Vegan Foods Make Splash at Natural Products Expo West 2016
Traveling to the Natural Products Expo West 2016 and visiting all of the vendors in three days has become an impossible task. Over the years more and more vendors have clamored to exhibit in THE most successful trade show of the natural food industry in the United States.
The show has become so big it has overflowed the Anaheim Convention Center's main floor, necessitating expansion to the basement and the third floor ballroom as well as several rooms in the nearby Hilton Hotel and a special organic tent.
Visiting the Expo each year, we notice distinct trends reflected in the displays and products of the vendors, many of whom use this show to introduce their new products or gain new distributors and outlets for their wares.
A few years ago, we began seeing non-GMO signs on many displays. This year there were more companies anxious to tell the public their products do not contain genetically modified ingredients.
Many of these products are also organic, another word that was ubiquitous at the event.
When we first attended the Expo in 2000, many sellers were not familiar with the word "vegan." Now they not only know the word, but can also assure you that their entire group of products are vegan or that they have added one or more vegan products to their regular line.
Gone are some of the past crazes that lasted for a few seasons:
Where are all the coconuts?
What began with occasional displays a few years ago and is now threatening to overwhelm the food aisles are gluten-free products. Even some products that never contained gluten are now sporting large banners boasting they are gluten-free.
Obviously, not everyone seeking gluten-free products suffers from celiac disease or has a gluten intolerance. Many people have jumped on the fad bandwagon or are using their gluten-free avoidance as a weight-loss technique. For those seeking a gluten-free nosh there was a multitude of snacks. Gaining our attention were Rhythm Superfoods Naked Beet Chips, Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps, JicaChips Jicama Chips, and Bunches of Crunches Superfood Grainola made with amaranth, millet, and chia.
Because traditional pasta is made from wheat, which is not gluten-free, many manufacturers have created gluten-free versions. Although rice and quinoa pastas are well established in the marketplace, some companies are creating pasta from beans. Here's a small sampling of the hottest new trend in the pasta world:
Legume pasta versions were available from Explore that were created from edamame, black beans, adzuki beans, and lentils. Pedon featured green pea, lentil, and chickpea variations. Green lentils, red lentils, and black beans provided the base for Tolerant gluten-free pastas.
Gold Harbor also displayed their organic pastas: Soybean Spaghetti, Black Bean Spaghetti, and Edamame Fettuccine. Banza appeared with their gluten-free line of pastas made from chickpeas. Their styles included penne, rotini, elbows, and shells.
Konjac makes Miracle Noodles
Hold on to your hat, more egg-less mayos are storming your local market. Although Vegenaise has been well established for many years, new challengers have entered the scene. Just Mayo from Hampton Creek has survived a battle with conglomerate Unilever (Best Foods Mayonnaise) that challenged the company for using the word "mayo." According to the FDA rules, all mayonnaise must contain eggs. Mayo is just a shortened version of mayonnaise.
A new entrant to the mayo battle is Sir Kensington Fabanaise Vegan Mayo that introduced their product at this Expo. The Fabanaise refers to aquafaba, the liquid left over from cooking chickpeas. Sir Kensington is also marketing a Chipotle Fabanaise.
Many years ago, new vegans faced the ultimate challenge: giving up cheese forever. No more is this an issue. Savvy companies, aware that vegans were bemoaning the cheese deprivation, took up the challenge of creating a plant-based cheese substitute. Kite Hill was sampling a variety of almond-based cheese substitutes and cheese spreads. Follow Your Heart, which pioneered meltable vegan cheese and cheese spreads displayed and sampled some of their popular products.
Greeks know their cheese
The real cheese substitute success story belongs to Daiya. In 2009 they brought their mozzarella and cheddar cheese alternatives to the Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim and were an instant success. We discovered them in 2012 in the basement of the convention hall where we joined the long line of OMG fans snaking down the aisle. Everyone wanted to taste this special cheese that melts like a dream.
Fast forward to 2016. The company had a giant booth on the main floor. They had recently launched their version of non-dairy yogurt. At this convention they were also presenting their new creamy salad dressings (Blue Cheeze, Homestyle Ranch, and Creamy Caesar) and were sampling their gluten-free Fire Roasted Vegetable Pizza available in the frozen food case. Wow, what a success story! We had an opportunity to meet two of the founding members of the company, Andre Kroecher and Terry Tierney, who thanked us for our support and wanted us in a photo with them.
Vegans who don't want their milk made from soy, nuts, coconut, hemp, or oats can now turn to Veggemo, a nondairy concoction that uses a vegetable blend fortified with Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.
Vegan Egg finds omelet heaven
Some of these products are currently available or will soon be on the shelves in your local markets, but many will struggle to find shelf space. They all are displayed at this Expo with the hope they will attract the attention of retailers who feel the products they choose will be snapped up by the public.