It’s no wonder New York City is one of the world’s top locations for the future of food and beverage. From Madison Avenue branding expertise and cutting-edge activations, to innovative shared kitchen spaces and brand-new ghost kitchens, NYC offers impressive advantages to emerging F&B companies located there. You’ll also find leaders in brokerage, distribution, e-commerce, and co-packing alongside plenty of physical retail experimentation in the Big Apple.

Another superb advantage? If production is too expensive in Manhattan or the outer boroughs, you can head to Hudson Valley or even out to Long Island to save on operations costs, while still remaining close to the off-the-chart food knowledge of the area. Point is, if you’re an F&B maker with an emerging brand you will be able to find your niche in the NYC area.   

And as you would expect, New York makers aren’t just following trends—they are setting them. From sustainable production to alt-dairy and alt-alcohol, NYC is the heartbeat of emerging food and beverage companies.

So who should you be following in NYC? Below is our curated hot list of emerging F&B companies, complete with a handy little map. Read about ’em, get to know ’em, and hit ’em up when you see ’em. Know of an NYC F&B brand we should be watching?  Tell us please!

Please click to enlarge. Created in February 2020 by Foodboro staff and friends.

(Note: We looked at new food & beverage of all shapes and sizes in the greater New York City area, specifically those who were pushing boundaries, innovating, and taking advantage about the unique ecosystem NYC offers. We researched over 70 companies, and these are the 17 we felt best represented where the NYC food & beverage scene is at in this moment in time.)

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Akua* (@lifeakua): Jerky

It is the year of kelp, according to David Chang and Sweetgreen. But fellow New Yorkers Courtney Boyd Myers and her team have been on the kelp train ever since 2017 when they launched their sustainable snack with nutritious ocean-farmed sea greens. Not only is it on-trend, but it tastes great. How do we know? A bag of rosemary & maple BBQ jerky may have been recently devoured.

Bimble (@drinkbimble): Hemp / CBD Drink

Jay Moskowitz is a native New Yorker who spent 30 years on Wall Street only to leave his job to consult in the cannabis industry. Soon after that, he partnered with a Vermont beekeeper to launch a sparkling CBD drink infused with raw honey. A classic 2020 New York F&B story. You can buy their drink from our friends at The Goods Mart on Lafayette, or in plenty of other NY locations as well as straight from the source.

Burlap and Barrel  (@burlapandbarrel): Spices

Say what? A food company in TechStars NYC, a start-up incubator? That is exactly where Burlap and Barrel found themselves in 2018. Since then the company has been selling single-origin spices, sourced directly from partner farms. Oh, and when the company’s founders are not building new international food supply chains, they are creating popular recipe sharing forums or hosting an excellent food podcast.

ByrdFood* (@byrdfood): Snack

Former attorneys seem to flock to starting F&B companies. While “why?” is the topic for another day, what is certain is that Sue Zhou, the creator of Byrd Food, a savory plant-based oat and seed cluster snack, is not your ordinary former attorney. When she noticed an opening for a savory take on granola she went for it. Current flavors include: Smokey Chipotle, Spicy Pizza and Everything Bagel. If you haven’t heard about Byrdfood yet this year, you are will.

Fora Foods (@forafoods): Dairy-Free Butter

In Brooklyn, Fora Foods makes a dairy-free butter that tastes and feels like butter but is actually made with a blend of coconut oil, water and the brine from a can of chickpeas called Fababutter. The product is now used by Michelin-starred chefs, available at Eataly, and gaining a restaurant following.

Jack & Friends (@jackandfriendsjerky): Jerky

Here’s what the New York Times has to say of Jack & Friends, Tropical jackfruit has a simple flavor that works well with bold seasonings.” This vegan treat is powered by pea protein, and of course, jackfruit. The taste profile has been well received by consumers and this on-trend jerky company is just getting started.

Keetz* (@keetco): Plant-Based Energy Bites

Founder Katy Peetz spent a decade as an award-winning pastry chef in NYC and now she’s making tasty plant-based treats out of the purest, most delicious and nutritious ingredients like cacao, pumpkin seeds and dates. Oh, and that new packaging

Legally Addictive* (@legallyaddictivefoods): Cracker/Cookie

“Part cracker, all cookie,” and definitely totally NYC. Laura Shafferman spent time in real estate marketing before her and her team started making these treats in Brooklyn. Perfectly sweet and salty, and available in stores all over the country, you can also try current flavors like Surprise Party or the OG by ordering online. Look for a new flavor to hit shelves soon!

Lupii (@getlupii): Plant-Based Bites

Former Pepsi Exec Alexandra Dempster and Isabelle Steichen created these plant-based bites using the “small-but-mighty” Lupini bean. The bean, which is quite popular in Europe, is a high-fiber legume that has three times more protein than an egg! The fact that it is the only keto-approved bean out there could help spawn Lupini-mania in the states.

Matzo (@matzoproject): Snack

In 2017 Ashley Albert and Kevin Rodriguez “set out to bake a new take on the culturally beloved, but traditionally flavorless box of matzo”. These days you can find Matzo Chips in some of the biggest stores in the US, and hopefully in the snack aisle. The company has found a wider fan base than originally expected, as the product is vegan, nut-free and is making a name for itself as a tasty cracker.

Minna (@drinkminna): Sparkling Tea

This tea turned one Bon Appétit  writer into a self proclaimed “lightly brewed sparkling tea drinker”. Sparkling tea is a tough formulation to get right — too syrupy, too carbonated, & too sweet are all common pitfalls in this category. Citrus Black Tea, Tropical Green Tea, and Lime Hibiscus Tea are the current flavors of this Nexty Award winner, all unsweetened. And yes, like a couple other NYC F&B products, you can even text your order.

Numilk (@numilk): Fresh Plant-based Milk

Why fresh-made almond milk at the push of a button? Two main reasons. First, with new alt-milk products coming online at a furious pace, many manufacturers add gums and other ingredients that can be difficult for people to digest. With Numilk it is the old WYSIWYG model. Just almonds and water. Second, there is a tremendous amount of food waste in the supply chain, thus processing and packaging done in-store, directly by the consumer who is filling up their own bottle, definitely cuts out waste.

Ocean Hugger Foods (@oceanhuggerfoods): Plant-Based Seafood

When James Corwell saw two football-field sized warehouses full of tuna sold in one morning at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo he realized demand most definitely was stripping the oceans supply. His solution was to create Ahimi, which is a plant-based raw tuna alternative made from a tomato. How does it taste? It passes the test, at least according to these reviews. Here are the places to currently taste alt-sushi for yourself.

Otamot Foods (@otamotfoods): Tomato Sauce 

Founded by a Brooklyn dad who wanted to help his daughter eat better, Otamot has been called “the world’s healthiest tomato sauce.” It’s plant-based, of course, and made with 10 vegetables but without added sugar and citric acid.

Pilot Kombucha (@pilotkombucha): Kombucha 

The female founded Brooklyn-based kombucha line is all about having a balanced lifestyle, and with their brand new taproom in Red Hook, they can give ‘bucha drinkers a top-notch on-site experience along with special events and access to limited edition flavors.

Recess (@takearecess): Hemp Extract Beverage

Is any F&B company taking advantage of all that the greater NYC region has to offer than Recess? From their entrancing social media campaigns and experiential marketing to their “We canned a Feeling” tagline (which would make Don Draper proud btw) and their production line based in Hudson Valley, Recess had pretty much nailed it from start to finish. Like the world tends to watch New York City, food and beverage makers would be wise to watch Recess.

Senor Lechuga (@senorlechugahotsauce): Hot Sauce

During his Williamsburg rooftop BBQs, Nico Lechuga’s friends told him he should bottle up and sell his hot sauce, so he did.  Together with his wife Lauren Cosenza, they have created a small-batch hot sauce made with Carolina Reapers and habanero peppers. The couple clearly list the ingredients in each of their batches and they even have a podcast detailing their journey.

*= Foodboro members.  

NYC F&B ECOSYSTEM PARTNERS TO KNOW