NEXTY Awards 2024: Coconut yogurt and plant-based salmon win big at a spirited celebration of food and beverage innovation

When it comes to celebrating natural product innovations, you’d be hard pressed to beat the NEXTY Awards. Featuring winners like The Coconut Cult and Konscious Foods, these awards recognize creativity and integrity in the food and beverage industry.

Scott Miller, Staff writer

March 22, 2024

5 Min Read
Bryan Beasley Photography

At a Glance

  • The Coconut Cult and Corpse Reviver won for probiotic coconut yogurt and a tea-based hydration beverage, respectively.
  • Konscious Foods and LeGrand named top meat and dairy alternatives with plant-based smoked salmon and mac and cheese sauce.
  • Winning a NEXTY significantly boosts brand visibility and market presence.

Like much of Natural Products Expo West, the annual NEXTY Awards celebration was packed wall to wall with semi-rowdy natural product professionals. Pockets of audience members whooped and hollered at every nominee, and one team of winners shared a beverage onstage — literally, like a relay race with a single can. Another team brought a baby up to help them receive the award. Let’s hope it was their baby. 

In short, the NEXTYs celebration was a fun, enthusiastic event featuring the latest and greatest products natural brands currently offer, with awards for best functional food or beverage, best meat and dairy alternatives, and “bests” in more than 30 additional categories.  

“The NEXTY Awards highlight special products that stand out in the industry as the most progressive, innovative, inspiring and trustworthy,” Audarshia Townsend, content director for Food & Beverage Insider and two-time NEXTY judge, said. “A NEXTY win can bring a lot of positive attention to your brand.” 

So, let’s get to the winners. You can see the full list over at New Hope Network, along with the people’s and editors’ choices awards, but keep reading to see how these wins are continuing to shake up the industry. 

The Coconut Cult's yogurts.

A functional win 

One of the biggest wins of the night was in the Functional Food or Beverage category, which represents a rapidly growing market. There were six nominees, which you can review here; The Coconut Cult won for its creamy, probiotic-packed Pina Colada coconut yogurt.  

“It is not a stretch to say the experience of eating our yogurt is unlike anything else on the market,” Ari Raz, CEO of The Coconut Cult, said. “I hope that winning the NEXTY convinces more people in the industry to learn more about us. We have quickly become the fastest-growing plant-based yogurt brand in SPINS over the past year by bringing the most delicious and functional products to the set.” 

This artisanal yogurt is fermented in small batches with 800 billion probiotics in every quart. Receiving a NEXTY advances its mission to displace the overly sweetened “dead” yogurts you typically find on store shelves. 

Cans of Corpse Reviver.

Building a better beverage 

On the show floor, a brand called Corpse Reviver was fittingly positioned across from the enormous Liquid Death booth, with its blaring music and adults wearing skull T-shirts.  

“Corpse Reviver is a hydration libation packed with your daily dose of electrolytes,” Anna Zesbaugh, CEO and founder of Corpse Reviver, said. “It has magnesium, potassium and sodium for recovery … it’s tea-based, it’s bubbly and we’ve got three flavors.” 

She was adamant that Corpse Reviver is not a kombucha or energy drink, but rather a bubbly, tea-based hydration beverage. Its unique botanical flavor profile, which includes cardamom and anise (Pimpinella anisum), plus the beautiful packaging, elevated the brand to “award winner.”  

Konscious Foods' plant-based smoked salmon.

Alt-meat and -dairy 

In the meat and dairy alternatives categories, big winners included Konscious Foods for its plant-based smoked salmon and LeGrand for its plant-based mac and cheese sauce.  

The smoked salmon, wrapped up with cream cheese and capers on top, tasted deliciously fresh and clean, nearly identical to the real thing — but it was made using carrots and konjac (Amorphophallus konjac), a root vegetable native to Asia. 

“It comes from the sweet potato family and has this amazing property to gel when combined with water, and gives you a [great] texture,” Yves Potvin, founder and president of Konscious Foods, said. “We smoke our own smoked salmon, all natural ingredients, non-GMO, but most important, I come from a chef background, and taste has to be number one.” 

This was Konscious’ second NEXTY win, despite being a relatively young company, whereas LeGrand has been creating plant-based food products for decades. When its chefs and scientists tried to reinvent a pantry staple for its plant-based mac and cheese sauce, Delphine Le Grand, partnerships lead at LeGrand, explained that they struck a unique balance between healthy and comforting. 

LeGrand's plant-based mac and cheese sauce.

“When you’re starting to transition into eating healthier, you don’t want to give up all the stuff you enjoy,” Le Grand said. “Often there’s a very strong coconut flavor, and it doesn’t feel like the real deal. This one has a cashew base. We formulate our own cashew milk, and then add carrots and potatoes with a little bit of nutritional yeast.” 

According to her, they’re trying to make healthy, tasty foods that are quick and easy for everyone to enjoy, and it seems they’ve succeeded. 

“We’re parents, we’re running companies, we have busy jobs. With this mac and cheese sauce, you make the pasta and mix in the sauce, and you have a healthy, nutritious meal,” she explained. “It’s easy, and it’s good for you.” 

Winning a NEXTY 

As mentioned, this was the second NEXTY award for Konscious Foods, the first being for its plant-based California Roll in 2023. Yves Potvin has a theory about how the award has shaped his company’s success. 

“If you win a NEXTY award, the buyers from the different chains have to come and see because they have a limited amount of time,” Potvin said. “We saw this last year. We’re in about 6,000 supermarkets right now. And part of it, I think, is the recognition.” 

So, it’s official: A NEXTY award can be a game changer for food and beverage brands large and small. But how do you win one? 

“The amount of exposure these awards can bring you, especially on the Expo West show floor, shouldn’t be underestimated,” Townsend said. “My tip for someone looking to win is to keep trying. Keep innovating and acting with integrity in everything you do. That’s the best way to win a NEXTY.” 

About the Author(s)

Scott Miller

Staff writer, Food & Beverage Insider

Scott Miller brings two decades of experience as a writer, editor, and communications specialist to Food & Beverage Insider. He’s done a little of everything, from walking a beat as a freelance journalist to taking the Big Red Pen to massive technical volumes. He even ran a professional brewing industry website for several years, leveling up content delivery during an era when everyone had a blog.

Since starting at Food & Beverage Insider, he’s written pieces on the price of greenwashing (and how to avoid it), debunked studies that served little to no purpose (other than upsetting the public) and explained the benefits of caffeine alternatives, along with various other stories on trends and events.

Scott is particularly interested in how science, technology and industry are converging to answer tomorrow’s big questions about food insecurity, climate change and more.

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