Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Expo West 2024 Recap
Hottest Trends from our Team and Brand Highlights from our Section

Expo West was a record breaking show for us: we did over 1k buyer meetups at our booth with retailers like Earth Fare and Kroger, hosted 25 brands in the *first ever* dedicated Startup CPG section, and had 1k CPG friends join us at the always-epic Alley Rally. 

Now that we’ve fully recovered from Expo madness, we’ve had a chance to reflect on our experiences, observations, and opinions on the latest trends dominating the industry. Keep reading to hear our team’s thoughts on the hottest trends at Expo 2024 and brand highlights from our Startup CPG section.

The Latest Trends at Expo West

Hydration 2.0 – Daniel, Startup CPG founder

“I expect to continue seeing what I’m calling Hydration 2.0, with electrolytes in everything and [brands] disrupting the traditional sugary sports drinks. Also [brands] creating additional water options that might play in the space of taking share from soda. Lacroix did this way back when. If you go back 10-15 years, Lacroix started taking a ton of share from sodas with something that was more hydrating. I see this trend accelerating a ton now, and I think a lot of people are coming for that space.”

“I also see the rise of tablets as a way for people to get more electrolytes in a more sustainable fashion, while also adding flavor to their water with some stuff that probably is good for you. I see [hydration] taking share from alcohol, too, with brands like Liquid Death. People are adding electrolytes even to RTDs and canned cocktails. I don’t know exactly how successful that will be, but I think in general, hydration drinks have some very strong consumer forces behind them.”

Natural sugars and protein – Patricia, Director of Marketing and Community

“I saw a trend of going back to natural sugar. People are using more honey, maple and dates, which I appreciate. My stomach does not like Stevia or allulose, and I think that’s true for so many people. In the past, people were very against [natural] sugar even though it’s better for you, so I’m happy to see this trend. I also saw protein as an ingredient that is very popular right now. Everything has tons of protein, and I even received protein water for the Shelfies.”

The “gummification” of everythingGrace, Startup CPG Editor

“[Daniel] said this before the show, and it’s definitely something we saw. Everything was being turned into gummies. We had Reprise Health in our Startup CPPG section who are making ancient herbal remedies more accessible by putting them into gummies. We also saw sleep gummies, caffeine gummies, pre-drinking gummies, and better-for-you candy gummies.”

Adding on to this, Daniel says, “I think [the gummification] is sometimes good and sometimes bad. You don’t necessarily need a sugary gummy [for everything]. We don’t need a water gummy…If it increases your likelihood to take something that you might need or just can make it taste better, that’s great. But it can definitely go overboard.”

Mushrooms, regenerative agriculture, and plant-based hot dogsKiki, Social Media Lead

“The biggest trend that I noticed this year was definitely mushrooms in everything. Especially lion’s mane reishi mushrooms. I saw mushrooms in protein powders, mushroom gummies, mushroom tea, the list goes on. I also thought that regenerative was a hot word. Every product was regenerative this, regenerative that. And then I would say plant based everything is always trending, but it’s interesting to see what is popular from year to year. This year, I noticed that the plant based meat that was trending was hot dogs. Everybody was releasing a vegan hot dog. I’ve been vegetarian for nine years, and there’s never been a good vegan hot dog out there, so I appreciated that.”

Meet the brands in our Startup CPG Section

We’re still buzzing from the excitement of our first Startup CPG section at Expo West — the brands in our section absolutely crushed the show and we have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot more of them to come. Throughout the show, we touched base with four of our brands to hear more about their first-time-exhibitor experience and they shared valuable insights for future trade show participation — read those interviews below!

Rif Care

Rif Care was created to provide reliable products that are good for your body and the planet. Rif products are safe, non toxic solutions to make that time of the month a little bit better for everyone. Rif Care won a free (!) booth through our giveaway with Settle, who sponsored two female founded brands as part of their commitment to supporting and empowering women entrepreneurs in the CPG industry.

Tell us about your first time at Expo West

“It has been amazing and really interesting. We had no idea what it took to put together a team and a booth, so we’ve had to figure out how to rally our team, get together, make a design, deal with everything in natural products, and make it look like we did it seamlessly.”

What is the best part of having a booth at Expo?

“Seeing all your friends and other founders. [Expo West] is where everybody gets together. You get to meet other founders and find people to collaborate with. We’re trying to find more collaborators for events and social media, so we’re really excited about that.”

 What advice would you give to future Expo West exhibitors?

“Bring a wagon!”

Bear Maple

Bear Maple makes drinks that marry ginseng and maple water in an adaptogenic functional beverage. Their mission is to revolutionize the beverage industry by crafting innovative, functional beverages that nourish both the body and mind while fostering a sustainable future for our planet. 

What is maple water?

“Maple water is essentially a naturally sweet water that’s been filtered through the cells of a tree. During that process, it takes out all the bad stuff, and instills the maple water with nutrients, minerals, and electrolytes, and is only 2% sugar content. It’s a super healthy natural sweetener. [Maple water] also pairs perfectly with ginseng — you get the delicious earthiness of ginseng with the delicate sweetness of maple water.”

 What has been your highlight of Expo West?

“Our highlight has been the amount of positive feedback we’ve had from people and hearing comments about how much people love our product and thank us for creating our products. It has been amazing to hear and super, super gratifying.”

 What is it like being in the Startup CPG section?

“We are having a blast and love being in the Startup CPG section. It’s like a little family here. I love the Startup CPG community, so getting to see all the people that we’ve interacted with on Slack in person has been awesome. It’s such a strong community here.”

Nowhere Bakery

Made with organic, vegan, grain free and sugar-free ingredients, Nowhere Bakery is on a mission to ensure dessert never has to be a compromise. As the top-rated Backpack Brand at Alley Rally in 2023, Nowhere Bakery won a *free booth* in the Startup CPG section at Expo West in 2024. Keep your eyes peeled for a feature on this year’s Backpack Brand winner, Snoods!

 What has your first experience at Expo West been like?

“Chaotic! But it has been really exciting even though I was nervous leading up to it and didn’t know how it would turn out. Everything came out really well, and this has low-key but really high-key been a dream of ours. We’ve walked [Expo West] so many times and we’ve seen what goes into it, so be on the other side is awesome.” 

 Would you have done Expo West had you not won a booth?

“Simply no. Even though we’re local, and it’s easy for us to walk things in, we absolutely could not have done it. We also wouldn’t have taken the risk if it wasn’t for [Startup CPG]. We’re a family run company. We started this company with $400, and we’ve never taken outside funding. This thing runs on its own, and for us to spend that kind of money would be a super scary thing. We are so grateful to [Startup CPG].”

Cleo + Coco

Cleo+Coco is a clean, sustainable personal care brand that makes products that really work. Their award-winning array of deodorants, dry shampoos, body powders, sprays and soaps come in a variety of scents and are free from hormone disrupting synthetic fragrance.

What has it been like to be a first time Expo West exhibitor?

“It has been incredible and overwhelming. I lost my voice within the first two hours. It has been really busy, but we’ve met amazing people. We’ve learned that being here was the right move and really necessary [for our brand] to get to the next level. Our vision has always been to make clean and efficacious personal care products available to everybody. They should be in everybody’s house and in every retail door.”

Tell us about being in the Startup CPG section

“It’s so great to be a part of a network. I got meetings and became aware of buyers that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and there is a lot of action, traffic and energy [in this section]. Being a part of the Startup CPG community has transformed my business in the last couple of months.”

What advice would you give to future Expo West exhibitors?

“There are so many factors, and every brand’s needs are going to be unique. But the networking, advice, and education you can get from being a part of a community like Startup CPG is going to help you make the right decisions. I also think that for my category, putting in the extra effort for our booth and branding has really paid off. It has given us the opportunity tor represent our brand properly.”

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