Last week, 85,000 people descended onto the Anaheim Convention Center for the Natural Products Expo. I know this may sound like some stuffy old trade show, but it's actually kind of a portal into the future.
I was able to try hundreds of new foods and drinks that have never been seen. Companies come to "Expo West" in hopes of sprinkling their magical products around the world for happy little vegans like me. And each year I'm ecstatic to see what's new!
Now, some of the things that were being sampled weren't new to me. I'd seen a few of them before, so maybe reps were just marking their top sellers, or trying to get it picked up by a brand new retailer. But, I'm here to bring you the exciting NEW stuff. So, forgive me for not mentioning the things you've likely already seen at your local Whole Foods or Sprouts. It doesn't mean I don't love them!
Kashi caught me by surprise when a rep handed me this bar en route to the convention center. Do you see that little icon on the right? Yep. Gluten free. When I flipped it over, I discovered that it was also vegan. We really liked these. Not too sweet, so you don't feel like you're eating a candy bar.
I'm not a fan of flavored seltzer waters. I find them kind of bitter and unpleasant. I'm glad I gave spindrift a try because it's flavored with a little fruit juice and is delicious. It reminds me of the San Pellegrino "sodas." The grapefruit and lemon are awesome! As far as unique beverage concepts, this is the only one that really held up (in a sea of sparkling cold brew, which I found really odd). It's a fizzy arnold palmer and has just enough lemon and tea to feel indulgent without the calories or sweeteners.
Ricks Picks was one of the first stops we made and I'm still daydreaming about his Smokra. These little pickled okra are outstandingly delicious and remind me a bit of a bloody mary... complex, just the right spice, and delicious. I could easily eat the whole jar and it would only be a handful of calories, so why not?
The protein cookie is everywhere, so it's no surprise that someone else is breaking into the market. These may not be new (I found them on amazon today) but they're by a company called Munk Pack. They're loaded with protein (18 grams per cookie) and taste fantastic. I could not hide my excitement when I saw that white chocolate macadamia! (And the oatmeal raisin spice was a close second). Gluten free AND Vegan and I promise you can pronounce all of the ingredients in THESE protein cookies. They're definitely something I would keep around for the kids (and me).
Bhakti is not new on the chai market, but they have just redone all of their bottled drinks to include... drumroll...coconut milk and cashew cream! And they are DIVINE. There's a classic, dirty (with cold brew), mocha, sugar free toasted coconut, and reduced sugar classic. (with no added sweeteners at all). ALL the flavors were equally delicious.
Most vegans out there know that you can find dark chocolate at just about any store. But, I'm a milk chocolate fan and always keep an eye out for great vegan variations. Free2b has created one for those of us who have had enough dark and prefer the sweeter varieties once in a while. These are top 12 allergen free, but are just as addictively delicious as their mass produced counterparts.
Okay, okay. So, Miyoko's indulgently delicious, "Phenomenally Vegan" European style butter isn't a new product. But, they're repackaging it to remove the plastic! So, it gets an honorable mention as the best buttah! I did see that Earth Balance is attempting to break into this market, but let's be real... Miyoko OWNS this category!
I think we all know Mary's Gone Crackers. Her seeded crackers are pretty easy to find these days, everywhere from Walmart to Costco. But, I was excited to try these little snacking crackers. There's even a significantly spicy one called "Sweet Heat" (for the time being) that we got to try. Loads of cayenne POP in that one! These are sturdy enough to scoop up hummus, but they don't leave that "gluten free grittiness" that a lot of brands leave in your mouth. The size is great for snacking or for cheese plates (I'm thinking Miyoko's would make a great pairing!)
Last year, Kettle won us over with the Korean Barbecue and Bloody Mary flavors. Naturally, we were anxious to see what they would be bringing to the table this year and we weren't disappointed. Hands down, the best chip we tried was the Bourbon BBQ Kettle brand potato chips. Bourbon is HOT this year in food and Kettle hasn't missed the note. These are subtly sweet, smoky, and bourbon-y without being harsh or boozy.
BEST VEGAN CONVENIENCE FOOD...
Stayed tuned for all the BRAND NEW Daiya (always gluten, dairy, and soy free!) products in my next blog...