Thursday, March 12, 2015

Top 10 Vegan Products at Natural Products Expo West 2015

This past weekend I attended the Natural Products Expo West at the Anaheim Convention Center to scope out all the new vegan goodies coming out this year! I attended last year (check out my report!), but this year was even bigger and better, and I was ecstatic to see so many vegan or vegan-friendly companies rolling out exciting new vegan products!

Over the few days at Expo West, I got to try oodles of vegan food, beauty/health products, drinks, and got to visit with some of my favorite vegan companies as well as discovering new ones! It was a blast, and I already can't wait until next year!

There were SO MANY awesome products launching, so it was really tough to narrow it down to my top 10 favorites. I finally did, sorta, and below you will find my top 10 favorite products from the Expo, plus some honorable mentions. Not all of these are available in stores or available in the US, yet, but most should either be coming soon or already in some stores.

The Spooky Vegan's Top 10 Vegan Products from Expo West 2015:

Wow, just look at that Violife Parmesan aka Prosociano!

1. Violife Prosociano aka Vegan Parmesan Block - I am Italian, so in my pre-vegan days I was a fiend for Parmesan and in my seven years as a vegan and never found anything to replicate the blocks of Parmesan I used to gnaw on. Well, the good news is I FINALLY found something that looks and tastes like the Parmesan I grew up with! Violife's Parmesan is brand new and has somehow recreated the look and texture of the Parmesan blocks I grew up on. Same salty sharpness, same crumble, and it can even be grated! It is truly mind-blowing! The bad news is that Violife doesn't have distribution in the US and is only available in Europe. PLEASE keep bugging your local stores to carry this European brand because it is the best vegan cheese I've ever tasted! Besides the new Parmesan, they make many other delicious cheeses and they are actually the makers of Field Roast's Chao and Follow Your Heart's cheeses (though each of their cheeses are formulated differently and have unique recipes).

Vixen Kitchen founder Sundara Clark and her wonderful vegan ice cream flavors!

2. Vixen Kitchen's Vegan Gelato - OMG, OMG, OMG! was pretty much all I could say when I tasted Vixen Kitchen's vegan gelato flavors! Before I found their booth, I had sampled lots of other vegan frozen desserts, and while the others were good, this is the only one that made my jaw drop (so I could shove more of their samples in my mouth). I tried nearly all of the flavors (I cried a little on the inside when I found out they didn't have any Pumpkin Pie flavor available), from their Naked Vanilla to Coffee Cream Dream to Chai and I, and each one was creamy, rich, and freakin' perfect! The gelato is cashew based, sweetened with maple syrup, and handmade in small batches in Humboldt County in Northern California by their lovely owner, Sundara, who created the dessert for her daughter who was allergic to dairy. Let me tell you, I ate a ton of ice cream at Expo, and while plenty were delicious, this brand was clearly the best! You can find this mind-blowing gelato from Humboldt County to Sonoma County in Northern California (find the full list of stores that carry them here). Now I need to plan a trip to the redwoods so I can get more of this goodness!

I was pretty ecstatic to cradle the baby jackfruit, as you can see in 
the photo with Upton's owner Nicole! 

3. Upton's Naturals Jackfruit Carnitas - This is Upton's brand-new product, which should be hitting stores in May/June! They are made with the ever-versatile jackfruit, whose fruit perfectly mimics shredded meat. Fun fact from Wikipedia: "The jackfruit tree is well suited to tropical lowlands, and its fruit is the largest tree-borne fruit, reaching as much as 80 pounds (36 kg) in weight, 36 inches (90 cm) in length, and 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter." In fact, I got to hold a huuuuge 23 pound jackfruit that the Upton's team had at their booth! Besides oooooh'ing and awwwwww'ing over the jackfruit baby, I got to try both of their new flavors of vegan carnitas, Barbecue and Chile Lime and loved them both! Droool...May/June feels so far away to wait for these delicious treats to be in my mouth again!

Mmmmm these energy scents were amazing!

4. Balanced Guru Energy Sprays - Life at Expo can get hectic, but life outside of Expo is oftentimes even more stressful, so it was wonderful to find these incredible sprays in energizing scents like "Guilt-Free" "Understanding", "Empowering", "Fearless", and more by Balanced Guru! They smelled so good, and cruelty-free, vegan, organic and full of mood-boosting scents that seemed to instantly calm me when I used them. I was spraying "Full of Love", an "organic blend of a peaceful and compassionate spell" all weekend long! Can't wait to seek out more of their products!

Owl's Brew at Expo, including their drink menu - so yummy!

5. Owl's Brew Tea Infused Mixers - Cocktail mixes made with tea?! I'm SO in! These delightful concoctions elevate regular ol' drinks into magical creations! Among the flavors are the Coco-lada, a blend of black tea, coconut, chai spices and pineapple, The Classic, a blend of English Breakfast, lemon, and lime, the Pink and Black with fresh-brewed Darjeeling hibiscus tea with lemon peel, strawberry and lemon juice, and their newest concoction, the White and Vine, which is fresh-brewed white tea, with pomegranate, lemon peel and watermelon juice! I was instantly obsessed when I tried their brews and think they are perfect for a light and lovely spring or summer cocktail party! You can find these at stores like Williams-Sonoma and select BevMos.

Sweet Earth Foods' BBQ Style Grounds

6. Sweet Earth Foods Barbecue Style Savory Grounds - I was really looking forward to trying their new Tuscan-style grounds, but they were out when I stopped by, so I got to try these Barbecue flavored ones instead! I definitely didn't leave disappointed, and I can't wait to find these in stores and make all sorts of delicious dishes with them! I can't wait to try them in burgers, in bowls, and the Tuscan-style one in pastas! They were so savory with a great texture! I love this company and their vegan-friendly products.


7. Daiya Key Lime Cheezecake - Daiya unveiled a slew of new items (cheesecake, yogurt, mac and cheese!) and improved products (their cheese has been reformulated), and the winner according to my taste buds was their new line of "cheezecakes" in four flavors - strawberry, chocolate, New York-style, and (my personal favorite of the bunch) key lime! I came back multiple times for the key lime, which was a perfect mix of tart and sweet with a wonderfully crumbly crust! The texture was spot-on, and didn't have a weird, chalky aftertaste that some vegan cheesecakes have. Bonus for those with allergies - besides being vegan and dairy-free it is also gluten-free and soy-free! These just hit stores shelves, so you should be able to grab yours at Whole Foods and other grocery stores.

Hold the phone - these Gardein Porkless Bites are almost too good to be true!

8. Gardein Sweet and Sour Porkless Bites - Holy cow (errrr, pig?), these were so tasty! They served them with a bit of pineapple and it tasted almost TOO close to pig flesh for comfort - cruelty-free never tasted so good! I also thought the sauce they used for them was great, with a nice balance of sweet and sour They also unveiled their new Crabless Cakes, but I preferred the Porkless Bites.

Jasmine Moon for the win!

9. Pacifica Jasmine Moon Dry Roll-On Rich Body Oil - I have recently been obsessed with body oils, and this new one by Pacifica smells soooooo dreamy and moisturizes effortlessly with tiare, marigold and coconut oil! It absorbs so fast, and its scent lingers after application. They have a few other scents (Coconut Sun and Tangerine Dream), but the Jasmine Moon was my absolute fave. I can't wait for this stuff to show up in stores so I can slather myself in it!

Hampton Creek Foods' mac and cheese strudel! They also had lots of 
other flavors of both strudels (like the Brazilian Black Bean
 pictured in the back) and calzones!

10. Harbor Creek Farms Mac and Cheese Strudel - I chanced upon this booth totally by accident and did a double-take/u-turn when I passed the booth and saw the word "vegan" on their packages. I'm so glad I stopped off at this booth, because this family-owned and -run company was one of the highlights of the Expo! They make all kinds of vegan strudels and calzones, like their scrumptious Mac and Cheese Strudel (which I swooned over)! This strudel has a creamy mac and cheese filling wrapped in a flaky pastry crust that is just to die for! They are currently available in Washington, Oregon, and Montana, but hope to expand down to SoCal soon (fingers crossed)!

Honorable Mentions at Expo West 2015

Alright, so though I have a top 10, there were so many fantastic companies this year that I couldn't end the post without mentioning a bunch of other great vegan products I tried! Behold, here are the honorable mentions, AKA other awesome stuff I put in my mouth!

  • Neat Breakfast Mix - I didn't include this product above as it has been out for a while, but it was my first time trying and OMFG! It was so dang delicious! Can't wait to look for these guys in stores! 
  • Pastariso Mac Uncheddar - This year's Expo certainly was cheesy, and this was one of the many vegan mac and cheese product I tried! Not sure where this box mac and cheese is available yet (it isn't even on their website yet, and I can't find any other vegan products this company offers), but I hope to be able to find it in stores soon (UPDATE: The company reached out to let me know this will be in Sprouts and other health-food stores in April)! It also happens to be gluten-free and soy-free!
  • Arty Artichoke Water - Water made with artichokes?! I tried this because it was so weird, but I ended up liking it a lot! It was very refreshing and reminded me of a mint tea! Definitely gonna seek this stuff out in stores!
  • Nada Moo Cookies and Creme Ice Cream - Another delightfully dairy-free ice cream that was a big hit from this Austin, Texas-based, family-run company! They also had a secret Salted Caramel flavor that was crazy good, too! The Cookies and Creme flavor is what dreams are made of, though!  
  • Miyoko's Kitchen Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash Cheese - Ok, I didn't include this in my top 10 list above as it has been on the market for some time, but it was my first time trying Miyoko's artisan cheeses and it was love at first bite! My personal favorite was the Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash, which was mildly tangy with a delightful umami flavor. It was also great to see Miyoko herself at the booth, as I remember talking to her last year at Expo when she was just getting ready to launch Miyoko's Kitchen! 
  • Total Cluster Fudge - This small company wins for their cute logo design and product labels alone! It also helps that their vegan fudge, cookie dough and other dessert goodies are phenomenal! I can't find much info on them online, and their website isn't very helpful either as it doesn't list ingredients (concerning, especially since it looks like they have some non-vegan items for sale), but if you see them in stores be sure to pick some up because I tried some of their great vegan options! 
  • Field Roast Chao Cheese - Like a few other "honorable mentions", this product has been available for a while, however, it was my first time trying since SoCal is the only region STILL not carrying Chao (sob)! I was so excited to finally try it, and it definitely didn't disappoint! I loved the creamy original flavor and could eat the whole block straight out of the package. I spoke with Field Roast's President David Lee and he said SoCal can expect to see Chao on shelves by mid-April (hurrah!). The rest of the U.S. has been enjoying this delicious product for a few months now, so it is likely already on shelves in your area.
  • So Delicious Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Frozen Dessert - This new flavor was so popular they ran out at the Expo! Good news is that it is hitting shelves as we speak, so you can get your paws on this cashew-based ice cream ASAP and see for yourself just how so delicious it is (and it is really, really good)!
  • Daiya Deluxe Alfredo Cheezy Mac - Daiya has three new shelf-stable mac 'n' cheese products, their Deluxe Cheddar, Deluxe White Cheddar Veggie Medley, and my favorite, the Deluxe Alfredo! This mac 'n' cheese was creamy with a great taste! 
  • Beyond Meat Beyond Chicken Tenders - Loved Beyond Meat's mock McDonald's booth at Expo, where they were dishing out Beast Burgers and these insane Chicken Tenders! I love me some Beast Burgers (my review here), but the Chicken Tenders really blew me away. They were perfectly crispy, the texture was spot-on, and the breading was yummy! Look for them sneaking onto shelves soon! 
This year's Expo was bursting with new vegan products, and I can't wait until these are more widely available! I also hope some of the smaller companies find distribution so I can get my paws on their superb products! Lastly, it was a pleasure seeing/meeting so many fabulous vegan and vegan-friendly companies, not to mention all the wonderful friends and bloggers I got to hang with!

I can't wait until next year's Expo West!


  1. so many products i want to try! plus some new faves (like the cheezes!). i am so hungry right now!

  2. Great round up, Sarah! Couple things I didn't try in there. :)