SIAL 2017, was, as usual, overwhelming. So many brands not yet in the GTA, or even Ontario or Canada, period! Of course, there are brands which are already here, like Fontaine Santé, known for its hummus (they were sampling just about everything they had – including beet hummus (which isn’t available everywhere). And now, they have expanded to sorbets. They were sampling both raspberry and mango, and I have to say, mango is my favourite. The sorbets are already in stores like Whole Foods. Some other old favourites were also there, launching new products or showing recently-launched items. Bottled water brand, VOSS, was sampling their fruit infused sparkling water and Three Farmers had snack sized pea pops. Other brands were local to the GTA and there to expand their market, such as Fruit of the Land (the Beit Yitzhak fruit spreads, which are sweetened with pineapple juice, is a personal favourite) and nomz energy balls.
Oh, and there was cheese. Lots and lots of cheese! One of my favourites has to be the fava bean “cheese” used in a grilled cheese sandwich by Local Dairy in Ingersoll, Ontario. I liked the taste, but it’s different from other vegan cheeses I’ve had, typically made from cashews or soy. The fava bean cheese has a bit more of a savoury taste, resembling hummus, despite the lack of chickpeas. However, the texture is more cheese-like. Local Dairy also carries “regular” (i.e. dairy) cheese. I was also liked Rawesome (Montreal based and I don’t believe their products are available in Ontario yet), which is a line of vegan “cream cheese” spreads (very creamy!!) and cheesecakes made from cashews.
Other brand I loved:
GOSH!: Delicious falafels and vegan burger patties from the UK. Flavours include beet, kale and quinoa as well as chickpea, courgette (zucchini) and Moroccan spices. Though these products are pre-packaged, the ingredients list doesn’t list anything “weird.” For example, the chickpea/zucchini/Moroccan spice patty consists of: Chickpeas (29%), Courgette (22%), Red Pepper (13%), Yellow Pepper (13%), Potato Flake, Quinoa, Apricots, Rapeseed Oil, Maple Syrup, Rehydrated Goji Berries, Lemon Zest, Harissa Paste (Red Peppers, Tomato Paste, Chilli, Caraway, Cumin, Rapeseed Oil, Salt, Garlic Puree), Ginger Puree, Coriander, Spices (Cumin, Coriander, Chilli, Turmeric, Fenugreek, Cinnamon, Clove), Onion Powder, Garlic Puree, Salt, Concentrated Lemon Juice.
Smak Dab: These guys from Manitoba make good mustard. These mustards are small batch and locally made – their chipotle beer flavour, for example, uses beer from a local brewery – and, thus, can put extra care on taste and quality into the product. The good news is, Smak Dab is currently in some Ontario stores, including McEwan’s (of course!) and Bruno’s. They are also available online at Foodiepages. Smak Dab had its booth in the special Canada 150 section.
Galifresh: These single-serve fruit purées from Spain are vegan, gluten-free and high-fibre with no added sugars or additives. They also don’t require refrigeration unless already opened. Flavours include apple, banana/pear and blueberry-strawberry.
So was there anything I DIDN’T like? Sure, since nothing is perfect. Some reps weren’t that great at marketing – some brands didn’t know exactly what made them different from competitive products (for example, a Chinese yogurt brand couldn’t exactly tell me HOW they differed from the mainstream AND didn’t offer samples of flavours which are less common in Canada (such as red date)). I had the same issue with some of the quinoa brands. Knowing how something stands out is important if there are already similar products out there.
In terms of products, I personally wasn’t such a big fan of Baru Baron. Marketed as “almonds,” the snacks are actually a different species all together. They’re baru seeds from the baru plant, found in Brazil and are a tree nut, according to the press release. They have high nutritional content in terms of protein, minerals and fibre, but the taste wasn’t a favourite of mine. Perhaps it’s the resemblance to peanuts, something I do not like (probably due to reactions I’ve had in the past). I am sure, however, that many people will be fans of baru seeds and I DO recommend them to those who would like its taste.
The event was, as usual, well organized, despite being a little overwhelming (as noted in the opening paragraph). Media received first class treatment (with REAL FOOD in the media space! How often do we get that? NEVER!!!) and the resources media and potential buyers were able to pick up were helpful. For example, I left the event with a tote bag full of pamphlets and brochures (and in some cases, samples, too!). There’s still quite a bit to go through and I will hopefully be able to write a more detailed review of some products soon.