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We’re looking back at some of our favorite discoveries of the year 2019 in a series of posts covering each of the sectors we serve. In this first post of the series, we’re looking at innovative and disruptive brands in food and beverage.

As always, we avidly watched developments in food and beverage—not only as professionals in the field but also as consumers. And as broader trends in technology and culture reshape the industry, it’s an exciting and challenging time to participate in this sector. In the spirit of celebrating that innovation, here are a few of our favorite discoveries from 2019, with a focus on brands that have brought disruption and excitement to our field. Whether in sourcing, technology, flavor, or format, these products are changing our industry and introducing new possibilities to the ever-shifting American diet.


Mississippi Sunshine Yellow Tea

Very few specialty-quality teas are produced in the United States, so the tea lovers in our office were excited to discover The Great Mississippi Tea Company, which grows and processes its teas on a historic property in Lincoln County, Mississippi. Their latest offering is a yellow tea, an extremely rare variety akin to green tea but with fewer grassy notes. Mississippi Sunshine is the first yellow tea grown and produced in the United States, offering a lightly honeyed flavor. The Great Mississippi Tea Company is an innovator technologically too, using new growing and harvesting methods to keep its premium teas cost-competitive. A very disruptive brand to the beverage industry.

Moon Cheese

Moon Cheese uses a proprietary process in production known as radiant energy vacuum technology. The snack contains nothing but cheese, yet in a crunchy, snackable, shelf-stable form. Although not yet widely available, Moon Cheese offers a clean label and a unique snacking experience, so we expect growth for this disruptive brand in 2020 and beyond. And since the parent company of Moon Cheese, EnWave, is marketing its technology, too, this may not be the last snack you encounter featuring a naturally crunchified version of a food you previously grabbed from your fridge.

Photo courtesy of Heidi’s Bridge

Casamara Club Sodas

Options abound these days for drinkers who want a nonalcoholic beverage that’s not the same old mass-market soft drink or sparkling water. Still, too many new nonalcoholic beverages are too sugary, flavored with simple fruit notes rather than the more complex and interesting botanicals characteristic of craft cocktails. Casamara Club changes that, offering a line of extra dry sodas inspired by Italian aperitifs. Amaro offers the key flavor note, and across the brand’s four-product line juniper berry, allspice, rhubarb, cardamom, orange blossom, and other refreshing flavors supplement it.

TIG Savory Snack Bars

From the makers of RXBAR comes a new line of savory, plant-based snack bars, a format we have been hoping to see more of for years. TIG bars are primarily constituted of whole puffed chickpeas, wild and brown rice, and toasted lentils. With only 1-2 grams of sugar, no gluten, and no GMOs, the bars offer crunch and texture while supporting good health. The flavors offer bold, classic snack food notes like pizza, chili lime, BBQ, and buffalo, but without the traditional sugar and sodium content. Currently available online, we expect to see availability growing in-store in 2020.

Honey Toasted Kernza Cereal

For a growing number of farmers and scientists, the best means of improving the soil and promoting truly sustainable agriculture has less to do with scorning certain chemicals than with selection of an appropriate, diverse mix of crops. In particular, perennial crops build and hold soil and require fewer agricultural inputs, making them a better, more ecologically sensitive option overall. However, many of our staple food crops have no perennial equivalent.

A Topeka, Kansas-based research organization called The Land Institute has been working to change this by developing perennial crops that can serve as staple grain and oil crops, and their plants are beginning to make their way into products, including a beer made by Patagonia Provisions and now a new cereal from Cascadian Farms. Honey Toasted Kernza Cereal, made from Kernza, a perennial grain that grows deep roots year after year to sink carbon, improve soil quality, purify water, and promote wildlife habitat. As perennials make their way into the food system, the basic functions of agriculture have the potential to change for the better.

The Next Innovative + Disruptive Brands

Is there a new technology, flavor, or market you’d like to capture? Let us know your thoughts—we’d love to know what you see in the industry right now and discuss how we might help you capture some of that disruption for yourself.

Matt Miller staff photo
Matt Miller writes, teaches, and practices biodynamic gardening near Reeds Spring, Missouri. A MarketPlace alum with a background in academic research, he’s fascinated with how culture, media, and business interact—and equally with the best methods of cultivating healthy fruit trees.