear about YOUR favorite food!