Highlights From The 2015 Natural Products Expo West!

March 23rd, 2015 - filed under: Furthermore » Reviews

all the vegans at expo west

How many vegans can you fit in a photo booth? (featuring Conscious Chris, The Vegan Zombie, The [other] Vegan Zombie, Michelle from Vegan Break, Jill from Vegan Cuts, Jackie from Vegan Yak Attack, The Sexy Vegan, Kylie from Fellowship Of The Vegetable, and many more!)



I did it! I FINALLY made it to Expo West!

Two years in a row I secured a press pass, got everything all lined up, scheduled the time off . . . and then had to cancel my trip at the last minute. Two years in a row I missed my chance, but this year, I finally made it. EXPO!

For those of you unfamiliar, Expo West is the largest natural products convention in the world. It takes place annually at the Anaheim Convention Center, and sees over 70,000 people perusing the thousands of companies exhibiting their latest and greatest natural food, supplement, bath and body, and eco-lifestyle products.

But . . . mostly food.

Beyond Meat at Expo West

The Beyond Meat booth was made to look like a fast food counter, and they were slingin’ their brand new Beast Burger sliders and Beyond Chicken Tenders. And then after 4, beer. Lots of beer.


It’s funny at Expo, trying to make sense of it all. I had this really interesting conversation with Tess (aka The Blender Girl) and Whitney (aka Eco Vegan Gal) and Cobi (aka Veggietorials) on the last afternoon of the conference. We had discovered these brand new potato chips that taste like chicken noodle soup (no lie, they literally taste like chicken noodle soup! But they’re vegan of course) and they were one of the best and unique things that any of us had tasted. But then we were reading the ingredients and, yeah, pretty bad. And Tess said something along the lines of “Yeah well, at Expo there’s sort of like, 2 different things going on. On the one hand you have the coolest, most cutting edge, most incredible food science innovation. And then on the other hand, you have all these exciting and incredibly healthy new products. But those are basically two totally separate things.”

And she’s right. And it got me thinking, as I drove myself and a trunk full of product samples, and also half of a 37 pound fresh jackfruit, 3 hours home to Santa Barbara.

What would my readers be interested in? Cutting edge food science innovation? (you guyssss the new cheeses are crazy, crazy I say! SO good. Daiya ready-made mac is what dreams are made of)

Or the most creative, most whole-foods-plant-based, absolute healthiest new foods? (like you guys, Miyoko’s Kitchen makes amazing artisan vegan cheeses using whole, natural ingredients and applying ancient, traditional cheesemaking techniques. And they’re SO good!)

And then I realized, that really, I – and my readers too I’m guessing – appreciate both. Because we believe in balance. Because we know that processed foods, though maybe not the healthiest, is also a wonderful treat that make veganism more accessible and more enjoyable. And we know that the healthiest foods are equally as important, to keep us nourished and strong and happy and vibrant. It’s all about balance, and embracing the entire spectrum of vegan options.

But then, I began to think about what’s really important to me. Like if I were to make my “Best Of Expo” list, what would be my most important criteria? Food science innovation? Ultimate health?


uptons jackfruit expo west

The infamous 37-pound jackfruit. From Upton’s, who will be releasing their packages of pre-cooked, pre-seasoned jackfruit in “BBQ” and “Chili Lime Carnitas” coming this summer!


But no. For me, it’s just about integrity. A company that’s ethically intersectional, holistic, and truly eco-friendly. Not just vegan. Not just healthy. I want to witness the next level of food production, where everything is taken into account. That’s what’s important to me.

And I bet that’s important to you, too.

So this year I’m giving out three awards. #1 – for the Best Food Science Break-Through, #2 – for the Best New Healthy Option, and #3 – the Integrity Award.

Plus pics of all the other goodies, and oh-so-many shenanigans! Without further ado, I present: Highlights From The 2015 Natural Products Expo West

getting lost at Expo West

Brian and Kylie and I . . . a little bit lost in the convention center.


flower water at Expo West
This flower-essence-infused water by Blossom Water was a stand-out new product. SO refreshing!


Daiya cheddar mac and cheeseDaiya mac and cheese

The new boxed mac by Daiya, in cheddar (left) and alfredo veggie (right). Soooo good.



1) Best Food Science Break-Through

Daiya Cheesecakes
image via Choose Veg


I have eaten a lot of vegan cheesecake. A LOT. More than my share I’d say – raw, cooked, homemade, gourmet, at restaurants, tofu-based, cashew-based, and on and on. I adore cheesecake and before I went vegan it was probably one of my top 3 favorite desserts. And vegan cheesecake is okay, but it’s never been quite the same as the original. It’s always lacked that . . . I don’t know . . . tang? There’s a certain soury tart je ne sais quoi that vegan cheesecake has been missing . . . until now. And now, Daiya nailed it.

Daiya cheesecake drops in Whole Foods and health food stores across the nation, like ASAP. Like this week.

GO GET IT.


follow your heart expo west

The Follow Your Heart booth was so cute! They have a whole line of new block cheeses that just hit the markets. I’ll be posting a full review coming soon!


Beyond Meat Expo West
Muggin’ with Joni from Just The Food.


Toms at Expo West
Great new stuff from my friends at Tom’s.


So Abby at Expo West
And Abby from the So Abby Show was so impressed with the folks at Tom’s that she made an impromptu video in the booth.


Miyoko cheese at Expo West
Miyoko’s cheeses are OFF. THE. HOOK. I was so happy to finally taste them!



2) Best New Healthy Option

Hemp Bites at Expo West

I was a little hesitant to pick these as my winner for “healthy option” because they contain sugar, but in the end I had to do it. These Hemp Heart Bites by Manitoba Harvest were simply my favorite, and I haven’t seen anything else like them out there. Just organic hulled hemp seeds with organic cane sugar, a bit of vanilla and a hint of sea salt.

THESE ARE SO TASTY. They’re kinda crunchy and kinda chewy. They remind me of a Bit-O-Honey or the inside of a Butterfinger, but of course they’re full of protein (10 grams per serving!) and healthy omega 3 fatty acids. These would be great for an after school kid snack . . .

. . . Too bad Jeremy and I ate them all before Waits could try them (they were too good!)


Justins vegan peanut butter cups

Had to fight Brian for the giant bag of Justin’s vegan peanut butter cups!


Teese at Expo West
One of the original vegan cheeses, and still one of my very favorites (especially after they reformulated soy-free!). The Teese cheese sauce makes the very best nachos, for reals.


Green Toys at Expo West
It was fun to see the whole line of Green Toys – and to see how much the line has expanded since I first found it! Made in America entirely from recycled milk jugs and plastic bags. I just adore this company, and Waits grew up playing with their trucks. ♥


TaDah Foods at Expo West
This company makes frozen “falafel bites” with a hidden hummus center. HELLO! These are amazing – look for them coming to a Whole Foods near you.


So Delicious at Expo West
Breaking! Breaking! Ice cream made from cashews does, in fact, taste rich-creamy-delectable-delicious. Shocking, I know.


Kylie and Sayward at Expo West
Shenanigans. So. Many. Shenanigans.




3) Integrity Award

one degree veganic cereal

And finally, the winner of my “Integrity Award” goes to One Degree Organic Foods, for their organic, VEGANIC line of whole grain products: cereals, breads, flours, and seeds. Speaking with the folks at this booth was like a big bright breath of fresh air. These are good people, and they really care, and they’re really pushing the boundaries of sustainable food production.

Oh yeah, and they have chocolate rice crispies* so they WIN. (*by which I mean veganic sprouted brown rice crisps made with organic coconut sugar and organic cacao)

You can read more about this amazing company, and their amazing commitment to Integrity, here

~~~

And well, that about wraps it up for my 2015 Expo West report. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun, and I just can’t wait for next year!

And I’m sure you’ve seen all the bloggers recapping with all their highlights, so what about you guys – what products are YOU most excited about? Let me know in the comments below!

Oh and PS – Michelle from Vegan Break put together this adorable video => “Vegans Invade Expo”, and it’s funny to me how many times my blue hair pops up in the background. I definitely don’t blend in!

Also you can see Colleen Patrick-Goudreau creepin’ on my beer. Shenanigans!





Cheers!

♥ ♥ ♥

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