What’s Hot in Plant-Based? Natural Products Expo West 2023 Has Clues

With thousands of exhibitors across the natural products space and tens of thousands of visitors, the annual Natural Products Expo West, better known simply as Expo West, is among the top must-see shows in the industry. This year’s event, held in Anaheim, CA, March 8-11, was buzzing with energy and new product activity. Here are key plant-based product subcategories to keep an eye on:

  • Whole muscle meat alternatives have been the holy grail for the industry, which to date focused primarily on plant-based ground products. Canada-based Urbani Brands recently introduced its ribeye steak product manufactured from a combination of soybean protein and oil, tapioca, konjac root, and other ingredients. At Expo West, Konscious Foods featured a variety of sushi rolls with whole-muscle fish produced from seaweed, konjac, and pea protein. Current Foods tuna and salmon products are created from pea protein, potato starch, and algal oil and are designed to be consumed “raw” in sushi, sashimi, poke bowls, and other applications. unMEAT offers plant-based canned luncheon meat and tuna and is introducing canned chunk chicken, chilli with beans, and roast beef alternatives.
  • The battle of the burgers continues. Despite a highly saturated marketplace, plant-based burger brands continue to emerge and differentiate themselves from the competition. Nobull brands itself as the “true veggie burger” that is “not meant to be a meat imitator, but a true, whole-food, real food veggie burger” made from lentils, brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, and vegetables. The ingredient list for burgers from Dr. Praeger’s is almost entirely vegetables, along with starches and flours for binding. Actual Veggies and Big Mountain also focus on their vegetable content rather than trying to recreate a meat-like burger.
  • Global plant-based products offer cultural diversity in authentic recreations of traditional dishes. Triton Algae Innovations, a San Diego-based food startup, launched its “Too Good To Be” Pork dumpling with algae, cabbage, onion, and plant-based pork. Funky Fresh offers a sweet potato and black bean vegan spring roll in addition to its conventional product line. Italy-based Mia Green Food produces a line of Italian-style plant-based deli slices, including protein-rich alternatives to turkey breast, carpaccio, pepperoni, and prosciutto. Wheat gluten is the primary protein; pea and chickpea flour may also be used depending on the variety. Mozzarisella creates its vegan mozzarella and Parmesan cheese alternatives using brown rice sprouts, along with oils and thickeners. Somos has a full line of plant-based classic Mexican dishes – refried beans, black beans, burrito bowl kits, and main dishes. Pea protein is widely used to the brand’s dishes containing plant-based ground meat.
  • Dairy alternative drinks are coming closer to replicating the protein and calcium profile of dairy milk by adding protein and calcium to a base that tends to be low in both. Oat continues to stand out as the most prominent base for dairy alternative drinks, although choices have broadened to include pistachio, macadamia, sesame, and the newly introduced mushroom milk. Animal-free milks made with whey from Perfect Day are trying to win over a consumer base among flexitarians who are interested in dairy alternatives and animal welfare but are not necessarily committed to a vegan diet.
  • Next generation cheeses are incorporating traditional cheesemaking techniques to recreate the texture, flavor, and performance of dairy cheeses. Climax introduced vegan blue, brie, feta, and chevre cheeses that are “high in protein, at parity with dairy, and with better fats and other nutritional properties.” The company website notes that it explores combinations of plant-based ingredients that can be optimized to “produce indistinguishable alternatives to animal-based products.” Mia Parmegan plant-based Parmesan is similar in appearance to a wrapped Parmigiano wedge, can be grated, and also melts. Bel Brands featured its Nurishh plant-based cheeses and its green wax-wrapped Babybel Plant-Based, each with added calcium and vitamin B12.
  • The keto diet is a variation on the age-old meat-rich, high fat, high protein, low carbohydrate diet. This current iteration has fully adapted for the plant-centric consumer, with plenty of nuts, coconut, and non-caloric sweeteners. Super Fat Keto Nut Butters are made with a base of coconut, almond, and macadamia; they are sweetened with erythritol and stevia. Super Fat also offers keto cookies. Madly Hadley markets a keto friendly, gluten free, soy free plant-based coconut bacon. Carbonaut breads and buns are fortified with protein and fiber, raising protein content to up to 12 grams per serving and lowering carbohydrates to 2-3 grams of net carbs. Sola breads, buns and bagels, all labeled keto-friendly, are an excellent source of both protein and fiber. Their high fiber content reduces net carbs significantly. Keto-friendly Catalina Crunch Cereal gets its protein from pea protein; fiber from potato, corn, and chicory root; and fat from sunflower oil, coconut oil, and almonds. Stevia provides sweetness without carbs or calories.
  • Noodles and pasta naturally are plant-based, unless they are made with eggs. Today’s plant-based pasta trends include a broader range of flours, use of vegetables for color and nutrition, and low carbohydrate options. Pastabilities formulates and markets its pasta products for different types of diets: high protein, high fiber, and low calorie. The Wildfare line of organic, vegan pastas are flavored and colored with a range of vegetables, including beetroot, broccoli, olive, sweet red pepper, tomato, spinach, and black carrot. Andean Valley produces pasta from quinoa grown sustainably in Nicaragua. Miracle Noodle plant-based noodles have close to zero calories and carbohydrates as a result of their konjac flour base.
  • Mushrooms loom large in product launches. Functional mushrooms have been added to supplements, beverages, and food products. The company Meati uses mushroom root protein as the base for its product line of cutlets and steaks. Big Mountain offers its Lion’s Mane Mushroom Crumble that supplements lion’s mane with shiitake and portobello mushrooms. The product is high in fiber and protein. Bravo Tea promotes a Mushroom Wonders line with a choice of lion’s mane, reishi, turkey tail, chaga, maitake, cordyceps, or blended mushroom.
  • Soy-free products are becoming more common across a broad range of categories, including burgers, dairy alternative drinks, snack mixes, and even tofu, where one company sampled a tofu made from fava beans rather than soy.

Expo West is nearly back to its pre-pandemic energy and innovation and likely will continue to be among the go-to shows for plant-based innovation.

Upcoming Webinar Featuring Experts From Deliveroo, Meatless Farm, Veg Capital, and More

Tuesday, February 7 at 9am EST (2pm GMT) will see new webinar series, Insider Talks launch live on Plant Based World Pulse. 

The monthly segment will feature key players in the industry as they engage in topical conversations hosted by Indy Kaur, Founder of Plant Futures and former Plant Based Strategy Lead at Tesco. 

The first topic: ‘Celebrating Plant-Based Successes and Planning for The Challenges Ahead’ features:

  • Morten Toft Bech – Founder, Meatless Farm 
  • ElenaDevis - Head of Vegan Category, Deliveroo 
  • RabinderHarrison - Commercial Director, Veg Capital 
  • MarisaHeath - CEO, Plant Based Food Alliance 
  • Simon Day – ex-Squeaky Bean and Investor 


  • How did Deliveroo lead the online delivery market to create a multi-million vegan category? 
  • How Meatless Farm became one of Europes fastest-growing plant-based brands available in over 20 countries, and what challenges lie ahead? 
  • How did Squeaky Bean go from £0 to £15m in under 3 years and what were some of the lessons, as well as the successes? 
  • Why plant-based has attracted so many investors, how they are fuelling change and why investment is becoming harder to find. 
  • Where did the early sales boom come from? And why this will be different going forwards? 
  • Is it only price that drives consumer perceptions of value? What role can taste, health or other benefits play?

The webinars will include behind-the scenes insights from major players in development, manufacturing, foodservice, retail, finance, and advocacy.  

The series aims to give those who work in the plant-based field a space for open and honest conversation about the most pressing topics, challenges and opportunities facing businesses. It is aimed at anyone working in the plant-based field or those who want to support and understand the issues driving success, the hurdles the businesses face and how others have overcome them.  

The series has been created by Plant Based Pulse World Product Manager Damoy Robertson and Indy Kaur, after they identified a need for timely debates about pressing issues.  

Insider Talks is free to attend. Register now to via the link below:

Insider Talks

The Veganuary Effect: Dominos, Burger King and McDonalds Compete with 2023 Launches

The impact of Veganuary on interest in plant-based food has grown tremendously since its inception almost a decade ago. What began in 2014 as a UK-non-profit-based challenge for people to go vegan for a month is now a worldwide phenomenon and household name. The campaign expanded from 3300 participants in 2014 to an anticipated 650,000 today, with data showing one person every 2.4 seconds signs up for the challenge. It now has offices in seven countries (UK, US, Germany, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and India) and participants from almost every country in the world. The campaign is making waves across retail and foodservice like never before. 

Business Boost 

Aside from being an exciting time for vegan-curious consumers, Veganuary offers a big boost for businesses offering plant-based products. Last year established brands embraced Veganuary with new ranges. This included M&S’s 175 new vegan products, Burger King’s vegan nuggets, Subway’s fake meat sandwiches, Domino’s PepperoNAY pizza, Babybel’s plant-based mini cheeses and Starbuck’s TuNAH sandwich. This year has seen the launch of the first vegan Toad in the Hole in supermarkets, as well as Heinz launching the first plant-based version of its Cream of Tomato Soup and Beanz and Sausges, THIS launched its isn’t Streaky Bacon after 2-years of production, Squeaky Bean’s vegan Chorizo, and a range of new products from both Starbucks and Greggs.

2023 has also seen new product launches from major fast-food chains with McDonald’s launching its Double McPlant, and Burger Kind launching its vegan bacon and cheese across all 510 UK restaurants. So how can companies make the most of the month-long campaign? 

Converting the Masses  

Toni Vernelli, Veganuary’s International Head of Communications and Marketing, explains that Veganuary is important for businesses for two reasons: “Firstly, there is the sheer number of people who do it. Last year 630,000 signed up on the website, but research from Kantar and YouGov found that many more joined in without registering. That amounts to a lot of new customers in January who are buying plant-based for the first time. Secondly, because there is so much hype around Veganuary, supermarkets and high street restaurants do promotions on their vegan ranges. Figures show that even people who aren’t taking part are buying more plant-based products in January. So it is a great time to reach flexitarians.”  

Getting Involved 

There are lots of ways that businesses can get involved and maximize the Veganuary effect. There is a downloadable business toolkit and the Veganuary corporate outreach team can be contacted for ideas. Special offers are listed on their website, so if businesses tell them, they will get a listing. A lot of brands do outdoor advertising and stunts to get media attention. It is an ideal time to send a truck out with samples – to get products in front of customers when they are curious and open minded about vegan food.  

Toni Vernelli adds: “You can use our logo on your packaging, promotional material, and social media posts without any copyright issues. Because the logo is so recognizable, it makes it very easy for participants to find things to eat. We have over a million followers on social media and have channels in English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. The hashtag #Veganuary2022 was viewed 42.8 million times on TikTok. So, using the hashtags is a great way to get customers to hear about new products.” 

 Participant Feedback 

Veganuary sends a questionnaire to all registered participants, and the responses are a great resource for businesses, with insights on what people find hardest. This research shows that despite huge improvements there are still gaps in the market. “The thing people miss most is cheese. There can never be enough of it because there are so many different varieties that people want veganised. We’re told the supermarkets have not yet hit the nail on the head with vegan cheese. People also say they miss eggs. There still isn’t an alternative to a poached egg. Milk chocolate comes up quite a lot. Even though there’s plenty out there it tends to be very expensive compared to dairy equivalents and doesn’t come in small bars, the size you’d see at a petrol station. And any type of fish product – there’s still not nearly enough fake fish out there.”   

Planning for the Future 

This year’s campaign theme focuses on a key issue for consumers right now: affordability. There will be examples of budget meals, one pot dinners, and making products go further to get best value, for example by using sausages in a casserole. Veganuary will also start preparing for its 10th anniversary, taking place in January 2024. It will be a chance to celebrate the advances in vegan food between then and now. Toni Vernelli reminds us: “Back In 2014 you would have struggled to find much more than a single brand of sausages, tofu, and felafel whereas now supermarkets have whole aisles of chilled and frozen products. There isn’t a restaurant chain or takeaway that doesn’t have vegan options.”   

Toni Vernelli believes there is scope for further collaboration in the future: “It would be great to do an award for best new product. We would also like to encourage staff at plant-based businesses to take the workplace challenge themselves, if they are not already vegan. It is a great way to get people enthusiastic about the products they make, experiment with recipes and bring in food to share.” 

You can see the latest news from the Veganuary campaign, including new product and menu launches on their instagram page.  

Dutch City Bans Meat Advertisements: All You Need To Know

The city of Haarlem in the Netherlands has placed a ban on meat advertising which is set to come into effect from 2024. The production of meat has been conclusively demonstrated to be one of the largest contributors to global emissions and land waste. It is responsible for 60% of greenhouse emissions from food production, prompting the city’s council to act.   

Banned from Public Spaces 

Adverts will be banned from all public spaces such as buses, shelters and advertisement screens. Meat will no longer be promoted to the 160,000 residents of Haarlem as they traverse the city. The ban directly addresses the unethical nature of promoting unsustainable products, specifically those that contribute towards the climate crisis.  

Haarlem councillor Ziggy Klazes, who helped create this motion, said that “We can’t tell people there’s a climate crisis and encourage them to buy products that are part of the cause.” In this, the city has recognised that the food its residents choose to eat plays a significant role in determining their carbon footprint. Haarlem is the first city anywhere in the world to recognise this crucial link in policy, as the motion proposed by the GroenLinks party was passed in September this year.  

Extent of the Ban 

As it stands, the ban addresses meat produced by intensive farming only. There have been no comments or decisions made by the council regarding organically farmed meat. In addition to this, it is not clear how the ban will be enforced on independent retailers and how it will affect different foods and brands. Clearer guidelines will certainly be needed before the ban is put into practice.  

Ziggy Klazes is hopeful that the idea will spread nationally, calling it a ‘signal’ to others. Klazes concluded “There are many groups of Groenlinks who think it is a good idea and want to try it.”  

Will it Catch On? 

This is an innovative policy decision and a bold move against the industries that are damaging the environment. But will other cities follow? The party represents the local green-left and it seems likely other councillors will put forward motions in their own cities. 

Haarlem is the first ever city to do this and the ban follows on from similar restrictions being placed on the advertisement of air-travel, petrol cars and fossil fuels by Amsterdam in 2021. Elsewhere, Norwich in the UK has placed limitations on advertising products that are harmful for the environment and several UK cities are moving in a similar direction. The key here is raising awareness about the detrimental impact meat has on the environment and getting politicians to understand that meat production plays a major role.  

This action has received masses of news and media coverage despite not yet being put into place. If this idea is implemented by other cities, Haarlem will be regarded as a pioneer of this type of policy.   

Agricultural Backlash 

The restriction aims to reduce people’s temptation to buy meat, therefore reducing meat consumption and production. The Netherlands has already committed to reducing the number of animals farmed for food by a third to reduce emissions and farm waste.  

Unsurprisingly, the animal agriculture industry have expressed strong opposition to the decision. Farmers have made news protesting recent restrictions on herd size put into place to reduce emissions. Their staged “tractor protests” blocked motorways and caused disruption to make their opposition known to the government. Before this ban, tensions were already high with the government’s perceived interference in their farming practices.  

The ban also raises moral considerations over freedom of expression, and there have been questions of censorship levelled against the ban. Is it ethical to control what is advertised to the public? One right wing councillor, representing the farmers and the opposing political side, Joey Rademaker, called the move “dictatorial” because the ban is for “political reasons” and does not allow people to make up their own minds about what they eat.  

Growth of Alternatives 

Supporters reinforce that the ban is driven by environmental concern rather than a bid for political control. Indeed, plant-based alternatives to meat are far more sustainable – they have less emissions and cost less to produce.  

Although the Netherlands still has a large meat-eating population, there are more people trying meat alternatives than ever before. The plant-based market in the Netherlands is one of the largest in the European Union with sales of 134 million.  

Haarlem is, undoubtedly, making a bold and innovative step in the right direction. This ban will continue to spark a debate on the ethics of consuming animal products on the local, national, and global stage. The party’s full ideology and hopes for the future can be seen in their New Green Deal for the Netherlands. 

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Plant Based World Pulse is a go-to resource for the plant-based industry. Offering high-value insights, educational content, and the latest information year-round, it compliments the annual industry events Plant Based World Expo North America in New York City and Plant Based World Expo Europe in London.