Every year for 4 crazy busy days in March, a giant Natural Products Show takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. The Expo showcases the latest and hottest in natural food and products, including organic, earth-friendly, ethnic, baby things, nutritional supplements, and best of all, vegetarian and vegan foods! Over 1,000 natural company set up booths inside the convention center, which is the size of at three football fields.
The goal of the Natural Products Expo is to help companies reach out to retailers (i.e. health food stores, markets, restaurants) and sell their products. It is also THE place for companies to generate media and public interest about their products.
A good number of the companies represented at the Expo espoused noble intentions, i.e., to create the best products possible using high quality ingredients and to be environmentally-friendly as well. For these companies (though not all of them), it’s more than about making money. It’s also about making a better product for the consumer.
As a representative for HappyCow.net, I was in attendance as a member of the press. And I had the fortune to converse in length with some owners whose companies are making quality products that are useful, healthful, and beneficial to the quality of the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle.
One of the first companies I met with was V-Bites, vbitesusa.com, represented by its famous owner, Heather Mills, the vegetarian celebrity turned business entreprenuer. V-Bites is a new-concept vegan fast food restaurant located in Brighton, UK. It is now affiliated with the Cheezly and the Redwoods companies. Both are manufacturers of vegan food products recently purchased by Mills. Immediately following our introduction, she said to me, “I use HappyCow!”
V-Bites plans to launch 6-8 new varieties of vegan cheese, plus some vegan pizza toppings to U.S. stores in the very near future. Watch out for them because they’re truly delicious (yes, I sampled everything). Mills told me that her companies will also be partnering with Cruisers Pizza (one of the few fully vegan pizzerias in the U.S.) to create a frozen pizza. I’m looking forward to it.
I also met with the European chocolate maker, PACARI, pacarichocolate.com.
This company creates dairy free, fine chocolates created from Arriba Nacional cacao of Ecuador using all organic ingredients (no pesticides, good for the environment). Pacari works directly with the cacao farmers, provide training, and pays fair wages. I sampled a handful of their chocolate varieties and especially enjoyed the raw dark chocolate covered golden berries. The tangy berries tasted wonderfully with the slightly sweetened dark chocolate. Yum.
Another maker of artisan vegan chocolate in attendance was Xan Confections, xanconfections.com. What I liked about them is the creative ways in which the chocolates are handcrafted and presented. Some pieces are made to look like sparkling jewels while others tastefully decorated in an array of colors and shapes. All dairy free, gluten free, and low calories.
Over at the Transition Nutrition booth, royalhimalayan.com, the friendly owner gave me a bag of “Bliss Mix” trail mix. It featured a unique blend of all raw and organic goodies: cacao nibs, goji berries, dried mulberries, pistachio, macadamia, cashew. I highly enjoyed it. His company also makes various flavors of raw chocolate barks that are simple, slightly sweetened, and yummy to eat.
Later in the day, at the Health Force Nutritionals table, healthforce.com, I was given delightful sample size bottles of vegan raw superfood supplements called “ZeoForce,” “Vitamineral Greens,” and “Warrior Food.” Each bottle is a unique blend of high quality, organic superfood and wholefoods, formulated for vibrant health and wellness. I look forward to putting them in my power smoothies.
For anyone who likes to nibble on energy bars, checkout Pure Bars, thepurebar.com. These organic vegan bars are created with all natural ingredients and no refined sugars. They come in assorted flavors, including chocolate brownie, cranberry orange, trail mix (YUM!), and apple cinnamon. Each bar is a very satisfying snack. I now keep a few in my car for “emergency” hungers.
And if you like hemp foods as much as I or would like to learn more about hemp in food, checkout Manitoba Harvest, manitobaharvest.com. They produce hulled hemp seeds, hemp oil, hemp milks–all wonderful foods for a healthy veg*n diet that you should be able to find at your local health food store.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Yoga Chips, yogavive.com, maker of all natural, dehydrated fruit chips. They gave me some travel size mini bags of organic apple chips to try. My 18 months old daughter likes them so much at whenever she sees me holding a bag she exclaims, “Apple Chips!”
Also in attendance promoting their new product lines are the familiar and beloved vegan and vegetarian food brands like Amy’s Kitchen (now using Daiya Cheese in their burritos and mac n cheese) and Follow Your Heart.
This year’s Expo brought in a record 56,000 in attendance and offered many nice surprises for vegans and vegetarians. I am a very happy cow to have attended and tried some very special treats. Moo.