9 #EXPOEAST Faves with a Product Pivot

Being a regular attendee of #EXPOWEST for several years running, I decided to depart from the norm, pivot away from Anaheim and go east this year to Natural Products #EXPOEAST instead. I was met with fewer crowds, more intimate educational sessions and plenty of brands to check out (over 1500 including 244 first-time exhibitors).

Here are 9 product faves that I sampled, all complete with a smart product pivot:


Just as Swapples tells us, we’re talking #wafflesreinvented. Yes, there’s cinnamon and blueberry like more traditional breakfast eaters have come to expect, but this rebellious little brand has seen fit to offer up Garlicky Greens and Tomato Pizza waffle options. It’s about time savory breakfast options hit the market. I predict great success ahead.

The Pivot? Take a stand-by consumer favorite like frozen waffles and modernize it through a ‘swap’ from sweet to savory.


I first stumbled onto Grainful at a food conference a few years ago when they were taking oatmeal into savory territory. Now, I love oatmeal and I love savory foods, but this was a tough one, even for me. Jump ahead to new product ideation, throw in some Chobani Incubator, and they’ve got all new packaging, a mix of grains beyond oats and new flavors. I sampled the Chana Masala with a cooked grain blend of oat groats, sorghum and red quinoa. Excellent.

The Pivot? Modernize breakfast oatmeal with a blend of super grains in order to capture the hearts of consumers who want wholesome, savory options at breakfast or any day part.


One word for Berg Bites. Packaging. Never underestimate the power of packaging. Truth be told, I have ‘energy bar’ fatigue, which is why these little lovelies caught my attention. Eight rounded ‘bites’ come in a circular, cardboard package with a proper lid that feels both artisan and upscale. Sunflower and white chocolate bites for a more unique flavor combo, along with more traditional flavors like chocolate chip.

The Pivot? Re-imagine a bar, turn it into flat round bites instead, and then artfully offer them in a beautiful cardboard tin. Retro and current.


Thanks to Paleo, good meat jerky options abound in today’s marketplace. And yes, we have coconut jerky too for the vegan Paleo eaters among us. But what about a jerky for those who just want more veggies? Enter Pan’s Mushroom Jerky. The founder, Micheal Pan, has drawn on his Malaysian roots, complete with a family recipe, to turn shiitake mushrooms into a completely addictive snack.

The Pivot? Choose a naturally meaty form factor like jerky, and using texture and umami as guideposts, create the meatiest non-meat alternative around.


If you’ve ever had a container of nutritional yeast in your cupboard like me, then you’re aware it can substitute in for cheese…if handled properly. It’s that latter part that can get a little tricky. Enter the condiment company Pop Zest with three different flavor options … all ‘handled properly’.

The Pivot? Take a plant-based staple ingredient and make it more readily consumable through seasonings and shakeability.


Ghee is all the rage. And while I’m not buying into all of its purported benefits ranging from anti-inflammation to weight loss to bone strengthening (sorry, it all needs more science substantiation for the PhD in me), I do enjoy the taste. What caught my attention is turmeric ‘super ghee’ from Pure Indian Foods. Both the color and flavor were noteworthy, plus we’re talking grass fed and organic from a brand dating back five generations in India.

The Pivot? Combine two traditionally aligned ingredients into a harmonious blend. In this case, both turmeric and ghee have strong Ayurveda traditions.


I grew up in a family where canned sauerkraut was regularly and happily consumed, though I managed to steer clear of such soggy non-sense. Imagine my delight when I sampled tangy, crunchy kraut from a bag. Very fermented and very tasty indeed. And come 2019, Cleveland Kraut plans to offer single serves to make the kraut even more approachable and portable.

The Pivot? Select a well-known fermented plant-based ingredient, and then package it in a form that retains the authentic texture of the homemade version.


Hummus makes my heart sing, which is why I can’t believe I missed these little ‘pods’ of hummus that launched nationwide in the U.S. over a year ago from The Modern Pod Company. They come pre-baked and frozen. Sriracha Lime won me over most of all, with Moroccan Spice a close second. It’s that combination of a somewhat crunchy outside with a steaming, satisfying plant-based protein inside that just works for a meal-ish snack.

The Pivot? Choose a not-so-portable plant-based protein and offer it up in a nutritious hand held format that heats easily and travels well.


Lastly, I must have been asleep at the wheel, or perhaps the fridge in this case. FRESHGLOW Co makes something called freshpaper. It is, in a word, brilliant. The entirely humble and smart founder basically patented piece of paper that keeps produce fresh for up to two to four times longer using only active botanicals and natural ingredients. Seriously brilliant.

The Pivot? Don’t overlook the simple and obvious to solve big problems like food waste and global hunger.