Australia’s “Health” Food Scene; Naturally Good

So-called health foods are an ever rising term that is used to describe basically anything that is made from somewhat natural ingredients, with perhaps a Certified Organic label, and usually a host of free-from claims such as “dairy free wheat free fructose free” and many others. With the rising trend of gluten free diet, even some milk cartons now tout they don’t contain gluten (if they did, we should be worried). Sometimes it can be rather confusing trying to figure out what is good for you and what not so much, and I suppose it is better to eat an all natural bar rather than a mars bar, even though it contains 3 different sugars in addition to the sugars from the dried fruit it includes.

I’ve frequented countless health food stores since coming to Australia. This weekend I visited the largest natural and organic products trade show in the Southern hemisphere, Naturally Good Expo, to see what’s up in the field in Down Under, and if they’d come up with something new and interesting. What I found out was that Aussies, too, like their coconut water and all things “paleo”. I don’t think a snack bar that is based on dried fruit is what they ate in the paleolithic area, but who am I to judge. If you sell it as paleo, it sells. Talking about snack bars, I encountered a company who uses indigenous Australian wild herbs in their snack bars. Yes, the base is the usual date and almonds, but at least they are trying to make something new. Kudos for that! Another interesting exhibitor was a company making cricket flour, which I think should become a big thing in the next few years. The crickets don’t even taste that bad, to be honest.

Kakadu plum and other indigenous Aussie coolness in a palatable form.
Kakadu plum and other indigenous Aussie coolness in a palatable form.

I got upgraded as a VIP guest at the expo, so I got to much on some donuts in the lounge while sipping on a gel-like juice with chia seeds (chia still going strong!). Noshu donuts were actually a pleasant clean eat treat: baked, all natural gluten-free and sugar free donuts that are low carb, have 150 kcals each, have a decent texture and also taste pretty delicious. Some might wonder how this equation can possibly equal good taste and texture, but one must not except a Dunkin’ Donuts kind of mouthfeel with these babies. Omnom.

These donuts. Epic.
These donuts. Epic.

Besides the regular date bars and other treats (Aussies love their granolas!), protein powders were well represented. In addition to the regular whey and “vegan” protein (usually combo of pea and rice), the combo of protein and greens is popular. Naturally Good was definitely an interesting expo to visit, and even though it was way smaller than the trade shows I’ve previously visited, it had some interesting lectures and it was easy to talk to people. One highlight of the show was definitely lazertag game at the networking cocktail event. Best networking activity possible, specially for the wellness industry!

 

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Whole lotta food love

No idea where the name comes from
No idea where the name comes from!

Lucky to be working in the food industry, I was able to visit Asia’s largest Food & drink, hotel, restaurant & food service exhibition HOFEX, held in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition center this week. During the first 3 days, the expo had 38,297 buyers – not quite the same caliber as any expo in Finland!
If Natural Expo West/East in the States (or any other natural/organic expo for that matter) would be my Heaven, HOFEX probably is something right outside Heaven’s gates. Exhibitors in 3 floors, from so many different cultures, presenting what they perceive as the best from their country. (Scandinavia was not represented at all, though at least I saw one oven door manufactured in Sweden!) Unfortunately for me, European Fine Meats were well presented. On the other hand, the only producer of quinoa products was from Holland – Go Europe!

Scottish lard
Premium Scottish lard

Besides the culinary presentations, panels and other cookings, there was barista championships and the more visually intriguing flairtending competition as well as some rather fancy culinary competitions. And of course some the cool kitchen equipment was tested on-site – I saw some pretty cool sushi making machines as well as veggie spiralers, among others.

Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes
Food is art and I was definitely taking picture of the cupcakes

The thing I like most about this kind of events (besides all the nibbles), is to talk to interesting people who possibly share same interests and have passion about their work (hopefully). In general, I was maybe a bit surprised how many pig legs there was, and so much ice cream! It seemed like pretty much all of the European countries were focusing on meat, alcohol and possibly some cheese. Food traditions rather than trends…

Not your regular cuppa joe
Not your regular cuppa joe

Speaking of trends, the extensive coffee and tea sections were rather seducing. I got to try my first ice drip coffee, which was surprisingly soft – I tried the same Vietnamese beans as hot dripper coffee, and the flavor was much more intense. The coffee had been dripping for 2 days until ready to drink. In Hong Kong, single origin beans and more love-requiring brewing methods are definitely a hit – when Hong Kongers don’t drink bubble tea or milk tea, they at least value their coffee! About beans…the only single origin bean is not coffee, anymore.

Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao
Pure, single origin chocolates from Vietnam, from 72% to 82% cacao

I admit being a “bit” of a snob when it comes to certain things. Chocolate just happens to be one of those things that I will rather not put in my body, if it’s low quality. Some chocolove-talk in HOFEX got me an invitation to taste these amazing single-origin chocolates from different villages in Vietnam. Though I do prefer raw chocolate to processed ones, these sweeties were pretty impressive: the only ingredients used are the specific cacao beans and sugar.

Simplicity at its' best
Simplicity at its’ best

When it comes to processed chocolate, these ones were top notch. From cool packaging design to the origins of the bean, Marou has got it figured out. Lucky me, I still have their event invitation which was a chocolate bar. Plus I got a goodie bag with their special golden chocolate, which cannot be bought anywhere. What a dilemma – I don’t want to eat it, but how can one resist the temptation?

Oh, expos, how I love you. If I ever get to go to Fancy Food Show or Expo West, I’ll be happy for months in advance! I hope the next time won’t be too far away from now.