Expo East is a top destination for cutting-edge companies, trend-hunting industry professionals, and business leaders looking to make an impact in the health and wellness space. Bringing together over 1,200 exhibitors and thousands of attendees, this year’s event in Philadelphia offered the perfect platform for Ro Conder, PBFA’s vice president of membership, and Maddie Segal, PBFA’s associate director of member relations to meet with members and gain insights into burgeoning trends within the plant-based foods industry. 

Ahead of the event, show organizers New Hope listed “Celebrating Plants” as one of the top three trends to look for at Expo East and according to Maddie and Ro, plant-based food companies certainly delivered. As Maddie shared, “I was amazed to see the representation of plant-based at this show. It was truly a plant-based takeover – so much so that when I saw a vendor with animal-based meat I was taken aback!” 

Being able to engage with members in person was also a highlight for the membership team. 

“There were so many members at the show,” Maddie stated. “Every few booths I saw another member. It always brings me so much joy to get to check in with them in person and hear about what is going on in their world. There’s nothing better.” The sentiment was shared by Ro, “the energy was electric and I loved seeing our members shine.” Additionally, the show offered crucial opportunities for members to make inroads with buyers to help expand their business footprints. 

“The member’s feedback at the show was so positive,” said Maddie. “I heard from many of them that they had made great inroads with buyers. I have a feeling we are going to be seeing some new products launch very soon!”

Trend Watch: Plant-Based Snacks and Options for Kids

While plant-based foods have been a top trend at Expo for a number of years now, PBFA members at the show demonstrated great strides in innovation in terms of ingredient use, sustainability efforts, and desire to provide options for every eating occasion. As Ro shared, “The innovation in plant-based snacks is growing rapidly – consumers are looking for foods that are quick, easy, and portable.” A few members that are pioneering the plant-based snack category at Expo East include Oustanding Foods with their new plant-based cheese balls, Lupii’s growing array of nutrient-dense snack bars, Eat the Change’s carrot chews, and Dandies’ bite-sized plant-based marshmallows made without artificial flavors, colors, or corn syrup. “It was also great to try Good Planet’s new high-protein snack packs,” continued Ro. “This new grab-n-go staple includes plant-based cheese, almonds, and cranberries.” 

For Maddie, the growing trend of plant-based options for kids stood out. “As a mom to two young children, I am very excited for what is to come for kids who are being raised on a plant-based diet. It seems like companies understand that plant-based parents are ready for more innovation and they are delivering. Some examples I noticed on the show floor included PBFA member Good Karma’s milk for kids, as well as a plant-based Lunchables brand, plant-based versions of ‘Uncrustables’, sprinkle popcorn, and plant-based cheese crackers.”

Building Plans to Strengthen the Industry

Coming off of such great quality time with members, Ro and Maddie are setting their sights on how we can continue to champion, elevate, and strengthen the plant-based foods industry and our members. While every aspect of the food industry has been impacted by supply network challenges and market fluctuations coming off the pandemic, the nimble nature of plant-based food companies enabled PBFA members to navigate setbacks while demonstrating their unwavering commitment to creating innovative, delicious food for all occasions.

“The resilience of our members never ceases to amaze me,” shared Ro. “This has been a challenging year for so many in the food industry and our members have worked hard and made incredible sacrifices to weather the storm.”

Creating a space for our members to come together, gain an industry advantage, and grow their business is a top priority for the PBFA’s membership team, and being able to hear from members firsthand at Expo East will help inform the tailored offerings and benefits for our community in the coming months. The enthusiasm coming off of plant-based foods at Expo East signals the growing momentum of our industry and Ro and Maddie look forward to capitalizing on this energy to further serve our membership.