Adventures at Expo East: My top ten vegan finds

October 9th, 2009 · Lisa · product review, Review, vegan mofo · Comments
On October 4th the Canadian Health Food Association hosted their annual Expo East in Toronto.
I was excited to be able to attend this trade show as it is the first opportunity to learn about new products that will be introduced to the market in the coming months. I really enjoyed talking to the people who have created new vegan products and are excited to share them with the world. I had planned to go for an hour but emerged after three hours, fully satiated and weighed down by bags of samples. After a lot of tasting, I would like to share with you my top picks of the most exciting things I found at Expo East. There was a small controversy that arose during the show about food labeling…I will layout the issues below and would love to hear your take.
My favourite finds.

Coconut-milk based ice creams are being celebrated in vegan kitchens across Toronto. I remember how excited my Mom was when she first saw them in a Guelph health food store. Luna and Larry is a small company (just 8 employees) who pour their hearts into each creamy pint of coconut bliss. The flavours impart a sense of tropical luxury. I find myself transported to an evening spent languishing on the beach with each creamy spoonful. I was told the whole line will be in Toronto stores in February (tough time to launch an ice cream line..but I know we’ll find a way to enjoy it despite the frigid temperatures…maybe we’ll hang out in a sauna first).

Yummy!

This is the kind of company I can get behind!

2. Zukay live foods

I was really excited to see Zukay’s booth at the show. I have seen so many reviews of the products on other blogs. It is a line of live fermented condiments. I was told that by the end of October Torontonians will be able to enjoy this delicious source of probiotics. I liked all of the flavours I tried but I especially enjoyed the carrot ginger dressing. It is hard to find a completely raw line of condiments. I look forward to Zukay’s arrival.

Ruth is a local leader in the health food world. Her hemp products are of the highest quality and well respected across the market. She has been using chia in her breakfast cereal (muesli?) and has now created a Chocolate Chia Goodness variety. It is very decadent…but full of fibre and protein as well.

The chocolate looks like this but more chocolaty

When I stopped by this booth they had their whole line up of nut butters spread out to sample. After checking out the range of options I was encouraged to try the Fall Harvest nut butter. Wow, I’m so glad I did. The Brazil nut, pecan and pumpkin seed flavours created a whole new experience in my mouth. It was sweet and smooth and rich. I have never been so impressed by the flavour of a nut butter right out of the jar. I hope to find these products on store shelves soon.

Ever since I heard that they serve quinoa milk at Heather Mills restaurant in England I have been interested in given this dairy alternative a try. Finally, at the show I had my chance. Rice Universe has a Thai Rice/Quinoa blend that has no added sweeteners but was surprisingly flavourful, thick and creamy. I enjoyed it on its own, which is a really big compliment. I love that we now have so many options beyond soy to top our cereal, balance our chai tea and thicken a cup of soup. Quinoais a great source of calcium and protein. I’m glad to have an easy way to enjoy it.

Oh man, these brothers from Vancouver were understated and gentle in their introduction to their products but once I took a bite of the bliss balls I was under their spell. It was the best thing I tasted all day. I really hope that someone will pay attention and bring this phenomenal vegan, raw treat to Toronto. I was impressed by the simple ingredients and the sublime, rich flavour. You could never create such joy with high fructose corn syrup (not all of the varieties are vegan, some are sweetened with honey).

I am really excited by the raw ingredients this company is sourcing from Ecuador. Their raw agave was totally different than the others I have seen.
At the Organic Traditions booth I tasted an amazing cacao covered almond. I didn’t see them for sale but I was really glad I got to have one. I spent a little time learning about the superfoods they have in their product line. After all the sampling I was intrigued by Triphala as it is described as a great support for detoxification.
Triphala-it is said to balance the three constitutional elements of human life: the nervous system, metabolic processes, and the body’s structural integrity.


This where the labeling debate began. Theobroma is an amazing company. The proprietor is a lovely man who is obviously really concerned about the source of his ingredients and the impact of the processing on the planet. He says he does not label anything as vegan because he uses shared equipment.

These chocolates are carried at Panacea (a vegan grocery store in Toronto). As a vegan I am used to seeing “may contain dairy” on labels. I understand the liability reasons behind the statement. Many small companies cannot afford their own processing equipment. I still consider a product vegan even if the label says it “may contain” dairy as long as the ingredient list is free of animal byproducts.
It seems that Green & Black has recently changed their labels to add dairy to the ingredient list because someone complained about the possibility of cross contamination. At their booth I was very clear that since they have now removed “suitable for vegans” from their entire line and are listing dairy in the ingredient list that I would no longer purchase any of their bars although nothing has actually changed in their process or recipe. This labeling issue is quite confusing. If the company doesn’t add any dairy to the product should it be in the ingredient list? Do you consider it vegan if it is not produced on an exclusively vegan line?
Finally, I just have to say, I love Dr. Bronners. I love that there is 18 uses for their castile soap. I know they are involved in a number of lawsuits against other companies for mislabeling organic products. Dr. Bronner is very dedicated to his products and has gained a great deal of respect over the years.
They have recently created some lovely vegan lotions. I feel like this is a doctor I can trust.

I loved meeting the passionate vendors and tasting the innovative new products.

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