All Posts By

Christina Mueller

Trend Watch: What’s Fresh in Healthy Snacks for Kids

best healthy snacks for kids

Here at Perspective, we love a good trend forecast as much as the next agency. For 2019, we are throwing our hat into the ring, taking a look at the latest trends in healthy snacks for kids. In 2018, plant-based and high protein snacks took off and we don’t expect that healthy snacks for kids at school or at home are going anywhere.

Convenience and on-the-go are ticking ever upward, powering a push to expand options for the littlest eaters. But let’s dig a little deeper into the best healthy snacks for kids to see what’s happening beyond the headlines and in people’s homes and, importantly, in kids’ lunch boxes. We know that a nutritionally appropriate, delicious snack for kids big and small is ready for discovery.

What exactly are the best healthy snacks for kids?

We’re not medical professionals, but as parents we’re always looking to pack healthy snacks for kids at school, and snack options that offer good nutrition. That usually means enough fiber and protein (roughly 5 grams of each) to give the snack a high satiety factor. Other benefits come from nutrients, including antioxidants or vitamins and minerals that boost the snack from the realm of empty calories into something more wholesome.

What are the new trends?

best healthy snacks for kids 2

Functional nutrition is moving deeper into kid snacks. Ashi Jelinek, Founder and CEO of KidsLuv, developed a line of juice alternatives boosted with vitamins as an alternative to sugar-laden gummie vitamins.

“People are looking for benefits in their eating, snacking or drinking,” Jelinek says. “From a big retailer point of view, it’s ‘do you need this?’ I could buy the juice with 26 grams of sugar, or at the same price point, I can get this added value.”

When Bitsy’s, a line of organic snacks packed with fresh vegetables launched in 2013, “we were ahead of our time,” says co-founder, Maggie Patton. “People told us we were either in the baby or cracker aisle and we were like ‘no no, we are lunch box.’ The focus on healthy snacks for kids is now emerging.”

High protein snacks for kids

Perhaps influenced by the paleo movement, high protein snacks for kids are a natural part of the functional nutrition movement. In defiance of many schools’ preference for a nut-free environment, Perfect Snacks nut-based bars are packed with 7 grams of protein and 8 super-foods. Developed with natural sweeteners like honey and dates, the bars are sold in the refrigerator section to help maintain product freshness.

best healthy snacks for kids 1

Matt Cohen, Founder and CEO of KidFresh approached high protein snacks for kids through the lens of nutrition. “Nutrition is at the core of our business,” Cohen says, “but taste is our number one priority. We would have no business if kids don’t like it.” KidFresh’s snack line, including Super Blastin’ Bites Uncured Pepperoni and Cheese Pizza with 9 grams of protein, boasts lower sodium than conventional brands and includes pureed vegetables to amplify the nutrition of a former junk food that kids crave.

Yogurt brands shift into the kid space

With overall yogurt sales down more than 3% in 2018, yogurt packaged for kids is a growing corner of the $1.4 billion market. Probiotic and protein-boosted yogurt presents a market opportunity to expand into healthy snacks for kids at school. Into a category long dominated by GoGurt and Stonyfield Farm’s YoBaby and Kids squeezable yogurt, Chobani is stepping in with a line of kid-sized milkshakes and yogurt tubes.

A third product, Crunch, is swirls of flavored yogurts with toppers included for the namesake crunch. Flavors, such as Poppin’ Cotton Candy, are protein-packed yogurt paired with rainbow rice krispies, waffle cone pieces, and other sweet bits for added texture. Good thing the name “candy” is right there on-pack for consumers to interpret as they will. In France, Danone recently launched Danone Bio Kids, unsweetened organic yogurt with an on-pack opportunity to engage with the brand via AI and your smartphone.

Baby food gets fresh…via meal plans and superfoods

Meal plans are not only for adults. Yumi and Little Foodie Club deliver freshly made organic baby food “to guide your baby through the three most crucial steps of introducing solid food,” adjusting flavors and textures as they grow and exposing the youngest among us to the global flavors on today’s table.

Perhaps recognizing that 73% of Americans consider a company’s charitable work when making a purchase, Once Upon a Farm, which makes squeezable, cold-pressed veggie and fruit blends amped up with superfoods like quinoa and avocado (and in which the actress Jennifer Garner is co-founder), is a certified B Corporation and non-GMO verified. The company also works with the Ron Finley Project to provide access to urban gardens and real food for underserved communities in Los Angeles.

Why should brands that don’t yet have a kids offering look at it seriously?

As snacks transition from empty calorie fun to meal replacements, the category continues to grow, creating an opportunity for brands. And parents are always looking for ways to build more nutrition into their kids’ meals and snacks. “For parents, it still comes down to the basics of ‘eat your veggies’,” says Patton.

Jelinek notes that the health halo around juice and other products targeted at children is shifting. “We are trying to change the conversation around calories and juice,” Jelinek says. “Instead of saying ‘juice is bad, drink water,’ we are saying it is ok to give kids juice. Just give them a healthier version.” To which Cohen would add a focus on convenience and taste. “We want to make what kids like but make it better,” Cohen says.

Branding and packaging design are key to simplifying choice for parents

With more brands angling to be the source of your family’s healthy snacks for kids at school, at home, and on the go, how can any brand stand out?

“There’s a tyranny of choice emerging in the healthy kids snack category,” says Peter Allen, Vice President at Perspective: Branding. “It’s great to have so many brands available now but too many speak, act and look the same. They lead with a laundry list of attributes – organic, gluten free, allergen free, dairy free, nut free, non GMO, vegan and so on – that are important but have become table stakes in the category.

“Parents are overwhelmed by all the noise,” Allen continues. “Brands need to simplify and clarify their branding and messaging to focus less on attributes and more on taste, fun and the emotional satisfaction of giving your kids a healthy snack that they love.”

Want to share your perspective or discuss ours? Let us know!

 

 

 

 

Brand Packaging Design Must Evolve for eCommerce

Best ecommerce packaging, ecommerce packaging solutions

eCommerce is changing the way brands sell their products, pushing companies to reassess what defines the most effective packaging design. To incentivize purchase, CPG and food/beverage brands must adapt packaging design to reflect the reality of how people shop both online and off. Changes, such as larger digital hero images (i.e., Unilever’s TRESemmé shampoo hero adapted for Amazon ordering) and a rejiggering of how package sizing is displayed on-pack, respond to how consumers shop online. New packaging shapes and materials are adaptations to ensure consumers receive a whole product, minus any spills or crushed bits, when shipped to homes. For example, P&G is pioneering a new box for its Tide Liquid Detergent.

Brand Packaging Design Bridges Offline and Online

When considering new eCommerce packaging solutions, it’s worth looking at the trends in the new retail landscape. Nearly half of all Americans purchase groceries online, doubling from 23% in just over a year. But only 2.5% of food and beverage sales is expected be online in 2019. Perhaps recognizing this disconnect, Amazon purchased Whole Foods in 2017 and is pushing to open cashier-less Go convenience stores to capture the other 98% of grocery sales, IRL. The best brand packaging design must seamlessly bridge sales where they are occurring, whether online or offline.

The Best eCommerce Packaging

CPG and food and beverage brands should continue to cultivate relationships with consumers when considering their packaging designs. Heidi Reale, president of the marketing and communications firm SparkShoppe!, recommends products make an emotional connection with the consumer. “The price elasticity of demand doesn’t play in if you can create an emotional connection with the people you do business with, your customers. So if you can create that emotional connection, it’s worth a lot more than trying to get to the bottom of the barrel with price,” Reale said in an interview with storebrands.com.

Poultry Brands Heed the Call

Poultry brands have heard the call, taking action on-pack and with new pack design to create an improved customer experience. The UK’s Sainsbury leads the re-design charge, developing a doypack (a sealed plastic bag designed to stand upright) into which raw chicken is packaged. The no-drip pack zips open and the poultry slips directly into the pan without human contact, a plus for many consumers.

Foster Farms redesigned their on-pack messaging for Fresh and Natural, Simply Raised and Organic lines to include “DORI,” a scannable QR code virtual assistant loaded with recipes, exclusive coupons, and labeling terms and descriptions.

JustBARE, a brand under the Pilgrim’s umbrella, includes an on-pack traceability code unique to each package. Consumers are guided to the website to enter the code and discover where and how the poultry in their package was raised.

Our Perspective

Here are four key considerations for brands when designing packaging for the hybrid eCommerce/bricks-and-mortar retail environment:

  1. Your brand’s impact extends beyond the point of purchase

The impact of packaging doesn’t end when shoppers add the product to their digital or real shopping carts. The product lives in their homes for a few days or a few weeks, and smartly designed packaging can continue to help the brand forge an emotional connection for the duration of that lifetime. To thrive in this divided world of shopping, your brand must earn a seat at the table. The relationship doesn’t end at the shopping cart.

  1. Packaging is a gateway for consumers

Your brand’s packaging can provide a gateway for consumers to learn more about your product and brand. Are you delivering information about ingredient sourcing, sustainability and the supply chain? Recipes? Nutrition? Social purpose? Make your package smarter and more integrated to move your customer from package to web or social.

  1. Go beyond the trash

As the social and environmental impacts of waste move closer to the center of consumers’ value perception, can your packaging be designed to serve another function? Does your consumer value a reusable or upcycled package?

  1. The power of touch

Including a bit of whimsy or humor or other brand-specific touches can engage a potential customer for a moment or a lifetime. New packaging materials and finishes can add a tactile component to offline shopping that is often overlooked when designing for eCommerce.

As consumer perceptions and needs change, grocery shopping is shifting to include both online and offline in a different way than just a year or two ago. Brands must consider on-pack messaging and design and new packaging materials to prime the product for purchase. Your customer will not always order online. It can look great online but it has to also perform on-shelf and at home.

To discuss how to optimize your brand for success online and at retail, contact Peter Allen at [email protected].

 

 

 

Caffeinated Water? It’s Here!

What are the benefits of caffeine? What is the best caffeinated water?

 

Say buh-bye to bad, high acid coffee. And adios to boring, ol’ water. The benefits of water – namely, hydration and life – and the benefits of caffeinated coffee – alertness, focus, clarity, energy – and the huge market for better-for-you caffeine, are driving a new product category: caffeinated water. What is the best caffeinated water? Let’s look at a few options.

Best Caffeinated Water – a Few Candidates

Aqua Java

Brought to you by the good people of Sonoma-based Don Sebastiani & Sons (“the next generation in wine” is their tagline), Aqua Java is purified, sparkling water boosted with organic caffeine. All flavors, including Java, Kola, and Mocha are fortified with 45 mg of caffeine. Touted on the Aqua Java website as a “natural antioxidant derived from green coffee beans,” caffeine is ubiquitous in American society, with 2/3rds of American adults consuming caffeine of some kind every day. (Chocolate, soda, and coffee are the top three sources).  Aqua Java is sweetened with erythritol, a type of sugar alcohol that contains almost no calories. Like other sugar alcohols, erythritol does not spike blood sugar and does not cause tooth decay. It is extremely popular with people on low carb diets or those seeking to reduce their glycemic load. The flavor, however, reminded me of diet soda. And not in a good way.

Happy Tree Maple Water

Maple water is almost an ideal electrolyte. It jams on the manganese and other antioxidants, too. Happy Tree Maple Water takes the natural character of maple water and pushes it to 11 by cold brewing organic, fair-trade Peruvian coffee with the subtly sweet water for the new Cold Brew Coffee flavor. No added sweetener and a completelty sustainable tree water harvest mean this baby is as good as it gets. Now if only the bottle were biodegradable…

Sap on Tap

Like Happy Tree, Sap on Tap is a maple water beverage. The caffeine fix in Maple Water with Yerba Mate flavor, though, comes from yerba mate. Made from the leaves of the South American rainforest holly tree, yerba mate not only contains 24 vitamins and minerals and 15 amino acids, it is flush with antioxidants as well as caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, well-known stimulants also found in coffee and chocolate. The slight bitterness of yerba mate is off-set by the maple water brew, which tames the leaf’s out-going, punchy flavor.

 

This water is different. This water is bad ass. This water is caffeinated. That’s right. These waters are water, H₂0 dressed up with jazz hands and sassy pants. It’s up to you to find the one that most perfectly matches your nutritional requirements, caffeine intake needs, or your taste buds.

Witness Food’s Future at Expo East

I spent three days last week at the Baltimore Convention Center, surveying the consumer packaged goods industry’s best food packaging while nibbling, noshing, slugging down shots of coffee, kombucha and everything in-between, and figuring out the near future of what will soon be on your office desk. Your food future looks bright.

Themes

As we’ve seen all year, the big shift across categories is a movement towards portion-sized packaging. Sometimes called meal replacements, snacks are getting bigger. Layered on top of this snack and snack-sharing trend is the trend of adding nutrition ingredients, a.k.a. neutraceuticals – protein, probiotics, vitamins and minerals – to bars, rice cakes, and bite-size, gluten-free balls. More companies are going after nutritional and environmental benefits (grass-fed beef and by-products of beef, GMO-certification, and organic everything was the norm). And fermented foods aren’t going anywhere.

Here’s what inspired me at Expo East 2017,

Customized Drink Formats

The coolest new packaging trend in drinks is a push-top canister on water bottles. That is, push down on the cap to release the ingredients stored there, then shake your newly infused water with goodies. Caps, filled with ceremonial grade matcha in Buddha Tea’s Matcha Now or with probiotics in Karma Wellness Water’s Probiotics line, turn water into something more flavorful and healthful. And the separate storage does not compromise the integrity of the ingredients. Sweet!

New Super Berries

Açaí is so…2016. The berries you need to know about now come from Korea and Finland, not the Amazon. OmiBerry, known in Korea as Omija, or five flavor berry, delivers sweet, sour, spicy, salty and bitter flavors. Also known as Schisandra Chinesis, it arrives Stateside from Hyojongwon Corp. in Omiberry Tea, Omiberry Sparkling, and Omiberry Berry Syrup. Very slurpable and nutrient-dense.

The New Nordic movement that has swept the restaurant world is now coming to packaged goods. Berries native to northern Europe, such as sea buckthorn, cloudberry, and bilberry, pack in the anthocyanins (they slow down free radicals) and put açaí’s nutrient profile to shame. Roberts Berrie from Finland showcased portion-sized cups full of berries that you can drink, some with added fiber and protein.

Vegan Cheese

Perhaps the single best thing I tasted at the show was the Mozzarisella from Italy’s Plant Based Foods. Made from sprouted brown rice, this cheese contains no dairy by-products (whey or casein), has a pliant texture akin to mozzarella di bufala, and melts beautifully on the tongue. Follow Your Heart also showcased their new line of six sliced vegan cheeses. Pepperjack Style Slices and Smoked Gouda Style Slices are as flavorful as they are clean – no soy here! Reformulated so it no longer sticks to your teeth, Daiya’s cheeses and cheese pizza are even better than before.

New Hummus and Tahini

The Mediterranean foods trend shows no sign of slowing and regional favorite ingredients continue to show up in new products. Ithaca Cold-Crafted never heats their chickpeas, treating them instead to a cold-pressed process which keeps their hummus’s flavor fresh. Yes, you really can taste fresh in packaged hummus, especially the Lemon Garlic. Though they would not reveal what makes their tahini taste so fresh, Al Arz Tahini sang with pure, bright sesame flavor.

Algae

Consumers are waking up to the micronutrient benefits of seaweed. Ocean’s Balance Kelp Purée is designed to be stirred into soups, smoothies or wherever you need to boost calcium and folate levels. And GimMe Snacks Seaweed Thins, roasted almond or coconut slivers sandwiched between two seaweed sheets, were addictively crunchy and easy to eat.

And, File under Fan Favorite

Raised in New Jersey, I am a huge fan of the amazing local produce that continues to thrive in quieter corners of the Garden State. The Jersey Tomato Co. works with farms in  Vineland and Swedesboro to grown an heirloom varietal suited to the local climate for their line of flavorful, no added sweetener sauces. Marinara is a classic but the Hot Salsa is more novel. Either way, it’s all Jersey delicious.

This is just a snapshot of what I tasted.  As I gaze into my crystal ball, I predict you will also be seeing more variations on gluten-free pasta (konjac noodles, anyone?) a spike in Asian flavors (lots of Japanese cherry blossom and Thai coconut plus those omija berries), ghee replacing butter as a paleo and fat coffee mainstay, and more dairy-free and paleo desserts than you can shake a stick at (dairy-free mochi is here to stay).

Enjoy!

Love catching up on food trends? Here’s what we loved at San Francisco’s Fancy Food Show earlier this year.

 

Simon Says: Augmented Reality on more Packaging

ICYMI (it was August, after all, when this article first landed, a month when the whole northern hemisphere goes on vacation), our very own Simon Thorneycroft was quoted in Food Navigator in a piece about augmented reality and packaging. Branded packaging design just got more interesting.

Please click often on the link below and let us know your thoughts about the future of on-pack augmented reality in Comments.
Continue Reading

Simon Says: Black is the New Black

Perspective:Branding’s Founder and CEO, Simon Thorneycroft, wrote this insightful piece for AdWeek a few weeks back about using the color black in your packaging. Sure, black is trendy but will it work for you?

Why More Packaging Should Be Black, and Why It’s So Easy to Get Wrong

Designers embracing darkness often fail to plan for the real world

When designing a line of products or brands, one strategy is to look for a single color around which to build a visual architectural block. This key design feature helps a brand stand out from the competition as well as on the shelf. Block colors are often neutral in tone – think creams, blues, and, in some cases, white and black are used. These colors (or, in the case of white, lack of any color) do not immediately suggest a flavor and are favored by marketing and design teams for their flexibility and endurance in the marketplace. Continue reading at AdWeek.

 

Brand Packaging Features Tahoe Trail Bar’s Brand Refresh

who designed tahoe trail bar packaging

It’s true that we like to pat ourselves on the back. But when our work is recognized by the industry, we are not shy about sharing our success – and our client’s success – with our community.

In the August issue of Brand Packaging, John Kalkowski takes a look at the challenge Tahoe Trail Bar’s packaging faced in the crowded energy bar marketplace and how Perspective:Branding helped them emerge from the clutter:

BRAND (RE)NEW

ENERGY BARS ON TRAIL TO MARKET GROWTH

THE CHALLENGE: When Tahoe Trail Bar decided to take the plunge into the new flavors its customers were requesting, King says, it seemed like a great time to take the brand “down to the studs” and really capture the brand’s essence – “who we are and what we are about.” King reached out to Perspective:Branding of San Francisco, CA, for the rebrand.

“The rebrand was mostly about authentically capturing in our packaging what our most loyal fans always knew us to be,” King writes. “It was about getting back to our roots.”

Read the full article in the August issue of Brand Packaging.

Sonoma Apples are Second to None

Sonoma apples

Sonoma apples are not nearly as sexy as wine – well, says most wine drinkers, anyway. And yet Sonoma’s agricultural past anchors firmly to the apple. First planted in the area in 1811 by Russian explorers, the Gravenstein apple and other, less fussy, easier to ship apples, were Sonoma’s bread and butter during the boom years of the 1920s through the 1950s. Back then, downtown Sebastopol, the heart of Sonoma apple country, was lined with 25 apple packing houses and numerous canneries (including the Barlow Center) and other apple packing sheds and fruit-processing facilities still dot the landscape. And that is not even accounting for cider apples, the kind that can be turned into quaffable ciders, the kind that Johnny Appleseed had a hand in popularizing. The kind that declined precipitously after Prohibition laws were enacted.

And yet, despite the abrupt decline of acreage planted to apples after the 1950s (thanks, wine grapes!), apples have held on here. With help from the Slow Food movement, the Gravenstein has found a secure future as a heritage crop. Placed on Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, a “living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction,” the Gravenstein also has its own fair.  A few farmers (six, according to Slow Food) work to preserve their Gravenstein orchards by selling the fruit to local cider houses, while other locally planted apples are used in sauce and vinegar.  Since the 1990s, apple-centric businesses have bounced back in the region. Here are just a few products that shine a well-deserved spotlight on the Gravenstein.

Cider

The work of Ellen Cavalli and Scott Heath, Tilted Shed Ciderworks started “out of an obsessive love for apples and cider.“ (Their words, not mine.) Committed to working with apples sourced locally (in this case, within 35 miles), they have planted 100 varieties of apples on their 5+ acre parcel in western Sonoma. Of the six ciders currently offered, one, the Graviva, is an ode to the Gravenstein. Made with 50% Gravenstein apples and a blend of high tannic and heirloom apple varieties, the Graviva is an exaltation on the taste of Sonoma, expressed in the simple, flavorful joy of fermented apple juice.

Vinegar

True, some among us (you know who you are), have taken to drinking cider vinegar for its anti-glycemic effect. Though they make a broad array of vinegars, Sparrow Lane developed a Gravenstein Cider Vinegar from Sebastopol’s famous apple. Produced using the Orleans Method, an old French technique, Sparrow Lane casks (barrel ferments) wine and vinegar for 1 to 3 months. The result is a refined, deeply flavorful product that tastes precisely of place.

Sauce

Manzana Products, the parent company of North Coast, runs an historic apple cannery. Go figure – the company got started by drying fruits and hops from local hopyards and orchards. Today, Manzana, or “apple,” in Spanish, does a brisk private label business in all things apple but does market some of their value-added apple products under the North Coast brand. In addition to juice, cider (the non-alcoholic kind), and sauce, the range of products does include Concord grape juice. But Manzana’s core business is definitively built around apples. This is one company where the name really does tell it all.

 

With 200 years of agricultural history under its belt in Sonoma, apples came close to local extinction. Yet companies like Tilted Shed, Manzana, Sparrow Lane, and many others are dedicated to the apple’s reemergence as a significant part of the Sonoma food shed. With support like this, the number of farmers planting Gravensteins will surely go up. Maybe from 6 to 7, but up. Right?

For a Perspective on Sonoma’s dairy scene, check out this page.

 

Best Graphic Design? Or Best Energy Bar? (Or both?)

who designed tahoe trail bar packaging

The best energy bar deserves the best graphic design on pack. And we couldn’t be more thrilled to work with Tahoe Trail Bar on their rebranding effort. But we love bringing media attention to our clients even more.

Take a peek at what Graphic Design USA had to say about our recent efforts. Then grab a Tahoe Trail Bar and get moving on your summer adventure!

“The new packaging from Perspective was instrumental in securing two additional facings and an endcap display at Whole Foods.” ~ Wes King, Founder, Tahoe Trail Bar

Send us a note and let’s explore your packaging possibilities.

 

Sonoma = Food Innovation

sonoma county = food innovation

Sonoma is not as brash or sassy as its neighbors to the east and south. Its economy built around agricultural products like apples and milk, Sonoma has quietly been gaining on San Francisco and Napa as a hub of new innovations. From cider to cheese, coffee to kombucha, companies are built and trendsetters flock here to launch a name for themselves and for their pioneering products. We want to share a few examples of innovation, our favorite local food and beverage businesses, trailblazers all.

Sonoma Brands – Züpa Noma and Smashmallow launch Sonoma far beyond Wine

Bucolic, sleepy Sonoma is a hot hub of food entrepreneurship and culinary innovation in no small part because of companies like Sonoma Brands. Named for CEO and Founder John Sebastiani’s hometown, Sonoma Brands was launched to develop new packaged food brands. A lover of innovation and category disruption (his KRAVE Jerky reinvigorated the moribund category), Sebastiani is off to a roaring start, creating an entirely new food category with the gourmet, snackable marshmallow company, Smashmallow. Züpa Noma, a line of chilled soups, also launched in 2016, with flavors like organic beet and orange basil that honor the culinary traditions of Sonoma. “Smaller, more innovative brands are going to drive the change in what and how we eat,” said Sebastiani. Either way, it is all snackable and, dare we say, Krave-worthy.

Revive Kombucha

Making kombucha hip seemed like a far-fetched dream in 2010 when Sean and Rebekah Lovett launched Revive Kombucha out of their garage. (Well, really at the Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market.) But batch after batch moved like hotcakes at the local diner on a Sunday morning and the Lovett’s soon built on the success of the original flavor, Boogie Down Craft Cola Redux to include 8 more varieties, some available on draft, all available by the bottle.

Taylor Maid Farms

On a hundred acre farm (dare I say hundred acre wood?) in western Sonoma County, Chris and Terry Martin launched fortuitously into coffee and tea after a friend suggested they start roasting beans in an old barn on the property. From this simple suggestion, a coffee and tea enterprise was born, supporting organic, sustainable coffee production from Columbia and Ethiopia to Brazil and Bali and even the Martin’s farm. (They now partner with Marin’s Silk Road Teas for tea sourcing.) The Martin’s have quietly built a rabid following of coffee lovers for Taylor Maid Farms, fans who pursue with single-minded dedication the unique terroir and qualities of single-origin coffee.

These are just a few of the new innovations in food businesses that call Sonoma home. Maybe it is the mineral-rich  soil and abundant sunshine that attracts farmers and food artisans to this part of the world. No matter what brought them here, Sonoma’s culinary innovators find what they need to thrive among Sonoma’s mix of agricultural and packaged food business. With trailblazers like these on board, Sonoma’s future as a hub of culinary innovation is assured.

What is the Best Tasting Vegan Mayonnaise?

vegan mayonnaise

Calling out the best tasting vegan mayonnaise used to be simple. A tiny category, there were only one or two players, companies that devoted themselves to things vegans can eat. These early vegan mayo’s were mostly made of soy and starch. And we liked them because they were made without eggs.

As plant-based foods have skyrocketed in popularity (plant-based milks alone reached $4.2 billion in sales in 2016), the number of companies that have entered the vegan mayo category has expanded as have the options. A few major trends stand out to this astute observer (i.e., me).

New Oils

Since most vegan brands rely on soy for texture and body, Follow Your Heart’s Soy-Free Vegenaise caught my eye. Expeller-pressed high oleic safflower oil is the first ingredient listed, pumping the monounsaturated fat number to 7 grams per 14 gram (about a tablespoon) serving. Though not new, their Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise packs 7 grams of polyunsaturated fat into the standard 14 gram portion. Just Mayo made a splash when it entered the category last year, perhaps because the first ingredient listed is expeller-pressed canola oil, which, like olive oil, is primarily a monounsaturated fat. And expeller pressing means no chemical solvents were used to extract the oil from the seed.

Coconut

Coconut is riding a huge popularity wave (look here to learn about the benefits of coconut oil’s MCTs) and more products are appearing on the marketplace with coconut oil in the ingredient list. NUCO recently launched Vegan Mayo made with coconut oil and avocado oil. Made without soy, it is paleo compliant and chockfull of MCTs and Omega 9s (a non-essential fatty acid).

Aquafaba

Calling it an “eggless innovation that is nothing short of amazing,” Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise launched earlier this year featuring aquafaba, the starchy liquid released from chickpeas when they are cooked in water. Those released starches and proteins bind with the water to create a thick, creamy liquid that makes an incredible egg replacer. It emulsifies and foams beautifully. Made with safflower oil and without soy, the monounsaturated fat (6 grams) and polyunsaturated fat (3 grams) will make any heart happy.

The Winner Is…

But which of these is the best tasting vegan mayonnaise? It is an extremely close call. Sir Kensington’s Fabanaise has a delightfully soft texture that is reminiscent of freshly made, egg-enriched mayo. For out of the jar flavor, I’m sticking with my long-term favorite, Follow Your Heart’s Grapeseed Oil Vegenaise.

Get Educated on Coconut Oil’s MCTs

what is coconut oil good for | is coconut a nut | what are MCTs

School’s out for summer (or so sang Alice Cooper circa 1972) but, as any good teacher will tell you, learning never stops. With the weather warming (except in the San Francisco Bay Area where fog season is just getting started), the time has come to explore the coconut. Namely: is coconut a nut? And, what is coconut oil good for?

Is Coconut a Nut?

In a word, no. Coconut is the fruit of the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). And, despite having “-nut” as its suffix, the coconut is not a nut but a stone fruit, related, stone fruit-wise, to coffee, dates, plums, apricots, and, surprisingly, pistachios and almonds.

What is Coconut Oil Good For?

Over the last five or so years, the packaged food industry has gone bananas for coconut. Its water is credited with heroic levels of hydration. Its flesh available fresh, dried, shredded, sweetened, floured, and powdered, and its sap turned into sugar to supply the no and low carb demands of the paleo crowd. As the demand for coconut soars, companies are searching for new positioning of the nutritional benefits of this tropical stone fruit. Many have seized on coconut’s Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). Say what?

The term “medium chain triglyceride” explains the arrangement of the carbon atoms in the oil after it has been processed from the coconut’s flesh. But only recently did coconut take on the status of a superfood. Though coconut oil is mostly made up of saturated fat, this saturated fat is loaded with MCTs and humans metabolize MCTs differently than other, long-chain fatty acids, such as those found in butter or other animal fats. MCTs go straight to the liver for quick energy or are turned into ketones, or stored fat that is turned into energy when your diet does not contain enough carbohydrates to metabolize into sugar for energy. Ketones are said to offer the body more energy than glucose and to speed up metabolism, a boon for anyone trying to lose those last five pounds.

And, because of the high levels of lauric acid in those MCTs, coconut oil actually is said to act as a balm for your heart. It does not raise LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol and can reduce artery damage. You see, MCTs can benefit just about everyone.

At least this is what proponents of coconut oil tout. And companies have jumped on the coconut oil bandwagon. Bulletproof’s Fatwater line is infused with coconut oil for “mental refreshment.” RAU Chocolate’s  Coconut flavor is a superfood drink, combining virgin coconut oil and unrefined organic coconut palm sugar with cacao to “re-energize.” Cocomulsion Brain is a nutritional supplement that blends coconut oil with whey protein, fish oil and vitamin E, to boost energy, manage weight and support better digestion. And Better Body Foods’ Liquid Coconut MCT Oil stays liquid at cold temperatures and “promotes sustained energy.”

Who Needs Coffee?

With all the energizing properties of coconut oil, who needs coffee? Or, better said, it is time to stir a tablespoon of coconut oil into my coffee. So long almond milk, hello coconut oil!