With a long and storied manufacturing legacy, Maryland was once home to companies that produced everything from steel to paper products. These days, companies are still making and packaging products, but you’re more likely to find a small-batch granola maker, coffee roaster or a producer of personal care items. Some of the Maryland and D.C. exhibitors are showcasing their unique products at Natural Products Expo East.
The list includes newer drink companies, such as the kombucha supplier Mobtown Fermentation and Rethink Brands, which sells naturally flavored water in recyclable cartons. Mobtown’s three founders first started making the kombucha inside a juice shop and now sell their product in more than 700 stores in five states. Rethink Water is sold at Target, Wegmans, Safeway and other national retailers.
Rise Up Coffee Roasters and Mayorga Organics are gaining ground—not to be outdone by tea companies Honest Tea and Zest Tea. Rounding out the list is the farmers market favorite (and 2016 Expo East NEXTY winner) Michele’s Granola and soap and scrubs maker Biggs & Featherbelle.
Here’s a bit about the local brands that will be represented at this year’s convention.
Baltimore’s 4-year-old Mobtown Fermentation relies on simple, natural ingredients and unique flavor combinations to make its Wild Kombucha. The blueberry yerba mate combines blueberries with roasted yerba mate while the Upbeet blends beet with apple, ginger and lime. The eight flavors contain zero added sugar and come in brightly colored bottles that might, on first glance, be mistaken for beer bottles.
Mayorga Organics sells organic and fair trade coffee and chia with the aim of lifting rural Latin American farmers out of poverty. The company roasts its 100% specialty grade Arabica coffee with a state-of-the-art roasting system at its Rockville headquarters. All of its coffees are immediately packaged to order in foil bags. The company began selling organic certified, non-GMO chia five years ago to help the farms diversify their products.
A local favorite for more than a decade, Michele’s Granola can now be found in stores throughout the U.S. The crunchy whole grain oats, seeds and nuts are made from scratch in small quantities. The Timonium company’s granola and muesli are made from organic and non-GMO ingredients and are certified vegan. Choose from nine varieties, including lemon pistachio, almond butter and cherry chocolate granola.
Promising as much caffeine as a cup of coffee but without the energy crash, Zest Tea was named Best New Product at the 2015 World Tea Expo. The tea’s L-theanine, an amino acid, has a calming effect. Sold as tea bags, loose leaf and as canned sparkling teas, flavors include superberry samba, pomegranate mojito and cinnamon apple.
Biggs & Featherbelle
The 16-year-old personal care products company got its start when two sisters started making soaps for holiday gifts for family and friends. Now the soaps, body scrubs, scents, balms and body butters are sold at retailers throughout the country. The all-natural products are made without artificial fragrances, dyes or preservatives and are only scented with essential oils. The heavenly scented soaps come in 21 varieties, including Bay Rum and Citrus, Oatmeal and Honey, and Orange and Grapefruit.
Getting kids to drink water is always a challenge for parents. But the 3-year-old D.C.-based Rethink Brands makes drinking water fun for kids by packaging it in colorful juice box-like cartons that depict fruits surfing, skateboarding and playing other sports. Rethink Water comes in seven flavors, including orange mango, fruit punch, watermelon juice splash and kiwi strawberry juice splash. All of the juices contain zero or just 1 gram of sugar and are USDA certified organic while the cartons are recyclable.
Though it’s now a subsidiary of the Coca-Cola Company, the 21-year-old Honest Tea remains as committed to making organic, healthy beverages as when it was a small upstart. In addition to its signature iced tea drinks, the company produces lemonade and juice drinks for kids that are sweetened only with organic fruit juice. All less than 100 calories, the teas come in unsweetened and lightly sweetened varieties, which include Moroccan mint green tea, lemon grove maple black tea, and pomegranate blue flavored herbal tea.
Rise Up Coffee Roasters
The Eastern Shore (Virginia) company has been expanding its retail presence in recent years and now has a total of nine locations, the newest of which opened in Rehoboth Beach. Based in the Eastern Shore town of Easton, the 14-year-old company sells organic, fair trade coffee beans, in medium roast, French Roast and espresso varieties. It also sells a cold brew and a coffee spice rub perfect for grilling meat, poultry and vegetables. The company expects to launch new packaging and a four-pack cold brew at this year’s Expo East.