This is my third year attending the Sweets & Snacks Expo, but the first time I’ve ever done a write-up of stuff I found rather than just posting it on social media. To be honest, most years I go, get totally overwhelmed by how many people there are, am shy because I’m always the only “weirdo,” and I leave without taking any samples or talking to anyone. But, I do a lot of these shows now for my company I Heart Keenwah, so this year I wasn’t shy and I actually found some cool stuff.
I started the day by interviewing Joy Bauer from the Today Show on Instagram live. Her company Nourish Snacks just rebranded with bold new packaging, and she reformulated her granola bites. Since the interview was live, it’s lost in space now, but the folks who were able to tune in got to hear Joy talk about how she chooses beneficial ingredients for her vegan-friendly snacks. Sarah from I Heart Keenwah and I also chatted her up about the healthy food biz and she was extremely gracious and generous with her time. I love meeting people like that in this business!
OK, onto five of the best things I tried at the show:
- Cocomels were sampling their new chocolate-covered coconut caramel bites so you know I got all up in that. I was a weird little kid whose favorite candy was Rolos so these things are near and dear to my heart. For Christmas I got my mom a subscription to Vegan Cuts and anytime Cocomels is in that month’s box I get a very happy text from her, followed by a complaint that my nieces ate them all.
- A Swedish company called Candy People was on hand with an elaborate display of gummy candy. I almost walked right past when I noticed they had “gelatin-free options” on their sign so I stopped to see if that meant vegan. It didn’t, as many of the candies contain carmine, but they did have clearly-marked vegan options like Sour Vikings. They taste like Sour Patch Kids, only they’re huge! It takes 2-3 bites to finish one, which in my opinion is a good thing.
- I’m honestly more of a savory snacker than a sweet one, so I was happy to see a brand called Green Mustache with a vegan, gluten-free take on the Goldfish cracker. Their Mustache Munchies are light and crunchy, and are made with chickpea flour, kale, and chia, so they’re actually nutritious. I tried the Cheddar-ish, but they also had Spicy-ish and Parmesan Rosemary (now that I think about it I have no idea why I didn’t try this one as it would have been my favorite, I’m sure.)
- One trend that I really loved at the show was seeing companies making whole, healthy foods snackable. Oh Snap Pickles had little snack pouches of pickles, plus new pickled veggies to snack on like carrots and string beans. My beloved Oloves was there with their delicious olive pouches, too. Those things save my life in the airport on a regular basis.
- The most interesting snack I saw all day came from a company called Porta Bela. They’re, you guessed it, a mushroom company, and the snack I tried was their new Porta Bela Chips – mushroom chips! These are so new they aren’t even on the company site yet, but the folks at the booth told me all the flavors were vegan – and I spotted a guacamole bacon and a blue cheese onion flavor so that’s pretty rad.
This show has hundreds of exhibitors, and while a lot of it is still pretty gross and weird to someone used to the natural food space, it’s awesome to see brands like Dandies, Hungry Buddha and Beanfields holding their own in a sea of cheesy poofs and sugar bombs.