New Hope Network on Thursday recognized individuals and organizations who stand out for their direct alignment with New Hope's purpose: to cultivate a prosperous, high integrity consumer packaged goods and retail ecosystem that creates health, joy and justice for all people and regenerates the planet.
The Community Purpose and Impact Awards, which evolved from the company's Hall of Legends awards, continues to honor those who have influenced the natural products industry and appreciates today's innovators who will lead it into the future. The six awards spotlight individuals, activists, businesses and organizations.
Ecosystem Award: Kathleen Merrigan
A strategic and fearless thinker, Kathleen Merrigan has championed sustainability in food and agriculture throughout her career. After serving as deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Barack Obama, Merrigan returned to academia and her first love: mentoring the next generation of food policy leaders. In addition to her day job, Merrigan engages in food tech venture capital and serves on several boards. She is the recipient of many awards and was included among TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2010.
Health Award: Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, M.D.
Dr. Low Dog's vast and varied experience in both traditional healing and conventional medicine has made her one of the most respected holistic health professionals of our time. The natural products industry holds her in deep regard because of the generous ways she has helped elevate and deepen the holistic scientific knowledge that underpins the work of brands and retailers throughout our ecosystem.
Justice Award: Project Potluck and (included)
New Hope recognizes that you cannot have J.E.D.I.—Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion—without action. This award honors the people and organizations working to bring justice to the natural products industry and the people we serve, so it is important to recognize two organizations born during the pandemic as platforms for BIPOC entrepreneurs and professionals in an industry that is dramatically underrepresented by people of color, especially at the leadership level.
Project Potluck is a professional community founded by people of color with a singular mission: to help people of color build successful companies and careers in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. Providing mentorship and building community, Project Potluck promotes inclusivity and cultivates needed diversity in natural products CPG.
(included) is a membership collective for BIPOC top executives in CPG who are dedicated to one another's success, who advocate for diverse representation, and who commit to amplifying BIPOC voices and brands in our industry.
Joy Award: Jimbo's Naturally
What brings joy to Jimbo's customers? Jimbo's Naturally has delighted its customers consistently over the decades with positive vibes and commitments to business practices that resonate with its community. Jimbo's provides the highest quality natural and organic foods, supporting local businesses and maintaining a commitment to the environment with smart business priorities:
- Selling 100% organic only produce and bulk departments.
- Prioritizing local brands and small startups.
- Not selling water in plastic.
When enduring commitments delight customers in alignment with their values and build community, shopping becomes joyful. Joy is a state of mind and a state of confidence and hope.
Regeneration and Sustainability Award: Organic Valley
Organic Valley embodies regeneration and sustainability. Since being founded in 1988, it has worked with nature, not against it. Before "regenerative" ever applied to food, this organization knew organic farming replenished carbon in the soil; increased biodiversity; and improved soil health, along with water and air quality. Science now reinforces what the company has known all along: When the natural rhythms of a farm are supported by small-scale, family-run, regenerative organic farming systems, we see more carbon stored in the soil, more diverse life in the pastures and more delicious, organic options on the shelf.
Through rotational grazing and natural approaches to farming, Organic Valley family farms sequester carbon, restore soil quality and improve waterways. At this year's Expo West, the company launched the CROPP Carbon Insetting Program, which is designed to help farmers reach carbon neutrality through real-world, on-farm carbon reductions and removals. Organic Valley pioneers climate-friendly practices that will accelerate its path to carbon neutrality and aims to be the first major dairy brand to reduce farm emissions without relying on carbon offsets. Organic Valley represents the change this world requires.
Prosperity Award: Mid-Day Squares
Creating business success while also being high integrity and creating positive impact is possible. We chose our inaugural Prosperity Award winner because this brand proves success comes in different forms and through many pathways.
Founded in 2018 in Montreal, Canada, Mid-Day Squares reached $1 million in sales in its first year and is on track to bring in $18 million this year—even though it offers just three SKUs of the certified organic, functional chocolate bars it manufactures in its own facility.
Last year, Hershey's made a play to acquire Mid-Day Squares. But selling the bus iness isn't in Mid-Day Squares' plans. Rather, its founders, who are all family members, look forward to building a brand and product platform that will challenge the legacy players. With their commitment to authenticity and skills in storytelling, the founders share their entrepreneurial journey, thus developing a passionate following.
The Mid-Day Squares family is turning heads and gaining fans with its music videos, NFTs, game show appearances and honest, fun digital content.
Remembering industry members we've lost
In addition to the award announcements, New Hope Network remembered those in the natural products industry who died since the last in-person Natural Products Expo West in 2019. This list likely is not exhaustive; these are the names read during the ceremony:
- Steven Foster—Herbalist and photographer; board member, American Botanical Council, 1957-2022.
- Jim Turner—Health activist,1940-2022.
- Greg Steltenpohl—Pioneer in plant-based beverages; founder, Odwalla and Califia, 1954-2021.
- Kara Cissell-Roell—Co-founder, VMG, 1974-2021.
- Jack Speer—General manager, Essential Formulas, 1951-2021.
- Kevin Langan Gillespie—Natural products industry publisher; retail account manager for Delicious Living magazine and associate publisher for Natural Foods Merchandiser and others, 1967-2021.
- Carlos Cortes Sr.—Organic pioneer who commercialized organic bananas; founder, Mexican-American Fruit Company (MexAm), 1925-2021.
- Paul C. Ross—Founder, Bioforce USA, 1931-2021.
- Marlene Lacy—Owner. A Way of Life Natural Foods, 1936-2021.
- Rashidah Denton—Manager, Science & Regulatory Affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition, 1979-2021.
- Harvey Hartman—Founder, The Hartman Group, Market Research, 1949-2021.
- Shauna Wall—National educator, New Chapter Inc., 1977-2019.
- Robert Kanig—Natural products industry retailer and broker,1953-2019.
- Gary Hunt, 1951-2021.
- Duke Field.
- Greg Hartman—Founder, Oasis Sales and Marketing, 1949-2019.
- Jeff Goad—Chief operating officer, Honey Pot, 1970-2021.
- Hollis Osborne—Founder, Stratum Nutrition, 1929-2022.