When thousands of companies hawking natural, organic, and healthy foods converged in Anaheim, California, over the weekend at the massive Natural Products Expo West trade show, there was plenty of what you'd expect—kale juice, coconut chips, and dairy-free Rocky Road. But there was also plenty of wacky, wild, WTF stuff you'll want to get your hands on as soon as possible, even if it's just for the novelty factor. Here are five of the most intriguing products we spotted on the floor.
1. Mushroom Coffee
If you're going to have a cup of joe every morning, you might as well make it work extra hard for you. And that's exactly what a Finnish company is trying to do by incorporating mushrooms (an increasingly hot superfood that's been popping up in supplements in recent years) with Arabica coffee sourced from Southeast Asia. Each of the three varieties (which come in packets that you mix with hot water) include Chaga mushroom extract, meant to balance out coffee's acidity with its alkaline-forming properties, along with other mushroom varietals that tout benefits ranging from adrenal support to a brain boost. And if you're not a coffee drinker, the company makes mushroom hot cocoa, too.
2. Cricket Bars
Yes, insect eating is trying to go mainstream in America, but if you're not ready to dig into a crunchy cricket quite yet, dip your toe in the bug-ingesting pool with a protein bar made with cricket flour. The bars' creators (friends from Brown University who launched their company via Kickstarter) claim that crickets are not only a complete protein that contain all the essential amino acids, but are also better for the environment, producing 100 times less greenhouse gases than cows. Flavors range from PB&J to banana bread; and no, you can't taste any actual crickets when you take a bite.
3. Aloe Yogurt
Though it's been available in Japan since the '90s, yogurt flecked with little cubes of gelatin-like aloe vera is just making its American debut. Eating the stuff is supposed to do everything from aid digestion to boost memory to improve skin elasticity. The Japanese company that produces the yogurt it's dubbed Alove offers a straight-up aloe flavor, as well as one mixed with strawberries and another with blueberries.
4. Millet Tots
Ok, so the name isn't nearly as catchy as tater tots, but this modern-day version of the typically deep-fried and often additive-laced snack replaces grated potatoes with organic millet, an ancient whole grain. And since the almighty millet (which originated 4,000 years ago from a wild West African grass) is high in magnesium and iron and is one of the most easily digestible grains in the world, you can indulge in tots again without feeling gulity...just like you did when you were eight.
5. Craft Beer Cookies
After all that healthy stuff, it's time for beer and cookies…actually beer in cookies (all-natural, of course). This baking company is capitalizing on the country's booming craft beer movement, blending a variety of different beers from breweries around the country into its baked goods. Chocolate Stout Oatmeal Cookies are made with stout from Berkeley, California's Bison Brewing, while Six Rivers Brewery Raspberry Lambic adds a fruity note to shortbread thumbprint cookies. In addition to baked goods, the line also includes beer-laced caramel popcorn, with versions like lavender honey pale ale and Rosemary Thyme IPA, along with beer-based caramel sauces.
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