BC’s health food entrepreneurs are bearing fruit with new health food products that cater to West Coast vegan, gluten-free and health-conscious diets

It started with Holy Crap, the artisan cereal made on the Sunshine Coast. Owners Corin and Brian Mullins appeared on reality show Dragons' Den in 2010 and asked for an investment in their gluten-free vegan breakfast. After taste tests, the dragons understood that "crap" stood for cranberry-raisins-apple-pie. They invested. The next day, the Sechelt-based health food company sold $1.5 million in Holy Crap online.

Today you can find Holy Crap in 203 retail locations in British Columbia. Holy Crap put BC-made health food on the map. In 2012, BC-made health food is a hot, rapidly-growing local industry that’s turning consumers' heads throughout Canada.

About 400 natural health food companies exist in Canada, 25% of which are in BC. The BC health food industry continues to grow rapidly as local shoppers search for tasty, reliable solutions that are allergen-free, gluten-free, organic and vegan.

Here are four BC health food start-ups ready to pounce on the dining and grocery shopping scene. All of these products will be on display at Grocery Showcase West, the 50th anniversary gathering of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, which takes place at the Vancouver Convention Centre April 22-23.

Try these New BC Health Foods  

Foods Alive
The raw food movement has grown on the basis that raw foods have high nutritional value. Dehydrated at 119F, raw food preserves enzymes known to assist in the digestive process. Foods Alive products by raw food gourmet chef Afke Zonderland are vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and without added sugar. But you wouldn’t know it to taste them.

Afke’s sweet Krumbleez cookies start with sprouted buckwheat and are enhanced with nuts, dates and a choice of ginger-chocolate or cranberries and apples. Her high-protein, chia-hemp Carrot Crisps are a savoury, veggie snack with a spicy cayenne kick. While spinach is for old-school Popeyes, the All Hail Kale chips - marinated, organic leafy greens dehydrated until crunchy - are so easy to down it feels like cheating.

Where to buy Foods Alive.

The Vinegar Lady
Vancouverite Wanda Dixon hatched her business idea in 1998 when she tried her great-grandmother's raspberry vinegar recipe with oysters. After four years of tinkering, she was sure she had it just right. Several high profile chefs agree. Hawksworth’s Chef David Hawksworth, Blue Water’s Frank Pabst and Araxi’s James Walt all rave about her fruit-forward, full-bodied vinegars.

The Vinegar Lady line consists of six fruit vinegars that are currently available from the company site, where you can also find recipes. The Hot Prawn and Pecan Salad is ideal for the May 5 launch of the Vancouver Spot Prawn Festival.

Busch Tea Company
Tea has long been linked to revolutions. Think Boston Tea Party and the US Revolutionary War. Busch Tea Company’s tea revolution, however, is far more relevant for daily life. This Vancouver Island start-up has invented a way to brew loose-leaf rooibos tea - the healthiest tea in the world - in your coffee maker. The result is more colour and more flavour.

Rooibos "red bush" tea is the caffeine-free wonder tea that originates in South Africa. Known for its rich mahogany-crimson colour and anti-oxidants, rooibos is used to relieve nervous tension, allergies and digestive problems. While South African cafes are experimenting with concentrated rooibos, known as red espresso, Busch has found a way to make a healthy brew that can sit on heat all day without losing its appeal.

Four varieties of rooibos are available on the Busch Tea site.

Rocket Foods
Frustrated with being unable to order anything that suited his needs when he would meet friends for coffee, allergy-afflicted Jas Bains conceived of Rocket Foods. So far, Duncan-based Rocket Foods' product line consists of oatmeal cups and pouches in four varieties including Granny’s Apple Pie and Red Berry Blues. Rocket livens up this old-fashioned cupboard staple with cranberries, blueberries, sunflower seeds, apples and spice.

The idea is great-tasting, allergy-friendly snacks. Each product is vegan, gluten-free, sulphite free, preservative free and made without artificial flavours and colours. Rocket Foods aims to be available in cafes, delis and convenience stores as well as local groecry chains.

Orders can be placed on the Rocket Foods site.