Northern Vegan Festival 2016: My Picks

Raw bliss balls by Slaaw Foods

Last Saturday 15h October, I attended the Northern Vegan Festival in Manchester. All in all it was a great event – more ethical, independent brands than you could shake a stick at, and of course, a fair few hungry vegans! I was able to peruse the stalls looking for poor unsuspecting stall-manners I could talk the ears off, not to mention cool new brands I could recommend to my friends, and on this blog.

Whilst I could have easily have bought something from every stall (EVERYthing was vegan), my prior aim was to find plant-based brands and products that help to boost our health, as well as being kind to animals. I have a bit of an obsession with finding treats and indulgences that also have a nutritional quality to them. Some people think I’m fussy or just plain mad…but I think why not have your cake AND get your greens too…? 😉

Those couple of hours I spent in the Sachas Hotel dying from the heat, struggling to keep my balance amongst the crowds and attempting determinedly to get good pictures under the terribly harsh lighting, were certainly worth it. I got to speak to some really nice people  – people who are not only vegan but founders of some pretty promising businesses.

Here are five of my favourites.

 

1. Slaaw Foods

Slaaw matcha bliss balls

 

Slaaw Foods are the creators of delightfully colourful and appealing ‘bliss balls’ – raw energy balls made from a range of wholesome, natural ingredients. Their whole range looked delicious, making it difficult to choose – good job there were samples! Among their selection was raspberry & coconut, cacao & matcha, peanut butter & banana; banana, oat & pumpkin seed; ‘naked’ Ferrero Rocher, cacao & goji berry and lemon & coconut. Don’t they all just sound absolutely divine?? I grabbed a trio of cacao & matcha, naked Ferrero Rocher and lemon & coconut to take away.

Matcha bliss balls

Banana & oat bliss balls

Slaaw Bliss Balls

 

Although the girls were just selling their bliss balls at the store, Slaaw is also a provider of tasty and nutritious savoury foods too, including salads, dips and rice rolls. I’m a little sad that they don’t currently ship their balls online – they’re only doing pop-ups and supplying to retailers right now – but I have high hopes for these guys and believe they can build a strong name for themselves.

 

2. EcoDreams

EcoDreams is an ethical women’s product brand run by twins Justine and Lauren, who believe that a happy period is an economical one. EcoDreams produces and sells menstrual cups and reusable pads – which I know probably sound kind of weird and gross, but bear with me! I’ve read various things about the menstrual cup and never really been able to make up my mind about the idea, but the girls were patient enough to tell me more about how it worked and – yes – how to insert it (I’ve always been curious too!).

At first it’s easy to feel a bit daunted by the idea because its new and different to what us girls are used to now, but I could certainly see menstrual cups becoming more of a mainstream thing over the next couple of years, as they have many benefits over tampons – both environmental and health-wise.

EcoDreams also participate in and sponsor a number of charities that help women and girls in developing countries better manage their periods. This means they don’t have to skip school or work and can actually reach their full academic potential.

 

3. Nature’s Kitchen

Nature's kitchen foods

 

Based in Shrewsbury, Nature’s Kitchen were two lovely ladies with a passion for providing healthier alternatives to our favourite foods and promoting a more natural way of eating. Their stall was a plentiful display of jams, preserves, quiches, pastries, raw bliss balls, brownies and raw cacao chia puddings. It seriously all looked mouthwatering!

Like most healthy dessert enthusiasts, Nature’s Kitchen is prone to sneaking vegetables into their cakes, replacing refined flours with more wholesome alternatives and using natural sweeteners where possible. I couldn’t leave without trying something from their stall, so before leaving I popped back to their stand and picked up a cacao & rose bliss ball. If you happen to live in Shropshire, do  go check these ladies out at the farmer’s market every weekend.

Nature's Kitchen

Nature's Kitchen bliss balls

 

4. Unless Hardcore Vegan Catering

With dudes dressed in band t-shirts and rock music blasting from their stall, I knew instantly that Unless would be a plant-based brand with a difference! Their stand was adorned with slabs of REAL vanilla New York cheesecake, whilst juicy kebabs made with humongous chunks of seitan steak and mixed peppers were being plated fresh off the grill.

Seitan steak kebabs

 

For anybody new to or wary of plant-based eating, I honestly find it hard to imagine how this display wouldn’t have got them at least a little curious, and it makes sense. Unless’ mantra is to provide “amazing, totally vegan food that everyone, even the most meat-headed of meat-heads, will enjoy”. They do this mostly by catering events – weddings, corporate affairs, parties, bar mitzvahs…you name it…as well as appearing at events.

To see where they’re next at or book them for your next gig, visit their website.

 

5. Rainbow Healing Therapies

Could you feel better simply by drinking a shot of aloe vera every morning? Janet Long, founder of health & well-being range Rainbow Healing Therapies, reckons so. Her self-made brand provides a line of drinks, gels and beauty products all based from aloe vera, the cooling, anti-inflammatory sap of the aloe vera plant.

Janet offered me a sample of the aloe vera gel to try and I have to say it wasn’t very palatable, but there is also a berry nectar variation, which tasted okay. The gel is able to alleviate any inflammation in the body, particularly digestive issues, making it great for people with IBS, colitis or crohn’s. However, even if you don’t have any of those things, a shot of aloe vera a day can apparently help to bring everything back into balance.

 

Did you find any other cool brands you think I should know about? Let me know in the comments below!

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