An annual celebration of plant-based and vegan living, this year’s Portland VegFest drew over 6,000 people for an outstanding program of prominent speakers and, of course, a wide variety of vegan wares. Nonprofit Northwest VEG has served the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA area with information and resources connected to its mission for a “healthy, sustainable, and compassionate world” since 2003, and its festival showcases several different aspects of plant-based living from farm sanctuaries to fitness, from a food court to a fashion show (new this year!) as vegan values crossover into the beauty and clothing industries with increasing momentum.
Presentations from high-profile speakers such as Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Food Association and partner to SPINS, and Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, among many others provided unique educational opportunities across a range of subjects. But as a senior natural products researcher with SPINS, I was especially thrilled to discover exciting new items from both local vendors and larger companies with national distribution. Among the many emerging and established brands who sampled great products, three in particular stood out to me as some of the most intriguing innovations.
2016 is the year of pulses, according to the U.N., and we’ve seen this come true across several categories, even kid-friendly cereals launched at Expo West by Love Grown Foods. At VegFest, a bean-based and entirely grain free granola by Swell caught my eye. Each of the three flavors is also completely dairy free, gluten free, oil free, and soy free. All flavors have just 3-4 grams of sugar per serving, and the brand points to legumes’ higher fiber, higher protein, and lower glycemic index over oats, the classic grain of granola. With only maple syrup and spices for flavor in lieu of any added oils or refined sweeteners, the dark chocolate beet and the unusual savory chipotle flavors are made with black beans, and the cinnamon carrot is made with lentils. Oregon-based Swell is only in stores within its own state for now, according to their website, but they also fulfil orders online. We’re keeping an eye on the brand and the bean-based trend!
Another highly innovative product I had the pleasure to try was new probiotic granola from Purely Elizabeth. Ganeden’s vegan strain of probiotics was selected for its ability to survive the baking process, making this the very first probiotic granola available. Both flavors, chocolate sea salt and maple walnut, are truly yummy new additions to the brand’s ancient grain granola line!
Teeccino, an established brand in the natural products industry, has expanded its extensive selection of herbal coffee alternatives to offer new options that are Certified Gluten-Free by GFCO. Their extensive line of caffeine free drinks blends fruits, grains, herbs, and nuts, and many feature roasted barley. In the new drinks, roasted organic dandelion roots replace the barley, and flavors include caramel nut, dark roast, mocha, and vanilla nut.
As a longtime vegan, it was my pleasure to attend Portland VegFest again this year as it continues to evolve with new opportunities to learn, network, socialize, and try out delicious new foods. Each year, I look forward to the innovation I’m sure to find from the event’s creative exhibitors, and it’s exciting to see the larger vegan movement grow into the mainstream more and more.