Highlights from Expo West

This past weekend, High Quality Organics participated in the Natural Products Expo West 2022. The first time back in person since 2019, over 60,000 people were in attendance. Hundreds of brands and companies were on display to showcase their products. We noticed several trending categories, consisting of functional ingredients, and environmentally friendly products. One of the biggest trends that we noticed was plant based foods. Ranging from plant-based meats, to snacks and comfort food, we learned there is a plant-based option for every category.

Out of the plant-based offering that we sampled (and there were a lot), there was one plant based chicken nugget that really stood out. Christie Lagally is the CEO of Rebellyous Foods Plant Based Nuggets, a former Boeing Engineer, and a Senior Scientist at the Good Foods Institute. She started Rebellyous Foods in 2017 targeting kids lunch programs, because she knew chicken nuggets was a popular lunch food item. She began with making plant based chicken nuggets, plant based chicken tenders, and plant based chicken patties. Lagally’s goal was to get rid of factory farming, and she felt the best way to do that was to start with the school lunch programs. What if she made a chicken nugget that tastes like chicken, feels like chicken, and ultimately is better for you than chicken? And that is exactly what she did. She created a plant-based chicken nugget that tastes just like chicken, and has a very similar chicken texture. She began selling to K-12 lunch programs, child nutrition programs, as well as colleges and hospitals. Since the launch of their products in February 2019, they now have over 570 retail locations across 14 different states.

A very popular and somewhat important item in the plant based community, is cheese. Cheese gives many plant-based dishes added texture, flavor, and depth. From plant-based cream cheese, to plant based Cheetos; there were a variety of products to sample. Cheese is very hard to replicate, but if you have the right set of ingredients and ideas, thanks to the Expo we now know it is possible to create a plant-based cheese that actually tastes like real cheese. Texture is an important element, and one brand at the expo was spot on. Beginning in 1997 by a chef named David Lee, the Field Roast Company was born. With a combination of European charcuterie methods and the Asian mien ching traditions, Field Roast found ways to specially craft plant-based meats and cheese from grains, fresh-cut vegetables, and herbs and spices. Considering how most plant-based cheese’s are nut based, Field Roast’s Chao Cheese is one of the very few cheeses that are made with fermented tofu. This is the reason why their cheese’s flavor and texture profile almost identically matches real cheese. They blend their creamy Chao original cheese with their Cayenne Pepper Chao cheese to create a perfect nacho cheese flavor. It is safe to say their distinct flavor profile is why the Chao cheese brand is the number one selling plant-based cheese in America.

Among the many plant-based trends seen at the show, plant-based pizza was a big hit. Dozens of brands were debuting their plant-based pizza in many different flavors and sizes. But the most delicious plant-based pizza that was flooded with attendees was a brand by the name of Black Bird, offering hand tossed pizza all the way from New York City. Emmanuel Storch, CEO of Black Bird Hand Tossed Pizza/Seitan started off by selling his pizza’s and seitan to restaurants in New York City who wanted to provide plant based dishes for their customers. Once the word got out and people started asking for his products to be able to cook them in their homes, Storch knew he had to begin selling it to retail. Now, Black Bird has 5 different varieties of pizza ranging from pepperoni, supreme, barbecue, kale and mushroom, and of course margarita. What’s special about his pizzas is that they are hand-tossed and made in New York City. Not only does the cheese actually melt, the dough and the flavors are impeccable. Eating this pizza really does make you feel like you are in the big apple!

Wild Creamery Plant Based Sour Cream

One of Natural Foods Expo West’s very own winner’s of the 2019 show, Wild Brine was at the convention center with some new and exciting products. Wild Creamery by Wild Brine was showcasing their cultured, plant-based dips, and attendees were lining up for more than one sample. Wild Creamery started about 10 years ago, when they were working with youth at the Ceres Community Project (a non-profit) who’s mission was to restore locally grown organic whole food to it’s place. While they were making vegan sauerkraut with the local teens, and delivering it to cancer patients, they got the attention of plant-based food companies who wanted to sell their product. With the success of this project and placement in a few local stores, Wild Brine was born. Today, Wild Brine offers a delightful variety of products such as kimchi, pickled vegetables, and the famous curtido.

Even with Covid-19 restrictions in place, the 2022 Natural Products Expo was well attended by enthusiastic Food Professionals and food lovers alike.