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Articles from 2013 In January

From fruit foam to yam ice cream check out these 6 new, natural favorites

See what new natural and organic food products caught the attention of newhope360’s Food Editor Kelsey Blackwell at the 2013 Winter Fancy Foods show.

Mentioned in this video:

  • FOMZ
  • Magnolia Ice Cream
  • Real Simple Delicious
  • Wild Poppy
  • Pastry Smart
  • Lundberg Family Farms

Evidence shows selenium doesn't prevent heart disease

A systematic review published today in The Cochrane Library finds that in well-nourished adults current evidence does not support selenium for preventing heart disease. The review suggests that taking selenium supplements does not reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease, although most evidence is currently limited to healthy American adults.

Diet is a key factor influencing heart disease risk. Selenium is one dietary element that could potentially play a role in preventing heart disease by protecting against oxidative stress and inflammation. It is a common food supplement and is often given to guard against heart disease, but with little evidence that it works. In addition, there is concern that consuming too much selenium could increase a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes in individuals with high selenium status.

The researchers analysed data from 12 trials that together involved 19,715 people. Compared to placebos, taking selenium supplements did not lead to any statistically significant difference in the risk of death due to heart disease or any cause, or in the occurrence of heart problems. Although supplements were associated with a small increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes, this increase was not large enough to be statistically significant. Side effects included alopecia and dermatitis.

“The limited evidence available at this time does not support the use of selenium supplements in the primary prevention of heart disease in well-nourished populations,” said one of the authors Saverio Stranges of Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick in Coventry, UK. “Taking selenium supplements is probably neither beneficial nor harmful, but given the lack of trials to date, we cannot rule out some low level of increased risk of type 2 diabetes, at least in individuals with high selenium status.”

Most current evidence on selenium and heart disease risk is limited to American adults who are already getting adequate levels of selenium in their daily diets. The trials the researchers reviewed involved healthy individuals rather than groups that might be predisposed to selenium deficiency. “We need to know what effect selenium supplements have in less well-nourished populations where dietary intake of the element is lower,” said Stranges. “However, the indiscriminate and widespread use of selenium supplements in individuals and populations with adequate or high selenium status is not justified and should not be encouraged.”


Trend-spotting in an ever-changing chocolate market

Trend-spotting in an ever-changing chocolate market

Barry Callebaut, the world's leading manufacturer of high-quality cocoa and chocolate products, offers its customers a glimpse of the future: At this year's ISM trade exhibition in Cologne, Germany, the company presents a series of insights, indicating the trends of tomorrow's chocolate market, already today. In an ever-changing market environment consumer demand evolves continuously. Through its comprehensive range of innovative products, Barry Callebaut shows that its offerings go way beyond mere chocolate.

A wide array of products, programs and initiatives demonstrates how consistent Barry Callebaut is gearing up for the future. "At Barry Callebautwe don't stop at producing today's chocolate. In addition, we constantly look into ways how to respond to latent consumer preferences and taste. Therefore we are very pleased to share our insights in what we believe to be the six main market trends, allowing visitors to explore the opportunities for new ideas, new markets, and innovative products," says Sofie De Lathouwer, Marketing Director Food Manufacturers Western Europe at Barry Callebaut.

Barry Callebauts insights - six important consumer trends

My Daily Luxury - "One minute of pure delight - That's my daily luxury"
'My Daily Luxury' reflects not only the increasing demand for top-notch quality, but also for pure enjoyment. Consumers are looking for more than just a product. They want to maximize the quality of their consumption and expect products which offer moments of happiness and emotional fulfillment. Premium brands are hence constantly challenged to offer new, unprecedented taste sensations but also taking their services to the next level.

Using only the highest quality ingredients, Barry Callebaut does just that: the company offers luxury products, redefining the terms exclusivity and rarity. New luxury is no longer about what you own. It's about how you feel. A perfect example is Terra Cacao(TM) chocolate, made with cocoa with zero defects and zero off-flavors, resulting in an exquisite product with a pure intensive taste.

The Mignature(TM) range is another excellent illustration of how Barry Callebaut embodies the motto "less is more": especially in the current economic climate, the biggest sensations come in the smallest of packages. The range includes delights such as mini chocolate vermicelli and pearls, mini chocolate flakes (or Splitters®), mini chocolate nibs and the delicious Crispearls®. Fillings that are just as appealing as their name - 'Désir' - are also part of Barry Callebaut's approach to offer that little bit extra - a moment of sheer indulgence.

Smart & Convenient - "Smart ideas make my life easier"
'Smart & Convenient' expresses the increasing demand for affordable indulgence and a growing focus on the essence of value. Today's consumers are searching for ways to maximize their limited personal time and budget resources. They look for high-performance, but - at the same time - reasonably priced products by shopping online, comparing prices but also buying in bulk. Customers are even prepared to switch brands if the perception of value warrants it.

Barry Callebaut meets these expectations and develops smart and creative solutions offering affordable, but still convenient luxury: Shiny Pearls, for instance, offer individual portions, easy to use in simple preparations. Barry Callebaut's 'Free-from'-range including dairy free alternatives to milk chocolate as well as its Sweet by Fruits(TM) chocolate - a chocolate integrating a sweetening solution entirely derived from fruits - are ready to use products for consumers suffering from allergies or just looking for a guilt free indulgence.

Virtuous simplicity - "Close to nature is close to me"
'Virtuous simplicity' expresses the value of simple choices and delights. Consumers are faced with an overabundance of choice, an excess of information and an endless array of decisions, decisions to make about what to eat and how their food choices impact on their health and wellbeing. At the same time, they are looking for intelligent products and services that simplify this decision-making process. It is important to reassure consumers, to offer them both flexible and 'quality of life' products.

Barry Callebaut markets simple, wholesome ingredients with inherent nutritional benefits, made through authentic production processes respecting the ingredients' qualities and intrinsic goodness. Take for example Barry Callebaut's recent acquisition of la Morella nuts: Based on a longstanding tradition of processing nuts in the founder's family, this company brought the artisanal techniques of roasting and caramelizing nuts to perfection. La Morella nuts manufactures outstanding nut products delighting customers who look for natural, simple and healthy products.

My Food - "I take my food very personal"
Tomorrow's consumers want to be treated as individuals, and expect goods that are as distinct and unique as they are. This personal identification will take many forms: high quality ingredients, a focus on craftsmanship, limited editions and exclusive products. It's all about personalization: textures, colors and flavors will convey the experience of scarcity and with it: uniqueness.

Therefore, Barry Callebaut seeks to create a very personal engagement through customized products, allowing consumers to see their claims fulfilled in the products they buy. The company does so by offering a wide variety of specific options such as transfer sheets with a personal message, creamy fillings that can be flavored with trendy ingredients as well as colorful decorations.

Human and local - "I love originals"
Respect for authenticity, provenance and diversity is founding the basis for the development of an increasingly 'local' flavor in the future: In a more than ever globalized market place, consumers increasingly pay attention to the root character, to the 'soul' of the product. 'Human and local' expresses the importance of authenticity, of the origins, and of the tradition of quality. More and more, heritage will become the dominant criterion for measuring quality and building consumer trust across all age groups.

Barry Callebaut has an extensive range of origin chocolates and cocoa powders sourced around the globe. It does so with a consistent and profound respect for the individual specificities of the local production and the ingredients used as well as for the local communities the company is in relation with. Regional positioning such as Barry Callebaut's in-house 'Belgian Chocolate' and 'Swiss specialties', will tap even further into this national and regional pride. Through its Quality Partnership Program (QPP), Barry Callebaut also attaches great importance to growing chocolate in a responsible and sustainable way, increasing yields and quality, and improving farmer livelihoods.

Respect and responsibility - "The future is my responsibility, too"
The story behind the product is increasingly important. 'Respect and responsibility' are the embodiment of values such as trust and sustainability. Consumers are becoming more sensitized with regards to food brands and the way how they source, produce and treat local communities, encouraging companies to be very open about their proceedings and accountable for their acts.

Barry Callebaut is a frontrunner in sustainability matters and offers all certification schemes such as Fairtrade, UTZ Certified, Organic, Rainforest Alliance. With its own Quality Partner Program (QPP), a long-term sustainability program aimed at assisting cocoa farmers in Ivory Coast and Cameroon with trainings and support, Barry Callebaut strives to improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their communities, as well as the quality of the cocoa.

Respect and responsibility also entail catering for special dietary needs and specific religious demands for which Barry Callebaut provides proof through its comprehensive offerings of certified products, using transparent and easily accessible information.


Researcher calls magnesium a key link to heart disease

A groundbreaking review of cardiovascular disease research studies dating back to as early as 1937 finds that low magnesium levels—not cholesterol or saturated fat intake—are the greatest predictor of all aspects of heart disease.

Noted research scientist and author Andrea Rosanoff , PhD, who conducted the comprehensive review, which has been ongoing for over 10 years, and which builds upon the work begun by Mildred Seelig , MD, who studied the relationship of magnesium to cardiovascular disease for over 40 years, says, "These numerous studies have found low magnesium to be associated with all known cardiovascular risk factors, such as cholesterol and high blood pressure, arterial plaque build-up (atherogenesis), hardening of the arteries and the calcification of soft tissues. This means we have been chasing our tails all of these years going after cholesterol and the high saturated-fat diet, when the true culprit was and still is low magnesium."

According to Dr. Rosanoff, "By 1957 low magnesium was shown to be, strongly, convincingly, a cause of atherogenesis and the calcification of soft tissues. But this research was widely and immediately ignored as cholesterol and the high saturated-fat diet became the culprits to fight.

"Ever since this early 'wrong turn,'" states Rosanoff, "more and more peer-reviewed research has shown that low magnesium is associated with all known cardiovascular risk factors, such as cholesterol and high blood pressure.

"Additionally, after decades of rising dietary calcium intake not balanced with rising dietary magnesium intake, and a population wherein a majority of U.S. adults are not getting their daily magnesium requirement, dietary calcium-to-magnesium ratios are on the rise, and studies are showing that calcium supplements not balanced with magnesium increase the risk of heart disease," says Rosanoff.

Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, and Medical Advisory Board member of the nonprofit Nutritional Magnesium Association (, adds, "That cholesterol is not the cause must be obvious, since heart disease is still the number one killer in America in spite of over two decades of statin use. The fact that low levels of magnesium are associated with all the risk factors and symptoms of heart disease—hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart arrhythmia, angina and heart attack—can no longer be ignored; the evidence is much too compelling."

Ashley Koff, RD, celebrity dietitian, Prevention magazine advisory board member and founder of AKA ( lists, states, "In the last decade, magnesium rightfully has received greater attention as a critical nutrient for optimal health. This review secures magnesium, and correcting levels of magnesium intake, as one of the most critical health recommendations today.

"There are many challenges to achieving adequate intake of magnesium in the modern diet; thus I consider magnesium part of the essential nutrients to supplement daily and—in light of this review, specifically—crucial to preventing cardiovascular disease across patient populations."

"Magnesium is essential for helping regulate metabolism, and it helps lower blood pressure and dilate arteries," says Dr. Mehmet Oz, Emmy Award–winning host of the nationally syndicated talk show “The Dr. Oz Show,” and vice-chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University. He adds, "Three out of every four of you watching [‘The Dr. Oz Show’] right now across this great country are not getting the amount of magnesium that you need. You are magnesium deficient."

How much magnesium is enough? The World Health Organization recommends 400 to 500 mg of calcium. Dr. Dean recommends "a 1:1 balance of calcium with magnesium, while also taking into account the amount of calcium people get in their daily diets." She also says, "Add low doses of vitamin D and incorporate vitamin K2, and all of these measures combined will protect your bones as well as your heart."

A new direction for energy drinks

A new direction for energy drinks

Can the energy drink companies learn anything from the Russians? Maybe energy drinks can be created without sugar or caffeine? There is a new direction: Rhodiola rosea.

RhodiolaSure Rhodiola roseafrom GCI Nutrients is standardized to the content of several active compounds: rosarin, rosavin, rosin (the rosavins) and salidroside. As an adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea supports the body in maintaining healthy functions and processes despite a wide range of stressors.

GCI Nutrients selects the highest quality Rhodiola rosea from the parts of Northern China that border Siberia and that have the same harsh climate as Siberia. Growing in a cold environment, the Rhodiola rosea roots concentrate the phytochemicals that both protect the plant and later confer the legendary adaptogenic benefits to the consumer of the powder extracted from the roots. GCI's Rhodiola rosea powder extract—RhodiolaSure—is standardized to either a minimum of 6% total rosavins, 4% rosavin, and 1% salidroside, or a minimum of 5% total rosavins, 3% rosavin, and 1% salidroside. Most Rhodiola rosea powder extracts on the market are standardized to only 3% total rosavins and 1% salidroside.

Product Name:
GCI Item #: 6440 RhodiolaSureTM - Rhodiola Rosea P.E. NLT 6% Total Rosavins, 4% Rosavin, 1% Salidroside
GCI Item #: 6447 RhodiolaSureTM - Rhodiola Rosea P.E. NLT 5% Total Rosavins, 3% Rosavin, 1% Salidroside

* helps alleviate stress
* improves energy levels without the "let downs" accompanying most other popular energy
* supports mental performance
* increases work output
* shortens recovery after workouts

* functional beverages and foods
* dietary supplements


Study shows KSM-66 Ashwaganda aids stress management

Study shows KSM-66 Ashwaganda aids stress management

A study published in the current issue of Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine featuring KSM-66 Ashwagandha demonstrated a significant reduction in cortisol levels and in psychometric measures of stress, both in absolute terms and relative to the placebo group. The study concludes that KSM-66 Ashwagandha can help improve an individual's resistance to stress and can enhance quality of life.

The study used an extensive battery of psychometric scales assessing various manifestations of stress and its impact on an individual. KSM-66 Ashwagandha was shown to improve sleep quality, productivity and the extent of mental calmness and relaxation.

"These results validate the benefits of KSM-66 Ashwagandha for healthy stress management," said Kartikeya Baldwa, Director for Ixoreal Biomed. "This study examined how KSM-66 functions as an adaptogen assisting the body in producing a normalizing effect for reducing stress and anxiety. The study used established stress assessment scales and serum cortisol levels as the focal measures. The group taking KSM-66 Ashwagandha supplements experienced a significant reduction in stress over 60 days when compared against a placebo group."

The principal investigator who conducted the study, Dr. K. Chandrasekhar, is a reputed and distinguished physician. He is one of India’s leading psychiatrists and was recently the elected president of the premier professional body of psychiatry physicians in India. The study, conducted at Asha Hospital in Hyderabad, was a prospective, double blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial conducted with 64 individuals with a history of chronic stress. These adults were otherwise normal and healthy, and not of pathological populations; therefore, the results of this study may likely extend to the larger general population of adults. 

Participants were evaluated on measures that included serum cortisol levels and well established stress assessment scales like the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the General Health Questionnaire-28 (GHQ-28) and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS). The results showed that KSM-66 significantly reduced stress on all measures. The KSM-66 group demonstrated a reduction of 27.9 percent in serum cortisol level relative to the baseline.In terms of the GHQ-28 measure of stress, there was a 72.3 percent reduction in stress from baseline. In terms of the DASS measure, there was a 71.6 percent reduction and in terms of the PSS measure, there was a 44 percent reduction in stress.

KSM-66 Ashwagandha has the most extensive set of clinical trials of ashwagandha extracts available on the market today. Including this recently published study, there are five human clinical studies using KSM-Ashwagandha and two animal studies. Through these studies, KSM-66 Ashwagandha has been clinically documented to (i) reduce stress and anxiety, (ii) enhance memory and cognition, (iii) increase endurance and strength and (iv) improve sexual function health.

Mr. Baldwa adds, “Ixoreal Biomed has an expansive science mission. We are committed to continued investment in cutting-edge research and even more clinical trials so that the body of scientific evidence behind KSM-66 Ashwagandha continues to be unparalleled.”


Truvia lays out sustainability goals

Truvia lays out sustainability goals

The Truvia® business, the global leader of stevia sweeteners, released its Truvia sustainability program update, as part of its ongoing commitment to sustainability leadership and transparency. This is an update to a 2011 report produced in partnership with Ethical Corporation focusing on developing a sustainable supply chain for Truvia sweetener. The Truvia update outlines the progress to date on the three pillars of its sustainability program: sourcing responsibly, stewarding natural resources, and sharing in improving communities.

“The Truvia business has opened and led the stevia industry since its inception, with sustainability at the core of the business,” said Zanna McFerson, vice president and Truvia business director. “We have built a sustainable field to table supply chain and committed to important economic, social and environmental goals, including to be zero waste by 2020.”

The Truvia sustainability program update outlines progress to date with examples in each of its three key areas. The update reviews where impacts lie, key milestones reached, and the next steps in the Truvia business commitments to build a sustainable supply chain:

1. Sourcing responsibly: The Truvia business developed the first global sustainable agricultural standard for stevia, consisting of control criteria in 13 categories—piloting them with a subset of producers in Argentina and China. Agricultural technicians in Argentina worked directly with producers to provide training and technical assistance on the stevia standard, as well as on agricultural best practices, including crop management, farm management and proper handling of raw materials during harvesting, drying and transport. Pilot results from Argentina and China have been audited by two NGOs. The initial findings are being applied to the 2013 harvest season.

2. Stewarding Natural Resources: To ensure proper care of natural resources, the Truvia business undertook a life cycle analysis to understand the major environmental impacts in the Truvia value chain. The results brought four key areas to the forefront: greenhouse gas emissions, water use, waste and land management. The Truvia business has committed to the following:

  • Reduce carbon footprint by 50 percent in 2015 from a 2010 baseline to become carbon neutral in 2020. Truvia sweetener is the first sweetener to receive certification of its carbon footprint by the UK-based Carbon Trust.
  • Ensure all processed water is returned in the same quality in which it was taken and reduce net depletion by 25 percent by 2020.
  • Reduce waste by 50 percent across the supply chain in 2015 in efforts to become zero waste by 2020.
  • Ensure stevia in the Truvia supply chain is not grown on conservation or protected land.

3. Sharing in improving communities: The Truvia business is committed to have an impact on people and families in the communities where it operates. One example is the partnership with the World Food Programme that launched on World Food Day 2012. Through this partnership, the goal is to create more sustainable communities in the areas where the stevia plant originated.

From the start, sustainability and transparent communications have been at the core of the Truvia business. To that end, the Truvia business set up advisory roundtables to share its efforts with the industry and foster constructive feedback on developing the next phase of the sustainability program.

The environmental campaigner Charles Secrett, a cofounder of The Robertsbridge Group, has been acting as an independent sustainability advisor to the Truvia business for the past two years. He says: “I’m impressed with the rigorous standards the Truvia business has so far integrated across its stevia production. They have set challenging environmental and social performance targets, and are meeting them. I’m particularly pleased with the decision to become carbon neutral and achieve zero waste by 2020, as well as the fair pricing, long-term contracts, and other help given to the farmers and growing communities. This is an overall sustainability approach that other companies would do well to learn from.”

“The stevia agricultural standard we developed is a first for stevia and has set the bar for responsibility across the industry,” added McFerson. “We continue to be open for scrutiny and invite our stakeholders to challenge us in our efforts to continuously improve.”


Burcon builds Peazazz production plant

Burcon builds Peazazz production plant

Burcon NutraScience Corp. (TSX – BU; NASDAQ - BUR) (“Burcon”) has commenced building a Peazazz semi-works production facility: a first commercial-scale plant to produce Peazazz, the world’s premier pea protein that offers exceptional usability and high-quality protein nutrition. The transparent, pea protein is expected to be available for customers looking to purchase commercial-scale market development quantities beginning in July of this year.

Planning and engineering for this semi-works production plant began in the summer of 2012. Equipment orders are now in-place and, subject to timely delivery, Burcon projects to have the facility completed and operational by mid-year.

“Since announcing Peazazz in November 2011, interest from potential customers for a clean-tasting, transparent pea protein has been very encouraging,” said Johann F. Tergesen, president and chief operating officer, adding “Creating a dedicated plant to produce Burcon's Peazazz product will allow us to grow customer demand for this innovative protein.”

The Peazazz semi-works plant, which is being built in Winnipeg, Manitoba, will enable Burcon to provide market development quantities (tonnage amounts) to customers for product and market development activities. Burcon has gained a great deal of experience in ramp up production over the last two years, with a highly competent production team, headed by Burcon’s senior vice president process, Randy Willardsen.

Peazazz is created through a proprietary patent-pending process that delivers a highly purified product with a greater than 90 percent protein concentration on a moisture-free basis. The Peazazz protein extraction technology produces a pea protein that has exceptional flavour characteristics and is completely soluble and transparent in beverage applications with a pH below 4.0.

Burcon intends to launch and demonstrate Peazazz at the 2013 IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Chicago in July.

In August 2012 Burcon announced the signing of a non-binding letter of intent with an unnamed potential commercial partner with the intention of commercializing Burcon’s Peazazz with that partner. In that regard, Burcon also announces today that it has formally requested to terminate that letter of intent and to thereby terminate the requirement that Burcon negotiate exclusively with that partner.

The economics of the plant protein industry continue to improve as a result of steady increases in the pricing of mainstream animal protein ingredients, dairy protein and egg protein, and this is a trend that is expected to continue. The implied economic value of Burcon’s pea protein extraction technology is supported by the combination of an increasing demand for protein ingredients and the simultaneous increase in price of competing protein ingredients. Burcon is investigating multiple avenues for commercializing Peazazz including alternatives ranging from licensing the technology to an existing producer or through a joint venture or the possibility of building a future full-scale production facility on its own.

“Opening up new options to commercialize this exciting protein while we accelerate our production efforts is a smart strategy,” said Brad Allen, Burcon’s lead director, adding, “Our first commercial Peazazz production facility, expected to come online later this year, will allow us to explore many more partnering opportunities while preserving the option of commercializing this exciting protein on our own.”


IMG hires senior PR counsel

IMG hires senior PR counsel

Ida Baghoomian, a communications professional with more than 20 years of both agency and management experience, has joined Integrated Marketing Group as senior public relations counsel.

Ida has a unique blend of industry experience, including geotechnical/environmental engineering, high-technology start-ups, and health care manufacturing. Her passion for the health care industry and its impact on quality of life are what precipitated her becoming part of the IMG team.

"Ida’s considerable health care expertise, which span both B2B and B2C channels, provides IMG with a depth of knowledge that will greatly enhance our ability to promote and represent our clients in this rapidly evolving marketplace,” said Jeff Hilton, IMG president and cofounder.

Prior to joining IMG, Ida spent nine years at Ultradent Products Inc., a leading developer of high-tech dental materials ­ in various marketing and public relations roles. In her most recent role as lead public relations strategist, she worked on campaigns that addressed health care practitioners and two of the company¹s premier consumer products, teeth whitening and pediatric dental sealants.

She obtained a M.S. in organization communications from the University of Utah, and has most recently served on the advisory boards for the Journal of American Dental Association and Sealants for Smiles, a nonprofit organization that provides school-based oral health education and dental sealants to underserved children.


Natural Foods Merchandiser

Farm to shelf = next level local

Sheltons Market Garden
<p> Farm to shelf variety in full force. (Photo courtesy Steven Knudsen, Sonoma County Farm Bureau)</p>

Local doesn’t get much more legit than farm to shelf. During high season, Shelton’s Natural Foods Market in Healdsburg, Calif., stocks about 15 percent of its produce department from its own Shelton’s Market Garden. Natural Foods Merchandiser caught up with Ernie and Marty Shelton for the scoop on living la vida local and the art of growing your own produce for retail.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: What’s the story behind Shelton’s Market Garden? Why did you start your organic garden?

Ernie Shelton: We bought our little store in 2008; and basically I started the garden project as an expression of my love of gardening and a vision I’ve always had of coupling a growing operation with a retail store. It offered us a unique opportunity to strengthen the store’s brand in the community.

NFM: How much produce do you provide for your store?

ES: It varies seasonally. In the height of the season, we bring in about 15 percent of what the produce department offers, but those are items unique to our microclimate. Our season basically runs April through December, with a small amount of year-round product.

NFM: What are the challenges of growing the produce for your market?

ES: The main challenges are finding the balance between producing a great variety and the complexity of farm management this concept entails. When growing for the store, our goal is to try to grow as much variety and have as much of our own produce on the stand as we can. But it makes the farming operation more difficult; it would be easier to grow more of fewer items, but then, of course, we’d overwhelm the store’s sell-through capacity. So that’s probably the biggest challenge, just finding a balance between variety and quantity.

NThe gateway to garden goodness at Shelton's Market Garden.FM: What advice would you impart to other retailers for how to strike that balance?

ES: Have a good business plan in place, and make sure that the produce manager and farmer are on the same page. Plan well and execute as best you can.

NFM: What general farm-to-shelf advice can you offer?

ES: Our efforts are to strengthen our relationship with our customers. We felt that we had an opportunity to do that through our own farming operation. Other stores may not have that unique opportunity and may not want to disrupt the ecosystem that they already have established with local producers or local farmers. Anybody else who might be looking to do something similar should certainly approach the opportunity like any other startup and be well capitalized, have a good plan in place, not have expectations for profitability that are unreasonable, and have the skill set on board to produce a great product. That’s the ultimate goal—to have a great, fresh, highly nutritious product on the stand that your customers can take home and eat and remember for how wonderfully flavorful and gorgeous the product is.

And if you can’t do that, then let somebody else do it.

Especially with fresh produce, it’s a tricky thing. How a grower takes care of product after it’s harvested can sometimes be as important as how he took care of it when it was in the ground. All the aspects of growing, transporting and taking good care of the product before it ever reaches the stand have to be considered.

NFM: In what other ways do you support local at Shelton’s Natural Foods Market?

ES: Productwise we live in a very rich agricultural environment, so our opportunity to support local—farmers, manufacturers, producers—is enhanced.

NFM: How do you define local?

Marty Shelton: We look at it in a three-tiered way. First of all, Sonoma County as much as possible in what’s offered, and then we look to second-tier, neighboring counties. Third tier would be northern California.

Marty and Ernie Shelton transplant the first starts into the new parcel. NFM: With so many great local products in your area, how do you select the best for your store?

ES: First and foremost, things need to taste good; they need to earn their place on the shelf from a quality perspective. From there, we prioritize regionally based products. Is the producer up and running and ready to supply us with product on a convenient and steady basis? Is he or she ready to extend in the marketplace and prepared with distribution?

Basically, we look at producers, especially if they’re new, and see if their house is in order and whether they’re ready to support the store as much as we’re ready to support them. That mutual support extends to co-marketing efforts. Getting people into the store to do demos is our main vehicle for introducing or promoting new product.

NFM: What are your best local sellers?

ES: We’re in a dairy-rich region, as well as, obviously, the vineyard and vegetable/fruits area. I think the dairy section in our particular marketplace has the biggest presence of local product.

NFM: What’s key when working with local vendors?

ES: You still use the same criteria with local product as you would with any product from a distributor or manufacturer—does the product taste good, does it look good on the shelf, does the labeling look sharp, is it going to draw people’s attention?

We, historically, through the course of our retail lives have always felt that our retail stores were a birthplace for new product. So we’ve always been very supportive, even when we had larger stores, to give new, local and most certainly organic products an opportunity to get birthed into the marketplace.

Historically, that’s what the natural foods industry provided for new manufacturers. That, of course, has changed over the years as our industry has gotten larger and the cost of product development and introduction has skyrocketed. But as a small store, we still have that unique opportunity to help birth a small regional manufacturer because we’re properly scaled to the opportunity. So somebody who doesn’t have half a million dollars to launch into a major market play can still find some traction regionally in our store and in other small chains that might support a regional producer to test the waters, perfect its product and get some traction. It’s sort of the old-story way that people used to get into the marketplace, which is rarer these days because the cost of entry is so high.

Parcel in full summer bounty. (Photo courtesy Shelton's Market Garden)NFM: We’ve heard that local trumps organic more and more these days. What’s your take, and what do your customers prefer?

MS: I believe our customer base, at this time, prefers organic to local. I think we cater more to an organic crowd, actually.

ES: Some of that is our own self-definition, it’s our preference, and certainly customers in our region can find plenty of organic product that’s produced locally. So it’s not necessarily an either/or situation in our region. It’s probably somewhere in the middle.

For a local producer to have customer support, if they’re not organic in our store, they need to have a reputation that precedes them. A few people do; some people don’t. If the producer has a strong farmers market presence and people see its products in our store, then they might know the farmer’s story firsthand. It’s one of the advantages of a farmer or producer direct marketing its product—having the opportunity to talk one-on-one with customers. When selling product through a third party, the label has to do the talking. And one of the ways that the label speaks the loudest is by having the third-party organic certification. That communicates pretty strongly to the customer.

NFM: What are your future farm plans? 

ES: For 2013, we’re planning on just doing a better job with what we have. We have three acres of farmland that we’re working with now, and our goal here is to optimize, optimize and optimize and then grow from there. We love doing it. The idea is being well received in the community. And for the store, and we’ll continue to grow the idea and get better and better.