Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

The Best of
Expo West

By Erin Fasano & Jenna Movsowitz, Editorial Team at Startup CPG.

Last week, Expo West was BACK! We were lucky enough to get out there: networking, hugging, and sharing our latest innovations with the rest of the industry after two years of little human interaction.

The Overall Vibe

Our industry is clearly excited to be back – hugs, high fives, and handshakes pulsed through the show floor, as people jumped out of their skin to see old friends and future colleagues. The excitement was palpable, and it was nearly impossible to walk around the convention center without feeling giddy. Beyond the mood set by individuals, brands like Aura Bora, Tattooed Chef, Mid-Day Squares, and Belgian Boys demonstrated their excitement by going all-out with their booths, creating Willy Wonka-esque worlds-within-worlds, and sharing their experience live via social media throughout the show. Sampling protocols were somewhat “back to normal” with most skirting the various precautions outlined prior to the show. While safety may not have been top of mind, exhibitors were able to gain back the crucial metric of instant feedback from sampling show goers.

The show felt smaller, with wider aisles than in years past and room to move around (unless you were in the Organic tent or the North Hall on Wednesday, yikes!), and several booths went empty, or didn’t send representatives for the brand. Despite that, our Startup CPG community turned OUT and we talked to many founders who had successful shows, reporting excellent customer meetings, press connections, and networking within the industry.

After all, it was still Expo – The North Hall was awash with new brands and the buzz and excitement of first time founders; the Basement was a party of slightly more established brands sharing their latest innovations; Halls A-D still offered big brands the chance to share their innovations and connect suppliers with the industry, and EVERYONE was ready to celebrate the return to Expo.

The Trends

We saw several trends continue from what we’ve seen over the last three years since the last Expo West, but even bigger, with more brands entering similar spaces.

  1. Plant-based meat everywhere. From Daring to Unreal Deli and Save Da Sea, we couldn’t find meat-based meat if we tried! What started with Impossible and Beyond has clearly mainstreamed in the freezer, in your burrito, in your breakfast, and more. We were particularly impressed by the number of new seafood alternatives, which seem to have all popped up in the last two years (thanks, Seaspiracy).
  2. Chickpea everything. The mighty chickpea has been roasted, blended, mashed, formed into different shapes – and we are here for its rise. We were thrilled to visit our Shelfies winner Finally! Chickpea Snacks at their booth, where they even debuted gluten-free and allergy-friendly chickpea-based cookies.
  3. And similarly, sesame everything. From Hope and Sesame sesame milk, to Rooted Fare’s black sesame butter, to squeezable tahini and Brune’s tahini cookies, sesame found its way into categories across the board. As another allergy-friendly alternative, we were excited to see brands showcase its variety of use cases.
  4. Keto, keto, keto. From keto candy (Smart Sweets), to keto ice cream (Nick’s, Keto Pint), to keto cereal (OffLimits) and bread in every form (Carbonaut, BetterBrand), there was no shortage of products suited to the health craze. While trend watchers and buyers alike worry that the height of the fad is on the way out, brands are innovating in the space regardless. We’ll continue to watch out for this trend and the ways brands take this often polarizing diet and make it more approachable for all.
  5. Adaptogens in, CBD out. We saw functional adaptogens sneak their way into just about every inch of the show floor. From edible cookie dough (Deux) to beverages (heywell) to supplements, we couldn’t escape adaptogens like ashwagandha and reishi – and we noticed that CBD didn’t seem front of mind (or front of pack).
  6. Mushrooms galore. Crunchy, salty mushroom snacks, chewy mushroom jerky (Eat The Change, Pan’s), truffle-infused everything (Recipe33) and of course the prevalence of functional mushrooms like lion’s mane made for a very shroomy show.
  7. Regenerative Agriculture is the new “sustainable”. The CPG consumer is more informed than ever – meaning the “sustainability” claim now needs some backup points. We’re happy to report that brands are focused on leaving the soil better than they found it, by boasting carbon-absorbing, biodiversity-increasing crops on their ingredient list. Brands like Lil Bucks, Moonshot and 12 Tides are leading the way by example, demonstrating that the seemingly dry topic of sustainable ag can lend itself to bright, fun, enticing, and of course delicious products.
Standout Brands

Rowdy Mermaid: Debuting their new Adaptonic line, Rowdy Mermaid came to the show with some of the best new news in the Basement.

Proteinella: A better-for-you Nutella that is tastier than the original?! Yes, please!

Chef Cristy’s: Their gluten-free, raw vegan cinnamon roll has a first ingredient of apples and tastes just like a doughy cinnamon roll. Consider the game changed.

Legendary Foods: We’re all a little sick of the same old protein bars – which is why Legendary is bringing back a childhood fave in high-protein, low-carb form: Protein Pop Tarts. The team suggested heating them up for a few seconds to taste just like a pop tart, and they did not disappoint.

Dream Pops: Debuting their new candy line, the airy, crunchy, and craveable bites are free from dairy, gluten, soy, and artificial ingredients – yum!

Cask & Kettle: Alcohol & decaf coffee in a coffee pod – a tasty, warm cocktail at the push of a button without needing special or custom equipment. Easy, boozy, and delicious.

Machu Picchu Energy: We can’t do a roundup without mentioning the energy drink lead by Startup CPG’s Founder, Daniel Scharff. A light and refreshing approach to a usually bold category, we were excited to finally get a taste of the delicious product and learn more about their strong social mission.

Our Faves of the Week

The best thing Erin ate all week: Dosa Tikka Simmer Sauce – truly life changing! Never dust off an old jar of sauce again, this chef-developed line of Indian sauces will spice up your weeknight dinner, literally!

The best thing Jenna ate all week: Save Da Sea Carrot Lox – I’m a lox girl through and through, but have been trying to cut down on animal products as much as possible. This was by far the most realistic flox (yes, I just made that up) I have ever tried, with an ingredient list that anyone can get behind. They are a Canadian-based brand and will be launching in the US this year; keep your eyes peeled!

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