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Natural Products Expo East: Innovations Continue but the Show Doesn't

Oct. 5, 2023
The East Coast version of Natural Products Expo West will be replaced next year by Newtopia Now, a tabletop show.

Innovation and new product introductions were on full display at Natural Products Expo East (NPEE), which was held Sept. 20-23 at the Pennsylvania Expo Center in Philadelphia.

There were nearly 16,000 registered attendees at NPEE – but that’s a far cry from the 65,000 who attend its sister show, Natural Products Expo West, every March in Anaheim. And that led to the biggest news announcement at the show.

NPEE is sunsetting and will become Newtopia Now, a tabletop show “designed to provide more opportunities for brands to meaningfully participate, regardless of where they are in their lifecycle,” according to an announcement. The first will be held Aug. 2-4, 2024, in Savannah, Ga.

Still, there was a great vibe and a lot of enthusiasm throughout NPEE, as well as a plethora of new products displaying continued innovation in the food industry. There were more than 1,000 exhibitors, including 425 first-time exhibitors.

To aid navigation of the show, the organizers of NPEE had a number of “specialty” sections. Most interesting were:

  • The co-located aisle of no-alcohol beverages (sponsored by the Non-Alcoholic Beverage Association). Given that this is has been noted as a rising trend, it was easy to compare the range of offerings from different vendors.
  • Parts of an aisle that featured up and comers of BIPOC heritage (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). We noted some interesting, even breakthrough, products that employed the multicultural flavors that these founders enjoy and celebrate.

Some of the more intriguing products were:

  • Popadelies – Crunchy Mushroom Chips inTwisted Thai Chili, Trippin’ Truffle Parm, Rad Rosemary + Salt.
  • Melati – Non-Alcoholic Botanical Spirit in Classic and Fresh.
  • Side Project Jerky (all are beef) – Cheesesteak, Berbere, Cowboy, Pho, Mongolian, Southwestern.
  • Jack & Friends – Jackfruit Jerky in Jack & Tom (Tomato & Poblano Pepper), Jack & Barb (Sweet Barbecue) and Jack & Teri (Ginger Teriyaki).
  • Buckwheat, which is purported to be the second most ancient grain/seed behind quinoa, showed up in two interesting products, both from Maine: Better with Buckwheat Cracker (a NEXTY Winner for Best New Savory or Salt Snack) and Diggables Buckwheat Puffs (in Simply Maine Sea Salt, Sharp White Cheddar and Savory Garden Herbs).
Yaupon is a the only caffeinated plant native to the U.S. and was on Whole Foods’ 2023 trend list. It was used in several products that we noted, including: Good + Ready Cold Brew Tea Concentrat (in Half & Half Lemonade, Original Unsweet, Ginger & Juniper) and Yaupon Brothers American Tea Co. (in Revive Mint, Florida Chai, Lavender Coconut, plus additional flavors).

Now onto the best of the rest, the notable products that caught our eyes (and stomachs) as we traversed the show (not all of the products below may be on the shelf quite yet):

  • Outstanding Stuffins (cracker-like exterior shell with soft dairy-free cheese filling) – Chedda, Pizza Partay, Nacho Cheese
  • Life cider – Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage – Black Cherry, Berry Pear, Mango Citrus, Pineapple Coconut, Tropical Raspberry
  • Odyssey 222 – sparkling elixir, Energy + Focus – Lemon Lime, Strawberry Watermelon, Blue Raspberry, Pineapple Mano
  • Odyssey Revive -hydration + mood (purported to be the first mushroom energy beverage) – Prickly Pear, Yuzu Lime, Strawberry Passionfruit
  • Yesley – purported to be the only enhanced still water in a can – Lemon, Black Cherry, Pomegranate Acai Blueberry, Kiwi Strawberry
  • Emotional Utility – sparkling mood and mind boosting beverages in Euphoric (Mango Passionfruit, Berries Mint, Sweet Lemon) and Focused (Strawberry Kiwi, Blood Orange Tangerine, Pomegranate Black Cherry).
  • Flock Chicken Skin Chips – Original, Hatties B’s Nashville, Terry Black’s Barbecue, Salt & Vinegar
  • Drumroll - Plant Based Glazed Donuts – Chocolate, Vanilla
  • Thai Coco: Vegan & Gluten-Free Bite-Sized Coconut Wafer Rolls: Original, Dark Chocolate, Mango, Banana & Palm Sugar with Himalayan Salt
  • Rind Remix – Fruit & Nut Snack Mix – Pina Colada, Cocoa Berry, Cherry Vanilla Crunch
  • Frankie’s Organic – Puffcorn – Avocado Oil & Himalayan Pink Salt
  • Mariana Family Toppers – Sweet & Tangy, Hawaiian BBQ, Smoky Southwest, Spicy Apricot, Nuts & Cherries
  • Myles Comfort Foods Mac & Cheese – Homestyle, Buffalo Style Chicken, Philly Steak & Cheese
  • WildVine – Vinegar Packed Pickled Vegetables – Vietnamese Spiced Pickled, Authentic Latin American Slaw, Pickled Red Onions with Jalapenos, Spicy
  • Undressed Salad Bar (a salad of a snack): Berry Balsamic, Southwest, Sesame Ginger
  • Prime Roots – Koji Foie Gras Torchon (a NEXTY winner Editor’s Choice for Innovation)
  • Caulipower Pizzas with Stone Fired Crust – Spicy Chicken Sausage, Supreme, Truffle Mushrooms (these crusts are significantly better than the original Caulipower Pizza Crusts)
  • Painterland Sisters Organic Skyr Icelandic Style Plain Yoghurt (a NEXTY winner for Best New Meat, Dairy or Animal Based Product)
  • For the final Natural Products Expo East, the show delivered on all of its promises. Innovation in the food industry, especially by the smaller companies (since most of the larger companies were absent from this show), is alive and well.

    About the Author

    Leslie Herzog

    Leslie Herzog is vice president of operations & research services at The Understanding & Insight Group LLC, a business development and products research technology company practicing in the innovation and product design space for more than 17 years. He's also a longtime member of our Editorial Advisory Board.

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