Natural Foods Merchandiser

Whats cool on the show floor

Make your own lip balm

Like everyone at Expo West, I’ve been wandering the show floor, on the lookout for the newest, coolest natural and organic stuff. One of my favorite spots so far is the Burt’s Bees booth (3626), where anyone can make their own lip balm by mixing and matching 50 drops of their favorite natural flavorings with an unflavored lip balm base of beeswax, coconut oil, sunflower oil and lanolin.

In addition to plain old peppermint, there are several fruit flavors as well as more offbeat choices. My own personal blend included licorice, chocolate and coffee; I’m pretty certain that’s a combination I’ll never find at my local store.
The folks at the Burt’s Bees booth melt and mix your personalized recipe, then pour it into a lip balm container and place it in the freezer. Ten minutes later, your special blend is ready to go.

As my mixture chilled, I talked with Erin Snow, gifts and promotions manager at Burt’s. “When we come to trade shows we like to give everyone a chance to make their own creative flavor and have a good time,” Snow said. “Trade shows tend to be pretty passive experiences, so we try to make it more interactive, which gives us a chance to talk about natural ingredients and about what we don’t put in our products.”

Judging from the number of people bellied up at the bar to make their lip balm masterpiece, the interactive approach has proved successful.

--Mitchell Clute
Contributing writer
Natural Foods Merchandiser

Kibbles and Bits of generosity

The economy might be in the doghouse, but the naturals industry remains committed to nurturing the needy--in this case, the needy with wet noses and wagging tails. On Friday, Clackamas, Ore.-based Castor & Pollux Pet Works (booth 2242) launched a special line of treats with Mimi Ausland, a 12-year-old animal lover from Bend, Ore., who started, a nonprofit that provides food to homeless dogs and cats.

Last year, Ausland learned about, the United Nations World Food Program’s website that poses a daily trivia question to visitors, and for each answer (regardless if it’s right or wrong) donates 10 grains of rice funded by the site’s sponsors. “I thought, if they can do it for rice, why not for pet food?” Ausland asked. Visitors to her site answer Bow Wow Trivia questions to feed homeless pets kibble by kibble. So far, her project’s filled 819,432 bowls for hungry pets in shelters. That’s a lot of kibbles-- 86,986,760 pieces to be exact.

Ausland picked her favorite food to be the first flavor for Castor & Pollux’s Good Buddy Mimi’s Favorites Dog Cookies: mac and cheese. Her golden retriever Aspen got to help with product testing. Dorothy, her Maine coon cat, is currently working on flavor refinement for the cat treats C&P hopes to add to the line later this year. The company will donate a kibble meal to for each box sold, with plans for additional funding in the future.

“We share a common goal of feeding needy pets; it’s part of our vision as a company,” said Jim Zahnmiser, director of brand marketing for C&P. “When we heard about Mimi’s project, it was just a natural fit.”
Changing the world, one kibble at a time.

--Shara Rutberg
Senior editor
Natural Foods Merchandiser

DIY superfruit chocolates

Massacre even the simplest recipes on your secondhand cookware?
Rejoice! Now even the most economically and culinarily challenged can make their own gourmet, superfruit-packed chocolates at home.

Navitas Naturals (booth 2804) just launched a line of Organic Superfood Chocolate Kits that make it easy--and cheap--to do-it-yourself. “All you need is the mix and an ice cube tray,” says Zach Adelman, president of the Novato, Calif.-based company. Adelman teamed up with chef Ani Phyo, author of the bestselling Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen: Easy, Delectable, Living Food Recipes, to develop the kits, which are available in golden berry, cacao nib and goji berry flavors. Each kit also contains raw cacao butter, powder, mesquite, lucuma and maca (all organic).
The Navitas products are one of the many kits being introduced at Expo West. Tighter budgets mean people are eating at home more often, and for those like me, who could star in a cooking show only if it were called “Flop Chef,” any help is welcome--especially if it doesn’t break the bank. “The cheapest gourmet truffles I could find were three for $5,” says Phyo. “With these kits, for about 10 bucks you can make 18 to 24 treats in about 10 minutes.”

--Shara Rutberg
Senior editor
Natural Foods Merchandiser

Green tea two ways

At Ito En (booth 3474), sit and sip has a whole new meaning.
The Japanese tea company has pioneered a process that turns used tea leaves into everything from park benches to plaster board. According to Ito En spokeswoman Rona Tison, recycling tea leaves isn’t as easy as it sounds--compost is smelly, and adding the leaves to animal feed produces herds of caffeinated cows. So a few years ago, company officials patented a process that turns used tea leaves into a resin that looks a little like plastic and can be molded into virtually anything: pens, plaster boards, tatami mats, towels, benches, film, even vending machines. And there’s an added bonus: The resin has tea’s antibacterial and antiviral properties. “It’s great for things like tatami mats, which people walk on with their shoes off,” Tison said.

Ito En’s tea leaf products are a big hit in Japan and have won awards from the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries and the Ministry of the Environment. The plan is to expand the business into the United States soon, Tison said. Until then, you can check out a tea-leaf bench (green tea and green living all in one piece of furniture!) at the Ito En booth or pick up a tea-leaf pen.

You can use the pen to write a haiku that will appear on an Ito En bottle. Pick up a contest form at the booth or at Themes are “change,” “hope” and “progress.” Tison said in Japan, it’s such an honor to have a haiku on a tea bottle that one woman actually requested that she be buried with her bottle.

--Vicky Uhland
Contributing writer
Natural Foods Merchandiser

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