This past week, over 1,300 industry professionals from the natural and organic food sector gathered at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, Maryland to display and share their latest products. In addition to vendors, the event gathers people from several different sectors, from journalists looking to scour the latest trends in food to distributors looking for hot new products to stock their shelves with. While there were definitely some innovative products in the paleo and raw categories, one of the major overarching (and possibly largest) trends of the expo was undeniably plant-based food.
There were new, innovative plant-based products from household favorites like Follow Your Heart and Quorn, as well as debuts from brand new companies like Hippeas, who make vegan chickpea puffs. The fact that plant-based food pervaded the expo is not surprising in the slightest. After all, not only is plant-based food finally being recognized as one of the major solutions that may save our food system, but investors are fully aware of the growing consumer demand for cleaner, healthier, better-for-the-environment food, and are urging companies to shift their focus from meat and cheese to plant-based sources of protein and dairy. And let’s not forget, that thanks to advancements in technology (and the propelling of growth that always comes with growing competition) food companies are making some of the most delicious creations the plant based sector has seen yet. Here are five of the hottest new products that were presented at Expo East.
1. Field Roast Mac n’ Chao
Field Roast has gotten into the frozen meal game! While the company has a mac and cheese recipe incorporating their rich coconut-based Chao cheese on their website for some time now, they decided to make things easier for their consumers with the debut of their new frozen product “Mac n’ Chao.” The heat-and-serve meal comes in two flavors: Creamy and Chili (which incorporates some of the brand’s sausage in crumble form). The product will start popping up on shelves starting January 2017.
2. House Foods Go Umami Baked Tofu Bars
Unlike seitan, tofu has not been able to permeate the snack market very successfully yet. After all, most tofu is not shelf stable and most tofu companies have not attempted to craft the soybean product into something snackable … until now. House Foods Go Umami Baked Tofu Bars are savory tofu slabs that come in a convenient portable pouch and provide five grams of vegan protein. The company debuted the new product at the Expo East in three flavors: Hickory Smoke, Savory, and Orange Teriyaki. The tofu is still perishable and should be refrigerated but according to the vendors, will stay good outside of the refrigerator for 1-2 hours. Looks like tofu snacking on-the-go may just become a thing now…
3. The Jackfruit Company BBQ Jackfruit
Jackfruit has been getting a lot of press in the recent year, and understandably so. The native Asian fruit is being hailed as one of the most innovative meat alternatives for its remarkable “pulled pork” texture and ability to absorb flavors. The Jackfruit Company showed just how versatile jackfruit actually is with their display at Expo East. The company assembled four different dishes for their four different flavors of marinated jackfruit: BBQ, Tex-Mex, Curry, and Teriyaki. Considering jackfruits uncanny resemblance to pulled pork, the BBQ flavor was one of the most impressive. The products come pre-made so incorporating this innovative new product into your meals, is as simple as heating up the stove.
4. Sophie’s Kitchen Salmon
While several companies are creating vegan alternatives for steak and chicken, Sophie’s Kitchen has gone a different route: seafood. Using konjac root, an ancient Asian superfood, the company has crafted several seafood products from fillets to shrimp, and even scallops. The company debuted a Lobster Mac and Cheese as well as their Vegan Toona, but one of the most interesting products was without a doubt their salmon. Thin, slightly transparent, and mild in flavor just like regular salmon, this product is just begging to be put on top of a (vegan) cream cheese bagel.
5. Ripple Pea Milk
Nowadays it seems like companies are making milk out of all sorts of ingredients. One product that definitely turned heads was Ripple, the dairy-free milk made from peas. The milk has been on shelves for a few months now, but people were still perplexed at the product. As vendors shared, however, the product tastes nothing like peas and actually contains more calcium than regular milk and is less impactful to the environment. Considering environmental impact and clean nutrition are two major consumer concerns these days, we think Ripple came onto the market at the perfect time.
Expo East 2016 was further affirmation that the plant-based industry is truly making an impact in the food world and a delicious one at that. With so many distributors present at the event, we have no doubts that supermarket shelves are going to be seeing a lot of new vegan products in the coming months, especially places like Walmart and Target, who are starting to actively stock more plant-based foods. Yep, all signs (even store signs) point to the future of food being plant-based. New Hope Network’s event may specifically mention natural and organic products, but with such a huge vegan food presence at the event, who knows, maybe next year it will specifically mention plant-based, as well.