Top 10 Emerging Brands at Expo West Changing the Game

As an entrepreneurial “greenhorn” to the Natural Product’s Expo West scene, I thought it would be economical to scout the competition before investing in a sexy DrinkTru booth for our own functional shot line.

Keeping in mind that almost ANY "How to's" in one area of business can convert to something applicable to another space. I decided to keep my eyes peeled here at this Expo. 

A Great Opportunity to Take a Look at My Company From a Different Angle

In doing so, I had 72 hours to look at the food and beverage landscape from a different lens and meet some of the most inspiring players in the business. As I am biased towards the young guns battling behemoths in the industry, I focused my attention on the small game changers among the 3,300 companies in attendance who are aiming to disrupt big food.

From all walks of life around the country, these entrepreneurs are poised to take the industry by storm.

Below is my list of the Top 10 Emerging Brands changing the game in Food and Beverage:

Question: How would you market each of these companies?

#1 Protes

Founder(s): Krik Angacian & Ryan Wiltse

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Category: Protein Chips & Popcorn

Past Life: Investment Banker, Rabobank

College: Boston College

My Favorite: Sweet Cinnamon Popcorn

Expo West Highlights: Launched First Ever Protein Popcorn that is out of this world good.

Where to Buy: GNC, Vitamins Shoppe

Get It Now:

#2 Drink Simple

Founder(s): Kate Weiler & Jeff Rose

Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Category: Hydration Beverage

Past Life: Sports Nutritionist

College: Colby College, Northeastern MS

My Favorite: Maple Water

Expo West Highlights: Rebranded to Drink Simple for added versatility to launch new SKUs.

Where to Buy: CVS, Wegmans etc.

Get It Now:

#3 Siren Snacks

Founder(s): Elizabeth Giannuzzi & Abby Giannuzzi

Location: San Francisco, California

Category: Protein Bites

Past Life: Investment Banker, Goldman Sachs

College: Brown University, Stanford MBA

My Favorite: Dark Chocolate Brownie, Lemon Poppyseed

Expo West Highlights: These delicious bites are changing the way we snack on protein.

Where to Buy: Canyon Market

Get It Now:

#4 Premama

Founder(s): Dan Aziz

Location: Providence, Rhode Island

Category: Prenatal Vitamins

Past Life: College Student

College: Brown University

My Favorite: No Comment

Expo West Highlights: Released their next generation Apple-like minimalist packaging.

Where to Buy: Target, CVS

Get It Now:

#5 Sound Sparkling Tea

Founder(s): Tommy Kelly & Salim Najjar

Location: New York, New York

Category: Ready-To-Drink Tea

Past Life: Engineer

College: Loyola College in Maryland

My Favorite: Sparkling Rose Tea

Expo West Highlights: Unveiled their super clean RTD can prototypes for future production runs.

Where to Buy: Whole Foods, Fairway

Get It Now:

#6 Three Trees

Founder(s): Jenny Eu

Location: San Francisco, California

Category: Almond Milk, Cold Brew Coffee

Past Life: Category Manager, Ebay

College: Stanford University, Stanford MBA

My Favorite: Vanilla Almond Milk

Expo West Highlights: Their booth design was one of the best with an even better product.

Where to Buy: Whole Foods, Gelsons Market etc.

Get It Now:

#7 Alpen Dough

Founder(s): Sarah Spence

Location: Durango, Colorado

Category: Cookie Dough

College: Western State Colorado University

My Favorites: Snickerdoodle

Expo West Highlights: These gluten-free cookies are ridiculously delicious and super addictive.

Where to Buy: Natural Grocers

Get It Now:

#8 Zest Tea

Founder(s): James Fayal & Rickey Ishida

Location: Baltimore, Maryland

Category: Tea Bags & Ready-To-Drink Tea

Past Life: Founder, LauncHive

College: University of Maryland College Park

My Favorites: Mojito Green Tea

Expo West Highlights: Launched their first RTD with three really unique flavors and designs.

Where to Buy: Whole Foods, Harris Teeter

Get It Now:

#9 Three Jerks Jerky

Founder(s): Jordan Barrocas & Daniel Fogelso

Location: Venice, California

Category: Beef Jerky

Past Life: Vice President, In California Inc.

College: Emory College, University of Miami MBA

My Favorites: Memphis BBQ  Spicy and Savory

Expo West Highlights: A Shark Tank standout, their filet mignon cut is the Capital Grille of jerky.

Where to Buy: Mollie Stones, Alfred Coffee

Get It Now:

#10 Creation Nation

Founder(s): Karen Nation

Location: Calabasas, California

Category: Protein Bar and Energy Bite Mixes

Past Life: Realtor (still active)

College: UC Irvine

My Favorites: Cocoa For Coconuts Energy Bite Mix

Expo West Highlights: These delicious and original protein mixes are a must for any kitchen. 

Where to Buy: Whole Foods coming soon

Get It Now:

Honorable Mention: Wildway

Founder(s): Kelli Koehler & Kyle Koehler

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Category: Granola, Smoothie, Hot Cereal

Past Life: Social Media Strategist,

College: Texas A&M University

My Favorites: Grain Free Cinnamon Roll Hot Cereal

Expo West Highlights: Their instant hot cereals are the best tasting in the game hands down.

Where to Buy: Whole Foods, Wegmans

Get It Now:

International Stand Out: Beyond

Founder(s): Russell Lipton

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Category: Watermelon Water, Coconut Water

My Favorites: Beyond Melon

Expo West Highlights: With a USA expansion, Beyond Melon is sure to catch the attention of many.

Where to Buy: National distribution in Australia

Get It Now:

Hopefully, you will be able to get some ideas for building your own startup -- in whatever space happens to be in your entrepreneurial heart. These are a few ideas in the food and beverage industry. But take a quick look where each of these companies were in their "past lives." It's inspiring!