Organisers, exhibitors and visitors alike were happy and relieved to welcome back the Natural and Organic Products Europe show at London’s Excel in early April after a long enforced break. As a regular visitor, I went along mainly to look for new ‘free from’ products, but also for the easy pleasure of getting out and meeting like-minded people once more. NOPE has always brought them together under one roof very well, and there was a noticeably relaxed vibe this year.
Onto business: here is a quick round-up of some of my finds.
I really loved the idea and spirit behind S.O.S. — cute kids’ snacks based on only South African dried fruit shaped into a toy puzzle, with pop-out endangered sea animals, all with the aim of teaching kids about the importance of our oceans and their wildlife, while giving them a healthy snack to boot. The bonus, as you might have guessed, is that they are free of all major allergens. They’re now available in the UK at Holland and Barrett online, and at independent health stores. Check out their Instagram page here.
Mozzarisella launched Mascarice a few months ago, but I’ve only just discovered it here — it’s an alternative to mascarpone, which this Italian thought was genuinely exceptional. When it comes to dairy free, it’s not always about replicating the taste of the non-vegan analogue — a product can merely be good on its own terms and that is absolutely fine. But in this case, both boxes are ticked: this is far closer to the ‘real’ thing than so many dairy alternatives on the market are. Free of the 14, but contains two legumes — pea and carob — that some may react to. Click here for more info.
I liked Untouched Foods’ Chickpea Fudge (above) — just a handful of non-top-14 ingredients (chickpeas, coconut oil, sugar, flavourings) — and the result is a lovely tasty snack. Better thought of as a sesame-free halva alternative than a fudge alternative, in my opinion, but still tasty regardless. They’re in the UK, there are no cross-contamination risks, and are available from their website.
All I can tell you about Wholesome Earth’s NUTLESS hazelnut-flavoured chocolate spread (below right) is that it’s from South Africa, is based on palm, cow’s milk, cocoa and coconut, with other undisclosed flavourings, and that it is confirmed nut free. At the time of writing, I can’t find anything on the Wholesome Earth website about it, so assume it is very new. We definitely need more explicitly nut-free offerings such as this, so I’m keen to champion it, and hope somebody can pick it up in the UK and get it distributed. You may want to keep an eye on the Wholesome Earth website for further information in the future.
Suma Vegan Mac’n’Cheeze — in a tin — looks like a great student or festival option for both vegans and those with (most) allergies. The only top 14 present is wheat, therefore not GF, but free of all else and no may contain in sight. The cheesiness is derived from potato, coconut and corn, with added yeast extract. Didn’t taste it, but worth a try if it may be your thing. I can only find it online at the Suma website for wholesale, which does confirm no potential for cross contact with other allergens.
Sun & Seed are already in business in the UK, and known for their nut and seed butters and other health-conscious whole or raw foods. Next to be added to their lines are gluten-free couscouses (pea, rice, buckwheat and chickpea), rosemary and thyme focaccia mix, and bronze-drawn pastas, such as these from porcini (cep) mushrooms and corn. Not sure when they’re arriving, but hopefully soon.
Australian-based Olina’s Bakehouse (below) make the most tasty and attractive crackers and toasts, and among them are GF options: cranberry & pumpkin / fig & sunflower seeded toasts, wafer crackers, and flatbreads (pumpkin seed, ancient grain) and crackers (original, rosemary). There’s a few allergens / allergen warnings on some of the products, so check individual items for details. Look out for them in speciality and health food stores nationwide.
Freelicious 14 free chocolate (below) is from Belgium and — what more can I say — it would be terrific if this ‘proper’ range of ‘free from’ chocolate could make its mark more widely and replace some of the vegan ‘may contain milk’ nutty chocolate that’s everywhere in our free from aisles these days. Even has an 84% cacao dark. (I’ve linked to their Instagram page as their website brings up a security warning on my browser.)
One of the regular gripes among Free From Food Awards judges and organisers is “more sweeties please!” We do need them. Tasty Mates sweets — wobbly, jellyish, chubby little figures — have no top 14 allergens among its ingredients, but currently have “produced on a line” allergen warnings which are I was told imminently changing due to factory production changes, which will make them entirely ‘free from’. I ate the Very Berry pack in one sitting and am not sorry. Also available: salted caramel (very unusual), pear crumble, and peaches & cream.
Just when you think every vegetable lifeform on the planet has been exploited and ‘juiced’ in order to produce a liquid dairy alternative of some kind or other, along comes another one to burst your bubble and remind you that there is more and more potential for vegan replacements still out there waiting to be discovered. Step forward WhatIf Foods BamNut Milk, pictured below, made with bambara groundnuts. No, I have to confess, me neither, but apparently bambaras — which are also called hog-peanuts and Congo goobers! — are a legume, grown in West Africa, much like peanuts, albeit more like chickpeas in appearance. They’re not listed as nuts under either US nor UK/EU legislation, so the ‘milks’ are ‘top 14’ free in the UK, but not ‘allergen free’ in the US, as the products contain coconut and shea, which are also considered tree nuts there. There is a milk and tree-nut warning on the products, which is unfortunate, and the products aren’t yet available here, which is doubly so. Dull packaging design probably won’t help them in the UK market. But let’s hope these issues are ironed out, and that this Singaporean-based brand find wider distribution in due course.
And finally (below) Abbott Kinney’s. A trio of plant-based milk alternatives, now available in the UK (they’re a Dutch brand) for the first time, through independents currently, but hopefully online soon. They’re a blend of rice, coconut and soya, with the latter being the only allergen present. No ‘may contain’. Appear unfortified, though. Mild, Barista, and Chocolate versions available. Search UK stockists here.
The Natural and Organic Products Europe show returns April 16–17th 2023.