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Natural Products Expo West – Mary’s Gone Crackers and Rise Bar

Missed part 1 of the Natural Products Expo West?  Check it out here!

One of the brands I was most excited to meet with was Mary’s Gone Crackers.  I have been a big fan of Mary’s Gone Crackers since their products are very allergen-friendly, and completely free of GMOs.  Plus, they are made with all natural ingredients such as brown rice, quinoa, flaxseed and millet to name a few.  All of the products made at Mary’s facility are gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free, so they pretty much cover most of the food allergy spectrum.

I sat down with Mary herself to discuss some of the new Mary’s Gone Crackers products that will be released soon.  First up were the Hot n’ Spicy Jalapeno Crackers and the Super Seed Crackers.

marysgonecrackers_newflavorsThe Jalapeno Crackers had a nice spice to them (but not too spicy), and I fell in love with the Super Seed Crackers.  The Super Seed Crackers are made with a wide variety of seeds including pumpkin seed and flax, and they are made with seaweed to add a nice bit of saltiness.  Mary explained that she wanted to use seaweed instead of soy for a different salty flavor in both the Super Seed and Jalapeno Crackers.  Since soy is on my no-no list, I was thrilled to hear this.  Both the Super Seed Crackers and the Jalapeno Crackers will hit stores in June/July of this year.  Oh, and the Super Seed Crackers taste excellent with hummus.

maryssuperseedcrackersNext up were the Graham Crackers, which will definitely appeal to kids, but after reading the ingredient profile, adults are bound to love them as well!

marysgonecrackers_grahamcrackersThe Graham Crackers are made with a gluten-free flour blend that includes sweet potato flour, tapioca starch and plantain flour (to name a few), and are also lower in sugar and have coconut oil.  The graham crackers have 3 grams of fiber each and are absolutely delicious!  No release date yet for the graham crackers, but the plan is to have them in stores sometime this year.

Last but certainly not least, I had a chance to taste some of the new granola Mary’s team is developing.  This was by far my favorite of the day.  I tend to find most packaged granola to be too sweet, but this was light and flavorful, and sweetened with coconut oil and coconut sugar.  The granola was also quinoa-based which was awesome.  There is no release date for the granola as of yet, but I hope Mary’s releases it soon!

It was great meeting with Mary and her team and learning about all her new products.  If you haven’t checked out Mary’s Gone Crackers yet, be sure to do so soon.

After meeting with Mary, I headed over to the Rise Bar booth to meet with their CEO Peter.  I’ve been interested in Rise Bar for quite some time namely because their protein bars are made with minimal ingredients (and soy-free) and they are a local company as well.

risebar_infoRise Bar is described as a “bar for your daily needs.”  There are different bars that are made for different times of day, depending on what your body is craving and what kind of fuel you need.  The breakfast bars are loaded with fruits and healthy fats to get your day started on the right foot, the energy bars are made with tapioca and brown rice syrup to give you an extra boost before your workout, and the protein bars are made with whey protein to promote recovery.  All of the bars are free of GMOs and contain no gluten.

Peter and I also talked about Rise Bar’s Athletes and Ambassadors program.  Instead of targeting professional athletes and celebrities, Rise Bar wants to look for amateur athletes who are involved in their community and live and breathe a natural foods lifestyle.  I think this program is great, because pretty much anyone can join!

risebarsamples_expowestI tried a few Rise Bar samples at the expo and I must say they were quite delicious!  The ingredient profile is great, and the protein bars may become my go-to when I need a quick boost after a hard workout.  Be sure to check out the Almond Honey flavor (my personal favorite).  Thanks Peter for taking the time to tell me more about Rise Bar.  I’m so glad I got to meet with your team at Expo West this year.

Next Up – Part 3 of the Natural Products Expo West including some delicious drinks from Sambazon and meeting Bob from Bob’s Red Mill!

Natural Products Expo West Part One and Meeting Lillie Belle Farms

This year, I had the opportunity of attending the Natural Products Expo West which is the largest trade show in the natural/organic/healthy product industry.  Every year thousands of retailers, vendors and press attend the event to learn more about the latest and greatest when it comes to natural products.  I honestly had no idea what to expect when I arrived at the expo, but I was blown away.

The Natural Products Expo West is held at the Anaheim Convention Center and has over 3,000 exhibits ranging from natural and organic food and beverage, beauty and household products.  Since Sweet Potato Bites focuses on natural and allergen-friendly foods, this expo was pretty much a food lover’s paradise for me.  And it’s safe to say I left the expo with a bunch of goodies.

expowest_organic productsI was glad to see some of my favorite brands at the expo such as Reed’s Ginger Brew, Evolution Fresh and KIND Snacks to name a few, and even had time to take a SMOOCH with the cow from Stonyfield Farm and won a free candle as a prize.  I have to give special kudos to Stonyfield Farm for their excellent social media and consumer engagement – their booth was rocking!

stonyfieldfarm_expowestIn addition to stopping by some of my favorites, I also had the opportunity to sit down and chat with some of my favorite brands as well as some brands that were new to me.  One of those new brands was Lillie Belle Farms.

Lillie Belle Farms is an artisan chocolate company based in Southern Oregon that creates decadent chocolate using European techniques with a fun American “twist.”  Lillie Belle Farms is most well-known for their decadent truffles and bon bons, but I was most excited to learn about their “Bean to Bar” chocolates.

lilliebellefarms_expowestI had the chance to talk with Jeff Shepherd, the owner of Lillie Belle Farms who truly has a passion for making delicious chocolate while putting a creative spin on it.  After many years of making delicious truffles, he told me how he decided one day that it would be interesting to make a chocolate bar made directly from coffee beans, so he borrowed some beans from a friend, combined them with some sugar, and with a bit of trial and error, made a delicious “Bean to Bar” chocolate bar that ended up winning two Good Food Awards in San Francisco.  I tried the award-winning bar which was named Perfect Illusion (all of the bars named after songs) and it was divine.  If you are a chocolate purist, I definitely recommend these.  Jeff even uses quality Criollo beans from Peru in some of his Bean to Bar Chocolates.

lilliebellefarmschocolate_expowestHowever, if you are in the mood for something more creamy and decadent and perhaps milk chocolate, then The Most Awesome Chocolate Bar EVER made with homemade almond and hazelnut gianduja, crunchy feuilletine wafers and sea salt.  This bar is quite possibly the best chocolate bar I have ever tasted (and I have tasted a lot).  I now see why Jeff calls it The Most Awesome Chocolate Bar EVER.

Jeff also has other creative chocolate creations including a chocolate bacon bar that has a strong bacon flavor and the Sunshine Daydream bar made with milk chocolate and powdered buttermilk.  All of the Lillie Belle Farms chocolate flavors are so unique and you can tell that Jeff pours a lot of love into each bar.  Making chocolate is this man’s passion and it definitely shines through.

Unfortunately Lillie Belle Farms isn’t in Southern California (yet), but you can order their delicious chocolate from the website.  I definitely predict having many more Lillie Belle Farms chocolates in my future.  Thanks Jeff for taking the time to meet with me and introducing me to your delicious chocolate!

Stay tuned for part two of the Natural Products Expo which includes meeting Mary from Mary’s Gone Crackers!