Natural Foods Merchandiser

Industry Innovator Award: Jim Hoagland of Nuevo Latino Natural Foods

Tambobamba is a well-known tambo, or inn, in Peru along the Inca River. It’s also where Hoagland first smelled and tasted authentic rice dishes of that region and knew he had to introduce all-natural, contemporary versions of those recipes to North America. He started Nuevo Latino Natural Foods in 2006 in Boulder, Colo., and presented quick, easy-to-prepare Latin American and Caribbean side dishes and meals under the brand Tambobamba. Olé!

It was one of the products I experienced when I was traveling in Latin America. It’s a very healthy product—rice and beans. It was fun taking some of the recipes and re-creating them at home.

Innovation? It’s bringing something different from a design standpoint, or a product standpoint, to the marketplace.

In order to innovate, you have to take some risk.

The people, who all mostly share a common philosophy and values, are what make [naturals] such a fun industry. It’s such a great industry to be part of.

There’s a handful of innovators in the natural products industry, and I’m trying to emulate them in doing wonderful things, and that is what I’m doing with the Tambobamba brand and Nuevo Latino Natural Foods.

I like what Organic Valley does and what they stand for. Their milk is great. It’s one that I have total confidence that it’s coming from a great source.

I grew up eating Wonder Bread and Twinkies and drinking Coke, and they are still there, and they are all full of junk. I haven’t had a Twinkie in a very long time, but I don’t think they should be on the shelf anymore. My fear is they will come out with organic Twinkies.

From a regulatory standpoint, having the [Food and Drug Administration] be more active and aggressive in enforcing regulations. It’s a smart administration, and I think they will weigh facts while being responsive to the industry.

I think we have a major health crisis in the U.S. At the same time, costs are spiraling out of control.

Retailers should help people more in the meal-planning process. Make it easier for them to come into the store after work without a recipe. Cross-merchandise products so that customers tie it all together.

I’m reading the book about the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard. He’s been a real innovator. Not just how he’s built the business, but also his mission to create an example for others.

If I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, I would do economic development work in Latin America.

When I was a senior in college, I took advanced Portuguese for Spanish majors and it was a disaster. I almost failed.

What’s my least favorite thing in the world? I might go back to Twinkies.

–Interview by Angela Cortez

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