by Gretchen and Suzanne
Think the healthy food and product movement is a fad? Think again. With growth predicted to reach $226B by 2018, it’s a societal shift that’s not likely to shrink anytime soon. The focus on healthier lifestyles has created explosive growth in the niche — we saw it firsthand at the 2014 Natural Products ExpoWest in Anaheim. With over 2,600 companies represented, it was the largest number of first-time exhibitors in the event’s history.
The convention center was packed with entrepreneurs bringing healthy and innovative ideas to the market. We were blown away by the fantastic products branded in fresh and creative ways — we’d like to share our top 10 favorites with you:
Connection to the Consumer: Made from completely vegan ingredients, Beyond Meat’s meat replacements use absolutely no animal products or ingredients processed with animal by-products. They offer 3 flavors of ‘chicken’ strips and 2 ‘beef’ crumbles.
Why We Love Them: Nothing captures our attention better than a great mission — and Beyond Meat certainly has that. They believe there’s a better way to feed the planet and they intend to do it by replacing animal protein with plants. Initially developed at nearby University of Missouri, Beyond Meat is dedicated to improving human health, positively impacting climate change, conserving natural resources and respecting animal welfare. Riffing on the Taco Bell look and using the theme ‘Taco Beyond,’ the booth was packed — for good reason. The tacos filled with Beyond Meat were delicious. Photos were taken of excited Expo-goers and directly uploaded to Instagram. They were sent to Taco Bell, flooding social media in the hopes of eventually convincing the chain to offer a vegan option. It was one of the most memorable, interactive and inspiring booths we saw in 2014.
Connection to the Consumer: EVOL Foods makes frozen snacks and meals using antibiotic-free, cage-free, organic ingredients.
Why We Love Them: The product samples were delicious — not at all what you’d expect from a frozen meal. We sampled a Truffle Parmesan Mac and Cheese, a Butternut Squash and a Sage Ravioli and Lemongrass Chicken that were nothing but fresh and tasty. Acquired by Boulder Brands in 2013, EVOL is undergoing some rapid distribution growth too — Target and many grocery stores are now carrying a larger line of their products. Based on our chat with the highly energetic EVOL team, we see no sign of this growth ending anytime soon.
Connection to the Consumer: Looking for a low-calorie, low-sugar drink that’s high in antioxidants and probiotics? Try Clearly Kombucha.
Why We Love Them: This isn’t your typical beverage. Usually, kombucha-based drinks are quite cloudy and have an aftertaste. We were pleasantly surprised by Clearly Kombucha’s line of flavors — no cloudiness, sediment or aftertaste at all! Chatting with the ladies in the booth, we learned that their products are brewed from organic, fair trade, whole leaf, green tea which is then fermented with a specialized colony of bacteria and yeast for 30 days. It takes more than a friendly face in a tradeshow booth to convince someone to try something new — the brand’s package design is equally inviting to consumers who’ve never heard of the category. As for the taste — completely refreshing and non-sugary or bitter. We plan on ordering some Clearly Kombucha soon.
Connection To The Consumer: A clean ingredient list, great flavor and high quality — you‘ve got to try this muesli.
Why We Love Them: The bright, beautiful design immediately drew us into the booth space but the tasty muesli kept us anchored in place! Focusing on the health benefits that come from eating a healthy, turbo-charged breakfast, Seven Sundays offers a variety of muesli blends. Here’s the crazy part — you can actually pronounce all of the ingredients, even buy them yourself if you wanted to. But why would you want to, when you can just pick up or order some of the delicious Seven Sundays blends? In fact, their tagline is ”If you want a heavily processed breakfast with hardly any nutrients, please look elsewhere.” As consumers continue to read labels and choose whole ingredients, we feel that Seven Sundays is a real gem.
Connection To The Consumer: Made from nuts and other natural ingredients, Neat offers a healthy meat replacement in a variety of flavors.
Why We Love Them: This perky young upstart has pizzazz, and they’re not afraid to show it. They‘re playful and fun — their kids actually named the brand. When we stopped by their booth in the Next Pavillion, we were struck by the taste of their Mexican-inspired meat replacement — we couldn’t tell the difference between their product and the real thing! Conveniently packaged, eye-catching and delicious, we think this is a brand to watch.
Connection To The Consumer: Hampton Creek Foods’ plant-based products include mayonnaise in multiple flavors, shelf-stable cookie dough and soon, a plant-based egg replacement.
Why We Love Them: One of the most powerful and evocative comments we heard during Expo West came from Josh Tetrick, Founder of Hampton Creek Foods. “What would the world look like if healthier food was always the most affordable option?” During his keynote speech at the NEXT Innovation Summit, Josh spoke of his personal experiences and his company’s focus on innovative, healthy egg replacement and the impact that it has on global sustainability. As he pointed out, it takes 90 yards of land to feed chickens who then produce eggs. It takes only 10 yards to produce enough plants to make the same yield of egg replacement product. And that product is cholesterol-free and has fantastic flavor — if we do say so ourselves.
Connection To The Consumer: Yogurt products with simple ingredients and less sugar!
Why We Love Them: This Icelandic-style, skyr is a clean label, strained yogurt made from skim milk so it’s thick, creamy, high in protein and reduced or non-fat, depending on the flavor variety. Farmers who produce dairy ingredients used in siggi’s products don’t use growth hormones and all ingredients are natural, with no artificial sweeteners anywhere in sight. Instead, they opt for either agave nectar or cane sugar, used in limited amounts. The brand image is fresh and wholesome, featuring classic typography and a single pop of color that ties back to the product’s flavor. We found the yogurt to be very thick, rich and creamy. The lower amounts of sweeteners were definitely noticeable — a welcome change from the the usual greek and standard yogurt available.
Connection To The Consumer: In a sea of ‘better for you’ beverages, Forager Project stands out with a complete line of raw juices including greens, nuts, roots and cleanse options.
Why We Love Them: Do you get tired of juicing at home? Looking for that Slow Food experience, only faster? Then you should definitely take a closer look at the Forager Project. After spending 20 years building the Odwalla brand, the folks at Forager wanted to make the shift from fruits to veggies. The result is a lower calorie, flavorful raw veggie drink made with organic ingredients that’s nutrition-focused. Everything listed on the bottle is exactly what you get — no hidden ingredients or added preservatives. And the juice is made fresh in their kitchen every day, applying thousands of pounds of pressure to extract the most juice with the highest nutritional value. Just like the juice, the brand is straightforward and real — no side ingredient panel needed.
Connection To The Consumer: Grandma Hoerners offers a wide range of natural and organic foods including coffees, sauces, condiments, preserves and now, fruit snacks.
Why We Love Them: While the company has been around for a while, one thing hasn’t changed — their dedication to natural. We sampled the preserves in the Fresh Ideas tent on Thursday and visited the Expo West booth on Friday because we didn’t want to miss out on their newest introduction, Big Slice. The preserves were delicious and as we learned, among the only organic, reduced sugar preserve options sold on store shelves today. Big Slice offers consumers a tasty, yet healthy snack option with kettle-cooked apple chunks in a variety of flavors. There are two packaging options, a glass jar for at home and an easy-to-eat pouch when you’re on the go. Neither product contains high fructose corn syrup, but they do promote something we strongly believe in — making healthy options more convenient.
Connection To The Consumer: You’ve never tasted chocolate like this before — it’s organic and stone ground.
Why We Love Them: Instead of using the latest technologies, Taza relies on a more authentic, centuries-old Mexican tradition to produce high-quality chocolate. Studying granite mill stone carving in Mexico, founder Alex Whitmore found his inspiration and imported a stone Oaxacan molino (mill). The result of this painstaking process is a delicious, melt in your mouth experience loaded with more intense and pure chocolate flavor. We were especially impressed by Taza’s commitment to fair trade, participating in a direct sourcing relationship with cacao farmers to ensure all parties are treated with respect and dignity. In fact, if you’d like to see how your particular batch of chocolate was made, you can enter a code on the label into the website. How cool is that?