Discovering What’s New At The Natural Foods Expo East 2014

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on October 7, 2014

Natural Foods Expo East 2014-1It is always a pleasure to attend national and international food shows as an invited guest. The biggest perk when you visit as a member of the press is that you are provided with unprecedented access to the business leaders, innovators and their products. Each year, as I visit shows across the country, and am honored with a bird’s eye view into the inner workings and provenance associated their products and their business.

When you attend a show like this, it’s important to work efficiently. There is just so much to see and experience and doing a little research ahead of time is always helpful. Many new companies premier their products at these types of shows and may not have websites or even social media pages set up, so it can be challenging to preview all of them that may be of interest.

As I make my way around the show, I prepare a cut list of questions that I like to ask the owners of these many different companies. Questions like — what is your product, how is it manufactured and why should I buy it? What are your ingredients and how and where are they sourced? What makes your ingredients or the process in how you put them together unique? Is it similar to other items on the market, and if so, what makes this one different? How is it packaged? What type of packaging do you use and is it sustainable? Can you purchase this retail/wholesale via distributor or website? Is it organic, fair trade, non GMO? Are you tied to socially responsible programs for your community or the world? Do you promote corporate social responsibility? Etc…etc…etc…

If it’s a food item, then of course, it’s also important that the manufacturer hits the mark on everything we want in a delicious food or drink product — but you would be surprised at how many mediocre products still make it to market. The biggest part of evaluating items in these types of shows is learning about an item, trying it for yourself and then deciding if the hype is based on fact or fiction…

This year, I focused my attention on the many new companies (and new items from existing companies) that I came across at the annual show in Baltimore, so make sure to look out for these delicious, healthy, interesting and helpful items in 2015.

1. Boxed water in recycled cartons (not aseptic tetra packs) are a great alternative to plastic bottles. As the cleanup to remove plastic bottles dumped in our waters and oceans gets under way, water packaged in recycled cartons now exist and provide a great alternative. I came across 2 companies currently distributing this item, so if you are a market, carryout or grocery chain, please consider making the switch and make sure to call them for more information. The companies are called Charm City Beverage  and Ice Box Water Company

2. Blue Green OrganicsI have always seen agave nectar in large squeeze packs, but have not seen them in individual packets. This little company sells an organic light (a light amber color) and organic raw (a dark caramel color). This is a low glycemic index (GI) sweetener that is packaged in a variety of different sizes, and includes on the go packets. Now you can throw a few in your bag and not have to rely on artificial sweeteners.
3. Cultures For Health This company provides over 300 items focused on providing cultured items like starters for kombucha, sourdough, kefir cultures (dairy & vegan options), cheese, yogurt and so much more. With their commitment and focus on eating real, whole food based on the principle of sustainable living, the owners created the company based on the ideals that govern their life. This little company excels in both the quality of their products and the support they provide to consumers, ultimately helping them to change their lives for the better.

cultures_for_health_greek_yogurt_starter,   cultures_for_health_milk_kefir_grains,   cultures_of_health_kombucha_starter_culture,

4. Five Star Foodies: This company provides some outrageously delicious vegan burgers and cold pressed apple ciders. I tasted everything they were offering (Griller Burgers, Artichoke Burgers, Sloppy Joe) and especially loved their artichoke burgers and their sloppy joe, which they served in mini taco shells — you simply could not tell the difference! I also took home one each of their cold pressed apple juice which is processed via HPP (High Pressure Pasteurization) versus the traditional heating method. I loved all of them, especially the Apple Ginger Lime because you could taste all of those flavors in the juice. The other two, Apple Orange Hibiscus Mint and the Apple Ginger Cinnamon Mint were also very delicious and refreshing, but I could not pick up all of the flavors in these. The orange and mint flavors really disappeared in the first one as the crisp flavor of hibiscus really shined through. The Apple Ginger Cinnamon Mint had the same issue with the apple and the ginger featuring prominently but really no hint or fragrance of the mint. The company is just premiering these cold pressed apple juices and if you are a fresh apple juice lover, you won’t be disappointed one bit. The company is in the process of developing their website, so I have linked them to their Facebook page. You can find them at various Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic region, but feel free to contact them if you are looking for a particular store.

5. Franklin BakerThe popularity of coconut products have exploded into a record number of new businesses offering everything from coconut water to dried coconut flakes. New research suggests that the coconut is so much better for you than previously thought. It’s naturally occurring antimicrobial properties are so beneficial and can be enjoyed in a variety of different products.

Franklin Baker is based in the Phillipines and has been around for a 100 years. What I like most about this company is that they have invested in the reliability and consistency of their products by focusing safety. Coconut products are very perishable and Franklin Baker has worked to position itself as a reputable manufacturer for the many different items they ship around the world. Things like low glycemic coconut sugar, cream of coconut, coconut beverage base, dessicated coconut in either shred, thread, niblets, chips or flakes. Their products are truly endless and all are Kosher and Halal certified.

The company has invested heavily in ensuring the safest manufacturing processes in its new facility that is fully automated with state of the art digital instrumentation. The facility also offers antimicrobial floors, stainless steel walls and ceilings, sophisticated BAX systems to detect salmonella bacteria, superior drying processes using a proprietary continuous blanching process. This unique process offers superior pasteurization that significantly reduces the chance of contamination. This, along with their focus on new product innovation has all helped to increase the company’s capacity to 17,000 metric tons (annually).

The company’s rep shared samples of their blonde premium organic coconut sugar that is perfect for baking delicious chocolate chip cookies. He also shared samples of their new light and dark coconut sugar sprinkles, which are thicker than the coconut sugar and may include many applications for bakers because of the strong caramel notes associated with these items. I also received a sample of the golden toasted salted chip, a relatively new product that the company has rolled out. I look forward to using these products in upcoming recipes shared on my blog. Look for many of these products to be sold under the GEM brand.

6. Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops – These delicious fruit pops were modeled after the Mexican Paletas that can be made with just about anything — even cucumbers and jalapenos! Today, the company has created over 450 flavors that include Cucumber Lemon Mint, Melon & Cracked Pepper, and the Elvis, a peanut butter, honey, and banana combination. All ingredients are non GMO, with no preservatives or colors and those that include dairy are rBST free. I tried the Caramel Apple – so good it tasted like an apple pie on a stick.

7. Improveat Pure Wraps – This was one of the most unique items that I found at the show and also had the opportunity to speak with the owner of the company. He was kind enough to share some samples with me so that I could try them at home. The wraps are made from young coconut meat and come in 2 different flavors: plain and curry. They are a great alternative to bread or tortilla wraps because they are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy and tree nut free, peanut free and corn free. They are considered raw and are perfect for a raw/alkaline lifestyle, along with vegan, vegetarian and even paleo. They are also non GMO verified. My favorite was the curry, and I filled it with cooked pinto beans and assorted vegetables. I found that the wraps work very well and if you want to use heavier fillings like I did, then you need to use 2 wraps around the filling. I just loved the curry flavored wrap — it is so fragrant and beautifully complements savory fillings. The plain one was also delicious and would even be great for dessert wraps. Pick up a few packs and put away the guilt. These were wonderful and pliable and can be easily stored at room temperature.

improveat_pure_wraps_CURRY,      improveat_curry_wrap_vegan,      improveat_pure_wraps_original_flavor,

8. Invo Coconut Water: Comes in a huge number of flavors that include pure coconut water, coconut water with pineapple, coconut water with tropical fruit, coconut water with Thai lime and coconut water with green tea. My least favorite was the Thai lime – there just seemed to be a huge disparity in flavor between the naturally sweet, alkaline coconut water and the acrid Thai lime. The green tea flavor had an herbaceous, matcha flavor that was very good.  My favorites were the plain coconut water and the pineapple coconut water — both were SUPER delicious! Overall, the product is exceptional. It is beautifully clear with a lovely, natural sweetness and packaged in plastic bottles. The company sources the coconut water in Thailand and uses High Pressure Processing (HPP) to extend the refrigerated shelf life of the product without using heat, as in traditional pasteurization which decreases the nutritive value. Try them all and pick your favorite flavor.

invo_coconut_water_flavors, www.goodfoodgourmet.com9. Ocean’s Halo Seaweed ChipsSeaweed has had a longstanding reputation as a high protein supplement that is also used in protein bars. New initiatives have been set forth by researchers across the globe to challenge chefs and food manufacturers in using seaweed as a food source. A few companies have followed suit and Ocean’s halo is one of them. Seaweed farms require no fresh water, no deforestation, and no fertilizer. A seaweed farm roughly the size of Washington State can provide enough protein for everybody in the world. Today, oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface, but only contribute 2% of the total figure to the world’s food supply. Ocean halo’s new super crispy seaweed chips are non GMO and have no msg. They are packed in compostable bags and come in a variety of different flavors. I tried the Korean BBQ (consumer favorite), Hot & Spicy and the Chili Lime – hands down, the Chili Lime was my favorite. If you are looking for a great snack, definitely consider these.

oceans_halo_chili_lime_seaweed_chips, www.goodfoodgourmet.com10.  Sophie YogurtI love yogurt because I grew up eating it at home. I usually stick to eating plain yogurt and adding my own toppings because of the amount of sugar added to the flavored varieties. Needless to say, I stay away from the sugarfree versions because I have not found one that I like. Most companies use Stevia in sugarfree items and unfortunately, I am one of those people that cannot tolerate the terrible aftertaste. Only a few companies have created blends using stevia that are not as noticeable. One of these companies is a new little yogurt company called Sophie Yogurt. The owner was kind enough open several samples for me to try that included vanilla, caramel and chocolate. I found the stevia noticeable in both the vanilla and caramel flavors, but their chocolate flavor was exceptional and would gladly buy it. It was so thick and rich it was almost like a chocolate pudding without the guilt. One little container is sugar free with 16g of protein – it makes a great alternative for any meal.


11. Theo Chocolate BarsThis little company is located in Seattle WA and proud of its vertical integration. It offers small batch production and controls every aspect of the manufacturing process from bean to bar. They can guarantee at every step that every ingredient is organic and grown using sustainable methods— not too many companies can say the same thing. They are pro-active and not re-active to issues affecting the planet and people around the world. They recently partnered with the Eastern Congo Initiative to launch a series of chocolate bars to help the Congolese farmers – a group encompassing more than 20,000 people living in the Eastern Congo. Reps provided me a sample of the Coffee & Cream milk chocolate (45%) bar and 2 other flavors that included the dark chocolate Sea Salt (70% and also non GMO) and the dark chocolate raspberry (70% and also non GMO). My favorite was the Coffee & Cream because of the inherent smoothness and creaminess of the product that included small pieces of crispy roasted coffee beans throughout. This was an absolutely delicious, organic and Fair Trade product.

Theo_ECI_Coffee_and_Cream,   theo_chocolate,

12. World of Chia – Offers a new line of honey or agave sweetened jam with chia seeds that comes in assorted flavors and includes strawberry, raspberry, blackberry. Pectin is a highly processed carbohydrate found in ripe fruits that is used to thicken jams and spreads. The International Pectin Producers Associations reports that an unidentified processing agent is used in order to extract pectin from fruits to produce commercial pectin, so many jam manufacturers have decided not to use it. Due to the high viscosity produced by chia seeds in a moist environment, it is ideal to use in jams and naturally thickens the product. The final product is less processed and offers the inherent nutritional benefits of the chia seeds that include protein and Omega-3. I picked up a jar of blackberry jam and had one major issue with it – it had seeds. I prefer my jams without seeds and mentioned this to the rep who assured me that there were not that many in the product. I still found them problematic, however the flavor and texture of the jam was quite good. This was not overly sweet and perfect for those looking for a lightly sweet spread. But, if you are like me and have issues with the fruit seeds, stick to the strawberry variety.

1. Bambooee – An eco friendly re-usable towel made from organic bamboo created to replace paper towels. Bambooee is stronger, more absorbent and more durable. They are machine washable and re-useable and created to reduce waste. One sheet can be washed up to 100 times. They have won the prestigious IHA Innovation Award , Best of the West Press Award and were nominated for the Nexty Award. For more information about this great little product, take a look at this video.

2. Molly’s Suds: Monica Leonard learned the effects of our toxic environment the hard way. Her baby, named Molly was stillborn and forced Monica to search for the reasons why this very tragic event could happen. She discovered that in the USA alone, 80,000 chemicals were approved for use by the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) and yet only 200 were tested for human safety. A European study that was spearheaded by Greenpeace International and the World Wildlife Foundation proved that mothers unknowingly pass chemicals to their babies via pregnancy and breast milk. As many as 240 un-natural toxins were detected in newborn baby cord blood and amniotic fluid, and more than 120 of these chemicals were from toxins present in food, personal care, household and environmental products.

Monica built her company with the desire to share this information with the public. Increases in the incidence of birth defects, learning disabilities and autism have supported the belief that toxic chemicals in the environment are the main culprits. For example, ionic surfactants present in modern day detergents are responsible for toxicity affecting normal hormone levels in our oceanic wildlife. Toxins like Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE’s) have been banned in Canada and Europe but are still used in the USA. These chemicals linger in our water supply and leach into our waterways and oceans because they are not easily biodegradable.

Monica made the decision to create a full line of household products and laundry detergents to ensure that such a tragedy does not happen to other families. Her products use proprietary blends of all natural cleaning agents and do not use phosphates, sulfates/sulfonates, petroleum based products or petrochemicals, ammonia, artificial fragrances or bleach. I was grateful to try a sample of her laundry powder and was very impressed with its all natural cleaning power and lovely mint fragrance.

Mop Top Hair Care – Having naturally curly hair can be both a blessing and a curse. Sourcing hair care products that work well on the various degrees of curliness can be challenging because products are so costly, so when I come across companies who are willing to share samples of their items, I;m all over it.  When  come across something that works, I like to share the info with others who are in the same boat.

I mainly stick to hair cleansers that are free of sulfates, and this hair care line follows that philosophy. Kelly, who is the owner of Mop Top, flagged me down as I was walking thru the show because of my curly locks,  and wanted to share some samples of her products.

Kelly asked me to try her curly custard and report back on what I thought. I fully expected the product to have a creamy custard appearance, but the name more relates to the thick consistency of the product. It is actually a thick, clear gel that you use as a styling agent (after you have washed your hair) to coax out the curls and keep the hair frizz free.

The custard has a lovely light citrus scent that did in fact provide some lovely ringlets of curls and some shine . I’m not a fan of products that leave your hair crunchy, although many others don’t seem to mind it. The product description says there is no crunch but it did in fact leave my hair crunchy once it had dried. At the end of the day when I brushed out my hair, I also noticed some residue. I don’t know if this can be helped because the gel is so thick, but perhaps diluting it in your hands with a little water before application, might alleviate the crunchiness and residue. Overall, the product provided lots of intact curls, some shine and little or no frizz throughout the day  — well ahead of many other items currently out on the market.

Neogen Corporation: Neogen develops, manufactures and markets a diverse line of products dedicated to food and animal safety. Neogen understands that its customers face serious consequences if their products are contaminated with any of a number of well-established or emerging threats, including dangerous bacteria, natural toxins, veterinary drug residues, unlabeled food allergens, rodent filth, sanitation concerns, broken veterinary needles or other contaminants. Neogen excels at helping to identify safety concerns in the vast and changing landscape of food and animal safety.

It is estimated that the world will require 30% more food by 2030. Production practices and agricultural expansion will require enhanced food security for this increasing production, while maintaining green, sustainable practices by reducing environmental impact. The new hot topic for crop producers is the GMO vs non GMO battle that rages on.  Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops have been genetically modified with the insertion of the CP4 EPSPS coding sequence. The expression of the CP4 protein makes the crops tolerant to Roundup herbicides, allowing an over-the-top application of the herbicide to control weeds without endangering the safety of the crop. The public safety in consuming crops raised with heavy pesticide use remains in question. Neogen is now actively marketing and selling BioKits to producers interested in detecting GMO sequences in crops so that they can ensure the integrity of their crops to other producers who insist on using non GMO ingredients.


For more information about attending the Natural Foods Expo East in Baltimore, please visit their website for more visitor and exhibitor information. Read more results from the show and discover which companies that received the NEXTY Award in 2014, along with winners in the categories of innovation, sustainability.

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