I was blessed to be chosen as one of the Official Bloggers for the 2014 Gluten & Allergen Free Expo.
With over 150+ vendors in one location, it’s almost overwhelming to take it all in. In all honesty, even though I was there for two days, there were still a few companies that I didn’t get to visit. There were new gluten free vendors, tried and true gluten free vendors, bakeries local to the Chicago area, and medical organizations. And with an estimated 8,000 people in attendance, the vendors were just as busy as we were! But what an amazing opportunity to have them all in one room.
Upon entering the expo, attendees were given tote bags, donated by Enjoy Life, that contained various goodies including a Go Picnic snack pack.This bag was a great thing, and a necessity for all the goodies and purchases that attendees would score while there.
As a blogger, I was able to walk in a few minutes before other people, and I just took in a lay out of the area. I had a few interviews planned, so I immediately tried to find where those booths were located. I was also looking for a few companies that I knew personally and wanted a chance to say hi before things got busy. After reconnecting with my husband who wasn’t table to get in as early as I was, I also ran into my pal Keeley McGuire who did a photo opportunity with me!
There were plenty of “New To Me” companies represented there. If you read my first post, you’ve already read about Hope Foods, Honey Acres and Coconut Bliss.
In the “non-sweet” category were the companies Qrunch, Dr. Praeger’s and Gluten Free Delights
Qrunch Foods makes vegan burgers that are actually really good. They’re also corn, soy and nut free, and made from quinoa. When Brad first tried them, he wasn’t too impressed. But I had seen them advertised on the internet, and I was really eager to try them. I also had the chance to talk to Brad Holley, the co-founder, whose daughter is gluten intolerant. He explained that they come in different flavors, and that their original has a “plain” taste. That was the flavor that Brad tried, and I convinced him to try the Sweet Curry with Lentils flavor. We both agreed that it was very tasty. (I have massive powers of persuasion!) They have new breakfast items called “Toastables” coming out soon. They “were named Best New Vegan Product by VegWorld Magazine at Natural Products Expo West.” They will come in flavors of “Rich Maple, Cinnamon Vanilla, Lemon-Blueberry and Plain.” I’m eager to be able to try these when they come out!
Gluten Free Delights – You may not have heard about this company, but I have. This Michigan company has been making gluten free pocket sandwiches for a while now. Their Spinach Artichoke is WONDERFUL! Their crust is made with 100% whole grain millet flour and tastes wonderful. They are so soft and delicious. Aldi will start carrying these pocket sandwiches in stores May 7th, under the “live G free” name. It will be a “Special Buy,” but if there is enough demand, Aldi will consider carrying them on a permanent basis. SO amk sure you go out and buy some!
In the sweet and snack category are Hail Merry, Cobra Corn and Way Better Snacks.
I’ve read fellow bloggers who rave about Hail Merry, but this was my first chance to try it. While I wasn’t won over by the macaroons, their Miracle Tarts were AMAZING! While I believe I tried the chocolate mint tart, they come in 6 assorted flavors.
Cobra Corn makes popcorn. My husband LOVES popcorn. Seriously. He eats a huge bowl almost every night….at least 12 cups. By himself. When we got separated on Saturday, one of the first companies he raved about was Cobra Corn. He told me “You HAVE to try the Caramel Chai popcorn.” HE liked them so much he bought a bag of each of their flavors. I will have to admit that the Chai popcorn was pretty tasty. We shared some with my family at Easter and they all enjoyed it as well. The company was founded on the original Bombay Seasoning flavor, which has quite a kick to it. I think that bag will belong exclusively to my husband. Also it was a huge pleasure talking to the ambassador at their table.
In the low-glycemic, diabetic friendly category are Simple Mills and ZEMAS.
Simple Mills mixes were REALLY amazing. They were moist, simply sweet and enjoyable. Their products are made with almond flour and coconut nectar. “All you need to add is eggs, oil, and water & bake for 20 minutes.” Can’t get much more simple than that.
ZEMAS Madhouse Foods are mixes made from whole grains like millet, sorghum, and flax seed (among others). They had a really great black bean brownie that I would definitely buy again. They also make a few pancake mixes, a pizza crust mix, as well as muffin and cookie mixes. I love that they are constantly putting new recipes to make with the mixes that they manufacture.
There were quite a few foreign companies represented at the expo.
PaneRiso ~~ One of the first companies I met and talked to at length was PaneRiso Foods. They were giving away whole bags of their Herb & Garlic croutons, Fish Fry batter and their Apple Crisp mix. I really enjoyed their croutons, as did my friend Sarah when we had them on our salad at dinner that night. If you haven’t heard about PaneRiso before, it’s because they are a Canadian company. As you may or may not know, Canada has had gluten free guidelines for many years before the United States. I did talk to their rep, Crystal, at length and was intrigued about what the company is doing. She mentioned that they are interested in using sprouted grains and are looking to get rid of the rice flour in their products, which I think is because they are looking to use grains with a more nutritional profile.
Bez Gluten~~ This company originated in Poland and is just now transitioning into the United States. Their website is new as well, so please be patient as you check in with them. They had chocolate hazelnut cereal that was pretty good, but I really enjoyed their coconut creme sandwich cookies.
Freedom Foods ~~ This Australian company has been making gluten free and allergen free cereals for over 20 decades. Not only are their products made in a dedicated gluten free facility, their products are non-gmo as well. My non-gf husband was so impressed with their Pro-Teen Crunch Cereal that we bought 2 boxes! This cereal is made with chickpea and bananas and has a mildly sweet taste.I also enjoyed their Ancient Grain Flakes cereal, made with Buckwheat and Sorghum.
BFree – These breads are from Ireland. Lots of my fellow bloggers raved about it. The one taste I had didn’t seem all that special. I had meant to go back and talk to them further, but ran out of time. Their website seems to be down at the moment, but you can read more about them here at this article.
There were also multiple make up companies there. There are two worth mentioning.
Red Apple Lipstick– So many of the bloggers I follow have said great things about Red Apple. After meeting Andrea and trying her products, I can totally understand why. Andrea really is one of the nicest and devoted people I’ve met. She reached out to me after reading my first blog post for the expo and sent me the nicest email. It really was a blessing to meet her.
I’m not a person that usually wears make-up, mostly because I don’t know what colors to wear and in all honesty, I’m pretty lazy. Andrea took the time to listen to my habits and personally picked out two colors for me to try. I tried the Berried Treasure Mint 2 Be lip gloss, and immediately my friend Jill from Ethel’s Edibles told me how wonderful it looked. Their website says that the spearmint helps to condition chapped lips, and I will have to admit that my lips feel better.
If you haven’t tried her products, you really should. Really. Go check out their website now!
Devine Shimmers – This is a really interesting company. These lip “shimmers” are made from wine products and come in 6 colors. I grabbed the Merlot color for a friend and she really enjoyed it. After talking to a Curves member this past week, she said that she has bought them before and they keep her lips really soft.
There were plenty of great companies that I love and use all the time, so it was great to have a chance to thank them for what they do, not to mention try some new items that they had.
Crunchmaster – Crunchmaster crackers are loved by people everywhere, gf or not. They have new popped Edamame Chips that they were sampling. I’ve been looking forward to trying them ever since I saw that they were launched at the Natural Products Expo. These light tasting air popped chips would be the perfect combo for salsa or Hope Foods hummus. They’re slightly curved so the dip will stay put!
Pamela’s – Pamela’s makes so many great mixes, including their pancake mix. They have new Figgies and Jammies. If you’ve been missing fig newtons, rejoice! These Figgies and Jammies are so soft and wonderful, you will want to eat the whole box in one setting. They also have really great measuring spoons that they give away at events. We received one a few years ago at the Grand Rapids Food Fair, and it recently broke.
Udi’s – It was so great to meet some of my fellow Udi’s Ambassadors, including a young lady that was doing her first event. Many of the items they were sampling I have already tried and many of them I have personally demonstrated at stores and events. BUT, I had a chance to try the new Sea Salt Ancient Grain Crisps. (They also come in Cheddar and Jalapeno flavors.) They were really great. One of the things that I was sad to give up when I went gluten free was Sun Chips. These chips remind me of them and make my mouth happy! A big thank you to Udi’s and Glutino for sponsoring this expo!
Enjoy Life– Enjoy Life was an additional sponsor of this event, and so many of their products were represented. I have been a long time Enjoy Life fan. I really like their new Chocolate Sunbutter bar, and have always LOVED their Crunchy Flax cereal. This cereal crunched up makes a GREAT binder for meatballs. Their Plentils are a huge hit as well. Their newly reformulated Very Berry Granola is WONDERFUL. With all of their products being free of the top 8 allergens, you can enjoy their products knowing that you will be safe. Again, a big thank you to Enjoy Life Foods for sponsoring this event and having a really fun photo booth!
So, I was able to score a bunch of EXTRA swag from the Expo. I have a box of over 30 ITEMS to give away. Make sure to follow my blog so that you will be able to read follow up from some of these companies as well as highlights from Dr. Fasano’s new book “Gluten Freedom”!