The 50 Best Independent American Food Brands

From new-school start-ups to century-old regional classics, these scrappy companies make some of nation's tastiest eats.



From: San Francisco, CA
Specialty: Single-origin chocolate

Why we love it: While many nouveau artisans can be annoyingly twee about their hand-crafted image, Tcho has been slick and unmistakably modern from day one. Born out of the Silicon Valley tech culture, the company isn’t focused on returning to the chocolate traditions of the past, but rather finding new ways to explore the joys of cocoa. The product itself is top-notch—it’s used by many of the country’s top pastry chefs—but it’s the packaging and experience that really makes Tcho standout. Rather than emphasizing insidery buzzwords like “70% cocoa” or "single-origin," the color-coded Tcho system breaks down the flavor profiles of all its chocolates, from “nutty” to “floral” to “citrus.” The result is a chocolate sampler box updated for Gen-Y—it's user-friendly and educational without sacrificing taste.

  • Martin’s Pretzels

    Hey, thanks for including Martin’s Pretzels, though I’m not quite sure how we rated a Niman Ranch logo!

    • First We Feast

      @twitter-204960183:disqus not sure how that happened—gremlins in the system!
      photo has been updated, thanks for the heads up.

  • Martin’s Pretzels

    …and by the way, the Martin brothers, Lloyd and Clarence, who have kept the Martin’s Pretzels brand going for the last 50 of it’s 80+ years. There are two locations with Clarence in PA and Lloyd in NY state…same pretzels, process, ingredients and ovens. Many pretzel fans meet in the middle in New York City at the GrowNYC Greenmarkets (primarily Union Square) where Martin’s have been a steady presence with zillions of fans since 1982! There’s a great episode of the Discovery Channel’s “How Do They Do It?” (Season 5, Episode 7, titled “Pretzels, Gondolas, Pearls) that gives a pretty good look at how Martin’s are made…or there’s a free brief video from Food TV that can be accessed through the website.

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