food for thought

Up and Coming Companies from Natural Products Expo West 2023

Recently, Natural Products Expo West welcomed 67,000+ attendees to Anaheim, CA for the largest natural and organic products expo in the world, bringing together more than 3,000 booths of better-for-you brands. After emceeing the Pitch Slam, natural product experts and enthusiasts Kuvy Ax and Julie Zagars spent two days tasting and testing their way through the show to report back on the brands that deserve a spot on your shelves and in your hearts. Look for these brands in retail stores over the next few months, or visit their websites to snag them sooner.




Hooray Foods shared soy-free, gluten-free, animal-free “bacon”, made with coconut oil, white rice starch, pea starch and tapioca starch, shaped into salty, stripey strips made from plants. Served sizzling hot off the griddle, this bacon was as crispy-chewy as its conventional counterpart. It would be a great option for vegan or anyone looking to shift to a more plant-forward diet who misses the umami punch of traditional bacon.

Two bars we liked Bear Bar: A savory, organic, non-GMO bar that’s basically a flavored kale chip compressed into a more portable form. B.T.R. NATION’s superfood bars (and decadent dark chocolate truffle cups!) are easy to digest, contain no added sugar, and gut-friendly, are 100% plant-based, gluten-free, and soy-free.





Theo Chocolate has introduced organic filled chocolate bars, in plant-based packaging, so they can now tout that they’re plant-based… inside and out! Julie’s favorite was the 70% dark chocolate bar, filled with Organic Cashew Caramel Crunch. Kuvy loved the Peanut Butter Brittle version.




The quote on the back of the Ting’s Jackfruit Chips bag is totally accurate: “It’s like if banana chips and plantain chips had a baby!” These naturally lightly sweet chips are made from jackfruit and responsibly-sourced palm oil. They’re plant-based, gluten-free, non-GMO, soy-free, dairy-free, with no added sugar, no artificial colors, and no preservatives. They’re also sturdier than most chips, making them ideal for dipping – guacamole, anyone? Plus, we love companies that give back: this woman-founded and AAPI-owned brand works closely with a rural school in northern Cambodia, providing essential school equipment and bicycles for transportation; they also donate their chips to food banks in the US. 🏆

Katjes Plant-Based Gummies are shaped like rainbows and unicorns and come in rainbow striped hues. We love that not only are they fun and tasty, but also free of animal gelatin. 👀 Look out for Sheroes, a bag of gummies in a variety of bright colors, shaped like women firefighters, scientists, astronauts, and words of encouragement like GRL PWR! 💪




Eclipse is a dairy-free, non-GMO, ultra creamy plant-based ice cream made from a creamy blend of plants like corn, potato, and cassava. The Caramel Butter Pecan was great. Looking at their website, Julie was especially intrigued by their Chef Collection, with flavors like Cherry and Black Sesame Swirl; Sweet Corn and Salty Sesame Fennel Crunch; and Roasted Sweet Potato and Salty Black Sugar Caramel.





OCHO, the organic chocolate company founded by the same smart guy who originally developed the 365 line for Whole Foods, is now making absolutely wonderful plant-based caramels. With their gorgeous chocolate sheen and satisfying snap, these bite-sized cubes have more in common with upscale confections than your typical grocery store offerings. Julie’s favorite is the dark chocolate with a cinnamon caramel, which offers a nice hint of warmth. 





Cocojune’s Banana Cinnamon Overnight Oats are positively fluffy as compared to their dense cousins. Made with maple-sweetened vegan coconut yogurt and steel cut oats, this is the easy, hearty, creamy organic breakfast or snack option you’ve been seeking.





Kuvy and Julie both loved the Plant-Based Snack Packs from Good Planet Foods. The “cheese” is so surprisingly convincing that if you didn’t see the label, you’d never know it was dairy free! The individual on-the-go containers pair dried cranberries with salted almonds and smoked Gouda style cubes or salted cashews with cheddar style cubes. Both are totally satisfying as a hearty snack (and were great on the plane ride home) – and are dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, non-GMO, lactose-free, and vegan! 


The “Om” in Om Superfood stands for “Organic Mushrooms” and is also a play on the famous yoga exhale sound – representing connection, spirituality and the universal possibility for humankind. Kuvy said “Omigosh this is good” when she tried it! Om Superfood grows 11 species of specialized mushrooms in a 100% certified organic, environmentally controlled indoor farm in Carlsbad, California. Look for their mushroom gummies, powders, capsules, beverages, and more.




Meati makes meat alternatives from mushroom root, and their food truck was parked on the Plaza, serving up hot samples throughout Expo West. Showing off their Meati Crispy Cutlet with Belgian Boys Waffle Skewers with Mike’s Hot Honey Butter Syrup was an inspired combo that showcased all the elements in a really positive light! Meati has just expanded to all Sprouts Farmers Market locations, so you can shop the frozen section to bring home Crispy Cutlets, Classic Cutlets, and Carne Asada Steak.




The last decade of trade shows has included a lot of plant-based mylk brands. But have you ever tried a mushroom mylk? Shroom Junkie boasts a creamy, rich flavor  supercharged by Shiitake mushroom roots, with 55% less sugar than dairy milk and 10 grams of plant-based protein.


12 Tides expanded their line of puffed kelp chips by introducing a crunchy vegan cheddar chip that’s plant-based, dairy-free, non-GMO, gluten-free, and packaged in a certified  compostable bag, made from bio-based materials. They totally deserved their spot among 2023 NEXTY finalists! This brand creates sustainable snacks that support ocean conservation and restoration projects around the world, including California kelp reforestation. Their kelp is sourced from regenerative ocean farms in North America that sequester carbon, improve water quality, and provide a habitat for biodiverse marine life.




You’re familiar with truffle oil, right? Imagine that same concept but made with lobster shells and you’ll be able to imagine the flavor profile of organic Canadian Lobster Oil from J Ferrer. Made with canola oil, lobster, carrots, maple syrup, paprika, Labrador tea leaves, and dune pepper, this oil would add rich lobster flavor to mac and cheese, popcorn, seafood stews, risotto, mayonnaise, pizza, and more.🦞





Kuvy was thrilled to meet the folks behind Safe Catch, the ONLY brand using proprietary technology to mercury-test every wild-caught tuna, salmon, sardine and mackerel they sell.  Available in cans, tins, and pouches. 🐠🐟🐠




Julie thoroughly enjoyed the Konscious Plant Based Tuna Poke Bowl. A konjac and tomato-based “tuna” swaps in for conventional fish, with thaw-and-eat convenience without any hint of freezer burn. Konscious absolutely deserved to win both that NEXTY award for Best New Frozen Product and the VegNews Best of Show Award for the best new vegan product at Expo West 2023.





Pescavore features wild, responsibly-caught fish, with the ability to trace their products back to a specific captain and sea vessel. That’s a level of transparency and accountability that we can get behind! Their Ahi Tuna Jerky Strips are harvested and processed in small batches in the USA, using premium marinades and natural wood smoking. Julie’s favorite flavor was the Smokey Poke, also known as their top seller! This is another wonderfully portable alternative to traditional sweet energy bars or you can use it in recipes, like a Zesty Wild Tuna Gyro Wrap. 

Are you ready for seaweed water? When it’s as good as the fruity OO MEE line of beverages, you might be! These marine-plant infused fruity drinks incorporate red algae harvested in partnership with local farmers in Japan and are lightly sweetened with monk fruit. The soluble and insoluble fiber in each recycled rPET bottle support gut health. The result is a drink with a little bit of viscosity, making it pleasantly filling, in flavors such as peach and lemon; strawberry and hibiscus; and blueberry and elderflower. Oh, and their mascot is an utterly adorable otter.


Bubbies is known for their gluten-free pickles and sauerkraut, but they have a ton of products, including a zingy and flavor-packed Beet Horseradish. This June, make sure to visit their website to try their 3 new Bubbies’ Bread and Butter Pickle Chip flavors and a kitchen-chopped Sweet Relish.  Perfect for a summer family BBQ or a picnic in the park!


Mazzah rhymes with “huzzah!” Mazzah’s Yasameen Sajady won the Natural Products Expo West 2023 Pitch Slam competition and her products quickly won the hearts of hundreds of attendees. Their Afghan-style chutneys are bright and bold, with fresh cilantro and ginger complimenting garlic, zesty lemon, apple cider vinegar and jalapeno pepper. Imagine these versatile sauces served as toppers to eggs, sandwiches, or grilled meats, as marinades for chicken or fish, or as a dipping sauce for pita bread or hearty chips.





Runamok has moved beyond their flavorful and fun line of maple syrups (like their glittering Sparkle Syrup) into the adjacent world of honeys. They offer three different hot honeys, each with different flavor profiles and levels of heat: Chile de Arbol infused hot honey which delivers the spice equal to a cayenne pepper with a smoky, earthy flavor; Szechuan Peppercorn infused hot honey which delivers a peppery snap and tingling sensation without the heat of a chili; and Chipotle Morita infused hot honey, which boasts a bold, smoky flavor. These honeys would be excellent on pizza, fried chicken, grilled shrimp, sharp cheeses, and roasted vegetables. 🐝🔥



SALTVERK uses geothermal energy to evaporate the pristine seawater from the Isafjorour fjord (in the remote Westfjords of Iceland) to create their sustainable salts. These gorgeous and giftable salts are hand harvested and unique options include Lava Salt, Licorice Salt, Arctic Thyme, Seaweed Salt, Birch Smoked Salt, and classic Flaky Sea Salt. The flavors reflect Icelandic traditions or foraged herbs and spices. Global shipments are carbon neutralized by trees planted in Iceland. If you’ve always wanted to dress your homemade dishes with the same salt served at the famed Noma restaurant, you’ll want to order SALTVERK’s gorgeous jars. Good news: you don’t have to trek to Iceland when they’re conveniently available on Amazon.





Fresh Vintage Farms produces premium cold-pressed artisan oils made with locally sourced tree nuts from California’s Central Valley. Kuvy loved their pure cold pressed Walnut Oil’s earthy, robust flavor,  and that it is full of Omega-3’s, antioxidants, and unsaturated fatty acids. Their oils are great for baking, salad dressings, marinades, and more. 





You’ll have to look for Rallies Nut Butter Bombs by Nestle in the refrigerated section of your favorite retailer because these sweet treats are entirely free of preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. The creamy salted cashew butter tucked into dark chocolate is a sweet and salty bon bon that almost looks handmade.

The Humble Seed’s superfood crackers are deliciously crispy and perfectly snack-sized. Their three flavors of grain free, plant-based, and paleo-friendly crackers in three flavors pair nicely with salsa or hummus, and would be a great addition to your next charcuterie board.

🥇Special recognition goes to Good Love Foods for crafting really terrific bake-at-home frozen biscuits, puff pastry, and cinnamon rolls, all made with buttermilk and sweet cream butter, that just happen to be gluten-free. This Longmont, CO-based company has cracked the code on producing high-quality, egg-free, nut-free, soy-free products that will be loved by people with and without dietary restrictions.




Deux calls their product line “enhanced cookie doughs.” For instance, their swoon-worthy Brownie Batter is enhanced with aloe vera and vitamin C for collagen support. Their Chocolate Chip cookie dough is enhanced with zinc and elderberry for immune support; the Birthday Cake cookie dough Is enhanced with reishi and vitamin D for stress relief. You’d be forgiven if you glossed over those healthy add-ons and focused solely on the indulgent fudgy flavor and perfectly gooey texture. Unlike many of their competitors, Deux doughs can be savored straight from the jar or baked off into cookies! 




Whether or not you’re on a low-carb journey, Carbonaut creates delicious, plant-based baked goods that contain a maximum of 3 grams of net carbs per serving. Their quality goods include gluten and keto-friendly loaves, buns, pizza crusts, and bagels.

Confession time: BobbySue’s Nuts was one of the best products that Julie sampled at Expo West LAST year. She was glad to see them exhibiting again because their Nuts Over Olives combo is unlike any other snack, with its Mediterranean-inspired combination of small batch, non-GMO, gluten-free almonds, cashews, pecans, and black olives for a sweet-salty contrast that’s utterly craveable. This company also thoughtfully donates a percentage of all sales to support animals in need.


The Jabin display was so small, we easily could have breezed right by it… and therefore would have missed one of Julie’s new favorite beverages at Expo West. Jabin’s Cucumber Mint is a hydration beverage incorporating apple cider vinegar for electrolytes and prebiotics, with a family recipe that’s a twist on a traditional Persian drink. We will be waiting impatiently for their nationwide launch as they grow beyond North Carolina. 

Mela is canned watermelon water. Really, really good watermelon water. Sourced from Vietnamese watermelons, which naturally provide electrolytes and antioxidants, Mela is an excellent hydration option without added sugar. Mela is plant-based, gluten-free, non-GMO, and made in small batches with real fruit. The boldly citrusy Pineapple version was Julie’s favorite.




Tea Drops stopped us in our tracks with their fun and clever design! These condensed single-serve droplets made from organic loose-leaf tea are a revolutionary way to enjoy your tea however you like it. 🧋🍵 Their hot tea, iced tea, and boba products are quick and mess-less, eliminating the use of tea bags and tea strainers.






The natural products industry gets more exciting (and a little more crowded!) every day! Contact us if you’d like to chat with our natural products industry marketing experts about how we can help your good food brand stand out with PR and social media.


Photos and blog by Julie Zagars, previous Managing Director of Naturally Boulder, the trade association for the natural and organic products community in Colorado and Kuvy Ax, Founder of ROOT Marketing & PR. 


Check out our 2022 Expo West trends piece here.



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