Natural Products Expo West in California is the largest trade show in the world for natural foods, with 3,600 exhibitors showing off their food innovations to 86,000 attendees. It’s the perfect place to check out the latest food trends, including the astonishing growth of the plant-based food category. I recently attended Expo West to taste-test the vegan goodies, and there were so many food samples that I had to refuse free chocolate because I couldn’t eat another mouthful. Now that I’ve recovered from the calorie onslaught, I’d like to share some of my favorite finds.
The plant-based milk category is exploding right now. When I stopped to taste plant milks, the vendor would ask me, “Which one would you like? Our coconut milk is nice. Or how about the almond? Maybe the hazelnut? Oat? Pecan? Cashew? Macadamia? Walnut?” I even tried a black sesame milk (I swear I’m not making this up). Other plant-based dairy categories are also growing rapidly – I tried dozens of vegan creamers, butters, sour creams, cheeses, and ice creams. The bottom line: if you’re looking for a vegan dairy product, there’s one out there that will meet your needs. The only problem is choosing one!
Miyoko’s has set a high standard with their delicious, versatile vegan butter that can be used for baking, frying, and spreading. But their competitors have some great offerings too. Wayfare’s Salted Whipped Butter is wonderful on crackers or bread. Melt offers both stick and tub plant-based butter. I was intrigued by Faba Butter, a tasty spread made from aquafaba (the liquid from chickpeas). I also enjoyed the Naturli’ butter. Naturli’ is a Danish company that’s starting to expand into the U.S. Their butter comes in spreadable and block forms, and the company also carries oat milk and plant-based meats.
Milk and Ice Cream
Decisions, decisions. Expo West had so many plant milks available to try that I had to pick just one type so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. My current milk of choice is oat milk, so that’s what I sampled. Oatly is simply fabulous. My only complaint has been their sporadic availability (Oatly is a Swedish company that is still scaling up for U.S. sales). But the good news is that Oatly has nearly completed a new U.S. facility that will increase production eight-fold. Check out the Oatfinderto find Oatly near you.
Elmhurst oat milk is also delicious. Elmhurst was founded when the owner decided to convert his family’s long-time cow dairy into a plant-based operation. And their selection of milks is amazing. You want walnut milk? Chocolate peanut milk? They’ve got it.
So Delicious has some great plant milks, but what really got me excited was their new line of oat milk ice creams. The So Delicious cashew milk Snickerdoodle ice cream has been my favorite for a while, but their new oat milk Caramel Apple Crumble gives the Snickerdoodle some stiff competition!
I’m a huge fan of sour cream. I love it on potatoes and in dips, and I’m happy to eat it straight from the container with a spoon. I really like Wayfare’s vegan sour cream, but I’m less excited about some of the other ones I’ve tasted. So, I was delighted to find three tasty new sour creams at Expo West.
I really enjoyed Follow Your Heart’s reformulated sour cream recipe – a definite improvement on the original. And Forager Project and Good Karma have brand-new sour cream products that taste great. Good Karma also has a Ranch Dip and French Onion Dip in the works.
Just like with the plant-based milks, vegan cheeses were everywhere at the show. Here are a few highlights.
Vegan cream cheese is getting a lot of love right now. Violife (makers of the amazing parmesan wedge, suitable for grating) has some new cream cheese flavors, Cheddar and Garlic & Herbs. And Kite Hill is bagel-ready with their Everything Cream Cheese, with garlic, onion, sesame seeds, and more.
The cashew-based cheeses from Miyoko’s are legendary, but now the company is branching out into nut-free cheeses. Miyoko’s served up samples of a chickpea-based Pepper Jack and Smoked Cheddar. These new cheeses, still under development, are scheduled for release by the end of 2019.
I sampled a fantastic Cashew Parmesan topping from Pimp My Salad. I can’t wait to try it on pasta, pizza, salads, and potatoes.
It’s been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Just Egg is now in grocery stores, ready for scrambling. The texture and cooking performance are virtually identical to chicken eggs. Really nice flavor too.
Beyond Meat has done it again with Beyond Beef, a refrigerated ground beef product for meatballs, tacos, chili, lasagna, and more. I didn’t get to taste this one since the Beyond Meat booth couldn’t make enough to feed all their excited fans. But if it’s anything like their popular Beyond Burger and Beyond Sausage, it’s a winner. Available later in 2019.
In case you missed it, Morningstar Farms has some big news – they are planning to make their entire product line vegan by 2021! I’m looking forward to enjoying their plant meats. And in other great news, the team at Impossible Foods has come up with an even more awesome recipe for their popular Impossible Burger. I liked their original burger a lot, but this new one is even better.
Sometimes you just need a tuna salad sandwich, but without the cruelty. Sophie’s Kitchen is expanding their Toona line to include a vegan tuna packed in water with lemongrass seasoning, which saves some calories compared to their oil-packed original Toona. It will be available in summer of 2019. And Loma Linda has released their Tuno product in several flavors.
It was tough choosing my favorites in the vegan dessert category – there were so many great-tasting treats. But you can’t go wrong with vegan caramel. Cocomel now has Cocomels (coconut milk caramels), Cocomel Bites (tiny caramels dipped in chocolate), , and Chocolate-Covered Cocomels (larger caramel bars). And Maisie Jane’s Caramel Cashew Butter is just as delicious as it sounds.
Chickpeas really blew my mind at this year’s expo. First the delicious Faba Butter (see above), then the Miyoko’s nut-free cheeses (also see above). But my favorite chickpea product of all was The Amazing Chickpea, a chickpea spread that looks like peanut butter but tastes even better.
Another highlight for me was Justin’s newly-announced Cashew Butter Covered Cashews. I was already a fan of their dark chocolate peanut butter cups, but these covered cashews are the sort of treat you can eat by the pound.
Bite-sized raw cookie dough is a brilliant idea. Better Bites has been doing this for a while (their dough is gluten-free and is dipped in chocolate for extra awesomeness). Now Eat Pastry is getting into the game too with their Real Cookie Dough Bites.
Vegan Savory Snacks
I couldn’t resist trying Pig Out’s pigless bacon chips. They do indeed taste like bacon but are 100% plant-based. The cheddar flavor was great.
Vegan Prepared Foods
Alpha already has a line of excellent vegan burritos, which are perfect to keep in the freezer for a quick lunch or snack. I was happy to see that they’ve added these cute pot pies in six flavors. And Tofurky has announced the Plant-Based Pocket in three flavors. Coming soon.
Sweet Earth launched this Cauliflower Mac meal last summer, and it’s become their bestselling product. I liked it so much that I stocked up on it when I got home from the Expo.
So that’s the 2019 Expo West recap! Enjoy trying out these new vegan foods.