Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Packaging and Design Recap:
Natural Products Expo, East

Andy Kurtts, is the Founder and Creative Director at Buttermilk Creative and runs the email program at Startup CPG. He covered Natural Products Expo’s return to in-person events for Startup CPG.

Expo East 2021 in Philadelphia was the first major CPG trade show since the beginning of the pandemic – so it was with a lot of trepidation we hopped in our car and made the drive from North Carolina to the great state of Pennsylvania. 8 hours later we arrived and were greeted with a safe, solidly run, engaging trade show 2.0. Below is our recap of what we saw from an innovative design and packaging standpoint

Laoban Dumplings

We loved the overall aesthetic for Laoban – leaning into simple shapes and lots of room to breathe in their packaging. Their patterns were unique to each flavor and provide a nice contrast to the sparseness of the rest of the pack. Color-wise we appreciated the muted tones chosen for their various flavors – hues not normally associated with food. They also featured a series of cute little dumpling shapes on the back of pack to highlight their product attributes – which was a nice touch! (That “No Preservatives” one aint playing around!)


]HiBAR is leaning into sustainable packaging in a big way – and making their mission look good along the way! Their look is captivating and the colors they’ve chosen look really nice on the shelf. Once you open the box you’re treated to this beautifully faceted shaped product within that is about the same color as the packaging creating nice consistency. We really appreciate their commitment to removing plastic from the health & beauty category – and making it look amazing!

Brave Good Kind Jerky

Jerky is a tough category to innovate – but Brave Good Kind is doing it in a big way. How? By positioning and messaging to a completely untapped jerky audience: millennial moms. They’ve eschewed the conventional masculine, dark, earth tones of the category for brighter, fun, light colors and imagery. Plus their flavors are spot on for a different kind of jerky consumer – Hot Honey anyone?

Avec Mixers

Wading into the sea of cocktail mixers is Avec. What do they have going for them? Try amazing packaging and flavors. Whimsical illustrations and limited color combos help bring the customer along the flavor journey’s of YUZU & LIME, GRAPEFRUIT & POMELO, or what about JALAPENO & BLOOD ORANGE? The flavor profiles tasted so clean in the samples we tried – which matched perfectly with their “straight to the point” packaging design.

Fifth Season Salad Kits

These folks are amazing – and I’m not just saying that because they gave me a whole salad kit right at lunch time! They’re growing sustainable greens in PIttsburgh and packaging up uniquely flavored salad kits in these nice, convenient containers. I enjoyed their design that evoked simplicity and freshness, with bright colors and energetic typography. The use of a paper sleeve gave the whole package a handmade feel. Oh and I had the Spicy Southwest and it was AMAZING!

Ritual Zero Proof

No-to-Low Alcohol was definitely in attendance with exhibitors at Expo East and Ritual was my fave. Not only did they make an amazing cocktail I got to sip as I wandered the show floor, I like how they’re utilizing vertical type in their layout and making it work. It’s a bold statement, but changing habits is a bold mission – and their packaging echoes the effort. I like how they’ve borrowed design conventions from the spirit industry, but are also paving their own way. They might get this bourbon drinker to go zero proof!


Does the world need another hot sauce? If it’s from Italy, then yes! Firelli is an amazing Italian hot sauce that tastes like…well I can’t really place it – but it’s damn good! Design-wise I dig their vintage vibes with hints of modernity (see the little figure on fire at the top of the label!) The color is spot on – turquoise and warm red go perfect together. Their bottle shape is unique but also feels appropriate and familiar for the hot sauce category.

In Conclusion

It was great to be in person and see and sample all these (and many other!) amazing brands. Broadly we saw exciting things happening with color and the bucking of category norms. A lot of these innovative ingredients, products, and trends are starting to become more common – so we’re starting to see more variety in the category visually – which is exciting. Brands will have to try harder and harder to connect and stand out as everyone gets more creative!
Now we’re looking forward to Expo West 2022! See y’all there!

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