Natural Products Expo East 2014: Brand-by-Brand Roundup

 expo east logoAt this year’s Natural Products Expo East, the BevNET crew spotted the influence of the shifting retail environment, the continued evolution of the super-premium juice category and more cans for cold-brewed coffee brands. But that’s not all we caught at the show. The following list breaks down more news in distribution, innovation and brand development from the heap of this year’s beverage attendees.

Chai Elixir has secured a distribution deal with 60 to 80 Bi-Lo stores in the South and Midwest. The brand, which partnered with KeHE at last year’s Expo East, is working on getting into Walgreens stores on the West Coast, expanding its presence in up-and-down-the-street accounts in New York City, and finding its way on the campus of Duke University.

Little Miracles is participating in a test at approximately 300 Target stores across the country. The brand also recently secured distribution at about 700 stores under the Ahold banner, including Stop & Shop, and Whole Foods Markets in the Pacific Northwest via United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI). Little Miracles has begun working with Swirl, a marketing and communications agency based in San Francisco. Bob Groux, the founder of Coast Brands Group, a national brokerage firm that represents Little Miracles, said that he’s working on establishing DSD distribution for the brand in Miami. “Upscale brands resonate well down there,” he said. “[Coconut water brand] Zico did well there.”

Juisi, a high pressure processed (HPP) juice and chocolate almond milk maker, is now available at Gourmet Guru stores in New York City. Stay Fresh Foods, an HPP facility in Meriden, Conn., processes Juisi’s offerings. The brand was started by chefs in New York who also run Ducks Eatery, an eclectic barbeque restaurant in the city’s East Village neighborhood. One of those chefs, Will Horowitz, said that he wants Juisi to be a more affordable premium juice brand. The bottles have a suggested retail price of $5.99.

Honeydrop Daily ImmunityHoneydrop Beverages, a marketer of teas and juices, launched a new line of cold-pressed, HPP juices with medicinal honey. The company’s lemon cayenne cleanse is made with a tablespoon of raw honey sourced from local beekeepers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The company’s Apple Ginger booster is made with raw Manuka honey. The products are available in Whole Foods, Fairway and up-and-down-the-street accounts in the New York/Tri-State region. In the next few weeks, Honeydrop will be available at Citarella, Gourmet Garage and Union Market, according to the executives at the company. The beverage was developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as a remedy for New Yorkers struggling with allergies caused by the storm.

Rumble has begun distributing its supershake beverages in the U.S. At Expo East, the brand showed off new packaging that, according to James Harris, senior VP of sales, does a better job of distinguishing the two flavor profiles — Vanilla Maple and Dutch Cocoa. The brand name now has a higher placement on the bottle, creating more visibility on certain store shelves. The brand changed its slogan from “Feed Your Hunger” to “Feed the Good” and added the story of its founder, Paul Underhill, on the back of the bottle.

Coco Libre, which revamped its packaging and formulation in the spring, has since landed distribution at approximately 1,900 Kroger stores, Sprouts Farmers Markets on the West Coast, Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, all A&P banners, and Whole Foods Markets in New York, Florida and the Texas/Southwest region. Beginning in November, 270 Vitamin Shoppes will carry the brand’s chocolate and vanilla protein SKUs.

Drink Chia reached a distribution agreement last month with H-E-B, which will carry its chia stick packs. The brand’s ready-to-drink bottles recently landed shelf placements at H-E-B, Earth Fare, Whole Foods South/Florida and The Fresh Market.

Bruce Cost Ginger Ale is teaming up with Polar Beverages to make a greater push in the Boston region. The beverage can be found at smaller retail outlets in the area such as Russo’s, Fruit Center and Foodie’s Markets.

The Vermont Switchel Company launched a 16 oz. concentrate form of its product at Expo East. The brand is distributed in its home state and is hoping to partner with UNFI to expand its footprint in the mid-Atlantic.

forager greens appleForager has dropped the word “Project” from its brand name and released new 16 oz. bottles and labels for its line of cold-pressed juice products. After outgrowing its co-packer, the company will enter its own new facility in the Bay Area. Also, the brand has replaced its former naming system — Greens A, B, C, D; Roots A, B, C, etc. — with a more traditional naming system that highlights key beverage ingredients. For example, what was once known as “Nuts D” is now called “Nuts & Coconut.”

Mountain Valley Spring Water 4-packs of the brand’s sparkling essences, including new flavors Blackberry Pomegranate and Lime, are now offered on the cold shelves of Whole Foods Markets in Florida, Northern California and the Southwest, along with Sprouts Farmers Markets across the country. “From what we’re hearing, they’re already running out of stock,” said sales manager Rich Nussbaum.

Vertical Water, which recently gained non-GMO Project verification, has reached distribution agreements in the past few months with the following retailers: QFC, Fred Meyer, King Soopers, Kroger stores in the mid-Atlantic and Texas, Wegmans, MOM’s Organic Market and Mother’s Market & Kitchen. In its home of New York City, the brand is now available at grocers such as Gourmet Garage, Mrs. Green’s Natural Market and D’Agostino’s, as well as the following restaurants: Uva, Pagani and Crave Fishbar.

Trac Health released Kombucha Effervescent Drink Mix Packets at Expo East. The kombucha mix packets have a suggested retail price of $1.69 and are sold in three flavors: Acai Blueberry Pomegranate, Goji Berry and Pear Ginger.

Harmless Harvest will now offer its Cinnamon & Clove coconut water throughout the year, instead of its previous role as a seasonal product. In November, the brand will launch a Dark Cacao variety, which will be available across the country. The product is made with only organic coconut water and organic cacao extract. In August, Harmless Harvest achieved Fair for Life certification, which aims to ensure fair and positive relations and standards between producers and business partners. Co-founder Justin Guilbert said that he believes in Fair for Life certification because of its cyclical and comprehensive supply-chain audits.

Sodterra, a line of carbonated tea products, launched at Expo East. Sold in 12 oz. glass bottles, the line comes in three flavors: Chamomile & Vanilla, Yerba Mate & Citrus, and White & Ginger.

Selters, a German mineral water available in still and sparkling formats, has made its U.S. launch. Alongside its distributor, Brands Within Reach, the company plans to speak with Whole Foods about a partnership.

TumericAlive has launched Golden Milk elixir through an exclusive partnership with Whole Foods. The milk is made with coconut cream, hemp milk, turmeric, cardamom, raw honey, bee pollen, chia seed, vanilla bean, ginger and sea salt. The HPP product, which contains 16 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber, marks the brand’s first foray into dairy-alternative beverages.

Sambazon unveiled an evolved logo and launched a line of reduced-sugar beverages in three flavors: Acai Berry, Pineapple Coconut with Acai Berry, and Strawberry Lemon with Acai Berry. The products, packaged in a new bottle design and shape, have a range of 4 to 9 grams of sugar. “Sugar is increasingly in people’s minds,” said brand manager Jason Moraff. The line — USDA Organic, non-GMO Project verified and fair trade approved — contains antioxidants and omegas 3, 6 and 9. On the executive front, the brand has hired Will Holsworth, the former chief customer officer and EVP of global strategy with Cytosport, the marketer of Muscle Milk.

kohana whiteKohana, a marketer of ready-to-drink and concentrate cold-brewed coffee, has released new 8 oz. cans that are available in single serve and 4-packs. The cans are sold in four flavors — Black, White, Salted Caramel and Vanilla — at Central Market locations.

Hiball introduced a new “Rich & Creamy” line of Arabica fair trade organic cold-brewed coffee products in three flavors: Coffee, Vanilla and Mocha. The products, sold in 8 oz. cans, are blended with nonfat milk, cream, organic fair trade cane sugar and small amounts of organic guarana, ginseng and B vitamins. HiBall will debut the line in February 2015 through a 90-day exclusive partnership with Whole Foods. The drinks will have a price of $2.99 per 8 oz. can.

Love Grace has tripled the size of its production space at the Organic Food Incubator in Long Island City, Queens, N.Y., and has doubled its output of cold-pressed juice. By the end of 2014, the company plans to decrease the size of its bottle from 16 oz. to 10 oz. The brand recently secured shelf placements at a few Fairways and Mrs. Green’s Natural Markets.

Little Me Tea has released two new flavors: Fruit Punch Tea and Berry Tasty Tea, the latter of which won a “Best of East” award at the Expo, as voted by the press on hand. Founder Melinda Hicks said that independent stores are already ordering the new flavors and that Little Me Tea has reached a chain-wide distribution deal with the Meijer grocery chain in the Midwest.

MyCause Water has partnered with distributors KeHE and Haddon House and is now available at Whole Foods mid-Atlantic. At the Expo, the company showcased its recently-revamped message, label and logo. The previous packaging was designed to be placed on cold shelves. The new packaging is more compatible with both cold and regular shelf placement. Flood Creative, a boutique design company in Irvington, N.Y., created about 30 different options for the new design before the brand settled on a winner. After consumers buy a bottle of MyCause Water, they’re directed to a list of causes for their choosing.

Alley Cat Tea recently released a 32 oz. bottle of its fruit tea. The brand is working on a 16 oz. bottle that would join the 32 oz. and original 64 oz. offerings. Alley Cat Tea has reached a partnership with US Foods, a foodservice distributor to restaurants, healthcare and hospitality facilities, government operations and educational institutions.

Green Bee All Natural Soda released a new Half & Half flavor, which combines organic green tea with the company’s Lemon Sting flavor. Founder Christopher Kinkade views Half & Half as a novel take on a classic flavor style. The new flavor is available Whole Foods stores in the retailer’s North Atlantic region.

Vital Juice, a cold-pressed, HPP juice brand based in Seattle, has launched new 6 oz. bottles for its Vital Kids line. The brand also recently secured a distribution deal with all 18 Gelson’s Markets in the greater Los Angeles region.

Daily Greens, which produces a line of green juices and hemp milks, has launched Replenish, a chocolate hemp milk, through an exclusive partnership this month with Natural Grocers/Vitamin Cottage. Replenish, like the rest of the Daily Greens line, is available in 16 oz. bottles. The product is made with hemp seeds, wheatgrass, Madagascar vanilla, coconut nectar, camu camu and raw cocoa.

tio gazpachoTio Gazpacho has developed its concept, message and packaging and is now hoping to spread its footprint across the country. The Miami-based brand of HPP gazpacho beverages can already be found at independent specialty grocers in Florida. The company is finalizing a deal with a co-packer in Connecticut, allowing Tio Gazpacho to expand distribution in the Northeast. The brand recently gained organic certification, unveiled new packaging and decreased the bottle size from 16 oz. to 12 oz. Even though Tio Gazpacho is commonly placed next to cold-pressed juice products on cold shelves, the brand is doing its best to distance itself from the competition. Founder Austin Allan said: “We really want to differentiate ourselves from cold-pressed juices.”

Fire Cider, a tonic made with organic apple cider vinegar, local honey, and a number of other organic ingredients, is hoping to secure more distribution in the natural channel. The tonic is already available in 8 oz., 16 oz., half-gallon and full-gallon bottles, as well as an amber glass growler. In a few months, the brand will introduce an unsweetened version in a 16 oz. bottle.

Five Star Foodies has released a line of cold-pressed, HPP cider products in three flavors: Ginger Cider, Hibiscus Cider and Jamaican Cider. In August, the brand released a new label and a taller skinnier bottle that contains 12 oz. compared to the former 16 oz. iteration. The ciders have a suggested retail price of $4.99.

Correction: A previous version of this story said that Little Me Tea has reached a chain-wide distribution deal with Fred Meyer. This was inaccurate. As noted above, the brand reached a deal with the Meijer grocery chain in the Midwest.