Essentially three shows in one, the Allergy & Free From Show, Just V (for vegans and vegetarians) and Bloom (general healthy living) returned to Kensington Olympia over the weekend (July 5-7).
A fair few companies were peddling the FODMAP diet, but meat alternatives, alongside dairy-free items and a couple of faux fish brands, were clearly the star attractions.
Vegan, plant-based, animal-free – whatever you want to call it, there was everything from Better Nature’s tempeh to The Mighty Society’s pea ‘mylk,’ as well as almond-based ‘chese’ from Nush. What the heck, even Heck was there, promoting its new veggie range of sausages.
Among the many brands on show, from B Tempted's vegan baked goodies to Baotic's baobab-infused beverages, here are a handful that caught our attention, whether due to concept, the ingredients or just the format.
Let’s Do Temaki
This year-old brand specialises in vegan temaki (pictured above), more commonly known as hand rolls in English, though they also offer the big burrito version of maki rolls too. As the concept of plant-based sushi continues to be a playground for experimentation, this is one business that seems to do remarkably well on the street food circuit, thanks in part to the colourful presentation.
The core range consists of Hoisin Jack (dubbed “duck’s brother from an exotic vegan mother”) made with pulled jackfruit smothered in hoisin sauce and accompanied by shichimi-spiced cucumber, daikon, spring onion and teriyaki sauce; Chickpea Fingers, consisting of chickpea tofu with peppers, daikon and yum yum sauce; and B-Limy Tuna, a rice roll filled with braised tofu, avocado, assorted crisp veg, a lime and chilli salsa, and ‘vegannaise.’
While it began focusing on baking kits that were free from peanuts, tree nuts and gluten, Bak’d Cake revamped its range in May to make three of its four options free from all 14 major allergens – a claim we’re watching with some interest, as brands experiment with the idea of taking food inclusivity to the extreme.
Of course, consumers are unlikely to find molluscs, mustard, celery or fish in any cake, but Bak’d Cake’s lemon drizzle, birthday cake and sticky toffee pudding also don’t contain dairy, soy or eggs.
Speaking of major allergens, this brand has built its entire range around one! Riding in on the rising interest in Middle Eastern flavours – particularly Israeli ones – Sesame Kingdom specialises in one thing only: halva. This traditional dessert, made with tahini (sesame paste), was recently highlighted by Mortimer House Kitchen’s head chef, Lello Favuzzi, as ripe for experimentation.
Sesame Kingdom sells halva in varieties that include dried fruit, chocolate and several different nuts. While they may not be suitable for those with any number of allergies, the products are vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free.
It’s all about the packaging and convenience with this small-scale, family-run brand, which sells its food-to-go pots online and through a few independent stores. The container is reminiscent of US-style Chinese takeaway boxes, except biodegradable, and the meals are designed to be cooked from frozen in a microwave in just a few minutes.
Flavours include classics like spaghetti bolognese, cottage pie and tikka masala, as well as Caribbean jackfruit and sweet and sour jackfruit. Most pots contain less than 400 calories, though the Mac ‘n’ Trees goes up to 460.
A more established brand, MozzaRisella touts itself as the first cheese alternative made from germinated brown rice. It has turned its USP into a wide range of products, starting out with mozzarella alternatives and expanding into ready meals like ravioli and lasagne, as well as fried sticks.
The grains are sourced in Italy and then allowed to sprout – a process that has been shown to increase the absorption of the nutrients in the body and ease digestion. In addition to being vegan, MozzaRisella is also free from gluten and soy.
Planet Organic and Whole Foods already stock original, smoked and blue variants of the ‘cheese,’ which also appear on vegan pizzas in Zizzi and Ask Italian.
Naturinni describes its product as “vegan bacon,” but it’s really more of a lardon, emulating the texture of pig fat more than crisp rashers. Made from eddoes (a species of taro), the smoky, chewy morsels are a Brazilian creation and only just reached the market this year.
We’re not too sure on the health credentials of these bites (a lot of the suggested usage seems to involve deep-frying), but they’re packed full of convincingly meaty flavour.
Buddha Teas were pushing a few products at the Allergy & Free From Show, including a chaga-mushroom-infused variety, but the one that caught our eye was made with gotu kola. Known scientifically as ‘centella asiatica,’ it will be more familiar to those who follow cosmetic trends as cica, featured everywhere from Vogue to Marie Claire in the past few months for its alleged skin-rejuvenating properties.
Traditionally, this ingredient has formed a part of Ayurvedic medicine (as do lotus seeds), and some modern studies have suggested it does have cognitive benefits – improved memory and concentration, for example – though exactly how much of an effect is a topic of debate.