In just its second year, but growing, the top floor experience is still relatively new to the ever-expanding Natural Products Expo West, which concluded on Sunday, March 8 in Anaheim, Calif. Nevertheless, a tour of its lower-priced, smaller booths easily lent insight into some of the bleeding-edge trends in the entrepreneurial beverage business, as well as key ingredients as well: drinks containing adaptogenic herbs, fat-rich coconut milk, high-end cocktail mixers, cold-brewed “coffee juice”; oddly sourced products like artichoke water and camel’s milk; alternative energy sources and strong-bodied products made from seeds, nuts, and chocolate.
That experience is also what a pair of BevNET correspondents, Neil Martinez-Belkin and Jacquelyn Brugliera, immersed themselves in when we sent them up to report on some of the brands that were emerging on the top floor. They came back with a report, featured below, not just on three of the most interesting companies, but three that ultimately won Expo West’s “NEXTY Awards,” given to promising products by a panel of judges. All three came from new but rapidly increasing spaces: the recombinant batch of on-trend flavors like chocolate, chai and coffee mixed with potent herbs that are featured in Rebbl’s new line; products using more of the coconut than just its “water” in Whole E Coco and the premium, Whole Foods-compliant bar juice set from Barsmith.
Despite the encouragement that accompanies a strong showing in the awards space, the brands in the video are all facing a long climb; as Rebbl’s Palo Hawken noted, they are trying to pioneer or deepen new categories rather than break into established ones. The risk is not being noticed, the reward is being first to the shelf. Regardless of result, however, their discussion gives insight into the experience of the small brand at the big show.