Day 1: Natural Products Expo West 2016

It's that magical time of year where folks from near and far gather in one large convention center to check out the latest and greatest products from a wide-range of vendors!

Three (two for me) full charged, insanely packed, early to start, late to bed, heart pumping, legs a' moving, body a' aching days with like-minded individuals makes my heart do the happy dance. It's insanely exhausting, but there is a laundry list of reasons why it's incredibly worth it. 

I placed myself right smack dab in the middle of the action–hauling, trying, networking and snapping products all weekend long so I can bring to you

My Favorites of Expo West 2016

 

Suja Juice / I have to thank Suja for stocking the press room each day with their new line of juices.
To know a green juice was waiting for me before I embarked on expo shenanigans put my mind and tummy at ease. It was also very, very tasty!

 

Schmidt's Natural Deodorant / I was extremely excited to see my favorite deodorant company add sticks to their line. The jar was doable, but not my preferred method. Not only did they add the sticks, they added coconut oil. For those who suffer from baking soda reactions, myself included, this helps to reduce any side effects. The coconut oil has been a vital addition and I'm hooked again! 

Aluminum-free, natural and workout approved.

 

squarebar / This decadent, smooth, protein bar is delicious. It curbs chocolate cravings while supplying you with post workout protein and it's even yummier when you put it in the fridge, trust me. 

This isn't a bar I could eat every day–the sugar and fat content is on the higher side–but it makes a wonderful treat. With ingredients like organic coconut nectar and organic sprouted brown nice, its a far better option than most. 

Dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, protein isolate-free. 

 

Forager Project / How many juice companies do you know re-purpose their pulp for chips?! Forager is leaving nothing for waste. The chips were delicious and the new smoothie flavors smooth and creamy. They have upped the sustainable game. 

 

Pop Art / This may be an unorthodox popcorn flavor, but it is unbelievably good. I found this last year at expo and I was thrilled to come across it again.  

 

"Give Me All The Gluten" 
Field Roast / I allowed myself to experience expo without many restrictions, but I did stop intermittently for digestive enzymes, probiotics, kombuchas and juices throughout the day. I was actively aware of what I was consuming and my body was constantly moving. With that being said, if you don't have an issue with gluten, Field Roast's new hand-formed burger patties with their Chao cheese was on point. Very, very, deliciously, amazingly on point. 

partner in expo crime: Vegangirl4ever

 

Violife Cheese / The year of kicking myself is over! I made Violife a priority.
The texture was similar to  Follow Your Heart, but the flavors were their own. The blue cheese was like no other and the cheddar, feta and parmesan were all spot on delicious. If all goes well, Violife could be entering US markets in Summer. 

Dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, Non-GMO. 

 

Sir Kensington / A non-vegan company coming out with an aquafaba vegan mayo and making it their main booth attraction is a far-fetched concept, right? Almost unbelievable, but Sir Kensington did just that. Fabanaise is everything–light, not overly vinegary, delicate, delicious, everyday usable and impressive.  It's not on the market yet, but I will keep you up-to-date on when it will be arriving. 

 

Health-Ade Kombucha / My favorite local Kombucha company has a few new flavors on the market; Holiday Cheers, Power Greens, Maca Berry and Sweet Thorn. I am digging all of them, but leaning towards the Power Greens as my favorite front runner. 

 

Jem Raw Organic / When I see my favorite ingredients combined and made into a smooth, creamy spread; I internally jump for joy. Why? Because it lets me know others are riding the same waves. They know what's up. Jem Raw Organic have created distinctly delicious combinations.

The Cashew Cardamon and the Cinnamon Red Maca have my heart. 

 

Daiya Cheese / By far one of the biggest booths at expo, Daiya returned to their tried and true strategy– showcase everything, never stop circulating.

After speaking with the VP of Marketing, I learned that I wasn't crazy and they've been tinkering with their recipes. The block cheese, cream cheese and pizzas were better than I remembered. The shredded cheese and the mac and cheese were the same. 

My favorites: the chive & onion cream cheese, the supreme pizza and the cheddar mac and cheese. 

 

Gardein / This year they unveiled a slew of new products! Family style, frozen skillet meals and hot pockets! 
The family style, frozen meals come in Italian Rigatoni, Asian Chick'n Fried Rice, Chick'n Florentino Pasta and Chick'n Fiesta. I sampled the Italian Rigatoni and Asian Chick'n Fried Rice. Both were delicious and great options for quick meals. 

The new hot pocket additions are Pizza and Breakfast. 
I'll tell you the truth. I went back multiple times for a sample of the breakfast pocket AND I would go back a thousand more times IT WAS THAT GOOD.

Gardein has collaborated with Follow Your Heart for the breakfast pocket to include the veganegg and Follow Your Heart cheese. This type of partnering warms my vegan heart and it's just the beginning. A new Plant Based Foods Association has formed, 

"The Plant Based Foods Association is a new trade group charged with educating and lobbying on behalf of the plant-based food industry, which the group says account for approximately $3.5 billion in annual sales."
-Food Business News

This is major news and the shift is most certainly evolving. 

Follow Your Heart / Follow Your Heart can't stop paving the way, can they? Bringing in Spork Foods to help with the dishes was a brilliant idea, along with their never-ending mimosa pitcher. 

The wall of products shot shows the momentum is steadily growing. This years new additions; gouda, pepper jack and parmesan, veganegg, gluten-free breads and gluten-free tortilla. 

The veganegg, cheeses and gluten-free tortilla were used in making a vegan quiche, a breakfast burrito and a poppyseed muffin for samples. Those three items prove that wherever a real egg is needed, veganegg can hold up perfectly, as well as the cheeses and the tortilla. 

All items except for the tortilla and breads are currently available on the market. The breads and tortilla are rolling out shortly. 
 

 

Miyoko's Kitchen / Miyoko is a pioneer. Her artisan cheeses are award winning, her work ethic remarkable and her creativity abundant. 

This years newest items are; European Style Cultured Vegan Butter and Vegan Mozz. Both were exceptional.

The cultured butter was delicate; not too thin, not too thick. It spread easily and was slightly sweet to the taste. 
The vegan mozz on the pizza was one of the best samples I had all day AND even possibly the best out of both days. By the looks of it, you can see it melts perfectly. The list of ingredients is so minimal and impressive, one questions, "what wizardry is this?"

Miyoko strikes again. Both are available online and in select markets. 

 

Garden of Life / A trusted brand amongst the vegan community is Garden of Life. Their whole foods approach is refreshing and their tested studies are verifiable. 

One of the their new debuted products is a vegan unicorn-D3. D3 supplements usually come in the form of fish or lanolin (wool grease). Garden of Life's option is a substantial IU amount and made from vegan sources. 
Hooray!

 

Hail Merry / Hail Merry knows how to party! Their happy hour with special host Leslie Durso was a busy booth with wonderfully yummy drinks, tarts and macaroons–heavenly.

Out of the new mini tarts; Chocolate Almond Butter, Chocolate Chili Pecan, Chocolate Creme, Sweet Potato, Blueberry Acai and Strawberry Rhubarb, my favorites were a surprising Strawberry Rhubarb and Chocolate Chili Pecan–both I wouldn't normally gravitate towards.

Truly, you can't go wrong with any flavor and maybe tomorrow Blueberry Acai will be my favorite, but those two left a lasting impression.

 

Friends are fantastic. Obvious statement, but how many individuals do you know bake difficult macaroons and bring them to an expo for friends to try?! Marina Scott and her lovely family is who.   

 Vegangirl4ever better step back from my macaroon!

Vegangirl4ever better step back from my macaroon!

Most people are lugging samples and products out of expo, but this lovely lady and her family brought them in! This was my first aquafaba macaroon and it was spectacular to try.   


As the first day of expo came to a close, a few of use ventured to Kareem's Falafel for dinner because we obviously hadn't eaten enough. 

Kareem's Falafel is a tiny, nondescript Middle Eastern restaurant–a quaint hot spot for OC vegans and one that's been on my list for a while.   

We decided to order a few items family style since we were not starving...shocking, right?

We shared perfectly crispy, not too dense, still fluffy, really flavorful falafels, creamy, rich babaganoush and hummus, lentil soup, fatoush salad with crispy pita, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and lettuce and my favorite, grape leaves. 

I was impressed! It was one of the best, down home middle eastern meals I've had in LA and the right amount for us to share before beginning our evening shenanigans. 


If a full day at expo with an added dinner wasn't enough, we ran on over to the Vega After Party to end the night.
We got a little silly, relaxed with some friends and busted hardcore moves on the dance floor. 

Next up: Day 2.