I have mixed feelings going to the Natural Foods Expo each year. I’ve attended for almost 20 years and the increased crowds make it feel like an endless line at Disneyland. However, the thrill of tasting some new food product and the desire to see what’s new and hip in the “Natural Foods” world wins out…or does it?
Is “food” being reduced the latest release of an apple iPhone, gadget or game? Can we really create new forms of food each year to entice our appetites? Or is “food” being reduced to terms like “gluten-free,” “non-GMO,” and “natural?”
How many ways can we remake a veggie chip, cracker or other food product? Are we in continual search to obtain that lucky food lottery ticket which will satisfy our cravings for the next year?
Each year the Natural Foods Expo has themes and this year my take was flavored nut butters, different forms of Nutella-like or dark chocolate spreads, nondairy nut milks, grass-fed yogurt and kefirs, and variations on kale chips, veggie burgers and omega 3 products.
Here are my top finds for 2015:
Latta probiotic yogurt and kefir:
Looking for a product with natural probiotics? This company uses milk from grass-fed cows, with no thickeners, preservatives, artificial ingredients or fillers. It did not have the extreme sour taste you usually find with most kefir or plain yogurt products. Latta had a slightly sweet taste, with a rich and smooth mouth-feel. The owners were very friendly, invited questions and were generous with sampling their products, something you don’t always find at booths at the expo.
Quinoa and cashew milk are the new kids on the block versus almond, soy, and other milks. Suzie’s unsweetened vanilla quinoa had a pleasant flavor, and limited ingredients besides being a great alternative for a dairy-free milk for smoothies or beverage options.
Hodgson Mill Travel Flax/Chia
Although travel flax packets have been around for a few years, this is the first I’ve seen a travel combo of flax and chia ground together. What could be more convenient that packing a few packets to go in your bag to ensure you are getting your omega 3’s, fiber and health on your upcoming trip rather than just having health at home? It has an amazing nutty clean taste and is conveniently slim and sized for travel and ease.
Although Kale is the “popular girl,” I’ve never been a huge fan of the taste or it’s products so this one surprised me. The Superfood flavor had a nice crunch, taste, good ingredients and was not too salty as most of the kale chips I’ve sampled before. They have 8 flavors for variation and the few others I tried all had a good crunch and bite.
And for the indulgence although I tried many flavored peanut butters and nutella-like products this company nailed the taste, smoothness and flavor combos. Peanut butter with dark chocolate, bananas or raspberries. I liked the flavor they call Choco Choco the best that contains dark chocolate melted in with the peanut butter, and my intern Victoria loved the Coco Banana, which mimicked banana with peanut butter feel; the Razzle Dazzle tasted almost as good as a PB and J. Although double the sugar/carbs of plain peanut butter it is a nice treat for kids and adults alike if you can stick to the 2 tablespoon serving size.
A few other products worth mentioning are Giv50’s Mediterranean with Kalamata Olives quinoa burger, a new flare with good taste and consistency on a veggie burger; Saint Benoit’s Creamery flavored milk for kids in a glass container and Rise Bar’s new protein bar that contains 3 ingredients and tastes like the Almond Honey one I like with Cinnamon (which is still nameless so if you have suggestions they are welcome to it!)
Coming home I realize although I’m happy to find some new fun finds to share with clients and friends, the true lottery ticket lies in the fresh taste of clean whole foods that have no label, cannot be reformulated to something different and have the taste and mouth-feel nature intended.
The best part is enjoying these foods does not require long drives to food shows or beating huge crowds and all I have to do is walk to my local farmer’s market or grocery store to make a simple meal – and that is the winning health ticket which bets any lotto!