We were pleased to see a wave of beverage brands at this year’s Expo West pushing the frontier of healthy coffees, beers, and teas far beyond the gimmicky permutations of the past.
The theme of the day was drinking what you love without the artificial flavors, empty calories, or hangovers associated with traditional beer, coffee, and tea drinks.
Some brands pushed this standard even further, presenting drinks with functional ingredients to support healthy sleep, prevent muscle cramps, improve cognition, and more.
Below, we’re highlighting ten of the dozens of companies we met who offer specialty beverages for the health-savvy, yet refined palate.
“Our goal was to make beer approachable for the modern life.”– Bill Shufelt, Founder at Athletic Brewing Co
Catering to athletes, total alcohol abstainers, and the rest of us just trying to have a civil Thanksgiving for once, Athletic Brewing Co offers an expansive selection of craft NA beers that far exceeds the one or two options you’ll find at most bars.
Founder Bill Shufelt and head brewer John Walker have amassed a well-reputed catalog of non-alcoholic IPAs, light beers, golden ales, copper ales, sours, and more, which they brew in their Stratford, Connecticut and San Diego, CA locations.
“Our goal was to make beer approachable for the modern life,” said Shufelt.
With the rise of non-alcoholic options from the nation’s most popular beer makers, Athletic finds themselves offering the right product at the right time, and it helps that—in our personal opinion—their craft beers taste exactly like the real thing.
“All of our ingredients are naturally found in your body.”– Erika Huennekens, VP of Media at Som Sleep
“All of our ingredients are naturally found in your body,” said Erika Huennekens, VP of Media.
Containing magnesium, vitamin B6, L-theanine, and melatonin, all of which the human brain already uses to promote sleep, Som Sleep beverages are engineered to remove barriers within the natural sleep process, not sedate you into a stupor.
While we couldn’t sample the sleek-looking cans at the booth for obvious reasons, we felt refreshed the next morning after drinking Som Sleep the night before.
“Our founders wanted something hoppy but healthy at the same time.”– Ryan Haggerty, Brand Manager at Hop Wtr
Merging the citrusy, bitter hoppiness of your favorite IPA with functional adaptogens (and no alcohol or calories), the Hop Wtr team admits openly that their sparkling waters are here to trick you.
We personally can attest to the taste, it seemed indistinguishable from a typical IPA; however, its potential effect on the human body is anything but identical to traditional beer.
Like the savvy pop-to-seltzer switch, replacing that evening beer or five with Hop Wtr—which contains ashwagandha, L-theanine, and other functional ingredients—is all about prioritizing health without compromising on taste.
The company was started by two self-described busy dads, Nick and Jordan, who “wanted something hoppy but healthy at the same time,” said Ryan Haggerty, the Brand Manager at Hop Wtr.
“We want to make your coffee good for you but we want to make it fun.”– Jake DeCicco, “Middle brother” and Co-founder at Super Coffee
Three stubborn brothers hatched a plan in a dorm room to create a line of healthier coffees, and even if they didn’t get the memo that they were charging headlong at well-entrenched industry giants, they managed to break through.
Super Coffee has grown from a one-campus delivery service to a nationwide retailer of healthy bottled coffees, containing MCT oil, more protein, and no added sugar.
We’ve heard brand after brand spout about their game-changing products and positive culture before, but at Expo West, we got the chance to speak with “middle brother” Jake DeCicco and see for ourselves.
“We want to make your coffee good for you but we want to make it fun,” said DeCicco.
“It has nothing to do with pickles, believe it or not.”– Filip Keuppens, VP of Global Sales and Marketing at The Pickle Juice Company
It’s a very bold dividing line that separates us pickle juice drinkers from the staunchly opposed, but never fear, The Pickle Juice Company’s cramp-stopping sports drinks don’t actually contain leftover pickle brine.
We spoke with Filip Keuppens at The Pickle Juice Company booth to learn more about what’s actually in their products and how they prevent muscle cramps at the source.
“It’s the only product on the market scientifically proven to stop and prevent muscle cramps,” said Keuppens. “It has nothing to do with pickles, believe it or not.”
What it does have to do with is electrolytes and minerals, such as organic vinegar, potassium, and zinc.
“It’s the small changes that make a big difference.”– Jackie Donovan, Director of National Grocery at Ripple Foods
Providing protein-rich, plant-based milk and protein shakes since they were founded in 2014 by Adam Lowry and Neil Renninger, Ripple is shamelessly pulling out the nails holding up the centuries-old institution of cow’s milk.
Their products utilize pea protein to undercut conventional milk in just about every undesirable category (namely, sugar and dairy) while providing plenty of protein and nutritional value.
“Our focus is to make the world a better place on a regular basis by the ripple effect,” said Jackie Donovan, Director of National Grocery. “It’s the small changes that make a big difference.”
Jackie spoke to us about Ripple’s oat milk for children, which she said was made with the intention of making it easier for parents to provide healthy, but delicious choices for their kids.
We sampled Zest Tea during one morning of the Expo, and not only did we get a significant energy boost without midafternoon drowsiness but they also tasted great, too.– The Nutrition Insider
Determined to outshine the perk-up potency of coffee with a naturally healthy vehicle (for caffeine), Zest Tea out of Baltimore, MD touts a sizable collection of teas that contain triple the caffeine of conventional alternatives.
In order to reign in the jitters and the hard crash after the fact, Zest Tea fortifies their products with L-theanine and other amino acids shown to mediate these effects while still allowing for increased alertness.
We sampled Zest Tea during one morning of the Expo, and not only did we get a significant energy boost without midafternoon drowsiness but they also tasted great, too.
Teeccino’s offerings are made with roasted herbs, fruits, nuts, spices, and more to mimic the coffee experience without the caffeine.– The Nutrition Insider
If “herbal coffee” gives you a bit of cognitive dissonance at first listen, we understand, but Teeccino has been making a strong case for it since their debut at—check this out—the Natural Products Expo of 1995.
The brainchild of well-known tea designer Caroline MacDougall, Teeccino’s offerings are made with roasted herbs, fruits, nuts, spices, and more to mimic the coffee experience without the caffeine.
(Hint) is especially popular among parents looking to give their children a healthier alternative to juice.– The Nutrition Insider
Hint was established in 2005 with the aim to subvert the sugar-sweetened beverage industry using fruit-flavored water that actually tastes good.
Containing zero sweeteners, preservatives, or calories, Hint has grown since their humble beginnings to reach 30,000 retailers in the US, and is especially popular among parents looking to give their children a healthier alternative to juice.
Hint had several of their more than a dozen flavors on display, and when we visited them a little later in the day, the vast majority of their samples had disappeared.
The mixes were smooth and had a mild yet pleasant flavor.– The Nutrition Insider
Your Super creates superfood mixes that are intended to make it “super easy” to achieve specific benefits, such as detoxing or boosting immunity.
Our team sampled a few of the variations Your Super had on display, and despite what some may expect, this was nothing like a loathsome green smoothie; the mixes were smooth and had a mild yet pleasant flavor.
Your Super was founded by Michael Kuech—who was diagnosed with cancer at 24 and fueled his body with whole foods while in recovery—and Kristel de Groot who helped Michael by creating unique mixes to help improve his health.
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