It’s not just about what you eat; it’s about what you stand for. Join Whitney Lauritsen’s virtual “trick or treat” tour as she takes you through her exhilarating journey at two prominent natural products trade shows along the East Coast. Introducing: Plant-Based World and Natural Products Expo, which showcased the latest breakthroughs in the world of plant-based, organic, and multi-cultural foods. In this episode, Whitney doesn’t hold back, sharing her unfiltered perspectives on the ethics of consumerism and her revelations regarding diversity and inclusion in the industry. She’ll also shed light on her ethical approach to navigating product reviews. Brace yourself for an exploration of exciting new brands, irresistible flavors, and innovative foods that will leave you eagerly anticipating your next plant-based culinary adventure. Tune in now!
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Exciting New Vegan Products From Plant-Based World And Natural Products Expo
This episode, for me at least, is going to feel like a virtual trick-or-treat experience. That definition isn’t quite accurate. What I’m going to share is the trick-or-treat-like experience that I had while going to two trade shows in September 2023 on the East Coast while I was traveling. The reason it feels like trick or treat is because when I attend these trade shows, as a member of the press and media content creators like myself, we all fall into the press category, companies can be very generous in giving products to sample, whether they’re tiny little trigger or treat size samples, or they’re full-size samples.
I’ve been going to these trade shows since 2010. I have documented many of them back in the day on Eco-Vegan Gal, on YouTube, and on blogs, and then over time started doing summaries of them over the show. For a while, I had a separate show called This Hits the Spot, which you can still tune in to but I haven’t gone back to updating it. It’s something that I’ve gone back and forth in my head about wanting to keep it going.
I enjoy trying new products and reviewing them. I have been doing a good number of video content, which might surprise you. If you have paid much attention to the work I’ve done over the last few years, I stepped away from social media for the most part. I’ve barely done anything on YouTube since 2020. It just wasn’t resonating with me as much as doing a show. My exception to that has been dabbling in TikTok a few years ago.
In 2023, I did a lot of content on Amazon. I have been an Amazon influencer with what they call a shop page, which is essentially a page where I can list all my Amazon product reviews. In early 2023, they announced this TikTok-like platform called Inspire but platform isn’t quite the right word. Essentially you can scroll through Amazon videos much like you can scroll through videos on TikTok. They’re short videos, often fifteen seconds long, sometimes a little longer. I made a bunch of product review videos there and enjoyed it immensely.
I found myself contributing more and more video content to Amazon. Even though ethically I feel torn with Amazon, and I certainly don’t want to promote too much consumerism, it’s important to mention that at the beginning of an episode like this, where does this fall on the scale of the environment, wellness, and reflecting on our values. That’s why it’s been tricky for me over the last few years to make decisions about making content about product reviews. I don’t want people to feel like they need something and they have to spend money to get it.
I don’t want people to purchase things that lead to a lot of waste. However, I find delight in trying new things. The novelties are exciting. Having been vegan for decades, seeing product developments happen over time is very exciting because years ago, we barely had any options in the grocery store. Now we have an abundance. The reason why in Amazon, a lot of the pros outweigh the cons is that it’s extremely convenient. You can find great prices, you can support all sorts of businesses, and it’s accessible to the average person.Twenty years ago, vegans barely had any options in the grocery store. Now, we have an abundance. Click To Tweet
My philosophy on things like this has shifted a lot over time as I’ve paid more attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion, for example, which is something I’m going to address in this episode. There is going to be a video component one day of this. This episode will contain some points about DEI initiatives in the plant-based, and natural wellness spaces.
I bring up DEI because it’s important to remember that a huge element of mental health is meeting people where they’re at and helping people make easier decisions that don’t overwhelm them. A great majority of people are already very overwhelmed, and sometimes driving to a store is overwhelming. Sometimes shopping for a small business is not within someone’s financial means. What Amazon has done positively is made it less expensive, made it faster, allowed somebody to make a purchase, and have it delivered to them.
Certainly, when I had COVID, I was extremely grateful for Amazon because A) I didn’t want to leave the house. I was feeling sick. B) I put myself in a five-day quarantine. Leaving the house was not a reasonable option that I was willing to make. I don’t mean to go on a whole tangent about Amazon, but I do want to be transparent with you about the fact that I do video reviews there. I also will use Amazon affiliate links for products that are mentioned here.
With no further ado, let’s get into the subject. I also want to mention that I’m doing this live within the Beyond Measure community, which is a private community, I run that centers around mental health, connection, and developing relationships with people who tuned into the show and are interested in health and wellness and wellbeing. That is free and open to join for anyone. You can come join these live episodes and some people are watching live and commenting. I will keep an eye out for their commentary. That’s one of the features of making this interactive is that people can ask questions and be able to contribute.
The Natural Products Expo
I’m going to walk through my experiences from these two trade shows. The first one I went to is called Plant-Based World. It is a relatively new trade show. This was the third year they did it. It was my first time attending it. This is specifically a Plant-Based World Expo in North America. It was held at the Javits Center in New York City, and it’s a small trade show relative to the second one I’m going to talk about called the Natural Products Expo. It serves plant-based businesses, or at least companies that offer plant-based products.
I’m not sure if the company has to be exclusively plant-based or vegan but they’ve featured all these different categories of baked goods, beverages, frozen foods, plant-based cheeses, dairy products, proteins, and snacks. I’m going to go over some of the highlights, but I’m going to start with my little journey in New York City. Part of the fun here is that I just love going to New York. It’s truly one of my favorite places to visit.
I began my day before the Javits Center at this little cafe called Cafe Grumpy because I had a free gift card that had been sitting in my life for years. I finally went there. I got this oat milk latte. It was lovely and it was not a grumpy experience. They were very nice there. I got on the subway. One of my favorite things to do when I visit New York is to take public transportation. I took a train to Grand Central Station from one destination to there and then took the subway over to the Javits Center and spotted all sorts of people. This isn’t representative of it, but this woman was wearing this cool outfit and cute couples, noticing the whole New York experience.
I made it to the Javits Center, which if you’ve never been to, is a ginormous convention center. I’ve been there before for other events. It’s a cool place that the Plant-based World Expo had a small section of it. The whole aim of this expo is to discover the next wave of plant-based items. I took down this little escalator and passed by some cool signage for plant-based seafood options and Omega-3 which I did not happen to try whatever product this was for. It was set up very similar to other trade shows I’ve been to. It was very impressive and professionally done. They even had a wellness lounge there that you could go into if you were a member of the Plant-Based Food Association, which plays a big role in this event.The whole aim of Plant-based World Expo is to discover the next wave of plant-based. Click To Tweet
I walked around and ran into all different types of people. One of my favorite companies that I discovered there is called MyFOREST Foods. They make a product called MyBACON, which is not only vegan but gluten-free and soy-free. It’s made from mushrooms. It’s delicious. I am always curious about plant-based bacon. I love the smoky flavor and enjoyed this. It was quite salty, but aside from that, the texture was fantastic. I would 100% buy this again.
Another product I would buy again in a heartbeat and I’ve been enjoying ever since I went to this expo is called Fabalish. It is a high price point for vegan and organic mayo. I’ve seen it in stores and it might be $8 or something. I haven’t bought it, but now that I’ve tried it, I will be buying this whenever I need Mayo. It is so good. The ingredients are wonderful. They also have a Chipotle Mayo, which is fantastic, if you like that flavor, and a ranch that was so good. There are nice people there too. This is something I pay close attention to when I go to trade shows. It’s not just, “Is the product good?” but, “Are the people nice?” That’s important to me.
I also like that Fabalish comes in glass jars, so you can reuse them if you’d like. There’s less plastic involved, just an overall wonderful experience. There was some pretty good soft serve from a random company. They were selling their flavors. There was a variety of different vegan seafood. They tried Jinka plant-based tuna, and their calamari was quite nice. This chocolate from a brand called 7th Heaven was nice. They were also at the Natural Products Expo, which I’m going to talk about in a bit. Gigantic Bars are like equivalent to Snickers, I suppose. they call them SortaSweet so they’re not overly sweet. I liked their packaging and the texture of this.
There was a variety of different cheeses there like this Feta I tried from a company, it’s called Plant Ahead. This was exciting. If you’ve heard of Kewpie Mayo, which I believe is a Japanese product, they make a specialized mayo, quite different from Fabalish and they just announced a vegan mayo. They have had it in some countries. I remember years ago my friend brought some back from Australia, maybe in Japan, perhaps Australia as well. They had this mayo that happened to be vegan, but now they’re coming out with it prominently vegan.
Right now, it’s just for food service, which I did find disappointing. I’m hoping that they start selling it on shelves, meaning you could get it at the grocery store or online at stores like Amazon. I did try it. It’s delicious. Perhaps just getting it at a restaurant is exciting and certified plant-based. This is an example with a Plant-Based World. Brands like Kewpie are not exclusively vegan and plant-based but do offer plant-based products. There was another brand there called Motif, which had various plant-based meats like sausage. They were serving breakfast there. That was quite good. There was a cool bar called REQUESTbar. There are several different bar products.
A cheese company, Kourellas, I’ve seen them in stores before. They make Greek-style cheeses like Feta. I have a smaller brand or a newer brand called Stockeld Cream Cheese. They had a variety of different cream cheese flavors made from cultured chickpeas and lentils, which was interesting. I do not remember this product, so I cannot tell you much about it, but I do have a picture of it. It’s called Lypid. They make a vegan braised pork belly from plants and claim to be the world’s very first. Maybe that’s why I took a picture of it. I don’t know if I tried this. I tried only to take pictures of things that I tried and I liked.
A brand that I have seen several times called FUN Sesames makes tahini dips. They were also at the Natural Products trade show. One lovely company I have tried their products before and was blown away by the people that were there is Remedy Organics. They make a variety of different juices including these mini shots. I was very grateful for the digest formula while being at a trade show, and eating lots of snacks, but they’ve great smoothies and various things to try. The people were wonderful, generous, happy, and friendly. That always stands out to me.
A company I’ve been curious about, and I will admittedly say I’m on the fence about them, is called Popadelics. They make these mushroom chips and I tried all the flavors. I took home some bags of their truffle parm and their rosemary and salt. They weirded me out because they’re full-sized, dried mushrooms. They’re not cut up into chips like it says on the bag. They’re in the shape of a mushroom. For some reason, that didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t want to eat a whole mushroom in one bite. Their flavors were quite good, especially the rosemary and salt. My mom said they tasted like Thanksgiving. I love their packaging, but I feel on the fence about them.
There was this company called Mooji that made a steak from plants. They were cooking them up and serving them just like a traditional steak would be served. That was impressive. Steaks are not my thing in general. You know how some people don’t want to eat things that remind them of animal products? The mouth feel of this wasn’t for me, but I was impressed with what they were doing and they had high-level chefs there serving it up, which was quite cool.
There was vegan salami from a company called Green Wolf. There was some truffle pate that I don’t know if I tried it, but maybe I took a picture of it because it looked cool. I must have tried that. Some things get lost in my memory because there are so many products. Some new plant-based butter spreads and blocks from a company called Naturli’. A protein company called Planta has good-tasting plant-based proteins. I was impressed by this coffee alternative from Brazil. This was an acai-based coffee alternative from a company called Raízes do Açaí, but beautiful packaging and I thought that was an interesting concept. There were several acai products there. The Plant-based World Expo did bring in companies from all around the world.
The Soft Spot Plant-Based Cheese had a truffle cheese spread that was quite nice. Another very positive happy company was a frozen mochi ice cream with Boba in it. I’m a big Boba fan. This was delightful. This company is called Mochi Ice. They were so nice and enthusiastic. They’ve all these different flavors and they might make some of the products that are at Trader Joe’s, but I’m not sure. They were talking about doing stuff for other companies and their Taiwanese-style tea with Boba was so good. Their taro is delicious.
One of my favorite companies with the greatest lasting impression is called C’est Lä Vé. They make these little vegan snack packs that are like a high-quality, beautiful vegan version of Lunchables. The person who created this is such a nice guy and so passionate. It’s one of the standout brands, if not out of all of the companies there stood out to me the most. I would love nothing more than just see this company grow. They’re essentially like a charcuterie board where they have bread, cheese, vegan deli meat, and then a little side snack of trail mix. Everything’s delicious. I shared it with my sister and she was blown away by it.
Going back to Remedy Organics, they have good cold brew keto products that had coffee like a latte and that was so great. A plant-based cheese from Selfish Cow. I love the brand, Edward & Sons. You’ve probably tried their products. If you’ve been vegan for a while, if you’ve got the grocery store, they make everything you can imagine. They’re new.
Edward & Sons has so many products that it’s hard to keep track. I tried their Hot & Sour Bouillon Cubes. You can make a hot and sour soup with this. There’s a recipe on the back. I don’t know if I have a picture of it, but I also got their sweet onion soup Bouillon cubes, and have made delicious French onion soup with it. It’s so simple and easy. They have a Worcestershire sauce. They have everything. The woman, one of the founders there, is such a wonderful person. I have pictures of her that’ll come up in a moment.
There was Sea Moss Sorbet company there. That was interesting. Sea Moss has a lot of great health benefits and they mixed it into the sorbet. It had a lovely texture. Here are the pictures. This is the woman from Edward & Sons and Joy Pearson, who used to run this phenomenal restaurant that sadly closed down and then changed hands. It’s now been reopened with new people.
One of the most delightful experiences I’ve had in my career especially when I was running Eco-Vegan Gal was at this restaurant called Candle 79. It was probably 2011 or 2012. That’s where I met Joy. She’s good friends with the woman from Edward & Sons. She is an absolute delight. Both of them are amazing women. They made this show worthwhile for me. We spent a lot of time together. When somebody touches your heart and makes a great impression on you, it lasts. It’s a wonderful thing. That was great.
Another product that I wouldn’t say the brand stood out for me. I’ve known them for a long time called OCHO, they make candy. I know some people were curious about if I came across candies at these trade shows. This is one of them. These are great for Halloween. Great for trick or treating or any time of year. They announced a new caramel collection made with Miyoko’s Butter. My mouth is going to start to water. I wish I had more. They’re organic and vegan. They are so good. Maybe the best sweet product that I can remember having at this specific trade show. I did like the Gigantic Bars. I took several pictures of them, but they weren’t as sweet and they were more like a protein bar crossed with the candy bar.
There was a cool tofu company there called Jenny’s Tofu, which makes all these organic variations of tofu, all these different types. That was lovely. They were also quite nice. An almond milk-based cheese from a company called ARMORED FRESH. I do not remember trying this. Maybe I like the packaging. I’m not sure. That was the roundup of brands that I can remember. I do have some in a box that I might go through at the end. I do happen to have the Popadelic products.
It was a two-day trade show. I went for one day. After the trade show ended, there was an after-party with the Plant-Based Food Association>That was lovely. They served some vegan salmon filets, some charcuterie cups, and cupcakes. They did such a cool job. I met some cool people there and hung out for a little bit before I had to leave. There was a great group of different people in the plant-based businesses. There was one person who might come on the show at one point. If they do, I will circle back to that story. If they don’t, I’m not going to tell you it right now because there’s no point.
It was lovely being around people and going to a trade show that was plant-based. As I’m going to get into the Natural Products Expo, every booth I go to, I have to find out if something’s vegan and then I have to ask if it’s gluten-free. To go someplace that was all vegan, where the only question I was curious about was if it had gluten in it. I like products that are organic as well. That’s the icing on the cake.
I love eco-friendly packaged things. I love avoiding my food sensitivities, which are almonds and soy. I have a lot of things that I look out for, but given that vegan products have been my focus for so long, it was nice to go somewhere where I did not have to ask about that. To be around other passionate people in the industry and supporting all these small businesses.
Before I transition over to the Natural Products Expo, I will check the comments and see if there are any questions. One Beyond Measure member said that charcuterie is having a moment right now. I’m curious what that means. Certainly, on social media, charcuterie boards can rise. Have you seen other charcuterie products? I have a friend named Allison who runs the podcast Food Heals. I always associate her with vegan charcuterie boards because she would get products like Miyoko’s cheese and all sorts of stuff and put together these beautiful displays.
There’s an art to making a good cheeseboard with the right type of things to go with it. Talking about that is making me drool. Shout out to C’est Lä Vé who makes it so easy. I don’t think they do a gluten-free bread yet, but I’m going to request that of them. Also, all the small businesses that support them are the types of companies that you might not find on Amazon. You’ll find their website if they are selling on Amazon.There's definitely an art to making a really good cheese board with the right type of things to go with it. Click To Tweet
When you go to that blog post that has all these companies in it, those will be affiliate links. That means that if you purchase something based on my recommendation, I will make a small commission. That’s how Amazon affiliates work. If you go to my Amazon shop page, watch any of my videos and make a commission. That helps me keep doing stuff like that. It’s also a cool way to support all sorts of businesses and even small businesses sell on Amazon, not all of them.
Let’s move into the Natural Products Expo. Before I get there, as I’m going through my photos, I want to shout out to this awesome restaurant I went to in New York. It was so good. This restaurant in New York is called Colletta and it is phenomenal. I heard about it from David Benzaquen. David’s someone I’ve known for many years in the vegan industry. Someone who I don’t have a picture of, but certainly saw him at Plant-Based World. He and a group of people had planned to go to Colletta. They invited me there but I couldn’t make it.
I went at a different time with my friend and we were blown away by it. One of the better vegan restaurants that come to mind of memory right there with Candle 79, which is no longer a high-end, but not overly-priced restaurant with high-quality pizza. We had this amazing gluten-free vegan pizza. It’s all vegan, by the way, like a vegan Italian restaurant. It was wonderful service, a beautiful atmosphere, and fantastic flavors. Remarkable. Shout out to David.
Also, I saw my friends who run Dandies, the vegan marshmallow company. I recommended Colletta to them and they went and also had a great meal there too. Three different groups of people went there and raved about it. I feel confident in sharing Colletta as a recommendation. If I were still doing Eco-Vegan Gal, there would be some content about Colletta.
Let’s transition over to the other trade show I went to, which also happened to be on the East Coast in September 2023. This one’s bittersweet because it is the last one that they did. This was Natural Products Expo East. The Natural Products Expo have two trade shows a year. One is called Expo East, one is called Expo West. This is the last year that they decided to do Expo East, at least in the foreseeable future. It’s run by a company called New Hope Network.
For a variety of reasons, they are transitioning to something different. They announced at the event that they’re starting something brand new that’s going to be in 2024. I intend to go to that. It’s going to be called Newtopia. Essentially, this is a very well-known organic, natural, and healthy product event. It is for the industry. It’s not open to the public. It’s for people who work in these spaces, exhibitors, press like me, and educators. Sadly, they decided to end it, but I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in 2024 with Newtopia.
DEI: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Industry
I’m going to go through the last experience of this, which was at the Philadelphia Convention Center. I enjoy visiting there. It’s been running there for a few years. There are some previous episodes of the show I’ve done about this. This one was special because the very first day of the expo started with something that was also new called the Creator Summit. This is where the DEI stuff comes into play because this event was all about empowering equity and social change through food and wellness media. It was remarkable.
I spoke at this event and I was honored to be part of this. I have been wanting to get more involved with DEI initiatives. To reiterate, DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It’s important because I have learned over the last few years an enormous amount of things I was ignorant about due to my privilege and certainly noticed that there are a lot of things that need to be done in the Natural Products industry, in the wellness spaces, and I want to be part of that.
I attended this one-day event. It was run by these wonderful women who have a group called the Food + Wellness Equity Collective that I’ve been part of for a couple of years now. They invited several people to speak there and then a variety of content creators had to apply and be accepted because they were taking this. There were wonderful talks. One standup speaker there, Eden Westbrook spoke several times. She does a lot of work about food and promoting culture, helping people understand cultural appropriation and switch that over to cultural appreciation through food, which I thought was interesting. She’s a great speaker, doing wonderful content online.
When I spoke, I brought up one of my favorite books called Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work. I couldn’t recommend this book enough. It has taught me so much about being purposeful about inclusion in any professional setting. This book centers a lot around the workplace, but that can have several different meanings. I couldn’t have picked a better book to reference.
I spoke on a panel called Redefining the Narrative, Necessary Conversations on Content Creator’s Role in Industry Equity. They brought me on because they wanted to have the perspective of someone who’s not a person of color. I was the only person who wasn’t of color on that panel, which I thought was important. It felt like a huge responsibility to represent White content creators.
It was challenging and uncomfortable because it was an uncomfortable thing to discuss. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge privilege and to navigate these things. One of the biggest takeaways I had from this summit was that being uncomfortable is part of this process. It’s a necessary thing. You can avoid it. That’s a huge part of my ethos with this show. I felt like that was a message that I want to continue putting out there. I’m not going to shy away from talking about these tough things essentially and acknowledging my privilege. Finding that balance, when do you step forward and when do you step back? When do you contribute? When do you listen? These are things I’m trying to figure out.
They also did a presentation on emerging trends in the wellness space. One thing you’re going to hear me share a lot about in the context of the Natural Products Expo is things like non-alcoholic beverages. They’re reducing waste supporting digestive health, healthy fats, brain health, and immunity. There are a lot of interesting trends that are developing. They had a special speaker come out to talk about that.
I was also very impressed with the work that the sponsor of this company is doing called Mediavine. They sponsored the summit. Mediavine is a media company that helps creators with getting ad revenue and they had a speaker named Amber there. They announced all this work they’re doing for DEI initiatives at that company, which was wonderful.
I paused and went back to the event. At one point, I left and went to something called the Harvest Festival that they had at the Natural Product industry. There are a few standout products. I will come back to the Creator Summit. This is a little segue that happened to be in the timeline of my day, but when I went to this Harvest Festival, I tried this new chocolate from Dr. Bronner’s. You might know this company, they make soap and toothpaste and all sorts of body care, and they make phenomenal vegan organic chocolate.
Going back to the trick-or-treat references, I enjoyed especially their hazelnut chocolates. There was a wonderful cheese line called Barn Cat cave aged cheese. It’s cashew-based. My favorite one that I had was called Bandit. It was lovely. It’s supposed to be a blue cheese, but they had all these different delicious cheeses with cool packaging.
There was a matcha brand that stood out to me. Generally, I don’t get that excited about matcha anymore. I’m much more of a coffee drinker, but this company, MatchaKo was outstanding. This MatchaKo brand comes in these cans, four different types. There was an unsweetened lemonade, oat milk, and almond milk. Vegan of course, as well as organic. The people that ran it were also neat. It has great flavor and quality.
I went back to the Creator Summit. Another panel that I enjoyed was called The Art of Self-Care and Sustaining Success, Cultivating Balance, and Nurturing the Whole. Four women spoke on this. All women of color had some important things to say about self-care and acknowledging the challenges that come along with doing this work.
Whether or not you are fighting for diversity, equity, and inclusion, being a content creator is challenging for mental health and it’s so important to take good care of yourself. What does that look like? In these four women, Mary Pryor stood out to me and I had several great conversations. She’s doing so many wonderful things. That rounded up or ended that part of the Creator Summit, but it did continue in some different ways that I’ll get into in a bit.
I went back to Harvest Festival that night and tried the Rowdy Mermaid Soda, which was interesting. They call it a good mood soda because they add things like ashwagandha and other ingredients to elevate your mood. I also enjoy the Cherry Cola from OLIPOP. They make this soda that has prebiotics. I don’t know if they had probiotics, but it’s all designed to support digestive health. Their watermelon lime was also quite lovely.
There was a gluten-free bagel that stood out to me called Queen St. Bagel. They call them Super Food bagels. They’re plant-based and gluten-free with iron and protein, fiber, and omegas in them. It’s a lovely formulation. I wish I had some more right now. I used to be into kombuchas. It doesn’t excite me as much as it used to, but this Walker Brothers Kombucha was lovely. It was the blueberry jasmine flavor.
There was another company that, sadly, I forgot existed until I looked at this photo, but it must have been good. It’s unique because it’s called Seeductive Foods. Emphasis on the seed because they were made from pumpkin seeds if my memory serves correctly. This is a truffle and peppercorn cheese alternative. I’m feeling hungry just remembering this.
Jump forward. I went to my friend’s house that evening who I stayed with in Philadelphia. The next day, I returned to the Creator Summit Group because they had this wonderful meetup at a coffee shop, I want to pull up the name of this coffee shop because it was so good. I’ve become a little bit of a coffee snob. I use that phrase lightly, although seriously because I am very particular about coffee. The barista there was awesome. It was called the Green Line Coffee Shop. They have a few different locations. They let me use my reusable mug, which I carry around with me, STOJO if you’re wondering. It is a silicone mug that shrinks down in size. It’s great to travel with, and it’s worked well for me for years.
I went back to the first official day of the Natural Products Expo, and there were probably a lot of products. I’m going to name them off quickly and not get into too much detail unless I’m enthusiastic about them. There were a variety of different plant-based milks, including pecan milk from Treehouse Naturals. They sold them in cans.
A company called Dream Pops, which makes lovely vegan ice cream, now has these space ice cream, if you remember them. They’re like dehydrated ice cream. They’re not frozen. They’re these crunchy candy bites. In the center, they have almost like a honeycomb texture to them. If you ever had a honeycomb candy before, they were good. It’s starting to make me drool.
I went to another DDEI talk that was very impressive. I was grateful that this event had so many different educational elements to it. They had a panel there. One person stood out to me named Jake Deleon. He runs a Filipino company called Fila Manila. I will get to their products later because they blew me away. He was an impressive speaker.
They had some questions I want to share with you real quick for the audience to consider at this event. They asked, “Are your DEI commitments as strong as when you first made them?” I’ll leave you to ponder some of these things. These questions were mostly for brands, but they’re helpful for everyone to think about. Back in 2020, I got very committed to DEI after George Floyd was murdered. It’s easy for a lot of people to get committed to something when a tragedy happens. At the time of doing this episode, some awful things were happening in Israel and Palestine. That’s a whole other discussion. Everything happening in the Ukraine. There are awful things that happen in the world that can lead to us feeling very committed temporarily.
I thought this question about DEI, which may or may not pertain to some of t the wars and bigger issues happening throughout the world, I don’t mean to say bigger issues, I don’t even know how to put that. Awful things are happening, sadly, very frequently in the world. The question can also be, “Are your commitments to social justice?”
Maybe world peace is the best use in this case but, “Are your commitments to helping others? Are your commitments to equity? Are your commitments to understanding people who are different than you? Are your commitments to helping others even when it’s not your biggest priority? Are your commitments to understanding privilege? Are those as strong as when you first made them?” That’s a beautiful question.
The second one is, what fuels your passion for creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive industry? Thinking about that. These are things you can have in conversations with people. These are questions you can ask yourself regularly. You can journal about it. What are your barriers to progress and what does DEI mean to you? When I think about what diversity, equity, and inclusion mean, equity stands out to me, and that’s why I bring up some of the horrible things that are happening in the world.
It doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of equity. Feels like power is at play, taking advantage of others, treating people differently because they’re different. Is that inclusion? Not in my opinion. Bigger issues that I’m not prepared to speak about right now, but also feel important to not shy away from they’re uncomfortable. As I said earlier, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be talking about them. I wanted to make sure that that was part of this episode.
I also have some details about the opportunities in the world. There isn’t a personal side of diversity, equity, and inclusion, but there’s also a huge business advantage. One statistic that stood out to me is that every other person in the United States will be a person of color by 2060. This is going to change every aspect of our social landscape, our neighborhoods, our schools, our taste preferences, and our culture. This isn’t something that we can ignore much longer.
A lot of people have the privilege of ignoring things like this, but what happens when the culture in our neighborhoods shifts? You can’t ignore that. What if the people who are in power are no longer the majority? The demographic shift is happening now. All population growth is coming from multicultural groups. We’re not missing out on opportunities on a personal level, but there’s a lot of business impact as well, which is why this was brought up. This is why they were featuring BIPOC founders and addressing the status quo of how the industry operates.
The Included Access
At the trade show, they had a whole section called Included Access that was designed to elevate BIPOC brands in the natural inorganic industry, which I thought was lovely. One of them was this wonderful non-alcoholic botanical spirit called Melati run by an Asian woman. Their packaging’s beautiful. The product is wonderful. They have a few different products. The one that I enjoyed is called Fresh. I don’t believe that’s on Amazon. I already looked for them there. There were several non-alcoholic products there, which I will get into a little bit later.
One of my favorite products from the Natural Products Expo was Divya’s Kitchari. Kitchari is one of my favorite foods. It’s an Ayurvedic food that is very wholesome with different spices in it. It’s designed to balance you in a variety of ways. It’s very gentle in the stomach, even though it does have some legumes in it. It depends on your digestion.
To me, it’s one of the most healing foods. When I say healing I mean it feels wholesome. It does something to me on several levels. This is the only packaged kitchari I’ve had that came close to a good homemade kitchari. I went back over and over again to this booth. They are on Amazon, so you can buy them. This one’s specifically made with quinoa and they had a variety of different versions of it.
As part of the DEI initiatives at this event, had an evening concert with Wyclef Jean. That was so great. I’ll get to some photos I had of that. If you’re not familiar with this musician, he is a Grammy Award-winning musician. He’s a solo artist. He’s also been part of the group, The Fugees. He was born in Haiti and is a rapper, singer, producer, and composer. He blew me away. It was unbelievable.
I had the greatest time at that concert and it was part of the event. I thought it was a wonderful way to highlight the DEI efforts. They also had a partnership with Included, which I mentioned before, and something called Project Potluck, which off the top of my head. I don’t know what that is, but I wanted to mention that because I imagine it was something important to bring up.
I mentioned non-alcoholic drinks. There was a whole non-alcoholic section of this event. I got into mocktails because of TikTok. That must have been in 2021. I stumbled into it. I started posting some videos about mocktails and that had a DEI connection for me because I started to learn about all different cultures specifically cultures that do not drink alcohol. It’s part of Halal and I didn’t know that much about what it meant to eat Halal. The alcohol side of it is connected. I still feel ignorant about it, so I’m not going to speak too far on it.
I had a lot of people coming to me being very grateful that I was talking about alcohol alternatives because that is against their culture and their religion. I felt like that was an important thing for me to learn about because I had a lot of ignorance and still do. One of my favorite brands that I found at the Natural Products Expo is called Parch. I loved it because it tasted so much like my favorite cocktail. I’m not an alcohol-free drinker. I do drink alcohol from time to time. I love mezcal, which is a smoky version of tequila. It’s something that I will have from time to time at restaurants or if I go to a bar or something.
This agave cocktail from Parch tasted like a Mezcal cocktail Spiced Piñarita. It’s lovely. It came in a can. It has a cool packaging and is impressive. There were several different spirits like Caleño, a sparkling Rosé alternative. I might have done a video on this on TikTok back in the day from a brand called Thompson & Scott. It’s called Noughty. It’s very lovely, great packaging, and wonderful.
Packaging, Sustainability, and Conscious Choices
Another brand I was very impressed with is called Tilden. This one also reminded me of a mezcal. They had cool packaging. This beautiful packaging, speaks of Abstinence, premium distilled, non-alcoholic spirits, beautiful to look at. When it comes to this category, the packaging goes a long way. Somebody feeling very proud to serve it and have it in their home. They feel included. Going back to the inclusion side of it, alcohol is a huge place where a lot of people do not feel included. All these brands that are developing something that looks and tastes similar is important work.
They’re even now non-alcoholic beers. It’s a huge trend right now. There’s this brand called Gruvi that makes IPAs. They’re designed to look and taste a lot like the beers that you would traditionally find. The Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association participated in making all this happen. Another brand that’s in this picture I’m looking at now is Soirée. That was quite lovely. There were so many, it’s hard to keep track of. If I had to pick two, I would say Parch and Melati. Those two stood out to me in this category.
I’m going to go through this quickly because this episode’s been long. There were some lovely vegan gummy candies from a brand called Better Sour. They were low in sugar. There was a cool product called S’Noods that came from this lovely chef who was on a Netflix TV show called Snack Versus Chef that I watched. She made these cool snacking noodles. Only one of them was vegan. It was tasty. Also happened to be gluten-free.
Milkadamia is one of my favorite plant-based milk brands. They came out with some artisanal macadamia coconut milk and macadamia oat milk options. A brand I have not tried firsthand, but I’m curious about it. They had a display there, it’s called Revol Cares. They make a product for people that menstruate. I’ve used these underwear from a different brand for many years. It’s an alternative to things like tampons, pads, and all that for menstruation.
These were well-designed. They had this little comparison that talked about how they are gender inclusive, that they are made from comfortable fabrics, and they don’t have any class action lawsuits. They’re making a concerted effort to be different from some of the other brands out there. I would love to try them one day. Let’s see. I went back from the trade show and hung out with my friend’s dog. I went out for a nice meal that evening saw some live music and then returned to the trade show the next day.
One of my standout products from the whole trade show came from Elmhurst. I have a picture of it a little later, but they have a new coconut cashew milk that is incredible. I’ve always liked Elmhurst, but some of the products are hit or miss. This one was a huge hit for me. Also, Spindrift. I love Spindrift. They make some of my favorite sparkling beverages. They were there.
Also speaking of favorites, somebody who’s been on my show, whom I adore is this man Cason from Explorer Cold Brew. He had a booth there and I fell deeper in love with their products. Cason is such a phenomenal person. He makes some special cold brews. Took a lot of pictures of him, and went back to Divya’s company because I love their kitie so much. Went back to S’Noods another time because they’re cool.
A company that didn’t have the best customer service, but had great hummus was called Baba’s. A lovely taste and texture. Here’s the Elmhurst Milked coconuts and cashews, unsweetened, only four ingredients. It comes out later in 2023. I’ll be buying this anytime I see it. It’s so good. They also had some seasonal products like vanilla and lavender. Impressive stuff. A company that made some delicious plant-based meats that’s worth mentioning is called PAOW!
YiShi is a brand that makes lovely pancake and waffle mix, but they’re known for their oatmeals. I’ve always enjoyed their flavors. They removed the almonds from their products, which makes it a lot easier for someone like me with almond sensitivity to enjoy. They’re gluten-free, vegan, and delicious flavors like matcha, coconut, taro, and ube. They’re Asian-inspired foods. I don’t even know if inspire is the right word but the founder is Asian. Their packaging is awesome.
I’m going through pictures from the Wyclef Jean concert. I couldn’t say enough. He’s an incredible performer. He blew everyone. Everyone there seemed to be having the best time. The fourth was the final day. I was on the fence about going in for four days in a row but ended up being grateful that I did. The day started with a live talk from Jay Shetty, who’s a very well-known author, podcaster, and speaker. I’ve seen him speak before. He often has wonderful, passionate, insightful things to say. I was very grateful to see him talk again. You could tell he resonated with the people that were at this show.
I went on a tour with a group of people and some wonderful employees from New Hope Network, who put on the show, led us around, and introduced us to all these different brands. One was a cool cleaning product. It’s called Cleanery and they make refillable bottles, or you can use any bottle. They make powders that you combine with water and it generates high-quality cleaning products. They gave me some samples. I’ve yet to try them at home, but when I do, I will report back if they work well.
There was a small brand called Loumi Skincare that was nice. I enjoyed their items. There was an impressive kelp burger. I have tried some kelp burgers in the past and did not like them, but Atlantic Sea Farms makes a fantastic sea veggie burger that I would try again. Speaking of Jay Shetty, he has a product called Juni which is a sparkling tea with adaptogens. Juni was very impressive. It’s sugar-free or very low sugar. They use some Stevia in it, at least for now. They’ve been working on their formulations, sweet packaging. Jay explained that the reason it’s called Juni is that the company was named after the phrase, You And I. Lovely tea with great flavors, beautiful design, and an all-around wonderful experience. I got to go to the booth and chat with him along with some of the other people there.
After that, the show started to wind down. I saw a few more products that I want to mention. Harmless Harvest has coconut water with pulp. I loved their coconut water for a long time. I had an interview with the founder of Harmless Harvest when they launched decades ago back on the Eco-Vegan Gal channel. It’s interesting to me to see all these brands evolve. The brands that continue on. The last photo I took at the Expo was of Harmless Harvest.
I do have the Explorer Cold Brew. The Maverick extra caffeinated version is what I took home and it’s so good. I was very sad when I finished the bottle. I can’t say enough about Explorer Cold Brew. I have this box of empty things that I wanted to show. I talked about Dr. Bronner’s and Popadelics. This is where it starts to feel like a trick or treat.
There are some products I’m noticing that I didn’t take pictures of. I’m glad that I remember to look at this. One that blew me away is Outstanding Foods. I also have a long history with this company. I worked with them at the beginning when they were first launching. They have new combos if you know that brand. They’re like these snacks that you could get at a gas station. I’m sure most grocery stores have them, but I associate them with gas stations for some reason.
That’s the closest I could say that. They’re new stuffins. They’re vegan and gluten-free. They’re like pockets, not Hot Pockets, but they’re like Combos. That’s the only thing I can think of that’s equivalent. They’re crackers stuffed with a filling. I’ve had the cheddar. It’s so tasty. I have a bag of pizza-flavored that I’ve been saving to try with my sister.
I also saw at the Expo, Every Body Eat. I’ve talked about them before. Their cheese-less thins are so incredibly good. It’s one of my favorite snacks from the past years. A brand that was not at the expo exhibiting, but one of the cofounders was there gave me a product Lupii, which is a cool keto-friendly, low-carbohydrate, vegan lupini bean pasta. A brand that is on Amazon that I am planning to make some videos on. If you do check out my Amazon videos, that will be there.
A brand surprised me because its packaging is not the most modern. I wasn’t blown away by their packaging, but I liked them, it’s Hazelicious. It’s a hazelnut milk. It’s tasty though not quite as great as the Elmhurst. If my memory serves me, the Elmhurst milk was the best I tried there. The Hazelicious was a runner-up. I talked about Soirée. They’re non-alcoholic drinks. I didn’t have a picture of it, so I’m going to share. They had mocktails. There’s also similar packaging, but a different brand Sovi, which makes a sparkling wine that’s quite lovely.
Vegan meat called Shroomeats is also on Amazon. They make a variety of different plant-based meats made from mushrooms. I tried all of them. They had shredded meat. They had meatballs and burgers. They’re very lovely and light. It’s so interesting what I take pictures of and what I don’t. I’m sure there are several brands I tried and did not mention because I didn’t take a picture of them.
This one I have the package, 12 Tides. These are kelp snacks, vegan, gluten-free, made with avocado oil. They’re puffed snacks with great texture. The truffle and pepper flavor, unbelievable. I am so excited about this. I saved some. They’re still good even when they’re stale. Not as good. Was that a good crunch? I hope that it was a good crunch because they are quite stale, but the flavor is so good.
I didn’t mention them for some reason. SAYSO is a company I met at both of the expos. They were both trade shows and they make these ready-to-make cocktail sachets that you can either add alcohol to or have as a mocktail. They are essentially tea bags with cocktail flavors in them. They have a margarita, a cardamom, and old-fashioned honey. If you don’t eat honey, don’t buy that one. Also, the Honey Rosemary Moscow mule. They have these four flavors and you combine them with water and ice. The option of putting in a non-alcoholic or an alcoholic spirit, they make lovely cocktails run by two women.
I mentioned talking about Fila Manila. It’s because I don’t have the products in front of me right now, but Fila Manila makes Filipino products unbelievably good. I had two of their sauces, adobo. I had one that was a peanut sauce. It was so delicious. They make a banana ketchup. It’s a ketchup made from bananas, which did not sound good to me at all. When I tried it, I was blown away. I’ve been using it a ton on burgers along with that fabulous mayo. Those two are in my fridge. I’ve been putting them on things like the Shroomeats, any opportunity I have to use them, those two products are so good. Fila Manila, shout out to them.
What reminded me of them is another company that made some sauces but they’re Indonesian and Homiah also has this delicious chili crunch with seaweed. That is good. I have a jar of it also in my fridge. I’m also always looking for an excuse to put things on it. I’m going to wrap up there. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, but I can always circle back to this. It’s been so fun to talk about this, to share with you my trick-or-treating experience at these expos, and not bring conscious awareness to the important things. There’s a lot of packaging. A lot of these companies, you’re going to end up throwing in the trash.
That’s why I love brands like Explorer Cold Brew. It comes in glass and it’s easy to recycle. I can reuse this if I want to. I’m very grateful for those brands. I’m also grateful for the brands that are making plant-based food accessible, making it delicious, adding new, innovative things, are keeping people curious, and drawing new people into this way of eating that are food in general.
One more brand snuck in another coffee brand. They’re not fully a coffee brand, but they do make coffee now. GOODSAM is sweet company. They do amazing things. It says in the back, they believe in making things that are good for you, good for farmers, and good for the planet. That’s a great note to end on. The companies out there that are trying to do good things for the world are what I get excited about. Not every company is going to hit all those marks. Some products are going to be good for you, but maybe not good for the planet because of their packaging or because of their sourcing. Does that mean it’s bad to buy them? I don’t think so anymore.
I used to take a strong stance. My growing awareness about DEI has helped shape my viewpoint on a lot of this stuff because there are brands with incredible founders, stories, and missions and they’re trying to bring awareness to specific types of foods. They might not be able because of finances or resources to be able to make a “perfect product” that’s good for everybody and everything.
I aim to find things that bring me personal joy that help other people who have some mission-driven side to it, while also acknowledging that there are different things out there for different people. That’s part of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s room for all and all these different things. It’s an important discussion to have because it’s very easy to get caught up in consumerism and the packaging side. There are downsides here.
There are so many upsides and hopefully, this episode has broadened your mind in a variety of ways. seeing how these two trade shows have opened my eyes to so many new things, taught me new things, and introduced me to new people. I hope to have passed that along to you. When the YouTube video does come out, it could be very far into the future, but it will be embedded into the website too. The website is the hub for it all.
On that website, there is a list of resources. There’ll be quite a long for this one. There’ll be pictures in there. I have a wonderful team of people based in the Philippines, by the way. Shout out to them. Fila Manila, I’m learning more about the Philippines because of the wonderful people who helped me with this show, who work out there. I’m so grateful for their amazing work. They are part of a company called Podetize which I’ve been working with for many years on multiple levels. They have introduced me to so many wonderful Filipino people.
Due to their hard work, dedication, knowledge, and skills that they have, they make all of it. I record and I send it off to them and they make it accessible to you. It’s interesting. Behind the scenes, all the people involved in making something accessible and possible. I need to reveal more of that. That is part of my DEI commitment. Going back to those questions of understanding things and knowing that I’m not always going to get it right. I’m going to make mistakes. I’m going to be sitting in discomfort a lot, but it is a commitment to me.
Thank you. Speaking of commitment, if you made it to the end of the episode, you are committed to it. I appreciate you. If you want to come join us over in Beyond Measure where DEI is a huge part of the work that we do together, I would love to have you there. I’d love to introduce you to a diverse group of people who are committed to helping each other, being inclusive, learning together, getting uncomfortable, having fun, and sitting in joy, delight, and connection. That’s what we do over at Beyond Measure. Thank you again, and I wish you lots of joy and delight moving forward beyond this episode. I will be back with a special guest coming up soon in the next episode. Stay tuned. Subscribe if you’d like to get notified and I’ll see you then.
- Eco-Vegan Gal
- Eco-Vegan Gal – Amazon
- Cafe Grumpy
- YouTube – Eco-Vegan Gal
- This Hits the Spot
- Beyond Measure
- Plant-based World Expo
- MyFOREST Foods
- 7th Heaven
- Gigantic Candy Bars
- Plant Ahead
- Kewpie Mayo
- Stockeld Cream Cheese
- FUN Sesames
- Remedy Organics
- Green Wolf
- Raízes do Açaí
- C’est Lä Vé
- Soft Spot Plant-Based Cheese
- Edward & Sons
- Mary Pryor
- Food Heals
- Natural Products Expo East
- Natural Products Expo West
- Creator Summit
- Food + Wellness Equity Collective
- Eden Westbrook
- Inclusion on Purpose: An Intersectional Approach to Creating a Culture of Belonging at Work
- Dr. Bronner’s
- Sea Moss Sorbet
- Jenny’s Tofu
- Barn Cat
- Queen St. Bagel
- Green Line Coffee Shop
- Treehouse Naturals
- Dream Pops
- Fila Manila
- Divya’s Kitchari
- Thompson & Scott
- Adult Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association
- Better Sour
- Cason Crane – previous episode
- Explorer Cold Brew
- Atlantic Sea Farms
- Harmless Harvest
- Outstanding Foods
- Every Body Eats cheese-less thins
- 12 Tides
- Jay Shetty
- Walker Brothers Kombucha
- Seeductive Foods
- Revol Cares
- ARMORED FRESH