The FoodChain team sample a selection of new and innovative foods and drinks
Founded by sisters Gracie & Sophie Tyrrell, Squirrel Sisters is a UK health and wellness company with a range of award-winning, 100 per cent natural snacks, now available in four flavours: Cacao Orange, Cacao Brownie, Raspberry Ripple and Coconut Cashew.
Having launched its snack bars in November 2015, the brand has now brought out share bags, to give people another option for when they are looking for healthy treat alternatives.
Squirrel Sisters’ award-winning raw bars are gluten- and grain-free, vegan, with no added sugar – the sisters only use whole dates to bind and sweeten their products, meaning the bars also contain fibre, vitamins and minerals.
“I tried all four flavours, and they all had a good texture, nice and chewy, and the portion sizes were ideal for a snack,” said our first tester. “I loved Coconut Cashew,” added our second reviewer. “Every ingredient is a favourite – dates, cashews, coconut, sultanas, almonds & sunflower seeds… all rolled into healthy bars. Fab packaging, too.”
One of the fastest growing natural beverage companies in the US, Califia Farms is now stocking new dairy-free plant milks and cold brew coffees in Sainsbury’s supermarkets and convenience stores.
Cold brewing has long been on the radar of coffee connoisseurs, not only for its full flavour and smooth texture, but also for the added health benefits. Califia Farms’ proprietary process uses only 100% Arabica beans, which it steeps in cold water until all the complex flavours are released. The result is not only a superior taste that is less acidic than hot-brewed coffee, but a cup that offers more antioxidants than its hot-brewed equals
The Team tried Califia Farms Mocha Cold Brew Coffee and Chocolate Coconut AlmondMilk Blend. Soy free, dairy-free, gluten free, non-GMO, kosher, vegan, BPA free, they contain 50% more calcium than milk and only 90 calories per serving. “I loved the Chocolate Coconut variety – it felt indulgent, with both the chocolate and coconut flavours coming through – the almond milk added a nice nutty background, too. The Mocha Cold Brew was really good too – a subtle coffee taste, and a good consistency – like an adult milkshake!”
Crackers about crackers
Oatcake maestro Nairn’s has expanded its product portfolio with the launch of new Ancient Grain Oatcakes, Gluten Free Caramelised Onion Flatbreads and Gluten Free Cheese Crackers. The three new launches reflect the brand’s philosophy of producing delicious products that are simple, natural and wholesome. As with all of the Nairn’s savoury range, the three new products have no added sugar and are free from preservatives, additives and artificial ingredients. Furthermore, two are a source of protein, and all three are extremely versatile, working well with a variety of toppings.
“The Ancient Grain Oatcakes were quite dense and didn’t have their own strong flavour, so were the perfect base for savoury soft cheese and a bit of tangy pickle, or sweet peanut butter and banana. A very easy way to increase my grain intake!” said our first reviewer. The Gluten Free Caramelised Onion Flatbreads were crispy with a rich onion flavour, that wasn’t too overpowering; perfect with some mature cheddar.
“The cheese crackers had a great tangy flavour, very much an authentic real cheese taste. They were lovely on their own or with a good soft spreadable cheese. My favourite of the three!”
The vegan alternative
While Veganuary is now in the past, the month was the ideal time to promote the choice of foods available to vegans from The Fry Family Food Co. The company offers a vast selection of frozen and chilled meat-free alternatives, pies and superfoods, with products available in store and online at Sainsbury’s, Holland and Barrett, and online at Ocado.
Alongside staples such as vegan sausages and burgers, The Fry Family Food Co. also brings added convenience foods such as Thick Cut Chunky Strips and even Golden Crumbed Schnitzel. Snacking is taken care of too, thanks to Sausage Rolls and Slicing Sausage.
All of the meat eating testers on the team were highly impressed with products from The Fry Family Food Co. “Both the Hot Dogs and Burgers cooked amazingly quickly from frozen, and once placed in a bun with fried onions and sauce, they were practically indistinguishable from a normal frankfurter or burger. I would miss the cheese and mayo though – I’m definitely a failure as a vegan.”
Added our second tester: “The vegan sausage rolls had crisp pastry, a lovely aroma to them and a nice herby taste, while the vegan slicing sausage was a great substitute to ham, perfect in a sandwich, and with a surprisingly meaty texture. The Vegan Schnitzel was great topped with salad and onions in a roll – I wouldn’t have known it was a vegan product.”
“The Thick Cut Chunky Strips made a great stir fry with mushrooms, peppers and onions – they were very easy to use and had a good texture, as well as working with other flavours.”
Rejuvenation Water, a plant-based protein amino acid enriched spring water is now one of the fastest growing drinks brands in the UK. Its range of healthy, functional spring waters contain between 5g-10g of plant-based protein amino acids per bottle, no added sugar and are vegan. These amino acids are naturally occurring compounds, the building blocks of protein which are formed during the digestion process. The amino acids in Rejuvenation Water help fuel the immune system, aid protein absorption and promote healthy cognitive function. Available in three flavours – Apple & Mint; Ginger & Lime; and Spanish Orange – Rejuvenation Water comes in a 500ml fully recyclable PET bottles.
The Team found that the Rejuvenation Water flavours were very well blended – not too weak, but not overpowering. This was especially true of the Ginger and Lime variant, which was described as ‘the perfect strength’. “As a ginger fan, I loved this, and drank three bottles! It was very refreshing and had just the right amount of warming ginger.”
The Orange flavour had an authentic citrus tang, and the Apple and Mint was more grown-up; definitely tasting more like an apple juice than a squash. “It’s great to get some added health benefits at the same time as upping my water intake,” one reviewer commented.
A UK first
A couple of decades ago, Oatly had the original idea to create a nutritious alternative to milk without going through the body of a cow. Back then people thought it was crazy, but today, that idea seems really smart, especially for all the people out there looking for stuff with maximum nourishment and minimal environmental impact, to put in their bodies. Oatly’s brand new chilled range of creamy oat drinks is the latest result of all of that progressive non-cow thinking. Featuring Skinny, Semi and Whole, it’s just like the cow’s milk varieties, but without…the cows.
Anyone looking for a drop of skinny for a cup of tea, a bowl of semi for cereal or, a jug full of whole for home-baked muffins, Oatly’s dairy-free, soy-free and vegan-friendly milk alternative has the answer. As more consumers are swapping their cow’s milk for dairy-free alternatives, Oatly’s new range addresses a variety of needs, but doesn’t swap flavour for health.
“The Oatly whole milk definitely had a creamy aspect to it, and while it didn’t froth well on my coffee machine, it did make a lovely addition to my morning coffee. I then got a double hit of oats from making my morning porridge with the Oatly skinny, which had a thicker, less watery consistency than the usual soya milk I use, and made a lovely texture of porridge,” said one tester. “I had the semi Oatly milk hot on my Weetabix, and found it the closet alternative to dairy milk I’ve tried. I might be converted!” added another.