Natural Expo West 2015: Exotic Yogurts and Coconut Chips

Natural Products Expo West again breaks attendance records.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor-in-Chief

Even with some hot-button issues relegated to a side burner – anti-GMO sentiment seemed to be less in-your-face this year -- Natural Products Expo West again set records for attendance.

The 35th annual Natural Products Expo West, claiming to be the world's largest natural, organic and healthy products event, drew more than 71,000 to the Anaheim (Calif.) Convention Center March 4-8.

Two interesting themes we noticed: yogurts made from everything but cow's milk and claiming nationalities other than Greek, and coconut flakes (not coconut water, which is so last year).

A combination of two of those themes, Co Yo yogurt is made from the cream from the whole flesh of the coconut. "It's 98 percent pure coconut – in fact, it takes more than one whole coconut to make a small tub of Co Yo," say company officials. That makes Co Yo dairy-free, gluten-free, lactose-free and even soy-free – and suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.

Coconut cream also figures into Daiya yogurt, which calls itself Greek-style, but is both dairy- and soy-free. Tapioca starch and pectin also are keys to the yogurt-like texture.

Even the bigger companies are onto this. Coconut Dream, one of the Dream brands from Hain-Celestial, also makes a coconut-based yogurt.

Likewise, So Delicious, the late-2014 acquisition by WhiteWave Foods, showed "cultured coconut milk and cultured almond milk" – the company compares them to but doesn't call them yogurts. And WhiteWave's long-held Silk soymilk brand this year debuted Silk Yogurt, also made from the bean. Perhaps the company learned the recipe from its long-held Alpro business unit in Europe, which has been making plant-based yogurts for years.

Not surprisingly, WholeSoy & Co. also makes its yogurt from soy.

Living Harvest found a way to make its Tempt yogurt from hemp. It's been making milk from hemp for years. (Hemp, by the way, was a big ingredient at this show long before states recently began decriminalizing marijuana.)

As for yogurt styles other than Greek, Noosa Yoghurt has led the small pack of purveyors of Australian-style yogurt.

But Wallaby is an up-and-comer, and it has the organic stamp. The company also makes Greek-style yogurts.

Siggi's is Icelandic-style yogurt, also called skyr. Like Greek, it's strained and has more protein (13-15g per cup) than American yogurt and "not a lot of sugar," as the company says: 9-11g per cup.

But Smari claims to be the only "certified organic Icelandic yogurt in the U.S.," the brainchild of Icelander Smári Ásmundsson.

Tarte makes Asian yogurt – "a French-Vietnamese style that is described as subtly sweet and tangy … introduced by the French during the colonial period of Indochina." Brothers Winston and Henry, who look Asian, say it's their mother's recipe. It, too, is high in protein (12g) and also has "five essential electrolytes."

French-style yogurt is one of the products of boutique dairy Saint Benoit Creamery in Sonoma, Calif. Its key ingredient is whole, organic milk only from Jersey cows.

All the makers of these alternative yogurts at the show said their products have the "live and active cultures" required.

And quark, which doesn't claim to be a yogurt but certainly is close, has been around for years. "When yogurt grows up, it's thick and not too tart," says Misha Dairy, which brought the quark recipe from central and eastern Europe.

And everywhere you turned at Nat West, there were coconut flakes; some plain, some flavored, but all of them delicious. Bacon was the new and surprisingly delightful flavor in the toasted coconut chip line at Dang Foods LLC. Other flavors are original (plain), caramel sea salt, lightly salted unsweetened and dark chocolate coated.

Navitas Naturals has specialized in "plant-based superfoods," especially as snacks eaten right out of the pouch. Coconut chips are an addition this year, in caramel, cacao and chili-lime.

Blue Monkey, which brought coconut water and drinks to previous shows, this year offered coconut chips in natural, ginger, espresso, chocolate, wasabi, bacon, mango, sriracha, turmeric, cinnamon and matcha.

Bare Foods, previously known for dried apple chips, added coconut chips this year.

Back to the Roots, which has specialized in stone ground cereals, offered a prototype of coconut flakes that will join its breakfast toppers line (to add to cereal or yogurt) later this year.

And more coconut: A coconut spread joins the huge list of coconut products from CocoVie.

With coconut oil base, Chao Cheese, made by Field Roast, is seasoned with a fermented soybean curd, called chao tofu.

Coconut milk makes ice cream under the Julie's brand from Oregon Ice Cream Co.

Coconut and chia seeds are the base for the new Qia bar, the first bar from Nature's Path, which has been making natural cereals for 30 years. Qia started out as a bagged cereal some years back, became a hot cereal more recently and now lends its name to this organic, gluten-free bar in blueberry-cashew-pumpkin and dark chocolate-cranberry-almond varieties.

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