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What was it like attending the Plant Based World Expo in New York City? Green Queen tried it all and there were so many great vegan foods it was hard to pinpoint the best, but we narrowed it down to these.
After spending the few months drooling over the products we report on all year long, I was starting to wish I could actually try them! So when TiNDLE’s CEO Andre Menenzes invited me to attend Plant Based World Expo in New York City as their guest, I jumped at the chance, and it was an incredible experience. Getting to meet the people behind the vegan brands and actually get to taste their products was so rewarding and empowering. One thing I can say for sure: vegan industry folks are just the nicest people you’ll meet.
While some of the brands at the show are well-known names like Miyoko’s Creamery, Beyond Meat, and Gardein, others were completely new to me, such as Ireland’s best kept plant-based secret Plant-It. I’m not at all ashamed to admit that I ate my way through the expo, but like any well-trained athlete, I paced myself, and sadly, had to turn down products I was already familiar with like Field Roast and Daiya. I can hear the disappointment as you read this, and yes, I guess I should have fasted longer than 24 hours.
Overall, it was a really packed event, especially on the first day, and there were plenty of booths to check out. In fact, I didn’t even make my way to the snacks and dessert aisle until 3PM that first day. The one plant-based product that seems to be on everyone’s radar these days is plant-based chicken and there was certainly a huge variety to sample, from nuggets to tenders and patties. The second really well-represented category was plant-based cheese, from shreds to spreads, with a focus on vegan cheese that stretches and melts like the real deal and can be used in quesadillas, grilled cheese and, of course, pizza. This seemed to align perfectly with the alt protein industry trends. Bottom line, everyone in the plant-based meat category has a chicken product and everyone in the plant-based dairy category has a cheese that melts. So, which were my favorites! Read on to find out!
1. TiNDLE’s Ridiculously Good Chicken by NextGen Foods
I had been looking forward to trying TiNDLE plant-based chicken ever since I worked with their team on Green Queen’s APAC Alt Protein Industry Report 2021. A part of me was afraid it wouldn’t live up to all the hype. You know, like a movie everyone is raving about, and you have such high expectations that by the time you watch it, it can’t ever live up to all the hype. Well, I’m happy to report that was 100% not the case with TiNDLE. The chicken parmigiana sandwich created by Chef Rocco Dispirito was hands down the best thing I tasted/ate/tried at the expo. The breaded chicken layered with marinara sauce and chef’s own blend of vegan cheeses in a sesame bun was a perfectly delicious Italian mouthful of a chicken sandwich. The name says it all. Ridiculously Good. The texture, the taste, the juiciness, it’s all there. Made with only 6 natural ingredients rich in protein and fiber, TiNDLE’s chicken is soy-based and free of hormones, antibiotics, and cholesterol. It also contains Lipi™, a proprietary blend of plant-based fats and flavour. TiNDLE is available in the Netherlands, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and the Middle East. It has not yet launched in the US but co-founder and CEO Andre Menezes is putting together a stellar US team and is even staying in the US at the moment to oversee the expansion.
2. Future Farm’s Tuna
I had no idea Future Farm was going to be sampling its brand-new vegan tuna at the expo. I have loved every Future Farm product I have tried so far, from the sausage to the meatballs. I knew that Future Tuna was the latest product to hit the market in Brazil this year, but I thought I was going to have to wait to go home for the holidays to try it (I’m Brazilian) so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the tuna makizushi rolls at the booth. It smelled like tuna and it tasted like it, too. They were also serving chicken and waffles, but to me, the tuna was the big winner. I have struggled to find a tuna alternative I really like when it comes to both taste and texture and Future Tuna delivers on both. Future Tuna gets its protein from a combo of soy, pea, and garbanzo beans, and it’s gluten-free. It’s available in Brazil, and a few other countries like the UK, but has not yet launched in the US. I might have to bring some home with me to make an epic tuna melt. Don’t tell Customs on me!
3. Pleese Cheese
Speaking of melt, aka cheese, another product I had heard a lot about and was really excited to try at the Expo was Pleese Cheese. What makes Pleese cheese stand out from the other plant-based cheeses out there is that it stretches just like dairy-based cheese and it melts perfectly on pizza. So, of course, pizza was on the menu at the booth. Pleese cheese is allergen-friendly because it’s made without any soy, seed, gluten, or nuts. Sure great, but how does it taste? In a blindfolded test, even the strictest cheese lovers wouldn’t be able to tell it’s not cheese made from dairy. Pleese cheese is made with a proprietary blend of white bean and potato proteins and for now, is available at select New York City pizzerias like Vito’s, but they’re looking to expand across the US.
4. Plant-It Foods’ Chicken Bites & Egg-Free Omelet
I admit I had never heard of Plant-It until the expo. I was pretty surprised to find out the Irish-based brand has a full range of plant-based frozen food products. I tried everything including the Chicken-Free Southern Fried Bites and the Egg-Free Omelet. The chicken bites were crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside just like you’d expect fried chicken to be. The egg Omelet was a perfect blend of “egg,” potatoes, and veggies and its round shape really reminded me of a frittata. In addition, they were displaying a pate in a mason jar that looked like the real deal – can’t wait to try that! And to make you feel even better about eating delicious animal-free food, a portion of sales goes to Trees on the Land’s tree-planting initiatives in Ireland and the UK. Plant-It is only sold in Ireland currently via Tesco and a few other retail chains. I’m not sure when it will be available in the U.S., but I’d keep my eyes peeled out for it!
5. Hooray Foods’ 2.0 Bacon
Maybe you think that there’s nothing that can be improved upon in Hooray Foods’ Bacon. And if that’s the case, I’d have to respectfully disagree. The new and improved 2.0 bacon tasted way more like the real deal because it tastes way less like coconut- absolutely no coconut after-taste here. It was served on a lettuce wrap with a dollop of vegan mayo and tomato, like a breadless BLT, and all I could taste was a crispy well-cooked satisfying piece of bacon. Two thumbs way up and Hooray indeed!
6. Melibio’s Honey
I’ve been a fan of Melibio since I first tasted their bee-free honey (you can read my review here), however, I got to try the new spicy honey made with MeliBio’s honey and habanero. It had a super-strong kick thanks to the habanero, and it was perfectly paired with Pleese Cheese’s pizza. I mean, mind blown! Or taste buds, rather. MeliBio’s honey is made via precision fermentation whereby microbes are programmed to replicate honey on a bio-identical basis. It will be available for sale in foodservice in January 2022, but as part of the pre-launch activities, Little Choc Apothecary is serving a vegan baklava crepe made with MeliBio’s honey and The Butcher’s Daughter has roasted Brussels sprouts made it on its menu. Both are located in Brooklyn, New York.
7. OMG Meat By Thai Union Crab Cakes
Crab cakes were always one of my favorite things to eat in my previous non-vegan life and I’m very particular when it comes to plant-based crab cake alternatives. Frankly, none of the popular ones on the market today do it for me. My number one complaint has got to be the red peppers. Calling all crab cake makers: please stop adding red peppers to crab cakes. It ruins the whole experience. Any foodie will tell you that a great crab cake does not have, nor need, red peppers for added flavor. Enter OMG Meat by Thai Union crab cakes. The crab flavor was spot on sans red peppers—the best vegan crab cake I’ve had thus far hands down. Thai Union plant-based seafood options are only available via food service in Thailand for the moment and so far, the company has not released any ingredient information.
8. Sophie’s Kitchen Plant Based Veggie Cuts and Taco Filling
The last thing I was expecting to find at the Sophie’s Kitchen booth was plant-based ground meat since the company is well known for plant-based seafood products, so of course, I had to try it. It was served in a bite-size taco shell with just a bit of salsa and vegan shredded cheese to garnish it. It had the texture and taste you expect from taco meat, plus it’s shelf-stable and ready to eat out of the can, which is handy. Yes, I said can, because it does come in a can, just like tuna. Personally, I think the company should rethink its packaging, but what’s inside the can is delicious. Sophie’s Plant Based Veggie Cuts & Taco Filling is pea-protein based and should be hitting the US market in Q1 of 2022- yay!
9. Naturli’ Foods Organic Butter
I wish these folks had been sampling their butter on bread, toast, crackers, anything really, but instead I was given a tiny spoon of butter. Not the best way to taste butter, but I could still taste enough to say that once they enter the US market, they’re going to give Miyoko’s a run for their “butter money.” Naturli’s butter is made from rapeseed, coconut, shea and almond oils and comes in two formats: Naturli’ Organic Vegan Block, and as a spread, Naturli’ Organic Spreadable. The Spreadable is sold in Denmark and across the U.K., and the block was launched in Denmark this year.
10. Wonderlab’s Doozy Pots Gelato
How have I not tried Doozy Pots Gelato before? I think because none of the flavors I knew they made jumped at me at first. There are very few ice-cream flavors I love—like cookies & cream, cookie dough, and pistachio—and I only allow myself to indulge in those occasionally. But here they were and so I went for it and boy, am I glad I did! The Spice and Everything Nice Banana Cinnamon Date flavor was my favorite. I mean I’m Brazilian and bananas are a food group for us, so no surprises there; but if you’re a chocoholic, the Nice to Mint You Chocolate Mint Chip is a winner—it’s packed with chocolate chips. These are now on my weekly shopping list, and you should add it to yours too. Doozy Pots Gelato is made of organic, hemp, oats and regeneratively grown, organic and Fair-Trade cane sugar. They’re available at Sprouts Farmers Market, Heinen’s, Jimbo’s Naturally, Erewhon, Buehler’s, Nature’s Oasis and select Market District and Whole Foods.
11. Crunchsters Crunch Mung Beans Snacks
Sprouted Crunch Mung Beans Snacks. How could I not try them? I grabbed the tangy balsamic and it was delicious. The balsamic flavor really comes through and shines here. The grains are fairly small and it’s a bit hard to eat with your hands like you would trail mix or nuts, but they’re the perfect size to sprinkle all over your favorite salad as a crunchy topping. Crunchsters has an e-store for direct orders, and you can find the Crunch Mung Beans Snacks at various supermarket chains including Sprouts Farmers Market, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Amazon, Thrive Market, Raley’s, Fresh Direct, Giant, Weis and Central Market.
Honestly, vegan food has gotten so good pretty much everything I ate was so good. It was difficult to put this list together. I only had so much time (and stomach space). But these last few brands deserve an extra shout out!
One of the brands I only got to taste a small bite of was VFC Foods‘ vegan Chick*n, and it was delicious! I definitely want to try more. The UK-based brand are already a cult favorite in their home country and I can see why. The American debut was a huge success by all accounts and I am sure the first of many wins stateside. I was especially stoked that I got to briefly meet the co-founder Matthew Glover, who is also the co-founder of Veganuary and an all-around great human.
This booth was consistently packed and I’ve already tasted OmniPork and Omni Luncheon Meat a few times in Los Angeles, so I didn’t get to spend as much time with the team as I wanted to focus on trying products I had never tasted. But just in case you didn’t already know, I love these vegan pork products. In fact, I usually have some on my fridge.
Tasty Smart Guava Cookies and Alegria Bites
Tasty Smart is a female-owned Puerto Rican brand, and if you are a guava fanatic like me, these cookies will make you smile. Just the right amount of sweet and crispness with small chunks of guava jelly. I googled them immediately when I got home and much to my surprise, you can order them from Walmart, Sam’s Club, and Amazon in addition to buying them directly from their online store.
Jane & Nonie´s Alegría Bites
Alegría Bites are square bitesize sweet treats made with popped amaranth, which is a super grain rich in fiber, protein, and a bunch of other key nutrients. I tried the popped amaranth with chocolate, and I was really impressed with the flavor. Just the right amount of sweetness and not a hint of any aftertaste as some vegan desserts made with ingredients like coconut have. In fact, it reminded me of a wafer chocolate cookie. These are not on the market yet but keep an eye on Jane & Nonie‘s website for more information coming soon.
Lead image courtesy of Alessandra Franco.