With 4,000 attendees and more than 800 exhibitors, the 2023 KeHE Summer Show was the place to be for natural, organic, fresh and specialty food suppliers and retailers to get a sneak peek at up-and-coming products and innovations before they hit the market. The annual show took place in February — the peak of the summer buying season — in Nashville, Tenn.
The show is considered the leading industry event to connect brands with key buyers from independent and chain retail stores. It’s also where we explore the latest trends and get exclusive access to buy and sample new products hitting stores this summer.
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This year, the show recognized emerging brands and trendsetters that are coming to market with innovative products. KeHE’s trend experts hand-picked 11 brands from hundreds of applicants to participate in the Next Generation Innovation Showcase. During the showcase, the brands had the chance to debut their products, connect with retailers and KeHE employees, and have attendees vote on their favorite brand to bring into KeHE’s assortment and launch with KeHE through the [email protected] program. The winners of the showcase were:
- Choputa, an instant alternative-grain breakfast cereal
- SPRUSE, a subscription-based cleaning service
- Buddy Budder, all-natural peanut butter for dogs
- Heritage Kulfi, premium ice cream inspired by South Asian cuisine
Next, the four brands will compete in the Next Generation Innovation Virtual Faceoff after the 2023 KeHE Summer Show for a chance to win a spot in the KeHE elevate program, a high-touch initiative that provides brands with a platform for growth and allows them to reach more shelves nationwide.
KeHE’s trend innovation gurus also named the winners of the 2023 On Trend Awards. Using an innovation scorecard, winning brands were selected based on innovation, taste, pricing and promotions, packaging, people, and purpose-driven attributes. Awards went to:
- Mindright, for On Trend Best of Show
- Kettle Air Fried Potato Chips, for On Trend Appetizers & Snack Foods
- Hu, for On Trend Baking, Sweetener & Spices
- Odyssey Elixir, for On Trend Beverage
- ALOHA, for On Trend Breakfast & Bars
- Mesa de Vida, for On Trend Condiment & Spread
- Alter Eco, for On Trend Candy & Confections
- Neutral, for On Trend Dairy & Refrigerated
- Casa M Spice Co, for On Trend Diversity
- Good & Tasty Bakes, for On Trend Fresh
- Chubby Snacks, for On Trend Frozen
- Caboo Products, for On Trend Furry Friends & Household Products
- Andalou Naturals, for On Trend HBC & Personal Care
- GoodSAM Foods, for On Trend Mission-Based Brand
- Genova, for On Trend Pantry Staples
- BodyHealth, for On Trend Wellness Nutrition
In addition to celebrating outstanding brands in the natural and organic food space, the show is also where we look into the future and talk about summer trends that we need to keep on our radar.
The following were the top macro trends that everyone was talking about.
Consumers are seeking products that are better for the planet and have a smaller environmental impact. They’re looking for transparency in products, packaging, transportation and ingredients, alongside a growing interest in sustainability. Some brands setting the sustainability bar are Caboo, with its tree-free paper products, and Waterdrop, a sustainable hydration company.
Cooking with bold, unique flavors that pack a punch is on tap for this summer. Consumers want more flavor – and in some cases, heat – to elevate summer cooking. One way this is coming to life is through exotic flavors, nostalgically inspired foods and global cuisines. A brand worth noting here is Bravado Spice Co., for its creativity and culinary alchemy.
Mind and Body
Consumers are looking for new ways to heal and alleviate stress by seeking out things like the power of sound and even nourishing the full-body biome. Some standout products getting attention in the wellness category include Aura Cacia, a pure essential oil company, and Loud Brew, a cold-brew coffee crafted to induce calm and clarity with no harsh caffeine rush.
Personalized food experiences with flavor-forward and functional ingredients are what consumers want. They’re motivated by a combination of health benefits, environmental sustainability, convenience and flavorful experiences. Some brands upping the ante are health snack companies Daily Crunch and Catalina Crunch.
Shoppers want to be more in control of the brands they bring home to their families and are seeking out products that are making a difference in the world. Brands getting noticed in this space are lmlak’esh Organics, a company that sources food from indigenous farmers, and Mavericks, a maker of “better-for-kids” cookies.
As we settle into the year and look ahead to summer, only time will tell whether these trends become a reality in the natural and organic food market. There shouldn’t be too many surprises, however, and we should be on track to see another awesome summer selling season.