Expo West Pitch Slam might be the most nerve-wracking competition in the natural products industry. After all, these 10 entrepreneurs are within arms' reach of a free booth at Expo West 2024 and valuable services—and a table of judges and a live audience.
From the first presentation to the last, these well-prepared competitors made it clear that the judges' decisions would not be easy ones. After the first round, the judges chose five brands to proceed to the lightning round: Afia Foods, B Free Cup, Maazah, Roam Free and SuperNatural.
Of those, Maazah won the grand prize: a free booth at Natural Products Expo West 2024, entrance to Expo East in September, a free NEXTY nomination and other services from New Hope Network. In total, the prize is valued at $35,000. Roam Free Ranch took second place, which includes entrance to Expo East 2023 and being interviewed on stage during Expo West 2024. Rif Care received the Audience Choice Award; the prize is the same as that for second place.
Getting to Pitch Slam isn't as difficult as launching a new product, but it's not an easy path. Applicants must submit a video pitch, a completed survey, labels and samples, all of which are reviewed by a selection committee. This year, 192 brands fufilled the application requirements. After the committee chose the 10 semifinalists, each founder was paired with a mentor who helped them prepare their pitches.
This year's mentors have a variety of backgrounds:
- Kuvy Ax, founder and owner of ROOT, The Good Food Agency.
- Brad Charron, CEO and “re-founder” of ALOHA.
- Rachel Calomeni, senior vice president, HowGood.
- Doug Helbig, chief operating officer, Green Spoon Sales.
- Sam Kressler, owner, Stir Innovation.
- Betsy McGinn, founder, McGinn eComm.
- Andy Nathan, founder/CEO, Fortnight Collective.
- Michael Movitz, co-founder, Brandjectory.
- Randy Ornstein, senior director of alcohol, Gopuff.
- Sindy Wise, vice president, WishGarden Herbs.
- Julie Zagars, managing director of Naturally Boulder.
Within a three-minute time limit, each founder shared their brand's story, sales figures, market data and more. But that wasn't all: The judges were allotted a total of four minutes to ask questions. This year's esteemed judges were Alli Ball, founder/ CEO, Food Biz Wiz; Kathleen Casanova, founding executive director, Project Potluck; Vincent Love, managing partner, Sunrise Strategic Partners; Mitch Orland, vice president, Earth Fare Markets; and Tyler Coppola, consultant, Base Culture.
This year's semifinalists represented broad categories of the natural products industry: food, flatware, coffee and period care. Click through the gallery to see highlights of Pitch Slam, which occurred on International Women's Day, March 8, in Anaheim, California.
All Expo West attendees, exhibitors and virtual passholders can watch a replay of Natural Products Expo West Pitch Slam on the Expo West Virtual page.