When international Brazilian born Raw Food Chef and Certified Yoga Instructor Manuela Scalini landed in Barbados in 2010, she knew this tiny lush island between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean offered the perfect stage for her culinary workshops and her “ Raw Food & Surf Detox” signature retreats.

A former computer animation and visual effects professional with an accomplished career at Sony Pictures and Disney, Manuela discovered raw foods over six years ago when looking for a natural way to help her reduce inflammation after an accident snowboarding. She became so passionate about whole foods that she decided to become a Certified Raw Food Chef from the Living Light Culinary Arts Institute. After she left her successful and high paced job sitting in front of a computer she began to travel the world teaching raw food workshops, offering wellness retreats and consulting for raw food restaurants in South East Asia, the US and Latin America. Barbados was the missing piece to her raw food lifestyle and is now the base she shares with her Bajan husband and their little daughter.

“Back in California I was eating mostly raw, but still working in a toxic fast paced environment with little sleep. I still felt disconnected from nature and imbalanced. Barbados offers the island living vibe, the slower pace and the simplicity of everyday life”, says Manuela.

Raw Fusion consists of a predominantly raw food diet, combined with some wholesome organic cooked roots and ancient grains, herbal tonics and elixirs, yoga, and taking time to reconnect with what truly means to feel alive. It is a “back to the basics” approach.

“Nothing affects us more than what we eat…when we clean up our bodies, we clean up our lives…we remove all the filters that are keeping us from feeling 100% alive and connected to ourselves, those around us, and our planet”, says Manuela.

Raw & vegan foods enjoy growing consumer demand

As more consumers like Manuela join the “Raw” movement, more “Raw “and “Vegan” labelled natural and organic packaged foods are introduced by manufacturers using minimal processing to satisfy increasing demand for wholesome and more nutritious products containing no artificial additives, allergens or GMOs.

Raw foods include unprocessed and uncooked fruits and vegetables, juices, cold-pressed oils, sprouted seeds, eggs, nuts, grains and legumes and products that are used in raw vegan diets that offer more nutrients.

Raw is being used to describe organic and natural foods such as honey, cacao, coconut oil, nut and seed butters and spreads that have enjoyed minimal processing or have not been cooked at a temperature over 40 °C (104 °F) to 46 °C (115 °F).

Natural health food retailers followed by mainstream supermarkets have expanded their raw and vegan packaged food categories, which includes bulk packaged nuts, seeds, dried fruits, chips and crackers with increased sales in the health and wellness snacks category.

The Speciality Food Association, in its “State of the Speciality Food Industry 2014 Report,” indicates that nut and seed butter sales grew by 51% in 2013 across supermarkets, natural food and specialty food retailers and foodservice.

Ron Tanner of the Specialty Food Association says an intense interest in nutrition is driving growth in nut and seed butters. “A lot of people are looking for alternatives to traditional protein, and nut and seed butters, almond butters, peanut butter and things like that are really on a growth spike,” he says.

According to SPINS research, vegan, vegetarian and meat alternatives have growing appeal. Plant-based foods and meat alternatives will always be the core of the natural products industry. “Raw has become quite mature segment within our industry, but it continues to drive innovation, product quality, and all around goodness,” SPINS says. “Raw foods influence whether we choose a raw lifestyle or not. Take for example kale chips as snacks or the use of raw coconut oil on your popcorn, there is something for everyone in raw.”

Organic raw foods are living foods like nature intended”, says Manuela. “Full of vibrant energy and living enzymes that nurture every cell in your body, leaving you with abundant energy and glowing skin. Raw food is THE cuisine for beauty and wellbeing that clean up your body, removing toxins, increasing vitality and offering a boost to your immune system and weight loss. It’s preventive medicine in its most raw form.”