Icicle Power-Users Lead the Way for Natural Products at Expo West 2023
In-person events are making a huge comeback in 2023, which made it all the more exciting for the Icicle team to attend Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California last week and connect with our customers, partners, and new faces. This year’s conference highlighted the economic boom of plant-based foods, which are a key driver of sales growth for grocery retailers nationwide – an uphill trajectory that is increasing three times faster than overall food sales. At Expo West, we saw this reflected in the exhibitors; over one third of exhibitors were promoting vegan and plant-based products to meet the needs of this popular market.
We were also fascinated to hear about a recent study presented by 84.51° and the Plant Based Foods Association at Expo West, which indicated that the greatest opportunities for plant-based foods lie in innovations, from formulating exciting, bold flavors to rethinking pre-made meals and beyond. These kinds of high-demand innovations were exactly what was on display from members of the Icicle community at this year’s “superbowl of the food industry,” Expo West.
Natural Product Market Trends Showcase Innovations from Icicle ERP Users
Expo West organizers published the top trends at the mega event this year, which included environmental impact, sustainability, and radical transparency.
Upcycling Champions: Big Mountain Foods
We are savoring the continued success of Icicle ERP user Big Mountain Foods (a manufacturer from our hometown in British Columbia) with their latest innovation: Fava Bean Feta, which was a finalist for 2023’s Best New Meat or Dairy Alternative Nexty Award. The high-protein cheese alternative is soy-free, making it a tasty and viable plant-based option for consumers with soy allergies.
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Fava Bean Feta is more than an innovation in great taste and texture, it’s also an example of the company’s trend-setting embrace of sustainable upcycling manufacturing practices, which according to Expo West organizers, “is having a moment,” dramatically expanding in popularity compared to the previous year’s conference. Big Mountain Foods was already a member of the Upcycled Food Association when they won the 2022 Nexty Award for Best Special Diet Food for their Lion’s Mane Mushroom Crumble, another innovative and sustainable product that astounded the judges as an exceptional allergen-free meat alternative (it is soy-free, gluten-free, vegan, kosher, and halal, as well as WHOLE30 Certified).
That product contains upcycled ingredients too; in addition to reusing 70% of the water used during production, Big Mountain’s sustainable manufacturing efforts include upcycling protein-rich byproducts like okara from their Fava Bean Tofu and Chickpea Tofu products – an innovation that has attracted major government investment and research collaborations with top universities.
Environmentally Friendly Legends: Country Prime Meats
Country Prime Meats, another family-owned company right here in BC, showcased their full line of Prime Bites at the Expo West 2023 BC Pavillion. Offered in four flavors, the high-protein, naturally smoked sausage snacks are nitrate-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, low sodium, and made from locally-sourced ingredients without any fillers, preservatives, or artificial flavors.
Country Prime Meats is also another leader in sustainable food manufacturing: after nearly 20 years of sustainable innovations in their facility design, in 2014, they achieved their goal of becoming carbon neutral, using natural sunlight to air dry their products and recycling the energy and byproducts from production.
Toasts of Clean Eating (and Drinking): Say When Beverages
Icicle ERP user Say When Beverages (formally the Chai Company) were among the many Canadian companies represented in the “Hot Products” halls of the show. Their state-of-the-art microbrewery produces handcrafted chai concentrates using Fair Trade Certified and Organic ingredients that are easy to make at home. Catering to consumers looking for “clean” ingredients and labels, Say When’s chai products are vegan, gluten-free, organic, and Kosher – perfect exhibitors for the Natural Products Expo.
Food Tech Wizards for Sustainability: Voyage Foods
Lastly, we can’t pass up the chance to rave over Icicle user and food technology company Voyage Foods. At Expo West 2023, their team debuted a new, retro look for their signature peanut-free spread alongside exciting new products like a beanless coffee that wowed attendees with its coffee-like taste.
Voyage Foods’ innovations were profiled in Forbes Magazine last month for their strategy of “democratizing” and “future-proofing” favourite foods like peanut butter, chocolate, and coffee from the compounding effects of climate change, which is likely to compromise quality and even overall supply as time goes on. Their creative inventions also aim to provide alternatives to products that contain common allergens as well as ingredients harvested or processed by industries that commonly exploit farmers, other workers, and entire communities.
Data-Driven Food Manufacturing is the Key to (Sustainable) Innovation
Icicle ERP’s inventory and expiration management features have pushed the boundaries of waste reduction and elimination in food manufacturing, making it a key tool for trend-setting companies producing successful products with low environmental impact and sustainable business practices. Icicle’s powerful, proprietary automation tools help our customers make the most of their raw materials and track all transformations of product (including byproducts) to meet zero-waste targets.
For our size company, as we grow, seeing what we have in Icicle, it’s modular, it’s evolving, it’s growing with us. It removes the complexity and gives us simplicity. I think for growing companies who really want to make things more manageable, Icicle is definitely an enabler. — Patrick O’Sullivan, Plant Manager and Project Manager at Big Mountain Foods
Fully integrated with our advanced traceability technology, our supplier management features make it easy to work with multiple vendors to build strong, local supply chains with businesses that share your values – both in terms of sustainability and food safety. That’s where Icicle’s commitment to radical transparency – one of the key trends at Expo West 2023 – stands out, too. The Expo West report notes that consumers of natural products (and the retailers they buy from) are looking for manufacturers that are open to third-party validation.
Food and beverage manufacturers like Big Mountain Foods, Country Prime Meats, Say When Beverages, and Voyage Foods know that compliance, certifications, and audits are Icicle ERP’s backbone, helping companies of all sizes maintain the highest standards for their operations to maximize their market access. With Icicle’s food safety and audit management features, companies can scale their business for long-term success and navigate requirements for the multiple safety, quality, and specialty certification programs that give your products a competitive edge.
The first time the auditor came, I remember that the process seemed a lot easier. The information was readily available and it made it so much smoother and easier to provide that stuff right away, without having to look it up.” — Simon Lam, Director of Operations at Say When Beverages
Boost Your Plant-Based Food Brand with Icicle Smart Data
The truth is, transparency is no longer just about where food is grown or who grew it; consumers want to know more about the products they’re buying and they want to see indicators on the packaging. From dietary certifications like organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, allergen-free to focuses on sustainability, equity, and justice, the exhibitors at Natural Products Expo West showed exactly how to meet consumer desires.
Icicle ERP delivers the data-driven tools and insights food and beverage processors need to maintain a robust traceability system and deliver the authenticity that consumers want. Plant-based food processors and other makers of natural products are empowered by data that captures the evidence that proves they are on the right track to meet their goals for sustainability, innovation, and profitability.