Any diet philosophy that doesn’t incorporate a little forgiveness for snacking is, frankly, unrealistic, which is why we don’t have any conflicts about promoting healthier snack brands, especially if the snacks they’re replacing are typically unhealthy.
Besides, Expo East 2022 showed us that better-for-you snack brands are making huge strides in providing much more nutritious snacks with increasingly smaller compromises on taste, if any.
Here are the best snack brands from Expo East 2022.
Lesser Evil: Better-for-You Snacks
Well, you can’t fault them for haughtiness, but we would certainly give Lesser Evil a bit more credit than evil after hearing Founder Charles Coristine’s spiel on what sets their popcorn, puffs, “peanots,” and more apart from other supposedly healthier snacks.
“What makes us special as a brand is our oils, the salts, and the way we process our snacks,” Charles told us, alluding to the lack of cheap, highly processed oils in Lesser Evil’s snacks that are otherwise so ubiquitous to the snack food industry.
We didn’t have to dig far—about six inches in front of us were laid out a cornucopia of samples—to confirm this major differentiator, as most of the Lesser Evil products were made with organic coconut oil and organic cassava flour, both of which are huge steps up from the status quo.
In fact, of the fifteen ingredients in Lesser Evil’s USDA Organic, vegan, grain-free Paleo Puffs, thirteen were organic—see for yourself:
- Organic Cassava Flour
- Organic Coconut Oil
- Organic Tapioca Starch
- Organic Tapioca Solids
- Organic Sweet Potato Powder
- Himalayan Crystal Salt
- Organic Nutritional Yeast
- Organic Coconut Flour
- Organic Flavor
- Organic Baker’s Yeast Extract
- Organic Garlic Powder
- Organic Onion Powder
- Lactic Acid
- Organic Ground Mustard
- Organic Spices
What makes us special as a brand is our oils, the salts, and the way we process our snacks.Charles Coristine, Founder of Lesser Evil
And so it goes for the vast majority of the Lesser Evil catalog of healthier snacks, which includes a highly accommodating collection (grain-free, gluten-free, keto, kosher, etc.) of popcorn, puffs, poppers, power curls, cookies, “peanots,” and more.
They used to only deal in healthier popcorn, but we’re pleased that Lesser Evil has branched out to the wild frontier of snacks, because it’s about time a new sheriff strode in to clear out the riffraff—looking at you, basically every chip and cookie.
Wilde Chips: Game-Changing Chicken Chips
It was a real “please don’t let me down” moment as our press team hovered over the counter of the Wilde Chips booth hoping that their chips wouldn’t taste like cardboard, because we already knew that Wilde was trouncing the standard chip on a nutritional level.
Sure enough, most of us found ourselves doing that nonsensical thing we all do when we taste something that surpasses our expectations, which is to say, just staring at the half of the chip we didn’t eat to somehow absorb more information about it.
Made from chicken breast, egg whites, and bone broth, Wilde Chips are just plain good, and the texture is very, very close to potato chips.
As we crunched on in half-disbelief, Wilde VP of Sales Mike Senn and Director of Sales John Culver got an assembly line of sorts going in front of their booth, passing our huddle of team members flavor after flavor.
At the time of the Expo, Wilde had already rolled out Himalayan Pink Salt, Salt and Vinegar, Buffalo, Chicken and Waffles, and Nashville Hot, and more flavors are reportedly on the way.
“It delivers five times the protein and half the carbs of potato chips,” Mike said as we continued to delete samples with no remorse.
We’re not exaggerating when we say that the taste and texture of Wilde chips not only surpasses every attempt at high-protein and/or low-carb chips on the market, but in fact have surpassed most brands of standard potato chips.
It delivers five times the protein and half the carbs of potato chips.Mike Senn, VP of Sales at Wilde Chips
And we totally get where they’re going with the chicken-themed flavors (buffalo, chicken and waffles, etc.), which worked very well with the subtle chicken flavor of the chip.
If you’re a little hesitant, grab a bag of the Himalayan Pink Salt and you’ll see—it’s just a really tasty chip with a hint of chicken flavor.
Thanks for sharing your story and giving us far too many samples, Wilde crew!
Honey Mama’s: Delicious Dutch Cocoa With Honey
Though the name smacks of southern charm, Honey Mama’s and their honey-sweetened cocoa truffle bars actually hail from Oregon.
Still, after one taste of these sultry, sweet chocolates, a southern-style exclamation of deliciousness (e.g., “slap my mama!”) may just emanate from your soul.
In all seriousness, Honey Mama’s brought some of the best dutch cocoa we’ve ever had to Expo East 2022, and as our palates pondered the depths of these incredibly rich flavors, Founder Christy Goldsby and VP of Marketing Angela Lukic filled us in on why (else) Honey Mama’s is the premier chocolate brand.
“All of our bars are made from very nutrient-dense, clean, and whole-food ingredients,”Angela explained, referencing their use of honey to replace refined sugar and various other nutritionally advantageous ingredient swaps.
In fact, Honey Mama’s exclusively uses organic, high-quality ingredients in their chocolates, such as these five that are found most commonly throughout their collection:
- Raw organic honey
- Organic unrefined coconut oil
- Organic cocoa (or cacao powder)
- Himalayan pink salt
- Shredded coconut, sprouted almonds, or organic sesame seeds
All of our bars are made from very nutrient-dense, clean, and whole-food ingredients.Angela Lukic, VP of Marketing at Honey Mama’s
Honey Mama’s is fairly active with their limited-time-offer game (we’re sad we missed Cherry Hazelnut), but menu mainstays include Chocolate Cake, Salted Almond, and Tahini Tangerine, to name a few. And yes, Pumpkin Spice is a thing for a limited time.
Is it officially chocolate or not? We don’t really care. Honey Mama’s bars are extremely rich and tasty, and you can definitely feel better about this dessert and/or snack choice when comparing them to the same old sweets.
RIND Snacks: Dried Fruit, Peel and All
Honoring true whole-food philosophy in an authentic way is Rind, who offers the playful slogan “Keep It Real, Eat the Peel” as a way of promoting their vision of sustainability and nutritious snacking.
To avoid any confusion, the slogan is not some sort of awkward analogy: Rind has actually turned the “throwaway” components of fresh fruit—e.g., the peel and the rind—into healthy snacks!
And sure enough, as soon as we tore open that bag of Rind snacks at their Expo East booth, there was zero mystery as to what they meant—the “anatomy” of the dried fruit, including the peel, is very much visible in every bite.
Of course, you aren’t exclusively eating peels and rinds (plenty of the fruit flesh survives the cut, as it were), and Rind has made the wise move to supply both a selection of chewy and crunchy fruit snacks.
Included in their many flavors are Apple Chips, Orange Chips, Kiwi Chips, Island Fruit, “Straw-Peary,” “Coco-Melon,” and many more.
It may sound crazy at first, but peels and rinds are very much loaded with nutrients, antioxidants, and by a large margin, more fiber than the fleshy part of the fruit.
And if the nothing-added, whole fruit motif doesn’t give you feel-good vibes, it doesn’t get much more wholesome than the Rind backstory, as the whole operation is essentially an homage to the forward-thinking great-grandmother of the Rind founder and her 1920s-era natural foods store.
There certainly was a lot of chewing, but if you’re up for it, Rind’s tasty snacks are about as clean and nutritious as a “chip” can get.
HighKey: Keto Cookies and More
Coming right out of the gate with low-carb cookies was certainly a bold move on the part of HighKey, as this is one of those classic treats that few people are willing to compromise on, but it’s impressive what they’ve managed to accomplish.
As Chief Sales Officer Efrain Cardenas explained to us, HighKey and their low-carb, grain-free, gluten-free, zero-sugar-added cookies were initially springboarded to success by Amazon, where they were the top-selling chocolate chip cookie.
Since then, the collection has expanded to include such classics as vanilla wafers, shortbread, snickerdoodle, ginger spice, and soon, a sandwich cookie.
We’ve done a clinical test to make sure that [the cookie] doesn’t spike the blood sugar level, so that everybody can have some delicious cookies.Efrain Cardenas, CSO at Highkey
As research-minded reviewers, we are especially appreciative of the work that HighKey has put in to actually verify on their end how their snacks affect blood sugar levels.
“We’ve done a clinical test to make sure that [the cookie] doesn’t spike the blood sugar level, so that everybody can have some delicious cookies,” Efrain Cardenas told us.
Naturally, many of HighKey’s products are keto friendly, and they’re mostly sweetened with erythritol, chocolate, stevia, and monk fruit.
As for our team’s personal experience with HighKey’s chocolate chip cookies, we were most impressed by the taste; they’ve really captured that classic chocolate chip cookie vibe.
The texture was just a bit more crumbly and oily than standard cookies, which we’ve come to expect with keto-friendly alternatives to pastries and sweets, but not to the point where they totally fell apart as soon as you took a bite.
Overall, we were highly impressed with HighKey, and would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to restore their snack and/or dessert game.
Supplant: Chocolates and Shortbreads from Upcycled Sugar
To paraphrase, one of the first things that Supplant Head of Marketing Joe Spence confirmed for us at Supplant’s Expo East booth was, yes, they make their products out of the stuff that shoots out from behind the combine.
For the yuppies out there, we’re referring to the fibrous parts of crops, like stalks and corn cobs, that are literally cast aside by the farmer’s combine and typically wasted after the crops are harvested.
Supplant (excellent name, by the way) takes this abandoned biomass and extracts a form of sugar—which they have aptly called “sugars from fiber”—that acts very much like a fiber in your system.
Nutritionally speaking, fiber is one of nature’s most effective deterrents for sugar, as it can help to flatten out blood sugar spikes to an extent, so a fiber-derived form of sugar is a very welcome addition to the modern diet.
“It’s good for your gut health—it’s prebiotic—it causes a lower glycemic response, and is lower in calories,” Joe Spence explained, which is exactly what you would hope for out of a fiber-derived sugar.
And for some, this isn’t even the most impressive part of what Supplant is doing, because they’ve partnered with a 7-Michelin-Star chef—Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, no big deal—to showcase this sugar in the most delicious way possible.
It’s good for your gut health—it’s prebiotic—it causes a lower glycemic response, and is lower in calories.Joe Spence, Head of Marketing at Supplant
The result is a lower-calorie selection of chocolates and shortbread cookies that, as we can attest to, are simply delicious and not “healthy-tasting” at all.
Hopefully, this kind of approach to classic confections can supplant some of the candy industry giants, but for now, we’re happy to order these online and keep the grassroots movement going.