Food & Beverage

Expo West 2022 Recap – The Top 8 Plant-Based Innovations

Natural Products Expo West, the world’s largest natural and organic trade show, successfully held its first in-person event after a two-year hiatus last week, from March 8-12. The highly anticipated show attracted more than 2,700 exhibitors and 57,000 industry attendees to Anaheim, CA to make personal connections, attend keynote talks and discover the latest innovations in natural food, beverages and ingredients. 

Vegconomist was on-site seeking out the most interesting, creative and groundbreaking animal-free products and brands. From realistic vegan bacon and sushi to indulgent pizzas and mochi ice cream, this year’s plant-rich offerings did not disappoint. Out of dozens of exciting new products, we’ve selected eight particularly noteworthy innovations, along with full photo galleries of our favorite finds. 

1. Gluten-Free Breaded Chicken – Daring

Daring, the groundbreaking startup creating realistic vegan chicken, unveiled its Gluten-Free Plant Chicken products. The brand calls it the first Certified Gluten-Free breaded plant chicken on the market, and will soon launch it in foodservice, followed by an April retail debut. 

To showcase its chicken, Daring served chef-crafted samples both on the exhibition floor and in a food truck parked outside the convention hall. 

Notable Mention: Simulate Plant-Based Tenders

Daring Gluten-Free Chicken

2. Vegan Pizzas – The Tattooed Chef 

This fast-growing brand has been steadily growing its vegan-friendly products in retail over the past 2 years. But the latest line unveiled at Expo West will take its plant-based presence to a whole new level. Tattooed Chef’s new pizzas include Killer Bee, Broc N’ Roll, Spicolli, Plant-Based White Pizza and Pepperoni Pizza. While not a fully vegan brand, its upcoming line of plant-based mac ‘n cheese, quesadillas, burritos and pasta is worth considerable applause. 

Notable Mention: Plant Ahead Cheese

Tattooed Chef Pepperoni Pizza

Plant Ahead Cheese

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3. Tuna and Salmon Sushi – Current Foods 

Current Foods, formerly known as Kuleana, made a huge splash at the Expo, attracting an enthusiastic crowd of onlookers eager to sample its realistic vegan sushi. Current’s salmon and tuna are made from ingredients such as algae, peas and tomatoes, and offer omega-3 fatty acids and B12 without mercury or microplastics. Current is available in select locations, with a direct-to-consumer launch coming this spring.

Notable Mention: TMRW Foods Ocean Cakes

Current Foods Vegan Sushi

4. Sliceable Meats – Unreal Deli 

Ever since founder Jenny Goldfarb pitched her signature cold cut slices on Shark Tank in 2019, this brand has quickly accelerated into deli counters and retail. Now, the company is taking another major step toward transforming traditional corner deli’s with a range of fully sliceable meats. Available as Steak Slices, Roasted Turk’y, and Corn’d Beef, the 2lb plant-based meats are intended to be freshly carved and served on beloved classic sandwiches.

The “freshly sliced” vegan meat concept is gaining in popularity – last month, Prime Roots introduced its first koji-based deli meat slabs for sandwich shops and restaurants. 

Notable Mention: Unmeat Plant-Based Luncheon Meats

UnReal Deli Meats

Plant-Based Tenders

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5. Premium Dessert Cups – Bon Dévil

Bon Dévil, a provocative new brand from the UK’s Coconut Collaborative, introduced an innovative line of creamy ganache cups in Salted Caramel, Chocolate, Vanilla and Caramelized Banana flavors.

Stating its desire to “disrupt dairy-free desserts”, Bon Dévil is part of Coconut Collaborative’s earnest US expansion, following a $7 million raise in 2020. By offering sumptuous, healthier desserts with a playful edge, Bon Devil may very well shake up the chilled desserts category.

Notable Mention: Good Self Dairy-Free Gelato

Bon Devil Dessert Cups

6. Evaporated Oat Milk – Nature’s Charm

Proving there’s nothing oat milk can’t do, Nature’s Charm unveiled two of its latest offerings: Oat Whipping Cream and Evaporated Oat Milk. While dairy-free brands are gradually beginning to expand into specialized milk items such as condensed and evaporated milk, those products’ ingredients are largely restricted to coconut milk. The oat milk innovations by Nature’s Charm add to several first-of-its-kind products the brand has recently brought to market.

Notable Mention: Oatnestly Strawberry and Banana Oatmilk 

Nature's Charm Evaporated Oat Milk

Chloe´s Oatmilk

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7. Mochi Ice Blossom Collection – Buono

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, this vegan mochi ice cream tasted quite delicious. Wrapped in sweet rice dough, Buono’s  coconut milk-based Mochi Ice range includes strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, green tea and even durian flavors.

Buono’s products are currently available in Europe, the UK, Canada and Australia, with a US launch in the works. Vegan versions of mochi, a beloved Japanese confection, are increasingly growing in popularity. Last year, top-selling brand Bubbies released three new non-dairy flavors, while My/Mochi Ice Cream announced a new line of oat-milk based mochi snacks. 

Notable Mention: Sunscoop Ice Cream

Buono Mochi Ice Cream

8. New & Improved Bacon – Hooray Foods

Hooray Foods displayed its latest, improved version of plant-based bacon at the Expo, bringing its product closer than ever to achieving the taste and texture of conventional bacon. 

The San Francisco-based company’s new product features a lighter, less dense texture that crisps up faster and easier in the frying pan. The new version also offers a more authentic bacon flavor, the brand says. In November, Hooray raised $2.7 million in extension seed funding to, in part, help develop and refine its flagship bacon product. The newest version will begin its retail rollout in the coming months.

Notable Mention: OZO Plant-Based Bacon

Hooray New Vegan Bacon

This year’s Expo was well worth the wait, and there were an incredible variety of new innovations in plant-based meat, dairy, eggs, seafood and snacks. We applaud all of the inspiring food creators who displayed some of their best work at the show, and look forward to the breakthroughs next year’s event will bring. 

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