Last week I returned to the Anaheim Convention Center for the annual Natural Products Expo West. The Expo West always has an excellent and diverse selection of exhibitors in natural and sustainable CPG in everything from pastured meats and dairy to fermented foods and beverages to organic snacks and much much more. It’s a time for me to revisit my favorite brands, see some of my favorite brands introduce new products, and learn about new brands altogether. I always find a plethora of new items to try. The exhibitors listed below have the 10 most innovative discoveries I saw at the 2023 Expo West.
4th & Heart
4th & Heart is an excellent grass fed ghee brand. I love ghee for it’s high smoke point. I often cook food in it, but also scoop off a little piece while doing so and snack on it. While I clearly love ghee and use it frequently, many people are still unfamiliar with it. Ghee is shelf stable, so it’s often found on the cooking oil aisles at the supermarkets. That’s great if you’re aware of what it is. For those who don’t know, they zoom right over it. So 4th & Heart has developed a ghee in the form of butter sticks which will be found in the butter section. For their ghee butter sticks, 4th & Heart also won one of the NEXTY Awards.
We’ve seen many beef and veggies burger blends, but 50/50 Foods‘ blend which they call Both is the first to have half grass fed beef and half vegetables. As an Appropriate Omnivore, I stress the importance of both animals and plants. With burger blends, you can get both (like the product’s name suggests) into one.
Avocado oil is another oil I love cooking with. Chosen Foods has a wonderful, authentic avocado oil and various products with its avocado oil in it. Avocado oil is great for cooking at high heat. Olive oil, on the other hand, gives a great flavor when you cook food in it, but it’s not as heat stable as avocado oil. So Chosen introduces a combination of avocado and olive oil.
Country Archer is one of my favorites when it comes to grass fed jerky and meat sticks. Now they have a third category of meat snacks – smoked sausages. Their sausages are a combination of 100% grass fed beef and antibiotic free pork and are completely sugar free. They currently come in the flavors of original and fuego.
With the sweet tooth that I’ve got, I’m grateful for organic desserts with cane sugar and basic ingredients. DeeBee’s Organics has been a leader with its freezies popsicles. At this year’s Expo West, they introduced two new products: dairy free gelato pops and Italian ice with no added sugar. I’m especially excited for their Italian ice as it’s a treat I love, but rarely have as I hadn’t found a clean version of it before. Also, they had one of the best booths at Expo West with their Colorful World theme.
The natural CPG industry is still finding new ideas for beverages and shows no sign of slowing down. One of many popular beverage trends is incorporating adaptogens into drinks. The cleverly titled kombucha company Gutsy introduced a beverage called Adapt2 with fermented adaptogens in several fruit flavors. It makes a great fermented drink option for those who don’t like the taste of kombucha. Or for somebody like me who loves both.
I discovered Philosopher Foods at a conference 8 years when they were relatively new. What caught my attention was they offered a nut butter using sprouted nuts. They still are one of the few nut butters which do so. Now they’ve added a new line called Gut Nuts, which are fermented nuts. Their patent-pending process has nuts lacto-fermented and then dehydrated to make a great postbiotic snack. Date syrup is also added for a little sweetness to it. Gut Nuts give us all five of the tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter and savory. And you gotta love the lab coats and beakers worn by its team at their booth!
Bison is a great tasting meat which is underrepresented in the market. Roam Free steps up to the calling with all types of 100% grass fed bison products from jerky to steaks to even heat and serve meals such as chili and fajitas. The bison comes from a veteran and woman owned farm in Western Montana who are first generation ranchers and follow the principles of regenerative agriculture.
A major takeaway which I had at the 2023 Expo West is that we’re seeing plenty more options for sustainable seafood. Scout not only has sustainably sourced canned seafood, but also seafood snacks. Scout mixes tuna with nuts, legumes, seeds, and spices into some tasty on the go treats. They also pride themselves on their packaging, which is hand packed, recyclable, and completely BPA free.
I remember a time when flax seed crackers didn’t taste good. But thanks to entrepreneurs with tons of creativity, we now have many amazing tasting organic flax seed crackers. The NEXTY Awards winner Top Seedz joins this elite group. Their crackers have a nice thin crunchy texture. The seasonings and spices of their different flavors, including sea salt, rosemary, and cumin, also add to their savory taste.