If you want to learn everything there is to know about natural, organic, and healthy products, ExpoWest is the place to be. In fact, this year’s ExpoWest convention drew a whopping 86,000 people from 136 countries over five days – with an astonishing 3,600 companies exhibiting.
We did our best to scout out some of the latest trends (compare with our ExpoWest trend round-up from last year) and interesting new products. Here’s our overall observation: In this current environment, it’s hard to be a product involving meat, gluten, or plastics. Most of the innovations we’re seeing are being driven toward plant-based and gluten-free foods, with an emphasis on less packaging, biodegradable packaging, or packaging that’s easily recyclable.
Looking at the plant-based products, we’ll start with Beyond Meat, which drew one of the biggest lines of people saw at the convention, waiting to sample sliders made with its plant-based imitation beef product. (The burgers are primarily made from pea proteins, and colored to look like beef with beet juice.) They are soy-free, gluten-free, GMO-free, and they boast 20 grams of plant protein per serving. And they taste (and look) astonishingly like actual beef. Coming in the second half of 2019, Beyond Meat is introducing “Beyond Beef,” a ground “beef” product that is ready to cook in any ground beef recipe.
We also loved the non-meat “meat” products from Very Good Butchers (Motto: We Butcher Beans), especially the pepperoni. This company, based in British Columbia, offers a wide range of meat replacement products ranging from British bangers to taco stuffers. They deliver to the U.S., and if you want, you can sign up for their “monthly ‘meat’ club.”
And here’s something different – “Tuno,” a plant-based alternative to tuna from Loma Linda/Atlantic Natural Foods. It’s made from a blend of soy, yeast, sunflower oil, seaweed and other natural ingredients. It comes in just the kind of flat round cans you’d expect. And of course it’s fish-free, ocean-safe, mercury-free, vegan, and gluten-free. We found it to have a nice, flaky “mouth feel” similar to actual tuna.
Why make your bread products out of wheat when you can make them out of…anything else? We saw so many options at ExpoWest it’s hard to narrow down just a few.
First how about your favorite wraps? Instead of a flour tortilla, you can make it with coconut. NUCO Coconut Wraps are made from all-organic coconut meat, coconut water, and extra-virgin coconut oil. They’re raw, gluten-free, non-GMO, paleo, vegan, and raw (does that cover all the bases?). You can try them in original or moringa, turmeric, or cinnamon flavors.
If not coconut, then how about plantains? These plantain tortillas from Positively Plantain have a similarly short ingredient list: green plantains, baking powder, and sea salt. They’re gluten-free, vegan, paleo, grain-free, wheat-free, soy-free, oil-free, dairy-free, nut-free, and corn-free. (Not to mention that ten percent of profits go to FARE, Unidos, and UNICEF.)
We also tried Wrawp Veggie Wraps – another kind of wrap made with zucchini, apple, flax seed, sunflower seeds, coconut, turmeric, onion, and spices. You can get them in a variety of different flavors and formulations. They’re also paleo, gluten-free, and vegan. (And perhaps because we had our eyes already attuned to the bright green packaging – we saw some in our grocery store the very next day!)
Last but not least, if you’re going to use bread crumbs but aren’t too keen on the bread, check out Nut Crumbs. This gluten-free alternative uses coarsely ground raw nuts and spices to create an easy bread crumb replacement. They’re gluten-free, paleo, vegan, and sugar-free. Our kids actually love the spicy flavor – it gives a nice kick to whatever you’re “breading,” whether it’s chicken, fish, zucchini, or anything else.
This year at ExpoWest we paid a lot of atttention to all of the creative packaging that’s cropping up. Plastics are out, and fully biodegradable materials are in.
We love this pizza box from World Centric. It’s 100 percent tree-free, plant-based, and compostable. It’s also smaller than the traditional cardboard pizza boxes – it’s made to fit a round pizza. It has a secure-fit top, circular vents to let moisture out, and there’s no need for the plastic “tent” to keep the lid from touching the pizza. World Centric also has a line of plant-fiber-based plates, bowls, trays, and clamshells that are all compostable.
We also loved the que Bottle – a collapsible water bottle that is eye-catchingly stylish. (What other water bottle can claim that it’s won design praise from MoMA in New York and San Francisco, the de Young Museum, and the Smithsonian?) It’s made from food-grade silicone with a metal cap, and it’s BPA- and plastic-free.
Speaking of water bottles, we were also impressed by RainForest Artesian Water from Costa Rica. It comes in an extremely sleek and attractive aluminum bottle – no plastic! It sounds like the company has made a commitment to plant trees for water bottles sold, but the web site is so inscrutable we can’t tell. (Sorry, RainForest – we really tried! We spent at least 20 minutes trying to figure it out.). Nevertheless, it’s a great bottle of water!
Blogger disclosure: I attended ExpoWest at my own expense. All opinions expressed are my own.