Tuesday, September 25, 2012

New Products Report from Expo East

Yogurt, beverages, and snacks of all shapes and sizes. Those seemed to be the products in abundance at last week's Expo East, a showcase of natural foods that exhibits annually at the Baltimore Convention Center. Gluten-free products were featured throughout the fair, with more than half of the wares on display or being sampled in that category. Some were obvious (water - flavored, sparkling and still - dried fruits, and poultry and meats, to name a few), some were brand extensions, and some set out to improve on existing products. There were no novel items to be found, but many stood out for their creativity and taste.

The newest gluten-free product to debut at the show was a line of gluten-free pretzels called Gratify. Made by Israeli food company Osem, the pretzel varieties include sticks, twists, plain, sour cream & onion and sesame thins, and chocolate- and yogurt-coated twists. The pretzels will be available nationwide in early 2013. Glutino's coated pretzels were preferable to Gratify's, but the sticks rivaled Snyder's gluten-free version.

Local favorite Conte's Pasta sampled the consumer version of its new bake-in-bag gluten-free pizza and announced a line of refrigerated gnocchi, ravioli and pierogi, which will cut down on prep time. After a successful test in Minnesota, kids entertainment center Chuck E. Cheese's will have Conte's gluten-free pizza at all locations nationwide as of October 15.

I tried three other gluten-free pizzas at the show. Bold Organics, from New York, is free from gluten, dairy, egg and nuts and comes in Vegan Cheese, Veggie Lovers, Meat Lovers and Deluxe. (Bold is sold locally at natural-foods stores and will soon be at Acme Markets.) Florida's Better 4 U!, which is not yet available in the Philadelphia area, has five flavors on a multigrain crust, including a vegan roasted vegetable pizza. Longtime gluten-free baker Foods By George now has a dairy-free/gluten-free pizza. 

Our favorite cookie at Expo East was the new Chocolate Merry Mint from Dr. Lucy's, one of two new holiday flavors. It came pretty darn close to replicating the taste of a Girl Scout Thin Mint. The company also has new Snack 'n Go Packs and Brownie Cakes, its first non-cookie item.

In general, I prefer soft cookies. Gilbert's Gourmet Goodies and WOW Baking fit that bill with their excellent snickerdoodle cookies. Another great find, although not yet available in this area, was Salt Lake City's Blossom Fine Foods, whose marble brownies were delightful.

Go Max Go makes healthier versions of candy-aisle staples, from Mahalo and SNAP! bars (akin to Almond Joy and Nestle Crunch) to Cleo's Peanut Butter Cups, all gluten, dairy and egg free.

Hilary's Eat Well and Qrunch Foods had convenience in mind when developing their tasty veggie burgers; they can be prepared in a pop-up toaster. Both are millet and quinoa based and are free of the major allergens.

The yogurt marketplace is growing by the day; I'm not sure there are enough cows to keep up. Chobani Greek Yogurt is coming out with 2% banana, non-fat pear and smaller (3.5 oz.) four-packs of Fig with Orange Zest, Caramel with Pineapple, Coffee with Dark Chocolate Chips and Raspberry with Dark Chocolate Chips. These will join the new "Flip" line that pairs vanilla chocolate chip low-fat yogurt with raspberry and honey low-fat yogurt with banana. Wallaby (whose non-fat yogurt I love) has also ventured into the Greek realm with four varieties.

There were a lot of nuts, seeds and other "raw" foods at the show. The best came in spreadable form: The Razzle Dazzle flavor of all-natural PB Crave (one of four varieties) and Nu Life Market's Sun Lite creamy sunflower kernel spread.

Kinnikinnick's products were the first my son ate after his diagnosis, but it's been a while since we've bought them. I'm reconsidering in light of trying the brand's "soft" bread. The new hot dog buns and sandwich bread were indeed soft and moist - not crumbly in the least. 

Udi's Gluten Free debuted tortillas made with tapioca starch, brown rice flour and corn starch, which come in 6" and 9" sizes. My son loved his sample of Udi's new "inside-out" everything bagel. O'Doughs, a gluten-free bakery out of Toronto, had its new 100-calorie bagel thins - plain, flax and apple cranberry - on display.

In the snack aisle, Lesser Evil, whose Krinkle Sticks I crave, has a line of black bean-and-chia crisps - Southern Barbeque, Crunchy Dill Pickle, Feta and Black Olive and Jalapeno White Cheddar. Another favorite, Medleys snack mixes from El's Kitchen, now come in three varieties - cheddar and sour cream & onion, in addition to original. The Real Deal's all-natural veggie chips have been spiced up with the addition of a sriracha flavor. A new product making its way east from Pittsburgh is the Hippie Chips line of baked potato chips.
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