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17 Viral Foods That Catapulted To Grocery Store Shelves

These beloved essentials went from Instagram sensations to IRL grocery staples.

Historically, any new-to-market food had two paths for getting into retail stores. One was to start off with boots on the ground, hitting up farmers markets and flea markets in hopes of selling enough product to beg for a chance to pitch to regional supermarkets and specialty stores. The other was to simply start off as part of a major food conglomerate in bed with major retailers, because in America, profits and growth are pretty strictly reserved for those who are already rich and connected.

But then came the pandemic and the era of influencers, and with them, our increased comfort with buying groceries online and getting hawked to via social media. Suddenly, individual makers held power in the marketplace. Word of mouth fueled products' virality, and consumers got fired up to try productions recommended by their friends or their favorite YouTubers.

Of course, there are a lot of hyped-up products that emerge from the depths of the internet, duds that fall real short of their testimonials. But amidst this sector's many failures, there were plenty of products that stuck. In fact, they stuck so well they made the vault from D2C ("direct to consumer") to bona fide grocery items.

Here are 17 grocery staples you might not realize were once fledgling internet sensations, now all glowed up and riding the mainstream.

Magic Spoon Cereal

When this Magic Spoon cereal debuted in 2019, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Breakfast cereal with single-digit net carbs, negligible glycemic impact, and jam-packed with protein, all without tasting "virtuous"? Speaking as a girl who lifts, this did indeed sound like magic. And apparently, thousands of shoppers agree, as the brand debuted in Target stores nationwide June 2022 in Fruity, Cocoa, and Peanut Butter flavors, which are now joined by limited time and special flavors that often include Cinnamon Roll, Honey Nut, and Pumpkin Spice. Sprouts followed suit in September, and then Walmart, Kroger, and Albertsons. Now, as of February 2023, this winner of Time magazine's "Best Inventions of 2019" is in 6,800 brick-and-mortar stores across the country.


Immi Instant Ramen

Plant-based, low-carb, high-protein instant ramen—when "the Kevins" came up with this idea, in flavors influenced by their Thai and Taiwanese backgrounds, people were Excited with that capital E. Immi instant ramen launched online in January 2021 with Variety Pack Volume 1 (Black Garlic "Chicken," Spicy "Beef," Tom Yum "Shrimp"), and the brand has since found its way into retail, namely Whole Foods, Sprouts, The Fresh Market, Wegmans, H-E-B, Raley's Fresh Thyme, Foxtrot, and Albertsons. Now, after years of development and even a retooling of the original hit noods, Immi has just released its Volume 2 flavors. In this set, find Roasted "Pork" Tonkotsu, Spicy Red Miso, and Creamy "Chicken." The latter is headed to The Fresh Market in the coming months.


Omsom Sauce Kits & Saucy Noodles

At this point, is there anyone who doesn't know this Vietnamese word for "rowdy"? Sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham started Omsom, a "proud + loud" pan-Asian food brand as a series of (taste-tested) sauce kits that has repeatedly sold out despite amped-up production since they launched in 2020. Since then, the brand made its retail debut at Whole Foods Market nationwide in August 2021, expanded to over 550 Target stores nationwide with the top three flavors (Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ Marinade, Japanese Yuzu Miso Glaze, and Korean Spicy Bulgogi Marinade), and released the new Saucy Noodles in Whole Foods in June 2023, a hot competitor against the viral Trader Joe's Squiggly Knife Cut Style Noodles and Momofuku's air-dried noodles (made by Taiwanese brand A-Sha.) However, Omsom's chef and celeb collabs and use of a proprietary recipe make them a bold standout in flavors like Soy Garlic, Coconut Lemongrass Curry, Garlic Black Pepper, and Chili Sesame.


Goodles Boxed Mac & Cheeses

One of the major headliners about this "better-for-you" boxed mac and cheese brand is that Gal Gadot is one of the founders. But for me, that's just a piece of trivia, because the real lede is that these Goodles have a nutritional profile that packs in fiber, prebiotics, and protein—and that cool flavors like Twist My Parm, Here Comes Truffle, and Down the Hatch are actually very good. The proof is on the shelves: Just eight months after launching online in November 2021, the aged cheddar Shella Good and classic Cheddy Mac varieties were picked up by Whole Foods Markets nationwide. Next came eight-packs of the Cheddy Mac at select Costcos, followed by Target in April 2022, which now carries all seven flavors (including a vegan version) at stores across the U.S.


MingsBings Plant-Based Handhelds

James Beard Award winner and Iron Chef Ming Tsai may have closed up shop at his claim-to-fame restaurant Blue Ginger, but now, shoppers can find his food in shops. MingsBings—a line of gluten-free, vegan handhelds that manage to wow those who are neither, with fillings nestled in a spring-roll-like wrapper that channels Tsai's signature "East meets West" ethos—launched online in early 2020 and, like Goodles, entered Wegmans, Dave's Fresh Market in Rhode Island, and Massachusetts Whole Foods Markets in June 2021. Now, more of us can "Eat more super," as the tagline goes, thanks to distribution that spans 5,000 stores with flavors that include Buffalo Cauliflower, a Southwestern Fiesta, plant-based Cheeseburger, breakfast combos with JUST Egg (I'm obsessed with the one with faux-rizo), and more.


MiLa Soup Dumplings

Once a rare treat reserved for those in the know, the brand formerly known as XCJ has played a major role in making authentic xiao long bao (aka XLB or Shanghai-style soup dumplings) as accessible and well-known a Chinese snack as wontons. In fact, XLBs have become so "everyday" that MìLà has earned that title with Costco—something that typically takes a few years for new items to achieve. The brand's journey to mainstay began in 2020, with national D2C distribution following a year later, but MìLà only hit the wholesaler's Pacific Northwest freezer cases a few months ago. In an interesting reversal, while Costco is usually where you go to stock up on Yeti-sized packages of frozen foods, you'll only find smaller packs of MìLà there. The retail bags hold ten dumpos, while the consumer-direct packages ship in quantities of 50.


Graza Squeezable Olive Oils

As a child of restaurateurs, I believe most things should come in squeezy bottles. And if they do not, you should put them in squeezy bottles posthaste. Evidently, Graza thought the same, making a big splash by becoming the first makers of extra virgin olive oil to be packaged in this obvious yet largely overlooked way. The brand launched its exuberantly green-tasting "Drizzle" finishing oil and well-rounded "Sizzle" cooking oil, made with more mature olives, online in January 2022 and, thanks to a chef- and creator-driven marketing strategy, made it to Whole Foods in the Northeast and Southern Pacific in six months. Now, Graza is at Whole Foods nationwide, plus all U.S. Foxtrot and Kroger stores.


Atlas Adaptogenic Protein Bars

Adaptogens like ashwagandha (and magic mushrooms) are all over the place in the wellness food space now, but in 2017, back when James "Jolly" Oliver was a senior at Tufts University, whipping up his functional-first soft-baked protein bar with ingredients purchased with his Uber earnings, this was not the case. Two years later, this Kickstarter-funded, certified sports nutritionist-led brand expanded from decadent Chocolate Cacao (with melty chocolate squares), Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, and Vanilla Almond Chai to include Peanut Butter Raspberry (tastes like PB&J!), Almond Chocolate Chip (tastes like cookie dough!), and Mint Chocolate. Then in 2022, the brand expanded into plant-based Coconut Almond, Dark Chocolate Sea Salt, and Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, all of which have a low-sugar, gluten-free, and soy-free profile.


Which brings us to just last month, when Atlas Bar announced a "Space" flavor and new, bolder branding. Part of all that expansion? Retail. While the best deals on Atlas are still primarily found online, the brand entered Sprouts stores in 2021, and you can now find the bars at Stop & Shop, Publix, Erewhon, H-E-B, Wegmans (soon!), and retailers like Lifetime Fitness and the Vitamin Shoppe.

Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce

You may be familiar with the Korean concept of banchan. This is not that. But one thing the two have in common is barbecue. Bachan's is actually a Japanese brand whose name means "granny," inspired by founder Justin Gill's 86-year-old grandma. Gill brought her recipe to market in 2019, but made the Original Japanese Sauce his own by making it in small batches only and using a preservative-free cold-fill process for authentic, minimalist ingredients. A year later, it was a hit on Amazon, and remains in the #1 spot for barbecue sauce and as an "Overall Best Sauce" on the Best Sauce page.


Now, you can find this stir-fry/marinade/general purpose sauce at Whole Foods, Target, Sprouts, Costco, and Kroger, as well as various specialty shops nationwide. But look sharp—only Whole Foods and Sprouts carry all four flavors (Original, Yuzu, Hot and Spicy, and Gluten-Free), and the latest release, Miso, is only available online right now.

Porter Road Beef Sticks

Meat eaters might have heard of Porter Road, an online butcher that sources humanely raised, pastured chicken, pork, and beef from Kentucky and Tennessee, then makes meat magic with it. The brand mixes it into outrageously good sausage blends, sells chef's secret cuts like teres major delivered on ice, and most notably, dry ages its beef for steaks, burgers, hot dogs, and awesome beef sticks. The latter launched online in January 2022, and it's the only retail-ready product in the Porter Road lineup, sold through Twice Daily convenience store locations. The Butcher's Original is a noticeably elevated, higher quality version of a certain snack you might "snap into," but the Sweet Heat flavor shines with mango, brown sugar, jalapeno, and red pepper. Keep an eye out for these, as the brand is actively expanding its brick-and-mortar distribution.


Tom’s Perfect 10 Granola

The power of social media marketing is one thing, but getting unanimous consensus on those platforms is not a challenge to take on lightly. The founder of this brand, former ad exec Tom Bannister, launched his first granola blend in 2021 after a year of pandemic-quarantine-driven experimentation, and the monthly flavor drops don't get added to the core lineup unless they achieve "Perfect 10" status on the Instagram-sourced community scorecard. Complete with new packaging, the Classic and Ginger Zing flavors have been rolled out at over 100 Foxtrot, Fairway, Big Night, and The Goods Mart stores. But I'm here for last month's flavor, Berry Shortcake.


wildwonder Gut-Happy Sparkling Beverages

Social media is great, but erm ... so is Shark Tank. Viewers of that show might be familiar with wildwonder's story: It's the "world's first sparkling prebiotic + probiotic beverage for gut health." Channeling her Chinese grandma's tonics made with wild herbs and botanicals, founder Rosa Li reimagined them in 2020 as modern fruit flavors with ingredients designed to soothe the gut biome and perk up one's mood. They come in combos like the Strawberry Passion, Guava Rose, Mango Gold, and Peach Ginger that landed her a Shark Tank deal, as well as the newer Pineapple Paradise. Since then, wildwonder has expanded to 2,000 retail stores including Sprouts and Fresh Market and is projected to add another 1,000 to that number by the end of the year.


CHEVOO Marinated & Infused Goat Cheese

Goat cheese is delicious in all its forms, an instant meal enhancer with its tangy silkiness. Manufacturers have long been rolling it in herbs and covering it in various toppings, but CHEVOO takes a different approach. Not only are ingredients like truffles or chili peppers folded into the cheese, but blocks of cheese are marinated in extra-virgin olive oil infused with crushed botanicals for intense flavor. In September 2022, after a change in ownership to Belle Chevre, CHEVOO relaunched its 2015 product line—original Smoked Salt & Rosemary, Dill Pollen & Garlic, Italian Black Truffle, and Urfa Chili & Lemon—with newcomer Herbes de Provence. As of May 2023, the cheese has made it to Kroger stores and is poised to enter Harris Teeter and Bay Area Costcos in select flavors by year's end.


Bada Bean Bada Boom Crunchy Roasted Broad Beans

I love these underrated, under-the-radar Bada Bean snacks too much not to include them. For those of you who like roasted chickpeas or edamame as poppable, protein-packed salty snacks, Bada Bean roasted broad/fava/field beans offer that kind of super-crunchy, savory experience, but bigger. Not just literally, in terms of size; the flavor selection is enormous and tremendously bold. My favorites include Sweet Onion & Mustard, Garlic & Onion, and Buffalo Wing, and I sorely miss the Everything, Sour Cream & Onion, and Jalapeno Popper flavors. Sprouts was the first to carry these back in 2015, but since then, they've landed at ShopRite, Weis Markets, Giant Food Store, Morton Williams, CVS, and more.


RXBAR Whole Food Egg White Protein Bars

Another product that's been around for a minute now (established all the way back in 2013), RXBAR is worthy mention since it's gone from Facebook sensation to a $600 million acquisition by the Kellogg Company by 2018. Not too shabby for a subscription-based brand made by founders who couldn't get their then revolutionary minimal-ingredient egg-white-and-nut-based protein bars on grocery store shelves. Coming full circle, as of 2015, this line of "no B.S." bars, nut butters, granola, and cereal has become widely available at retailers nationwide including Target, Whole Foods, Walmart, and regional supermarkets such as Stop & Shop, Wegmans, Sprouts, and Tops. It's even found at Staples, GNC, and CVS.


Scout Tinned Fish and Seafood Snacks

If you've been wondering what all the hubbub over #tinnedfish came from, several signs will point to Scout. This sustainable gourmet tinned fish company debuted in 2020, selling online via its website with limited retail presence. By 2022, the brand's Atlantic Canadian Lobster, Rainbow Trout, Wild Pink Salmon, organic PEI mussels, and smoked and wild albacore had conventional tuna and sardines shook as they sought a spot on grocery store shelves. It was then that Scout entered Whole Foods nationwide, and it's now projected to triple its brick-and-mortar retail distribution across the U.S. and Canada by the end of this year. Look for the seafood Snack Kits, too, which are shelf-stable, ready-to-eat containers of seasoned yellowfin tuna in flavors like Chili Crisp, Chile Jalapeno, and Za'atar, with mix-ins like chickpeas, roasted pumpkin seeds, and toasted corn nuts.


Bawi Agua Fresca

If you find flavored seltzers too light and fruit drinks too heavy, it might be time to join the thousands of consumers giving this newcomer a shot. Created by first-generation Mexican immigrant Victor Guardiola and his college buddy Jordan Hicks, an Austin native who grew up "intertwined with Mexican-American culture," these canned drinks bridge the gap with an (only lightly!) sparkling, lower sugar version of traditional agua fresca. While agua fresca is usually made with fruit juice, sugar, and still water, Bawi uses cold force carbonation for a less aggressive fizz, and its recipes are 11%-48% juice.


The brand hit the internet in April 2022 in three flavors—La Piña, El Limón, and Maracuyá, which is passionfruit and lime—and by June 2023, Sprouts was carrying these nationwide. However, I'll still be buying online, if only to learn more about the flavors via the website's "Spanglish" language selection. (Seriously, it's great.)