Expo East 2022 is officially over, and the Nutrition Insider team is wiped!
Philadelphia beckoned, and what felt like the entire natural products industry responded with gusto; more than 1100 exhibitors and thousands upon thousands of attendees packed the Philly Convention Center.
This was the first successful Natural Products Expo since COVID-19 forced everyone indoors, and adding to the excitement for our remote team, in particular, was the fact that only two of us had met in person up to this time.
But we had very little time to enjoy “analog conversation” (you know, like the pilgrims did) because we had so many natural products brands to connect with.
Speaking of, some of the most pronounced trends we picked up on as we combed row after row of vendor booths included a distinct uptick in non-alcoholic spirit brands, innovative sustainability strategies (upcycled corn husks!?), and of course, an even greater surge of plant-based food companies looking to catfish and convert carnivores.
Philly was great, the expo was great, and several of the brands we interviewed showed promise as capable frontrunners looking to steer the industry to a healthier and more equitable place – here’s our Expo East recap.
Day 1: Oh, It’s On
Our first day at the Expo East Trade Show (the education/events component kicked off a day earlier, Sep 28th) was all about engaging with the “must hit” brands we identified in our pre-show research as perfect candidates for our content and audience.
Even with the wait for press badges and the Odyssean journey to find the (basically hidden) press room, our team was very pleased with how the second half of the day went.
The excitement for a return to normalcy was palpable throughout the packed convention center, and we leveraged this upbeat energy to embolden each brand’s representatives (who covered quite a range of camera-readiness) to look into the camera and tell us why they deserve to be featured on our site as a game-changing nutrition brand.
Envious side-eye glances from neighboring booths were in no short supply, but when time permitted, we entertained anyone bold enough to state their case with an opportunity to do so on camera.
As the day’s proceedings showed signs of winding down, our team returned to the hotel and immediately began working on recap articles, Instagram reels, and a half-committal stretching routine in the lobby – you’re welcome, everyone watching.
Finally, our fearless leader treated us to dinner, where exhaustion and excitement converged over a pretty darn solid spread (shoutout to Iron Hill Brewery in Philly) and one or two non-non-alcoholic beverages.
Day 2: Heavy Hitters
“Alright,” we said, “let’s start early and work all the way through.”
Having overcome all of the most time-consuming elements the day before (checking in, forgetting equipment in the hotel room, etc.), our goal on day 2 of Natural Products Expo East (Friday, 9/30) was to wrap up the rest of our “must hit” connections and ideally start branching out into “nice to hits,” which was a far larger list.
Indeed, we were pleased to find a string of highly receptive marketing directors, PR professionals, and in some cases, even company founders who were all too happy to tout their wares both in the initial conversation with us and to our cameras.
We also discovered several gems that impressed us even more than our already high expectations allowed, including Wilde and their awesome chicken-based protein chips, Ritual with their delicious NA spirits, Honey Mama’s with ridiculously tasty chocolates, and HighKey for keto snacks that push the envelope on taste and ingredient quality.
Though we didn’t get a chance to visit Thor’s Skyr, a modern iteration of traditional Icelandic yogurt (way lower in sugar and higher in protein than most yogurt), we saw Terry Crews and Icelandic strongman Hafbor Bjornsson (“The Mountain”) posted up outside of their booth when passing by—crazy!
After meeting with more than two dozen seriously impressive brands and sufficiently gorging ourselves on free samples, there was only one thing left to do – go to the Double Knot and eat some more.
This charming sushi restaurant and its izakaya (a type of Japanese bar and eatery, kind of like tapas) hidden in the basement was the perfect environment to celebrate another successful day of rubbing elbows with the best in the nutrition product business—and celebrate we did.
Day 3: The Free Sample Purge!
How can it already be Day 3?!
Although one-fifth of our small team headed out early in the morning, the majority of us were still available to hit the floor one last time.
Despite many booths already shutting down operations—we don’t blame them, we were tired, too—we still managed to make about a dozen more connections with impressive natural food and beverage brands before we called it a day.
A couple of standout favorites from Day 3 were the pasture-raised heirloom chicken from Cook’s Venture—we learned that they took 13 years to breed the perfect chicken with better health, quality, and taste—and the mango and chocolate coconut smoothies from Harmless Harvest.
Sticking with the non-alcoholic theme of the Expo, we also happily stumbled upon two more NA spirits brands—Lyre’s and Three Spirit—where we enjoyed NA espresso martinis and margaritas at the former and a nootropic- and adaptogen-filled cocktail at the latter.
A few other tasty booths we stopped by were Purely Elizabeth for gluten-free granola, oatmeal, and cereal—and a quick chat with Liz herself!—plus stevia- and monk fruit-based cocktail and coffee syrups from Skinny Mixes, chocolate tahini from Soom Foods (this one gives Nutella a run for its money), and Sanzo’s sparkling water made from Asian fruits like lychee, yuzu, and calamansi.
As the team dwindled one by one to make their flights (with one of us learning a bit too late how the check-in process works on Southwest!), three of us wrapped up the evening with a hunt for a Philly cheesesteak—how could we not?
However, while we certainly enjoyed the city’s namesake sandwich, we think the hype is a bit overstated—our favorite meal had to be our cozy sushi-and-sake night at Double Knot.
After a long day of travels back home to our respective corners of the country—it’s time to return to Zoom calls and remote work—our team is ready to hit the ground running after a successful few days of connecting with brands from all over the world.
Now, we plan to (virtually) sit down with founders, presidents, and marketing managers from the most-loved food, beverage, and supplement brands that we saw at Expo East.
Over the next few months, you can expect to see dozens of in-depth brand and product reviews from our writing team—and we hope you’ll love them all as much as we do.
That’s all for now—until Expo West!