Natural Products Expo West is the largest natural product trade show in the world. During the five day event, over eighty thousand industry professionals and influencers flock to the Anaheim Convention Center just across from Disneyland, to network with over three thousand vendors. From international corporations to independent small business owners, there is plenty to sample. We braved the masses and tasted our way through Expo West to pinpoint the best vegan products of the show. Check out the trends below to discover the latest products to hit the shelves.
Best Vegan Cheese
Image credit: miyokos_kitchen/Instagram
Vegan cheese has evolved tremendously from the early days of rubbery, tasteless products. Today there are countless companies offering plant-based cheeses in every form, from slices to gourmet spreads. Although many were exceptional, two companies stood out. The veteran, Miyoko’s Kitchen, had attendees circling around for seconds of their smoked mozzarella. Miyoko’s also premiered a new line of vegan cream cheeses, scheduled to hit shelves later this year. The newcomer, Soyatoo, launched its first cheese product at the expo, sampling incredibly melty quesadillas. The savory shreds will be available this summer. Get ready to make the best vegan grilled cheese ever.
Best Vegan Meat
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With all of the vegan meat companies demoing at the expo, we couldn’t pick just one. Again, two companies truly shined above the others. First, The Tofurky Company. This established plant-based meat producer has expanded far beyond the Thanksgiving table. Attendees were treated to its latest product, the DIY Burger. Both taste and texture were on point, making for an exceptional veggie burger.
Upton’s Naturals also delivered on a quality meat-like product with its Sweet & Smoky Jackfruit. The product is tender, flavorful, and minimally processed. Its perfect for adding substance to stir-frys and salads, or stuffing into burritos, tacos, and tamales. Upton’s is currently available in several national grocers, such as Whole Foods.
Best Vegan Ice Cream
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For a natural products trade show, there was a shocking amount of vegan ice cream. Of course, we didn’t complain. We dutifully sampled each one to find the absolute best. However, due to the abundance of companies, we’ve broken this trend down into subcategories.
Mochi was a bit hit this year. The most outstanding vegan mochi was My/Mo Mochi, which introduced its first four vegan flavors at the expo. The cashew cream-based treats come in Strawberry, Salted Caramel, Vanilla, and Chocolate. Look for them at your local Ralphs soon.
Superfood ice cream was also trending. Snow Monkey, a small business with big potential, sampled three new flavors of its protein-packed, paleo-friendly products. The cinnamon variety stole the show. Simply made with fruit purees and hemp seed protein, this sweet treat is healthy enough to eat for breakfast!
Those looking for a dairy-free equivalent of Haagen-Daz also have plenty of options. Like vegan cheese, vegan ice cream has come a long way from the icy pints of yesteryear. For a decadent, creamy, and luxurious dessert, reach for New Barn or So Delicious. New Barn’s Coffee Bean Almond Creme was pure, simple and decadent. So Delicious wowed attendees with new flavors, including the coconutmilk-based Toasted Coconut Key Lime. It’s sweet and refreshing with just the right amount of pucker. Plus, it’s packed with swirls of key lime filling! Both New Barn and So Delicious are available in stores nationwide.
Best Vegan Cookie Dough
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Yes, cookie dough. Not the place-and-bake kind; the eat-from-the-tub kind. Several companies have pioneered ready-to-eat vegan cookie dough for whenever the craving hits. Our favorite? Because Cookie Dough. These chickpea-based single serving packs come in four flavors, including Classic Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate, and Brownie Batter. All are phenomenal. The packs are currently available in select natural food grocers in Los Angeles, Portland, and the East Coast.
Best Fermented Product
Between all the cookie dough and ice creams, we took shots of various probiotic and fermented drinks. There was plenty of kombucha to go around, but what caught our attention (and our tastebuds) was Farmhouse Culture’s new Gut Punch beverages. It’s a sparkling probiotic made with fermented cabbage brine and beets. Don’t let the description be a turnoff; it’s in between a kombucha and a gut shot - delightfully bubbly and slightly sweet, but with a depth of flavor that most kombuchas lack. This new product is now available in several national grocers.
Best Innovative Product
Image credit hummuspods/Instagram
There’s nothing new about hummus, but hummus pods are truly innovative. Think of a pizza pocket, but instead of processed cheese and oil, the tender multigrain pocket is filled with hummus. These savory snacks come in four flavors - Zesty Lemon, Smoky Chipotle, Sriracha Lime, and Tangier Red Pepper. Made by the Modern Pod Company, hummus pods are available in the freezer aisle nationwide. To find pods near you, check out the Pod Finder.
Best Gluten-Free Vegan Baked Good
Image credit rulebreaker/Instagram
In addition to ice cream, there was a surprising amount of baked goods at this expo. Our favorite healthy option was the Rule Breaker’s chickpea-based blondies and brownies. The company introduced a new flavor, Birthday Cake, at the expo that had us coming back for more. The blondies are dense, chewy, and not-too-sweet - perfect on their own or with a scoop of vegan ice cream. Find these wholesome treats in natural foods stores across the East Coast, as well as Amazon.
Best Vegan Milk
Image credit Oatly/Instagram
Need some milk to wash down that chickpea blondie? We sipped tons of plant-based milks made from peas, hemp, soy, almonds, and cashews, but our favorite was made from oats. Oatly served us creamy oat milk lattes that kept us going throughout the expo. The oat milk is flavorful without being sweet, and it did not curdle when heated (unlike some plant milks). Many independent coffee shops carry Oatly. To find one near you, check out the Oat Finder.
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