By Reed Mangels
Imagine more than 1,700 booths packed with the latest natural foods, supplements, and health and beauty aids. Picture aisle after aisle full of opportunities to taste organic chips, sparkling fruit juices, gluten-free cookies, whole-grain crackers, and more. This is Natural Products Expo East (NPEE) – the largest natural products trade show on the East Coast.
I spent a long, pleasant day at NPEE last weekend and wanted to share some of the most interesting vegan products that I found.
Tasting new plant milks seemed like a good way to start the day.
Earth Balance (the company that makes vegan margarine) has introduced a new line of fortified, organic soymilk. Fortified with calcium, vitamin D2, riboflavin, vitamin B12, and small amounts of vitamin A, zinc, and selenium, this soymilk’s nutritional profile is similar to other fortified soymilks. I thought it tasted similar to other brands of soymilk. It is the first soymilk certified by the Non-GMO Project and is made from soybeans grown in the US. Earth Balance Soymilk comes in original, vanilla, chocolate, and unsweetened flavors and is sold in refrigerated cartons. http://earthbalancenatural.com/soymilk/
I first tried hemp milk about five years ago and did not like it at all. I was pleasantly surprised by Manitoba Harvest’s Hemp Bliss which tastes mild – much like my more usual soymilk. This hemp beverage comes in four flavors – original, vanilla, chocolate, and unsweetened. It’s fortified with calcium and has omega-3’s. As far as I know, this is the only organic hemp milk on the market. Since it’s low in protein, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 it would not be my first choice as a primary beverage but it’s a nice addition to the plant milk shelf. http://jointheblissrevolution.com/
After working up an appetite walking the miles of aisles, it was time to sample some entrees.
In contrast to past years, very few veggie burgers were featured. I did find a 100% organic vegan burger made with quinoa, flax, and vegetables. Ashera’s Gourmet Vegan Burgers are soy and gluten free and taste like what they are – grains and vegetables. I found this burger to be a refreshing change from burgers that are trying to taste like beef. www.asherahsgourmet.com
A vendor, seeing my Vegetarian Resource Group badge, told me I had to check out a booth several aisles over. I was glad I did. Sophie’s Kitchen features vegan seafood based on konjac, a starch made from the root of an Asian plant. I tried breaded vegan shrimp which tasted the way that I remember fried shrimp tasting. Other products include vegan calamari, vegan prawn, and vegan squid ring. My daughters who have never eaten seafood enjoyed this product also. http://sophieskitchen.net/
EVOL Burritos produce several frozen vegan products. I tried a mini Veggie Fajita (3 ounces, 160 calories). A whole wheat tortilla was filled with red and green bell peppers, brown rice, black beans, corn, and seasonings. This tasty burrito would be a big hit in a lunchbox. For larger appetites they have full-size burritos filled with either veggies or a tofu and spinach sauté and wraps filled with curried tofu and vegetables or couscous, chickpeas, and vegetables. http://evolfoods.com/
Follow Your Heart (the makers of Vegenaise and Vegan Gourmet “cheese”) were featuring a new Vegan Honey Mustard dressing that was amazing. I couldn’t stop dipping baby carrots in this sweet, spicy dressing. Other new vegan products include Cream Cheese and Sour Cream. www.followyourheart.com
Vegan Basil Pesto? Oh, my! I’ve always made my own but have never seen it commercially. It was a treat to find jars of vegan pesto at the Meditalia booth. All of Meditalia’s products are vegan and kosher. The company relies on business partnerships among Israelis and Arabs and products are made in Israel (To learn more about the business model see www.peaceworks.com). My other favorite products were a smoky Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade, a Sundried Tomato Tapenade, and a Mushroom Spread that is still in the development stage. http://peaceworks.com/products/meditalia/
Chips seemed to be one of the featured foods at NPEE this year with many booths featuring flavored potato or corn chips or gluten-free chips. Two unique products were Pumpkin Seed Corn Chips and Kale Chips. The Pumpkin Seed Chips were flavored with pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, and spices and were pleasantly hot. They only had 80 milligrams of sodium in a serving – not bad for a chip. www.laurelhillfoods.com. Kale chips were addictive. They are made of kale flavored with spices and air- crisped at a low temperature. I especially liked the Bombay Curry flavor. There’s also Kool Ranch and Zesty Nacho Kale. All flavors are vegan and gluten-free. www.rhythmsuperfoods.com
Feeling in need of something sweet, I headed for the LaraBar booth and was not disappointed. These bars, based on fruits, nuts, and spices include the new vegan flavor Carrot Cake as well as perennial favorite flavors like Cherry Pie and Banana Bread. www.larabar.com
Clif C Bars are also based on fruits and nuts and feature a layer of organic fruit on a nut crust. One vegan bar is a light snack with 130 calories. They come in raspberry, apple, cherry pomegranate, and blueberry flavors. www.clifbar.com
The NPEE was not lacking in vegan desserts. Among the unique products I tasted were 2 kinds of frozen desserts, tapioca pudding, and macaroons. Coconut Bliss is a soy and dairy-free frozen dessert, sweetened with agave, and based on organic coconut milk. I definitely approved of the Cappuccino flavor while my daughter voted for Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge. Other flavors include Pineapple Coconut,
Cherry Amaretto, and Mint Galactica. www.coconutbliss.com Blackwell’s Organic Vegan Soy Gelato and Sorbetto are organic, creamy, and delicious. We tried (and liked) Chocolate Gelato. Other flavors of gelato include Coffee, Peanut Butter and Vanilla. Sorbetto flavors include Blueberry, Pineapple, and Mango. www.BlackwellsOrganic.com
So Yummi uses organic ingredients including organic soy drink to make vegan puddings. I enjoyed a creamy tapioca pudding; other flavors include rice pudding, dark chocolate pudding, and lime pudding. www.soyummifoods.com
Tucked away so that I missed it the first time through was Emmy’s Organics, makers of vegan macaroons. The macaroons have a simple ingredient list – coconut, coconut oil, agave, nuts, and flavorings and taste like homemade macaroons. Unique flavors include Chai Spice and Lemon-Ginger but I have to admit, Dark Cacao was my favorite. www.emmysorganics.com
It was time to leave the food area behind. ChicoBag caught my eye on my way out with their colorful display of reusable bags. Their Produce Bag Starter Kit was especially appealing with 3 bags tucked into an apple-shaped pouch. One bag, made from a mixture of hemp and cotton is good for bringing home leafy greens. Another, made from recycled plastic bottles keeps squash, broccoli, and carrots fresh. The mesh bag, also made from recycled plastic bottles can be used to store apples, onions, and potatoes. All bags are washable. Sometimes the best products aren’t food! www.chicobag.com