I was fortunate to be at the Natural Products Expo West with my husband Brad for our second year in a row. This massive expo, which included 73,000 visitors, is held at the Anaheim Convention Center next door to Disneyland. In fact, the shuttle drops you off underneath a roller coaster! Last year we went on a Sunday, the last day, and quickly realized we'd made a huge mistake. You need at least a weekend to get a glimpse of what's there. This year we went spent all day Saturday and Sunday and, no joke, saw maybe a 1/1000th of the vegan products.
This list is comprised only of some of the things I managed to see, but they're all taste-tested! Like last year's list, Brad will add a few of his favorites at the end of this list. (He's much healthier than me, so our favorites clearly differ.)
Drumroll please.... In no particular order....
(To go to the company's websites, click on titles.)
Cheese and cheesecakes were the last things I stopped eating before going vegan, and I remember them well. Daiya has replicated the cheesecake and it's seriously one of the best things to happen to vegan desserts.
There are four flavors: traditional, chocolate, key lime and strawberry. Traditional was my favorite, but Key Lime was a close second. Brad loved the chocolate, but I was looking to satisfy that yen for traditional old fashioned vanilla-y cheesecake. Non-GMO
The other runner-up new Daiya products are the boxed Mac and Cheeses. Cheddar and Alfredo. I liked them both.
Daiya also created new frozen pizzas that are divine. Check out the Supreme Pizza made with Beyond Meat sausage crumbles. Heaven.
I was a regular at the Daiya exhibit.
Beyond Meat is so far ahead of the game, there's no close second. They've unleashed their game-changing Beast Burger. Get a load of this: Non-GMO, Gluten-free, soy-free, cholesterol free, more protein and iron than beef, more omegas than salmon, contains calcium antioxidants, B-6m B-12, C, D and E. And it has a nutrient pack that aids in muscle recovery. Made mostly of peas. What?!
Just like their products, Beyond Meat was genius in setting up their expo stand--a mock McDonalds, serving wrapped Beast Burgers and a side of their new chicken tenders. It was beyond great.
I heard Ethan Brown, the founder of Beyond Meat (sitting in photo below) speak at the documentary film Cowspiracy's LA premiere (after you're done reading this post, please stop everything else and see this movie!) and Ethan really blew me away. He talked about how we need to change what we think of as "meat." Meat is just a chemical compound that can be replicated. This guy is on a mission, and we're all the better for it. Oh, and PS. He's a living example of buff to any dude that thinks vegan men are wimpy. Check out those guns!
I was almost out the door when I saw some nachos calling my name. I didn't expect it to taste as great as it was. The rep (founder, owner?) couldn't have been more disinterested in talking to me, which almost made me not include this company on my list, but the product was so good that I forgave him. You can order it online in bulk, as a friend of mine does. This cheese is gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, palm oil free, cholesterol-free and Non-GMO. They have three other flavors: Mozzarella, Creamy Cheddar Cheese Sauce and Cheddar. I ate it so fast I forgot to take a photo of the actual cheese!
A husband and wife team make this egg replacement and four meat replacements, as well. I tried the meats and they were surprisingly tasty, no one would guess they came from a powder. I also sampled a baked good made from the egg replacement and it tasted normal. Ener-G has sort of cornered the market in terms of egg replacements for baking, but The Neat Egg is made with only TWO ingredients: chia seeds and garbanzo beans. Super healthy! I took a sample home, and I'm looking forward to using it in pancakes and baked goods. Bonus: Non-GMO and Gluten-free!
This product is so new the rep said they didn't have the packaging available. I took this photo from their promo card. I'm a chocoholic, I eat it every day, and I have only dreamed of candy bars like these. Dreamy is their version of the classic Mars Bar and Sunny is the vegan organic answer to the Almond Joy. These are the best vegan candy bars I've EVER had. Game on, vegans!
The co-founder of Tofurky personally made me this Lightly Seasoned Slow Roasted Chick'n lettuce cup using one of his new products. I really enjoyed it! I would make these at home. Their new line of Slow Roasted Chick'n (Non-GMO) makes cooking vegan meals even easier. The other flavors are BBQ Style Chick'n, Sesame Garlic Chick'n, Tandoori Chick'n, and Thai Basil Chick'n.
We ran into Eric Brent, the Founder and Director of HappyCow, and he told us to check out the Whoopie Pies. (Make sure to download the Happy Cow app to find veg-friendly restaurants anywhere!) I had been hearing about these for some time, so I eagerly made my way to their stand. I was not disappointed. They're very light, yet they satisfy that need for a devilish dessert. These Whoopie Pies are gluten-free, organic, and Non-GMO. I'm savoring the box in my fridge.
Easily one of my favorite new things at the Expo. I went back and ate seconds and thirds. And of course I was so into them that I forgot to take a photo. They paired the Porkless Bites with pineapple and the Crabless Cakes had a vegan sauce that was wonderful. I've posted numerous times about Gardein. (You will always find ample Gardein in our freezer.) I didn't get a chance to meet Yves, the founder, who was there hanging out. You may recognize his name from the other packaged products called Yves available in grocery stores. Gardein is taken from the words "garden" and "protein." You can find Gardein most everywhere, even Target. These two products are not yet available, though. Non-GMO.
(Photo courtesy of Gardein Facebook)
I had never heard of this brand, but after the amazingness that is her cookie, I went to their website and found out they serve them in a lot of places, including at the little mom and pop coffee shop around the corner from my house! I've never had anything like this truffle cookie. It's quite surreal. They're gluten free, Non-GMO, and Kosher. I will be a regular indulger of these.
(Photos courtesy of Liz Lovely Facebook)
Just like old school Kraft, but better for you, animals and the planet. Enough said.
I was only going to list 10 things, but I can't leave you without this long awaited cookie dough! I've blogged about Hampton Creek a lot, and this product is not super new, I think it came out in the last 6 months or so, but I hadn't tried it until the Expo. It tastes like your mom's cookie dough. So comfy, yummy. I really enjoy baking my own chocolate chip cookies, but I would totally use this in a pinch. It's pretty irresistible! In fact, we ate it by the spoonfuls. Cholesterol-free and Non-GMO.
Brad's Favorite New Vegan Things
If you're waiting to go vegan because you can't give up cheese, there's really no excuse anymore. Since being diagnosed lactose-intolerant, I've (Brad) been left with a fancy cheese void. But in today's vegan cheese market, there are great options like Miyoko's. Not only does this cheese spread taste great, but the health, animal and environment aspect of it make it superior to dairy. Miyoko's does numerous other cheeses. They're made mostly from nuts and they're nonGMO. If you love the taste of truffles, you'll be hooked on this awesome cheese.
I fell in love with artichokes when my lovely wife Cynthia ordered one as an appetizer. She wasn't that into them but knew I would love it. Boy, was she right! That was about a year and a half ago and I've eaten one a week ever since. They're now one of my favorite whole foods. So when the buzz at the Expo got around that there was the first artichoke water, I knew I had to try it. I, of course, loved it. It's not a full-on artichoke flavor experience, more of a subtle aftertaste that's just right. The water is full of antioxidants, electroytes, vitamins and the valuable phytonutrients Silymarin and Cynarin. Similar to coconut water but more like it's wacky uncle from California.
Since becoming vegan I've really taken a liking to food and cooking. To me, food is a lot more interesting when you discover how much is out there that doesn't involve a dead animal. It's like shooting a movie with a smaller budget--you really have to get creative and sometimes that ends up being much better. Jackfruit is one of those creative ideas. It's not a processed "fake" meat. It's a single tropical fruit (Jackfruits are HUGE, check out the photo below) which is then given a flavor to mimic the familiar tastes we love. Jackfruit might be the closest "whole food" meat substitute. The best part? It tastes AMAZING. The texture is uncanny. And when you flavor it just right, you are in vegan meat heaven. I've tried jackfruit dishes at various LA restaurants (Plant Food for People make the best jackfruit tacos, for those that live on the East side) and they're all incredible. Finally Upton's is creating the first whole food jackfruit meat substitute, grocery-style. My favorite is the BBQ. It tatses like the real thing! The Chili Lime flavor is a little spicy for me, but it does the trick for tacos. I'd love to see a traditional carnitas flavor in the future.
(Photo courtesy of Upton's Natural Facebook)
(Photo courtesy of Upton's Naturals Facebook)
Well, that's it for this year, friends! I think we have enough swag to last us until Expo West 2016!
Happy Conscious Consuming!