KANSAS CITY — Ten brands participated in the first-ever Food Entrepreneur Expo, an interactive tasting event hosted by Food Business News on Aug. 26. Featured among the products sampled by dozens of attendees were cauliflower crisps, sprouted buckwheat clusters, crispy salmon skins and more.

“What stood out to me was the amazing diversity of ingredients showcased in this mix of products,” said L. Joshua Sosland, president of Sosland Publishing Company and editor-in-chief of Food Business News. “From aronia berry and buckwheat to lupini beans and kelp it’s really quite a mix. The single-minded focus of the entrepreneurs seeking to develop and perfect an appealing, highly differentiated product really shines through and helps me understand why excitement around food entrepreneurship continues unabated at such a high level.”

The coronavirus pandemic has canceled dozens of industry events, limiting opportunities for up-and-coming brands to drive trial of new products. The editors of Food Business News launched the Food Entrepreneur Expo to offer an interactive experience for retail buyers, marketers, product developers, ingredient suppliers and founders to remain engaged with leading industry trends from the safety of home.

Registrants received a curated box of shelf-stable food and beverage products and a scorecard to rate each product on taste, innovation and brand positioning. During a live webinar, the audience was guided through a tasting and scoring of the products while viewing brief videos submitted by each participating brand. The event was supported by presenting sponsor ADM and award sponsors Blommer Chocolate Co. and Prova.

The webinar may be viewed on demand here.

Winning the Editors’ Choice award, selected by the editors of Food Business News, was 12 Tides Seaweed Co., a maker of puffed seaweed snacks in savory flavors including sea salt, black pepper and everything seasoning. The company sources sustainably harvested North American kelp, which is nutrient dense and supports ocean restoration.

The Best in Show distinction, based on audience votes, resulted in a tie between 12 Tides and Mavericks, a better-for-you children’s snacking brand developed by a team of industry veterans. At the intersection of healthy and kid-approved, Mavericks offers a range of cookies with 40% less sugar than the category leader, and crackers with 8 grams of whole grains. Mavericks Snacks meet the USDA’s smart snacks requirements and are packaged for grab-and-go or lunchbox convenience.

Other brands participating in the Food Entrepreneur Expo included:

  • GoodFish, which transforms a seafood byproduct into crispy salmon skins;
  • Hippie Snacks, a producer of minimally processed crisps featuring almonds, avocado or cauliflower;
  • Hops and Nuts (soon to rebrand as Sippin Snax), a maker of artisanal snacks to pair with craft beer or wine;
  • Lil Bucks, a maker of snacks and toppings featuring sprouted buckwheat;
  • LUPii, which makes protein bites featuring the lupini bean;
  • ReGrained, a producer of upcycled beer grain snacks;
  • Tohi, a brand of non-carbonated aronia berry beverages; and
  • Wicked Crisps, a brand of baked vegetable crisps.

The Food Entrepreneur Expo was presented in conjunction with the Trends and Innovations Web Series by Food Business News and Sosland Publishing Company. The event may be viewed here.