Walking down the grocery-store aisle these days, it’s harder than ever to figure out which brands are worth buying. We’re bombarded with buzzwords like all-natural, handmade, and organic at every turn, but when even Domino’s has a line of “Artisan Pizza,” it can be tricky to separate the authentic from the fake.
But just like pushing past the sugary fluff of Top 40 radio to discover music with real soul, taking the time to seek out independent food brands is a rewarding endeavor. While heading to your local farmers market is one easy route to go, you shouldn’t stop there—embracing real American food is just as much about hunting down the old-fashioned mom-and-pops that never sold out as it is high-fiving the hipster who made your chocolate bar.
These days, we’re in a golden age when the diversity of small domestic food brands is at an all-time high. From old-school sausage-makers preserving the German traditions of the Midwest, to tech-savvy start-ups perfecting the art of microwaveable popcorn, there’s heritage and innovation in abundance. The key is not to squander it while we have it—thankfully, the Internet and mail-order make it easier than ever to support these businesses and get the coast-to-coast bounty delivered right to your door.
Make no mistakes about it—this is not about eating healthily. Many of the best small-batch businesses craft some of the most decadent grub, from beer-laced caramels to fat haunches of smoked ham. But it is about another aspect of nourishing eating, which is celebrating the makers who create food with integrity, passion, and a story that’s rooted in the people and traditions that inspired it.
Here, we break down 50 of the best indie purveyors in the country, as well as the signature foodstuffs that you need to try from each.