Fresh Take: A Make-Or-Break Food Trade Show

Food & Drink

The overcorrection—to much-hyped valuations, sky-high deal multiples and overzealous investors—is here, and the tension will be on full display next week at the Super Bowl for the food industry, better known as Expo West.

In a matter of months, the market stepped back from overvaluing food startups and started demanding more, like profitability and stronger metrics. These dynamics are making it tough for hundreds of brands that have run out of cash, and now they’re in the awkward position of needing to ask for more—from the same investors who are far more risk-averse and are trying to make up for bad past deals. It’s a make-or-break-it moment.

In Anaheim, 3,000 companies will exhibit. There’s expected to be as many as 67,000 visitors over four days at the Anaheim Convention Center. An estimated 60% of attendees are buyers.

I’ll be there, too, as one of the many scouring booths for the next big bite, and looking for entrepreneurs who are succeeding against the odds to highlight. But I’ll also be taking note of the brands and founders that had exhibited in the past and have since called it quits. As Miyoko Schinner, the founder of the eponymous vegan dairy brand, recently said: “Everyone knows that half the startups there won’t be around in a year or two . . . how sad that it costs so much to dream, to launch a business that starts from a place of deep passion, only to lose it all.”

The food industry is cutthroat, and Expo is a proving ground. One that costs a few thousand dollars to participate in—on the low end. A lot of big dreams are about to get made next week at the show. Even more will get killed, and I’ll be on hand to report on the fallout.

Thanks to Expo and some other reporting, I’m in Los Angeles for a bit, so you know I’m eating my way around town. Look out for the Fresh Take LA Hit List next!

—Chloe Sorvino, Staff Writer

Order my book, Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat, out now from Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books.

This is Forbes’ Fresh Take newsletter, which every Friday brings you the latest on the big ideas changing the future of food. Want to get it in your inbox every week? Sign up here.

Say Hi at SXSW!

I’ll be speaking all over Austin next week for SXSW and I’d love to see you there!

Friday, March 10


Panel: Protein Re-Evolution: Cellular, Myco and Insect Ag

11:30 am to 12:30 pm

Austin Marriott Downtown at 304 East Ceasar Chavez Street, Waterloo Ballroom 1-2

Future of Food at SXSW

Panel: Alternative Proteins Beyond The Impossible Hype Cycle Expectations

1:30 pm to 2:10 pm

SXSW Center at 1400 Lavaca Street

Book Signing

2:15 pm to 3:15 pm

SXSW Center at 1400 Lavaca Street

Saturday, March 11

Future of Food at SXSW

Panel: Farming The Oceans & Building Sustainable Seafood Systems

3:15 pm to 4:00 pm

Book Signing

4:05 pm to 5:00 pm

SXSW Center at 1400 Lavaca Street

Sunday, March 12

All Things Food Summit by Food Tank, in partnership with Huston-Tillotson University

Panel: What Is The Future of Meat

11 am to 11:30 am

King-Seabrook Chapel, Huston-Tillotson University, 900 Chicon Street

What’s Fresh

Why To Attend Grocery Trade Shows In The Covid-19 Era. As Errol Schweizer writes, grocery trade shows such as Natural Products Expo West are starting up again as Covid-19 restrictions ease. Here is what you need to know about the grocery industry, whether or not you are attending.

The Aftermath of Expo West 2022. Two female entrepreneurs shared how they were harassed during the show last year and asked the conference producers to create easy ways to report harassment at a trade show. By Yours Truly.

Meet The Startup That’s Putting Ice Factories In Shipping Containers For Winn-Dixie Supermarkets. A Canadian company is partnering with a U.S. grocery chain on a novel approach that aims to address logistical, transportation and environmental challenges, writes Amy Feldman.

Fungi-Based Protein Company Meati Launches Scientific Advisory Board To Support Scale-Up, Nutrition Research. As Shayna Harris reports, Meati’s board will be led by Mars’ former chief science officer.

Barbados’ National Fish Is In Hot Water. Barbados, otherwise known as “the land of flying fish” is experiencing a climate change induced decline in landings of its national fish. Due to warming oceans, the iconic Barbados flying fish is quickly becoming a delicacy rather than the bountiful and affordable staple that it once was, writes Daphne Ewing Chow.

By Helping The Ukrainian Community In Manhattan, Veselka Earns A James Beard Nomination For Outstanding Restaurant. A coffee shop in New York City’s East Village is known for its authentic Ukrainian food and also for raising a substantial amount of money for relief efforts and earning a James Beard Award nomination, reports Gary Stern.

Beans! These Rancho Gordo cannellini beans came out glorious. A perfect warming meal a few days before I headed to Los Angeles.

Chloe Sorvino leads coverage of food and agriculture as a staff writer on the enterprise team at Forbes. Her book, Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat, published on December 6, 2022, with Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books. Her nearly nine years of reporting at Forbes has brought her to In-N-Out Burger’s secret test kitchen, drought-ridden farms in California’s Central Valley, burnt-out national forests logged by a timber billionaire, a century-old slaughterhouse in Omaha and even a chocolate croissant factory designed like a medieval castle in northern France.

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