If it’s early March, you’ll find the FoodTrients team trolling the endless aisles of the Anaheim Convention Center near Disneyland for the latest in the world of food, beauty products and health and wellness.
This is the 39th year for this annual event showcasing over 3600 exhibitors, of which 600 were there for the first time. These consist of manufacturers, marketers, and entrepreneurs of all stripes from companies as large as General Mills to a local couple perfecting organic peanut butter. They are all vying for the attention of 86,000 attendees, making Natural Products Expo West the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products trade show.
FoodTrients team members attend in order to identify the most innovative companies and products and report back to YOU. Here’s a caveat: We search out the newest, most innovative products and that means some can be a little hard to find at your local supermarket. Fear not! Even if the products aren’t yet available in retail stores, most are available from the companies’ websites or from Amazon.
Below is a mere sampling of what we found:
NATURAL SUGAR ALTERNATIVES
Everyone agrees that white processed cane sugar, beet sugar and corn syrup are hazardous to your health. After years of chemically-based sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin, we saw many other plant-based sweeteners such as monk fruit, xylitol and palmyra tree blossom sugar.
Marketed under the brand, Sugarvida™, palmyra sugar is rich in B vitamins and minerals such as B12, iron, magnesium and potassium, within slightly fewer calories than regular sugar. It’s unrefined, organic and has a relatively low glycemic index, so it’s appropriate for diabetics.
Honey and maple syrup are showing up as sweeteners in a wider variety of food and drinks. Maple syrup has the advantage of being vegan. The Maple Guild was sampling maple-sweetened beverages such as six flavors of tea and seven flavors of maple-sweetened sports drinks. Both The Maple Guild and Crown Maple featured maple syrup infused with natural vanilla, cinnamon, bourbon as well as other flavors. Crown Maple also features maple glazed popcorn, maple vinegar, and maple-sweetened teas.
Money on Honey chocolate covered honey caramel candies from Droga Chocolates were irresistible in fair-trade, certified gluten-free flavors like French sea salt, roasted peanut and toasted coconut almond. Plus, for every bag sold, they make a donation to the health and vitality of the honeybee population.
Beekeeper’s Naturals combines all the superfoods of the hive in their B-Powered Superfood Honey, B-LXR Brain Fuel and Propolis Throat Spray immunity-booster.
Fat, depending on the type, has been somewhat un-demonized thanks to keto, South Beach and Atkins diets. While a dense source of calories, low-saturated fats are heart-healthy and essential to brain and cell function. Thrive Culinary Algae Oil is neutral-tasting and versatile in cooking, baking and on salads. It’s 90% monounsaturated fat—25% more than olive oil and it has a much higher heat tolerance, so you can sear and deep fry with it, which you can’t do with olive oil.
Smude’s Extra Virgin Sunflower Oil is cold pressed from high oleic sunflower seeds, which is very high in vitamin E and healthful monounsaturated fats. Cold pressed, unrefined vegetable oils are minimally processed. Commercial oils go through a number of processes that destroy the natural antioxidants and form hazardous free radicals.
We’ve all learned that animal fat is saturated and unhealthy, right? Well, in cooking, sometimes there’s nothing quite like it. Besides, pure, minimally processed fats are part of a healthy, satisfying diet. Based in Colorado, Fatworks, bills itself as, “The first and only company dedicated to premium, high-quality traditional fats.” They collaborate with farmers who raise grass-fed, pampered livestock and then gently process with just the right method of kettle rendering. They offer beef tallow, lamb tallow, lard, chicken fat, duck fat and ghee made from both goats and cows.
EAT PLANTS-BASED FOODS!
Not only are plants good for you in so many ways, it is easier on the environment to raise them as food than raising animals for food. There were scores of exhibitors who have created delicious meat substitutes as well as tasty, nutritious meals so good that no one will miss the animal protein.
Plant Made by Chef Matthew Kenney is a new venture from a leading plant-based chef and cookbook author who has developed 24 restaurant concepts around the world. The plan is to introduce 30 SKUs of frozen plant-based foods that will include entrees, burgers, burritos, enchiladas, desserts, bowls, snacks and flatbreads.
We tasted excellent meatless tamales from Alpha Foods, a Glendale, CA company that also makes popular meatless items such as ‘chik’n’ nuggets, hand-held pot pies and burritos.
While Lemon & Vine manufactures frozen Mediterranean Diet entrees made with meat, but their offerings intrigued our taste buds because of the authentic Greek recipes and the vegetarian entrees and appetizers including vegetable pastichio, eggplant-artichoke triangles, cheese tiropita and spanakopita. Additionally, this was one of the many women-owned companies we saw.
One of the more interesting and delicious items we sampled was Pan’s Mushroom Jerky. It sounds a little out there, but if you think about it, mushrooms are often a good substitute for meat. It’s vegan, paleo-friendly, kosher and full of fiber and vitamin D. It has just the right chewiness and comes in four flavors.
CAULIFLOWER IS STILL HOT
CauliPower has been making frozen pizzas and crusts out of cauliflower for about two years. Their line now includes tortillas, both CF enhanced and grain-free, and CF-based baking mixes. This summer, They’ll be introducing Sweet PotaTOASTS— slices of nutritious sweet potatoes that are crisp and ready in the toaster or oven in minutes.
Cali’Flour Foods is also capitalizing on people’s craving for carbs with their line of cauliflower-based pizza crusts (one of the best we’ve tasted), crackers, pastas and flatbreads. Another women-owned company, founder Amy Lacey has also written a cauliflower-based cookbook.
The number of hemp, CBD and cannabis products is exploding across categories including beverages, oils, supplements, snacks, balms and body lotions. CDB has a wide variety of applications depending on the strength and the delivery system. It’s used to promote relaxation, reduce stress, inflammation, as a pain reliever, helps with focus and energy.
Muscle MX products’ active ingredient is CBD extracted from hemp. They are anti-inflammatory, fast acting, long lasting, provide heating and cooling therapy and contain no THC (the compound that makes you high). Their line includes edible oils and topical balms to relieve pain and stress.
Charlotte’s Webb also markets infused topicals as well as oils and capsules. The hemp plants they use are hand-tended and the products are tested multiple times throughout processing to ensure effectiveness. Want to enjoy your CBD as a snack and wash it down with a beverage? Weller offers a vertical line of CBD coconut bars and bites, CBD-added sparkling water in four flavors and a CBD Barista Blend powder that’s ideal for coffee drinks and smoothies. CBDistillery guarantees the potency and purity of their extensive line of naturally grown hemp products with 100% compliant labeling and third-party testing. They sell warming and cooling topical creams, full spectrum supplement oils in a variety of strengths, capsules, soft gels and skin care products.
The number of healthful, convenient foods continues to expand in everything from snacks to breakfast items to entrees. A prominent new category is ‘overnight oats,’ usually oatmeal, but sometimes other grains that can be prepped the night before. One standout was Overnight Oats by Dave’s Naturals (the organic tomato and other sauce folks). Available in four flavors, it’s made with organic oats, chia, almonds and fruit that you soak overnight for a grab ’n go healthy breakfast. If that’s not convenient enough for you, look for single-serve Mush Overnight Oats in the cold case. These are ready-to-eat, refrigerated and even come with their own spoon. Makes a great after-workout snack!
Sauces can turn a plain meal into something spectacular, but who has time to create a new sauce after a busy day? Have no fear! We saw Do Anything Foods sauces made with organic and non-GMO vegetables including beets, kale and butternut squash, ready to jazz up any meal. Cauliflower Alfredo or kale pesto chicken salad, anyone? And if you want to bring on the heat, Dave’s Gourmet has some new hot sauces worth trying – Creamy Ginger Citrus Sauce, Ultimate Insanity Sauce, and Ghost Pepper Jolokia Sauce.
CHICKPEAS AND HUMMUS
Hummus and chickpeas have been superstars for a few years now, but though there are lots of new and delicious hummus and chickpea products, the biggest news is dessert hummus. Tribe makes 2 oz. chocolate hummus snack cups and 4 oz. cups of vanilla bean, dark chocolate and mocha hummus that come complete with Pretzel Crisps for dipping. Delighted by Dessert Hummus has seven sweet flavors including mint chocolate, red velvet and key lime pie.
Chickpea spreads in peanut butter and chocolate flavors were featured at the Amazing ChickPea booth. The beauty of this product is that it’s nut-free and tastes delicious. Hippeas was back with four flavors of their chickpea puff snacks. Then there was Chickapea pasta made with only two ingredients and ideal for gluten-free diets.
Two things we observed in packaging is that many organic and health food companies are dropping the ‘gunnysack look’ for brighter, more colorful designs, and that responsible, multi-use packaging is becoming more mainstream.
We were blown away by a snack company called Health Lab that, “Creates uncomplicated, clever and convenient beauty solutions for busy women and moms.” They showcased 10 varieties of collagen protein balls, gut goodness balls, hemp energy balls and plant protein balls. The interesting thing was that their booth and the packaging were designed like beauty products.
Snack and tortilla company, Siete has its products wrapped in colorful, Latin-style designs and colors. They sell grain-free taco shells, different flavors of grain-free tortilla chips and delicious almond flour, cassava flour and chickpea flour tortillas. Great news for people who must avoid gluten products.
Pathwater is the first purified water available in a reusable aluminum bottle. Reps were handing them out and I defy anyone to throw them away! Alter Eco candies are packed in renewable, plant-based wrappers. The chocolates themselves are organic and fair traded.
It’s encouraging that so many of the companies we saw are committed to giving back to society and the environment. David Rio, a maker of chai beverage powders supports wildlife conservation by naming its products after endangered animals. They have partnered with the International Fund for Animal Welfare to help protect endangered animals and their habitats.
A company called The Soulful Project says, “For every serving of The Soulful Project’s hot cereal purchased, we donate a serving of our 4Grain to a regional food bank.”
Blume Honey Water is understandably passionate about protecting bees, so they partner with events such as World Honeybee Day and Pollinator Week, which educate and support efforts to protect these creatures that are so important to agriculture.