The Startup CPG Podcast

It’s awards season! Well at least here at Startup CPG it is. If you aren't aware, we have our very own annual industry award competition at Startup CPG, and this year is the Third Annual Shelfies Awards, proudly sponsored by Floret, where we recognized the most promising emerging CPG brands. Startup CPG wanted to create opportunities for industry recognition with no entry fee, no essays, and only for emerging brands. This year the categories expanded beyond food, beverage, and supplements to include pet, beauty, and health products, and we received over 600 submissions that have been narrowed down to 76 finalists across 21 categories. I thought it would be fun to have the two main judges and coordinators behind the Shelfies on the show to talk about trends and some of the finalists. You may know the names and voices of Patricia Menegoto, Startup CPG’s Head of Marketing & Community & Jenna Movsowitz, our Startup CPG Spotlight Magazine Managing Editor. We didn't have time to discuss every finalist, even though we love them all so much, so I've linked in the show notes the latest magazine edition with all the finalist brands you'll be wanting to try and celebrate. We’d love for you to join the LinkedIn live awards ceremony in a few weeks on September 28, 2023; you can find the link in the show notes or on our Startup CPG LinkedIn page. Also, a fair number of the brands mentioned today are either backpack or innovation brands at Expo East, so if you are headed to Philadelphia, be sure to stop by to try for yourself. There will also be a Shelfies celebration meetup in LA in October and details will be in Slack and the newsletter soon. Now let’s talk Shelfies!

Episode Links:
This episode was sponsored by Settle. Go to
This episode was sponsored by Graphite Financial. Go to

Settle Links:
  • Settle website
  • Find out your Settle financing power here
Graphite Financial Links
  • Graphite Financial website
  • Download a free financial model template, chart of accounts template, and more here
  • Listen to our episode with Graphite founder, Paul Bianco, episode #96 here.
Show Links:

Creators & Guests

Jessi Freitag

What is The Startup CPG Podcast?

A podcast from Startup CPG - highlighting stories from founders working towards a better food system and industry insights from experts to give you a better chance at success.

03:17 Jessi - Hi, Patty. Hi, Jenna. Welcome to the show today. I'm so glad to have you both here.

03:23 Jenna - Hi, so excited to be here.

03:25 Patty - Hi, everyone.

03:26 Jessi - Awesome. Well, today we get to talk about the Shelfies and the finalists in particular. Can each of you introduce yourselves maybe starting with Jenna?

03:36 Jenna - Yes, absolutely. Hi, I'm Jenna Movsowitz. I am the Managing Editor of Startup CPG's magazine, The Spotlight.

03:44 Patricia - Hi, I'm Patricia. I'm the head of marketing and community at Startup CPG.

03:50 Jessi - Awesome. I'm wondering if to start us off, one of you could explain what the Shelfies is and how long we've been doing it at Startup CPG, just a little bit about it.

03:57 Jenna - Yeah, absolutely. So I'll go ahead and explain. The Shelfies, actually, this is our third year, which is really crazy to think about. So we started in 2021, and we only had a few brands applied to that one, I would say around maybe 100 brands. And now we have had over 300 brands apply this year. So it has grown immensely. And that's not even to say how many products we had apply this year. So it's grown immensely, but we started in 2021 just on a mission to provide more opportunities to emerging brands, specifically because awards have traditionally been really challenging to apply to. There's a huge cost barrier and labor barrier to most awards that are recognizing CPG products. So we decided that we wanted to start our own. That was a lot easier to get involved in. So there's no cost to enter the Shelfies awards, and we are only looking at brands that have around one to five employees. So we're not judging a tiny brand against a really big company, because that's an unfair advantage. So we really wanna shout out the small guys, and that's really the mission of Startup CPG in general. So it's been a lot of fun.

05:11 Patricia - Yeah, I think that from my calculation, we got like over 600 products this year. We also expanded the categories for beauty, health, and pet products, which is very exciting too. And also last year, we did get products from Canada, but this year I noticed that we got some from Australia as well. So we are expanding globally too, which is very exciting.

05:35 Jessi - Yeah, that's amazing. Can you list off all of the categories that were, we probably won't be able to talk about all of them in depth today, but I'd love to just have a list of all the categories that we have finalists in this year.

05:47 Jenna - Yeah, definitely. So we actually had brands apply over the course of a few months into really broad categories. So we had like a snack category, a frozen category. As Patty mentioned, we had a pet category, a kids category. So those were kind of how the brands applied. So we started in March and we got samples from March until essentially August. And we ended up receiving so many products and such a variety of products that we decided to really further refine those categories, just because it didn't make sense necessarily to compare frozen prepared food to a frozen dessert, for example. So all this stuff are 21 categories, which is a really, really exciting, lots of brands to recognize this year. So the first one is hygiene, then body care, skin care, supplements, beverages with benefits, non-alcoholic beverages, ready to drink tea, alcoholic beverages, savory snacks, sweet snacks, dessert and baking mixes, prepared meals, plant-based alternatives, breakfast foods, dips, spreads and nut butters, spices and condiments, oils and vinegars, coffee and tea, kids products, pets products. And then we always have branding as a separate category, which is just brands that are recognized specifically for having great branding. So that is the 21 categories. We have a full house.

07:17 Patricia - And also just to add, because I know some brands sometimes come to me like, oh, I'm very interested in, let's say the ready to drink tea category from last year, but the categories can change throughout the years. We really get to know the brands that are applying. And then based on the brands that stand out, we decide the name of the categories for like the next year.

07:47 Jessi - Right. I would love to hear from each of you. Also the process of, so you're talking about so many different entries. Each of you actually receive these like at your homes. Like, can you talk about what that experience is like for each of you to get all these packages and sort through everything and try everything. And like, do you have meetings with each other across the country? Like what, give us a little look behind the scenes and to life as a judge.

08:10 Patricia - I can start saying that it's a, it's a fun project. I can't complain. It's like having a trade show inside of my house throughout the year, but it's overwhelming. Whenever the mail guy arrived, now he already know my name. So he sees me and he's like, Patricia, I'm back. And then he has like a ton of products. My neighbors get curious what's happening. Why do I get so many products? Maybe I'm just like a shopaholic, I guess. But yeah, we get all the products. We try every single one. Jen and I, we have tons of meetings to talk about the products. And we also get some times together with people from the Startup CPG team or other people in the CPG industry. So we can also get other people trying and, you know, just not, it's just not based on Jen and my taste. It's also based on like other experts in the CPG industry.

09:05 Jenna - Yeah, I'll add to that. Definitely an influx of packages to say the least. And we actually strategically spread this out over many months this year. And still it was an overwhelming amount of boxes. I also this year live on a three floor walkup, which was a joy. I definitely got my exercise in by being a Selfies Judge carrying boxes up and down the stairs. But it was a lot of fun to receive all the packages. And I always, I think one of the best parts is a lot of brands leave personal notes. And it's always such a joy to open the package. I'd get to know the people behind the brand a little bit more. So that's always really, really special. And then yeah, as for tasting, as Patty mentioned, we met many times, we had members of the startup CPG team try things out and other experts in CPG came over to my apartment and we all tried things together. I had friends and family trying things. So we really got a lot of taste buds and eyes on these products. I will also add that obviously we have categories that simply do not apply to us or the people we socialize with necessarily. So I'm not a pet and I'm also not a kid. So we make sure that we get those products in the hands of their target audience. So we had some kid taste testers this year and we also had some pets get involved. So I know Kiki, she is our social media lead here at startup CPG. She has two adorable corgis. And if you go on our Instagram, you can see them trying out some of the products. They were some of our pet judges. There were a few more. So that was a lot of fun too, to kind of like spread the love amongst other judges of all species.

10:54 Patricia - Yeah, I love it. Yeah, Jessi got some pet products too.

10:57 Jessi - Yes, yeah. My little mini aussies got to help be pet judges, which they were really ecstatic about. So that was very fun. But I definitely, I'll link in the show notes the Kiki's video with her corgis because I didn't take as a cute of content as she was able to capture for her little judges. So that was really fun. But yeah, I can just receiving the pet, being a little piece of the pet category, I was like, it's just impressive that our team pulls this off. So it's really awesome that you comb through everything and give every product the love that it deserves. And it's really cool. So I'm also curious, before we talk about some specific brands, was there any trends that you saw generally as far as just like unboxing the package? Like, did you see any trends within like how products were sent to you within packaging, just in general? I'm curious kind of just across the whole of the competition and receiving products over a few months, whether you saw any trends that kind of pop up across all of the packages you're receiving?

11:58 Patricia - I think it was a mix of more like influencer cute package versus just normal boxes. But what I noticed is that all of them was like, well packed with like a founder's note or just like a handwritten letter, just say, hey, thanks for considering my product for the shelf is and just how grateful they are about the community. And like a lot of stickers, a lot of brands send stickers, but I don't think that I noticed anything very specific that is like stood out for me.  I don't know, Jenna, did you notice anything?

12:37 Jenna - Yeah, I will definitely say I agree that it felt a little more like we were receiving like influencer packages this year a lot of the time. I know some brands got really creative with like the swag and stuff that they included, which is always fun. I got a deck of cards from a brand, which was really cool. Like a branded deck of cards and a lot of stickers. Stickers are all the rage, which is also very fun to receive. Definitely a more sustainable packaging. I think people kind of went the minimalist approach a lot of the time, which I appreciate, especially as someone who is like seeing all of the garbage that all of these packages produce. And we did frozen this year during the summer, which I am sorry to all the brands for in retrospect. So a lot of dry ice, a lot of dry ice, which was fun to experiment with. And then I think in terms of like, just like a silly little anecdotal thing that I realized, not realized, but I got to experience is I live in New York and a lot of the brands here also live in New York. So I had a few personal deliveries, which was really, really nice. And I want to shout them out because people like literally knocked on my door. So we had, I had Toum by Saha. They were Toum spread, like a garlic dip and spread. So good. Their founder knocked on my door and he was super, super kind. Sohha Savory is a baba ganoush dip. I guess a lot of dips are in New York and they were really, really delicious too. So I had really kind people come knock on my door and that was really sweet to get like a personal delivery. So thank you to the brands that like literally walked the extra mile just to get product in our hands. The other brand that knocked on my door was Culture Kitchn Kombucha. And it's a husband and wife duo who makes kombucha together in their New York apartment. So that was really fun to get to meet the founder at my door and try the kombucha like pretty much right when he left. So that was really fun.

14:31 Jessi - That's so cool that there was some personal deliveries though. I love that. That's amazing.

14:34 Jenna - It's so fun. I love getting to show the founders.

14:36 Jessi - What are the beauty categories you've been working on? I'm wondering because the beauty category is new, if we could talk a little bit about some of the beauty categories that we landed on, some of the finalists, how you decided to break up into the three beauty categories. I'd love to hear more about the beauty since that's a new area for us.

16:07 Patricia - Yeah, we definitely wanna start it because as Jenna mentioned that we have, every month was like different categories and we wanted to start with the beauty and health because it's skincare, body care and all those products, it takes a while. We can't just like a food, you taste the food and you can judge. So you wanna have enough months to judge those products. So the categories we have for this year is hygiene, body care and skincare. And it was very fun to try, the different textures and the scents and there were some products that the pedestrian project that Jenna and I, we got so excited about. I haven't tried a foot cream that was so cool and the texture is just amazing for so long. I'm literally obsessed with their product. Even the hygiene, I think it's so important, of course, everybody showers, but there were some products that really stood out and I noticed also a lot of things for the feminine care. So like wash or period care, even the period care for supplements, for cramps and things like this for your cycle was a trend that I saw this year as well. And also I think the makeup with skincare inside, so skincare benefits. So if you do a tinted sunscreen, but there are ingredients that help you with aging or dark spots or anything like this. What about you, Jenna? What did you notice about the beauty category?

17:40 Jenna - Yeah, you covered that really well. I will add that in addition to just like spending a long time trying these things, some of the products were more geared towards more mature skin. And so both Patty and I were able to have some family members try them out as well. So we really got a lot of different faces and skin types involved in the testing of the skincare pieces because that's obviously like a little bit more specific. Totally agree on the feminine care piece there. Body care was a lot of fun to try out. They're really, really cool products. Like we got some awesome soaps. We actually got a lot of haircare stuff as well. We included the body care piece. They were all a lot of fun to try. For skincare also, I have a friend who's working for a dermatologist. So we had some medical eyes on some of the ingredients, which was something that was important and interesting to us as well. We definitely learned a lot in this process. And I will agree with Patty as well. The skincare or the makeup with benefits or even opposite, I guess you could say of like skincare with cosmetic benefits was definitely a trend that we saw. And I want to call out Daybird, which I really, really love, which is a tinted moisturizer essentially, but they have really incredible ingredients and they're like hyaluronic acid and it's tinted moisturizer and sunscreen, which is especially great because it's SPF 50 and the tint is water resistant. So you could actually go swimming or to the beach or whatever with this on, get your sun protection and also maybe like cover something up if you're not comfortable with your skin that day. So that was a really fun product to try. And in general, we just love trying these products.

19:17 Jessi - Yeah, wow. That's so interesting. When we talked in our Expo West recap, we talked about seeing some very like more functional products, either geared toward feminine care or people who menstruate or like these very like specific areas that products are being made for and called out for. So it's interesting to see that that definitely, you saw that trend continue in the Shelfies applicants. Yeah, that's really, it's really cool to see that. And that kind of leads into the supplement category, which we had some applicants last year and some finalists last year that were in the supplement category, but I'm super curious about what the trends were that you saw in the supplement category.

19:55 Jenna - Yeah, I mean, I'll say CBD continues to be a huge trend. I wasn't sure if we would still be receiving as many CBD products because we definitely received a lot last year, but we did. So it's really fun to try some of those out. A lot of them are geared towards sleep. And one of our finalists actually is a CBD gummy, specifically for sleep, jaded CBD. It works really, really well. So that one was really fun to try and definitely a trend. And then I'll also echo what Patty said. We actually have a lot of supplements around menstrual cycles. So like trying to eat some of the pain during a menstrual cycle is something that we saw in a few different supplements. And then digestive health is like regularly a trend, I would say. So again, one of our finalists is Bonny Fiber and they make a prebiotic fiber supplement. So just a ton of different things that had like digestive health in them. And then we also, I mean, I think the supplement category is echoed in some of the food categories as well because we saw a lot of foods and beverages that also have a lot of digestive health benefits them too.

20:57 Patricia - Yeah, I think Jenna said almost like all the trends that I was thinking of too, like the period supplement. I just think it's like in the past, people were just so shy to talk about period and cycle. And I'm just seeing some brands, like especially the, for like specific for Gen Z, they are super open about, and I'm loving this trend that is like out there on social media. And the cool branding is not something like, oh, I go to the supermarket and like, I'm ashamed of buying, you know, pads. It's like, it's like cool. It's like normal, I would say. So yeah, Funk It Wellness was one of the finalists for your cycle. And they are like little bites. And you know, if you were craving some sweet, you just eat like a sweet snack, but with benefits specific for your period. So that was super cool. Yeah, CBD for sure. I also noticed that before a lot of brands were doing only like probiotics drinks, but now they are mixing the probiotics with probiotics because you know, it's just better for your gut health. And then just adding like a lot of things for gut health. Either like not just supplements, but like food as well. Then like insert of like protein bars or other things. This is also like one of the trends that I've seen that it continues to go throughout the years.

22:19 Jessi - Yeah, that's awesome. And I loved seeing Tend Prenatal as a finalist too, because they've been on the show just a few episodes ago because they were one of our backpack brand winners. And so it was fun to see our friends at Tend as a finalist as well.

22:33 Patricia - Yeah, they were super popular too at the Alley Rally show. They brought also the pregnancy fake belly you could try. So that was cool, but they are products really good.

22:45 Jessi - Yeah, we also had a lot of beverage categories. I feel like beverage continues to expand, which I'm here for. Like I have always have so many beverages on my desk in my life all the time. So I love seeing that we have lots of beverage categories, but I'm curious about any trends or finalists that you wanted to specifically call out with any of our beverage categories.

23:04 Patricia - It's crazy how many beverage we get every year. It's like absurd. I mean, I'm here for it too. I love beverage. I love drinking different things and trying new things, but it's just interesting for me that there are this huge variety of new products coming out. But that's pretty cool. I mean, one of our categories is called Beverage with Benefits because as I said before, the supplement, the good health, just like ingredients inside that it's better for you. I've seen that a lot. Like the Recoup Wellness I think was cool because it's like a beverage with electrolytes. So you drink after the gym for hydration. And before I noticed more was like the pack that you mix on your water for like electrolytes drink, but this is like ready to drink. We actually have the category that is ready to drink tea because we got so many ready to drink tea this year as well. And some of them like Twirl Milk was already a finalist before. So they are this year again, their products really good. And the non-alcoholic of course, like keeps, it's still a trend. I think it's still people are looking for healthier options, just not healthier, but like the next day, you don't wanna just be like hangover and you wanna be productive. So I've seen that that keeps coming. Anything here you wanna add, Jenna?

24:32 Jenna - Yeah, it's worth calling out something interesting. I saw is that, so we have alcoholic and non-alcoholic categories. A lot of brands applied for both because they have SKUs that are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, which was really interesting. So I'll give an example is Hooch Booch, which is a finalist for non-alcoholic because they make a non-alcoholic beverage called Corpse Reviver, which also what a great name and a great tasting product, but they're like known originally Hooch Booch for their spiked kombucha. So it's really interesting to see some of these alcohol brands dip their toes into the non-alcoholic segment. And then other thing I think is kind of interesting is we definitely saw a lot of like in the Bevs with Benefits section, like last year we saw a lot of probiotic, prebiotic, that kind of stuff. But I think there were some new versions of benefits that I thought were kind of interesting. So one of our finalists is Immorel, they have mushroom in them. So there's like Lion's Mane in one of them, different functional mushrooms and they're each made for like a different purpose. So there's one called Feed Your Focus, one called Wake the F Up and one called Slow Your Roll, pretty self-explanatory what the use cases would be on those. So I think it's really interesting to see functional mushrooms make their way into the beverage segment because I hadn't seen a ton of that before. And also to see how like a single brand is making different skews that have different functions or are alcoholic and non-alcoholic in the same brand.

25:56 Patricia - And just adding here too, we talk about like the Beverage with Benefits, but even the alcoholic beverage I noticed, I don't know if this will become a trend because I think I just saw one, but like the Krushwell brands, they have electrolytes inside of the alcohol brand and was made for a niche for like, people that work hard and still wanna keep hydrated kind of thing. So even the alcoholic brand beverage, I think that maybe they are going through a trend that they also wanna add some benefits inside of their drinks. So that was interesting to me.

26:34 Jessi - Yeah, I'm especially intrigued by the like dual of like brands having the alco and non-alcoholic options. Like that is so fascinating. And I'm wondering if we're gonna see more of that.

26:42 Patricia - And what I've noticed too is that a lot of international flavors, we did have last year a category that was international flavor, but we keep seeing this year a lot of new products with like Asians and Latinos flavors, for example.

26:54 Jessi - I believe that we have upcoming magazine edition that's going to have more information about the Shelfies. And I think it's gonna be a frozen edition. So, I wanna learn a little bit more about, what we're gonna hear next. And then also like maybe because it's gonna be in the frozen magazine, we could talk about some of the frozen applicants.

27:12 Jenna - Yeah, absolutely. You are correct that the frozen edition will be the magazine that announces the Shelfies finalists. So definitely look out for that. And frozen brands, you get an extra benefit of not only seeing the finalists, but being able to read up on what's going on in your category. So in the magazine, if you're interested, we do have an interview with a Thrive Market category buyer. We shared some really awesome insights in the trends that she's seeing, which was also cool because they definitely echoed what we saw on the Shelfies. We have cold chain logistics 101 piece, which was a nightmare to understand, I will say. I had a new found respect for frozen brands. And it also made me have a new found respect for the brands that we received. Because once I got these like dry ice packages, I was like, oh my goodness, I know what it took for you to get here. And it was not easy. So really wanna give a shout out to all the frozen brands that took the time to apply to the Shelfies because while it is technically free to apply, dipping a frozen box is not free. And we really appreciate that every package that we received frozen arrived frozen. So thank you to those brands. And then we, as I mentioned before, didn't actually have a frozen category ultimately, but we did have a free frozen products in other categories. I wanna shout out in the prepared meal section, the House of Kajaana is one of my favorite new brands. They're plant-based Indian meals. And I love Indian food, but I always just got the Trader Joe's Chana Masala. There isn't much innovation in the prepared meal space that I have seen. And this is just a phenomenal product. Just tastes really good. It's actually filling, which is like I never see in frozen meals either. So I wanna call that out. And then in the dessert section, we definitely had a few frozen standouts. Kula Ice Cream is one of them. They actually have demoed before at our backpack brands and Expo West, I believe. And they are a plant-based ice cream. And we tried their ice cream last year and loved it. But this year they actually some ice cream sandwiches. And actually Patty, I'm gonna let you talk about that because Patty was obsessed with these ice cream sandwiches.

29:16 Patricia - Yes, well being like a gluten-free and I'm not saying that I'm dairy-free because I do eat cheese. I can't let it go my Parmesan cheese, but I don't eat normal ice cream or milk or anything. So I think the Kula Ice Cream is definitely one of the best ice cream textures and taste that I have ever had. And their coconut-based ice cream is just so good. And I'm literally like obsessed. I know they have a shop ice cream in San Diego. And I think if I lived in San Diego, I would live just close to that shop and go every weekend. It's so good. And they also do the sandwich ice cream. The cookie is gluten-free. So being gluten-free myself is just like, I adore. I love their cookies so much. And then going back to the prepared meals, the NoBull. I discovered NoBull, I think, in 2021 at Expo East Show. It was 2021. Was 2021 that we had the boat party? Yeah, yeah. So I discovered NoBull in 2021 at the Philadelphia Expo East Show. And since then, I buy their products, like religious. I think I eat NoBull every week. Or maybe I would say three weeks out of four weeks per month. It's just so good. I'm literally obsessed. And I know they also redid the packaging and it looks even better. It's delicious.

30:41 Jenna - I also wanna add, I don't know if I would call it a trend, but definitely something I noticed of the frozen foods that we received. We actually got a few different cookie doughs that are not meant to be eaten as dough, like are meant to be baked. I think we're definitely seeing some Pillsbury disruption, which I appreciate. I wanna call it something sweet, which is a brand that actually is featured in the frozen magazine. They make incredible brown butter chocolate chip cookie dough and you obviously have to bake it when you receive it, but it ships frozen. It's really interesting to hear, what is the rationale behind spending so much more money for something to ship frozen just to end up baking it? And what we learned from that brand is that there's just a lot of joy in a fresh baked cookie and it's not the same to receive it already baked. And I definitely experienced that when we were sampling as well. So little shout out to all the cookie dough brands out there. And then I also wanna shout out another veggie burger. No Bull is obviously incredible and as a finalist, we also received Kind Roots, which is a new veggie burger and just the macros on it are really incredible, very high protein, but it also really nails this like smoky flavor that I think is hard to achieve in a plant-based burger. So there are a lot of fun frozen brands that we received and again, like very appreciative of this category.

32:00 Patricia - Yeah, I think one of the, maybe I could say a trend is starting, Jenna. It's like, I know that like during the COVID, we start to cook more at home, but this year we received more prepared meals. So it's like frozen meals or maybe not even frozen, like the 18 Chestnuts, they are not frozen, but they are like ready to drink soup. But I'm seeing more meals that it makes our life easier, especially working from home. Like sometimes I don't have the time to cook something, so, but to have a product that it's better for you, better ingredients and tastes so good. Like I just have to put in the oven, it's ready to go on the microwave. And also some other products that are not frozen, but it definitely helps to make your life easier. Spices that are already bland or the soup or other products that we got that I think it's like, it's making people's life easier to not just cook from home, but either a prepared meal or something that like accelerate your process.

33:06 Jenna - Like premium prepared, I think could be a name for what we're seeing.

33:11 Jessi - Yeah. You also both mentioned some like plant-based brands in there and we had a plant-based alternative category. I know that Ghost Town Oats is the finalist, which I was excited to see because we just had them on the show about their WeFunder campaign. But yeah, I'm curious about any other plant-based brands that you want to do their shout out or trends you wanted to mention.

33:29 Jenna - This is a great year of plant-based food and specifically a great year of plant-based cheese. We have a lot of delicious plant-based cheese this year. I have a very full cheese drawer, I will say. I would love to shout out Seeductive Foods, which has a marinated feta. I have never had a plant-based feta before. I feel like that texture could be really challenging to nail. They nailed the flavor so well and the texture so well and it has like easily replaced traditional feta for me. It's just incredibly flavorful. It is marinated as they say. And then the brand Rebel Cheese is another finalist. They actually sent over a few different skews. Every one I've had in my apartment on a cheese night, anyone that like we spoke to in Startup CPG who tried the truffle brie was like, oh, this is truffle brie. Like it really tastes exactly like brie. You would never know that it's plant-based. My most dairy loving friends would not be able to tell that it was plant-based. So there's some really awesome innovation in cheese, which is so fun as someone who loves cheese and can't handle dairy.

34:32 Patricia - Yeah, and actually like whoever is going to Expo East and going to our mic drop party on Thursday, Seeductive Foods is going to be one of the backpack brands and they're going to sample, I believe they are fed up but any other cheese that they have to. And you have to make sure to go because it's just so delicious.

34:52 Jessi - A quick pause here to hear from our social media manager, Kiki, who is the owner of two of the judges for the pet category, two really adorable corgis. So let's hear from Kiki about her experience or her corgis experience about being a judge this year.

35:07 Kiki - I'm Kiki. I am the social media manager for Startup CPG. And I'm also a mom to two adorable little corgis. So I was very excited when I was asked to judge some of the pet products for the Shelfies this year. It honestly was just really cool to see what everyone's been up to and recognize some of the trends in the industry right now. I would say that superfoods and human-grade ingredients were two major trends that I noticed. Bundle and Joy is a finalist that makes these superfood jerky bars that my dogs absolutely love. The ingredients are really clean and I love their packaging. They have very colorful, vibrant packaging, probably the coolest packaging I've seen for a pet product yet. Petaluma was another finalist with great ingredients. They're actually making plant-based dog food, which I think is really cool. Pet parents tend to be animal lovers and are also environmentally conscious. So as a vegetarian myself, I really appreciate a brand that's making pet food for people who genuinely care about animal welfare and sustainability. The brand called A Better Treat is making this dog food that's unlike anything I've ever seen. It's called Raw You Can See and it's a high protein whole food ingredient kibble that's actually mixed with chunks of freeze-dried salmon and veggies. I think this is a really innovative idea. I could see a lot of pet parents being into it. I only hope that they come out with a version for cats because anytime I give a freeze-dried piece of salmon or liver to my dogs, my cat is right there to get some too. Finally, CBD and supplements was another big one and honestly one of my personal favorites. Of course my dogs love trying the food and the treats, but for me, I'm looking for things that will actually improve their health. My dog Atlas, he has a lot of knee and joint issues. So whenever we tried Homescape Pets Muscle Mobility Powder, I really started to notice improvement in how he was getting around. I also like that it's just a powder that I can sprinkle in his food. It's not like a treat or something that I have to give him multiple ones a day. I just put a scoop in his food and that's it. Another thing I really like about what Homescape Pets is doing is all their products are three ingredients or less and they can all be given to cats or dogs. Overall, it was really tough to narrow it down to only a few finalists. There were a lot of products that I liked personally, but we had to take into account the brand's whole story. So I would say to brands who want to apply to the Shelfies again next year, definitely dive into your ingredients. Think about where there's room for improvement. Spend time working out the kinks in your packaging, your website, and even your social media presence. We took a look at all this stuff and it played a role in our decision. So even though there were some products that I personally liked and will probably keep using, it was really those final touches that set the finalists apart. I just want to say congratulations to everyone who secured a spot in the finals. I'm really excited to see who the winners will be and good luck.

38:11 Patricia - I also want to just mention one brand that I was impressed by is the Goddess Mousse and they make a plant-based mousse, but their first ingredient is tofu and it's like full of protein, it's so delicious and it doesn't, like the taste is really good. And I'm impressed because I don't think a lot of brands still use tofu a lot, like especially I guess in dessert. I mean, not that I'm seeing, but I was really impressed with that brand and the founder also like messaged me making sure, you know, that because it was the late one day, Jenna was saying how to ship frozen or refrigerated package to make sure that the texture was good. So that was like very kind of him, but yeah, I think like people maybe should use more tofu because this was delicious.

38:59 Jenna - I love Goddess Mousse for context, this is like a chocolate mousse product. So like they actually had a few different flavors of chocolate mousse, like orange chocolate, there was dark chocolate, there was peanut butter chocolate and tofu was the first ingredient as Patty said. I think it's interesting for that is, so I'm vegetarian, I feel like I've looked up like a lot of vegetarian recipes in my time and I've seen how to make mousse with tofu a few times and I'm always like, I would do that one day. I've never done that and I probably never will and I love that a brand did it for me and not only did it for me, but did it for me way better than I ever could and in really, really cute packaging. So they're a really fun brand and definitely innovative. Like we just have not seen something like that in our time touching the Shelfies.

39:43 Patricia - Yeah, and then just mentioned too about like the adding the protein, the full of beans, I know it's like another category is breakfast, but they eat pancake is not just like, you know, a pancake with more carbs, they are a pancake that has like a good amount of protein because like protein just make you feel more full throughout the day is better for you. So I thought that they also had like a great idea of having adding beans to their sweet pancake and it tastes really good. They are also going to be at the Mic Drop event.

40:12 Jessi - Oh, awesome. Is there any other brands that either of you wanted to shout out or trends before we talk about some upcoming like events and then the winter announcements and those kinds of things, any other brands or trends you wanted to shout out?

40:26 Jenna - Yeah, we definitely saw a lot of spice mixes, I would say like, as Patty mentioned, there's a lot of trying to make cooking at home a lot easier. So there were a lot of spice mixes that were like, all you need to do is add this one packet to an entire dish and it'll like season your entire dish. So I think that was really fun to receive some of those. Just a brand I really wanna shout out that I loved was Better Sour, who's a finalist in our sweet snacks. They make gummies that are sour gummies, obviously, and they're with globally inspired flavors. So flavors like calamansi and apricot and pomegranate, just like things that you would not normally find in your traditional like Welsh's fruit snacks. And they're also really low sugar, if not no sugar. I ate the whole bag in one sitting and I was like, oh no. And then I checked and it was like 60 calories and low, like no sugar. So if you care about health benefits or the nutrition label, and maybe these are for you, and if you don't care about the nutrition label, they're still delicious. And I like highly, highly recommend them. And I love that they're bringing global flavors to the candy aisle. I feel like that's kind of, we haven't really seen sweet foods with global flavors.

41:38 Patricia - It's more of an in the savory categories. Yeah, that's so true. And then just adding Better Sour is going to be at the startup CPG section. We have for the first time a section inside of Expo East with 18 brands and they are one of the brands. So definitely stop there. I was impressed too when I shared. Unfortunately, I had to share with someone because you know, you wanna get more taste, but I just wanna eat all the bags. And my friend is like addictive with gummies. So I didn't say anything to her like, hey, you know, this is better for you, better ingredients or anything. Cause it's like the cheese when I share with my friends that they don't really like plant-based cheese. I just let them eat and then see their reaction. And then I tell this plant-based. So I gave for her the Better Sour gummies and she tried in front of me and she was surprised. Like she actually like placed an order right away cause she really loved the product.

42:29 Jessi - Patty, maybe tell us about the upcoming Expo East events because there's still time to sign up for the mic drop party and everything. And some of the brands we've talked about today will be there. And then maybe Jenna, maybe you can tell us about what's next as far as announcing the winners.

42:43 Patricia - Yes, so for the Expo East Startup CPG, we have a booth at the hot product section. The number is 4299. And then we have our startup CPG section that is on the other side of the show inside of the innovation area. So we have 18 brands that were selected and they're going to have a tabletop. We are going to host meetups Thursday at our booth from 12 to one and Friday at the startup CPG innovation section from 12 to one. Everything you can find in Slack in our newsletter. So you can RSVP, it's free to go for the meetup. It's just if you RSVP, it goes to your calendar so you can remember later. And then Thursday night, we have the most amazing party that is going to happen from seven to 10. It's open bar. We have the backpack brands. We already have over 200 tickets sold. And also we just got a confirmation that the entire Whole Foods for local emerging brands team is going to be there at our party. We have people from Target, Misfits, Bristol Farms, Earth Fare. We have so many amazing guests coming too. So we want our attendees to keep the fun going but also connecting with important people that it's on their dream list to sell their products or getting their products in front of them.

44:12 Jessi - Awesome. Yeah, that all sounds incredible.

44:15 Patricia - I'm so excited. A lot of our finalists will be sampling at the mic drop event too. So if you want to get to know, try the finalist brands that Jen and I select this year.

44:28 Jessi - You can also try the mic drop. Awesome. And then, yeah, what's next for announcing the winners and what other events are coming up that are Shelfies related?

44:37 Jenna - Yeah, so well, OK, Expo is the 20th of September is when it starts, I believe. So a week later, when we're all coming down from the Expo High, we can all take a break in the middle of the day at 2 PM Eastern to tune in to the LinkedIn Live, which is actually how we're going to be delivering the news that the Shelfies winners this year. So we will be on LinkedIn Live at 2 PM Eastern, which quick math is 11 AM PST. Yeah. And yeah, it'll be a lot of fun. So we'd love to have some engagement in the comments. So definitely try to tune in if you can and cheer on your fellow founders in the comments. And then we will be having an event in LA to celebrate. Patty, if you want to talk about that.

45:21 Patricia - Yes. So we are going to have the live on the 28th, as Jen was saying. And then the week after, on October 5, we are going to do a meetup Shelfies celebration in LA. So we are also having a few brand sampling. And we are going to get some products for the finalists. But finalists and whoever wants to go to LA to join us on the fun of celebrating this year, brands and all the brands in the community, they are super welcome to come. So we are going to be sharing the events soon.

45:56 Jessi - Great. Well, I'm so excited for all the upcoming things. Thank you both for taking the time to share about the Shelfies process with us. And shout out to brands. This was super fun. And I'm just really excited for the winners to be announced and to do our LinkedIn Live. So thank you both so much. It was really fun to have you both here.

46:11 Patricia - Yeah. Thanks for having us. It's always amazing talking to you, Jessi and Jenna.

46:15 Jenna - Thank you, Jessi.

46:18 Jessi - It was so much fun. Thank you for listening in today. I'm so honored you joined me for this conversation. And I love hearing from you all with feedback, suggestions, or if you just want to say hi at, or you can find me on LinkedIn. If you liked this episode, we'd love for you to share it with a friend or colleague, subscribe so you don't miss future episodes, and maybe even leave us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts. If you aren't yet in our Slack community of founders and experts, we'd love to see you there. You can get the free invite at and find all our other awesome resources there, like webinars, databases, the blog, the magazine, and virtual and in-person events. And if you found yourself rocking out to our intro and outro music, which I do every single time, make sure to check out the Super Fantastics on Spotify. It's the band of our Startup CPG Founder, Daniel Scharff. I'm Jessi Freitag, your host and producer. And on behalf of the whole team at Startup CPG, thank you for being here and see you next week.