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Sweets & Snacks Expo registration opens

Sweets & Snacks Expo registration opens

Registration is open for the 2014 Sweets & Snacks Expo, to be held May 20 to 22, 2014, at Chicago’s McCormick Place. Sponsored by the National Confectioners Association, the 2014 Expo is poised to be the most successful in the event’s 18-year history with a jam-packed show floor already boasting a double-digit wait list of companies ready to exhibit.

The 2013 Expo broke all previous records in volume of confectionery and snack products with more than 600 companies and an eight percent increase in exhibitor participation. In 2014 the show floor square footage has expanded to incorporate more space in the center of the exhibit hall.

“There are a number of reasons that our event continues to grow and break milestones,” says NCA President Larry Graham. “We are committed to finding innovative ways to grow the Expo, including an emphasis on new confectionery and snack products, distinct exhibit space for organic, natural and gourmet products, highlighting international companies, and exploration of the latest trends in shopper marketing. We service all your confectionery and snack needs in one place.”

Experiencing double-digit international growth, the 2014 Expo will introduce the new European Confectionery Pavilion and welcome more than 100 international companies from nearly 25 countries.

“The global marketplace is growing at fast rate, and it’s essential that the Expo provide access to more product categories from more international companies. Last year the show experienced double digit growth in international participation, making the Expo truly a one-stop-shop for candy and snack buyers from around the world,” says Tim Quinn, Expo chairman and vice president of trade development for Mars Chocolate North America.

The popular Gourmet Marketplace sold out in early January, housing 84 companies and providing access to hundreds of one-of-a-kind, upscale, natural and organic products. Marketplace growth and sales success continue to accelerate since recent consumer statistics show that more than one third of shoppers will pay more for premium or natural products.

In addition, the Sweets & Snacks Expo is unique in its commitment to offer the best value and efficiency with top notch keynote speakers included as part of a modest Expo registration fee. Its educational content offers a suite of sought-after experts promising to deliver strategic direction into effective leadership, customer service and insights that can contribute to bottom line success.

Tony Hsieh, CEO and founder of, will reveal successful strategies to excel in customer service while ESPN commentator Jeremy Schaap will discuss strategies behind motivation and how strong leaders are a key component to success in any setting—both on teams and in business. Nancy Snyderman, NBC’s chief medical editor, will share her insights on health and wellness, particularly as it relates to balancing healthy lifestyles and enjoyment.

This year the Expo’s popular app will be upgraded to improve effectiveness and usability. New this year is a user-friendly desktop planner that allows attendees to schedule their entire trip before arriving in Chicago. The Expo’s Virtual Media Center, introduced in 2013, will return to make it even easier for exhibitors to post and socialize their news releases so that media and other show attendees can see what’s hot at the show.

Firmenich seafood flavors score MSC certification

Firmenich seafood flavors score MSC certification

Firmenich, the largest privately held Flavor and Fragrance house, has received certification to the Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) Chain of Custody standard for its seafood flavors produced from North East Atlantic Codfish, Saithe, and Haddock.

MSC Chain of Custody Certification verifies that any MSC-labeled products originate from fisheries that are certified to the MSC standard for well-managed and sustainable fisheries. This means that the origin fishery operates in manner that keeps fish stocks, other marine life and ecosystems healthy. It also indicates that the origin fishery has made efforts to minimize its environmental impact, abides by all local, national and international laws, and operates under the guidance of accepted scientific findings to ensure sustainable use of the marine resources.

"Receiving MSC certification is a fantastic sustainability achievement for our Seafood Business," said Aldo Uva, president of Firmenich Flavors. "Firmenich is committed to building and supporting sustainable business models within the flavor industry and this is a true reflection of our dedication," he added.  

The Firmenich Seafood facility in Alesund, on the West coast of Norway and with access to fish from the North Atlantic and the Barentz Sea, processes 10,000 tons of seafood raw materials annually. These raw materials are largely by-products from the seafood industry. Through sophisticated biotechnological processes, Firmenich converts the by-product, which had previously been disposed of into the sea, to create seafood extracts and flavors such as Codfish, Shrimp, Lobster, Crab, Squid and other popular seafood tonalities which are used in soup, stocks, sauces and ready-to-eat meals.

By minimizing by-products from the seafood industry and maximizing the value created from the marine resources, Firmenich can help meet the market demand for seafood flavors without adding an extra burden on fish stocks.

The facility focuses on 25 seafood natural materials and 11 species of fish, all which have been caught in the wild. Eighty-six percent of the total seafood raw material comes from MSC-certified fisheries. The remaining 14 percent is from smaller fisheries that are in the process of certification.



Pure Encapsulations expands PureLean program

Pure Encapsulations expands PureLean program

Pure Encapsulations®, a leading manufacturer of research-based, hypoallergenic nutritional supplements, is proud to launch the newest addition to the PureLean® product line in addition to, a user-friendly microsite with educational tools and an innovative Supplement Selector. 

“Since body weight is the result of multiple factors, including genetics, diet, neurotransmitter function and physical activity, The PureLean® Supplement Selector is a unique tool developed to meet individual needs,” explained Juniper Devecis, registered dietician at Pure Encapsulations. “After answering a short series of simple questions, you are given personalized supplement recommendations, eliminating the guess work and maximizing potential success.”

"The PureLean products are a great adjunct to the nutritional programs I create for my patients. The PureLean Vanilla and Chocolate Protein powders are a great non-dairy, non-soy, vegetarian option to ensure adequate lean protein in the morning or as a healthy snack to keep metabolism optimal,” stated Caroline Cederquist, M.D, founder and medical director of the Cederquist Medical Wellness Center in Naples, Fla. “We have also found significant support for patients’ glucose metabolism with the addition of Metabolic Xtra to the nutritional protocols we use,” Dr. Cederquist added.

The newest addition to the PureLean® line, AdipoLean, is a combination of WellTrim® Irvingia gabonensis extract and Oligonol®, a lychee and green tea complex. Studies have shown that the unique extracts in AdipoLean support healthy weight management, healthy visceral fat composition, lean mass ratio, and abdominal circumference.

“Oligonol is not just an antioxidant,” explained Kelly Heim, Ph.D., Nutritional Pharmacologist at Pure Encapsulations. “It is a bioavailable oligomeric proanthocyanidin (OPC) preparation that targets multiple determinants of metabolic health. These parameters include visceral fat area, waist circumference, adiponectin levels and postprandial glycemic and lipid responses. Clinical studies have documented measurable results within a short period of 10 weeks.”


Packaging's influence on your company's early-stage success

Packaging's influence on your company's early-stage success

For startup brands preparing to launch into retail, deciding where to invest your precious and few marketing dollars can be a tough, high-pressure call.

Beyond investing in the building blocks you need to produce and ship your products, where can you make the biggest impact on your sales with the cash you have left? Consider investing in these three areas with your early marketing dollars:

Custom websites 

Do brands even need one nowadays? For the few retailers or customers who expect brands to have websites and seek out "more information," a Facebook page will typically suffice. Don’t overestimate the value of an expensive website at this stage of the game, but also avoid designing one yourself on the cheap—a poorly designed site can send a worse message than no site at all.


Entrepreneurs love the idea of connecting with shoppers one-on-one, sharing their passion and putting products in the hands and mouths of potential consumers to encourage a trial purchase. Demos are a great idea; they’re a more direct influence on purchases than media, but like paid media, they’re not sustainable. They’re expensive and taxing to execute, and they yield results slowly (one store at a time).


For small companies especially, packaging will have the most influence on your viability out of the gate. If shoppers buy, you stay on shelf and build your business.  If shoppers don’t buy, you’re off shelf almost as soon as you were allowed on. 

Unlike other marketing options, packaging is present at every potential buying situation, every second of every day.

If executed wonderfully, packaging can be a game changer; it can convert shoppers and steal share from larger competitors, building a customer base simply by winning at shelf.

But too often, startups risk their enterprise by hiring the least expensive option to design their package. Packaging should be designed to account for the competitive set as well as the biases and expectations shoppers use when they shop the category. Yet, these perspectives rarely come from design generalists; instead, they come from package design specialists who study the art and science of packaging and how design, messaging, hierarchy and tone all play a role in building trust, connection and sales.

With so much riding on packaging’s ability to generate sales, startups would be wise to invest whatever it takes to ensure that their most valuable asset is in the right hands before going to market.

Natural Vitality

Johnny's Selected Seeds: building a business on heirloom and organic seeds

Johnny's Selected Seeds: building a business on heirloom and organic seeds

One big reason for the range of produce in our markets these days is actually quite small—seeds. The wide variety of these tiny sources of life available to us today has come a long way. One person we have to thank for our blossoming seed market is Rob Johnston: 40 years ago he founded Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and the wealth of heirloom and organic seeds has been growing ever since.

Finding a niche

The year was 1974 and Johnston was working at a small communal farm in New Hampshire that sold vegetables to markets in Boston and New York. Johnston grew frustrated with how difficult it was to source seeds that weren’t for common market vegetables and fruits at that time.

They had a request for Japanese produce from a distributor in New York City, but there weren’t any seeds available. Johnston found the seeds, and the farm was able to grow what was considered then to be exotic vegetables. “We were using some seeds from Japan and Europe that weren’t available in the US at all,” Johnston told Organic Connections. “These were Asian vegetables that were used in Japan but not in the US, like burdock, bok choy and garlic chives. We also had a special kind of Japanese bunching onions and unique melons.”

On the European side, they began selling seeds for carrots not even seen in this country. “It was pretty exciting to bring these developments to my customers, because they wouldn’t see them otherwise,” Johnston recounted.

A seed was planted for a new kind of business that combined his love of working the land and selling seeds. “I figured that there was room for a different approach in the seed business; I thought maybe I could actually make an impact by offering seeds that produced better quality food or better flavor that weren’t currently available.”

Johnston began cultivating these seeds himself to provide to his customers, and with $500 in the bank Johnny’s Selected Seeds was born.

Growing a seed business

A seed business doesn’t grow like wildfire, but Johnston was determined. Amazingly, he never asked for nor obtained a single penny of investment money.

“I started out just on my own, and everything I did I begged or borrowed,” Johnston recalled. “I had friends that worked at a magazine, and they offered to print my catalog. I did tiny press runs so I could afford it—sort of paid as I went. I did practically everything myself.”

Johnny’s catalog stood out among seed catalogs of the time and is still revered by growers. More of a grower’s handbook than a promotional catalog, people would keep it on hand even after they had ordered.

“It built from there. I had friends in Maine that offered me the use of their farm, so in 1974 I moved to Maine to cultivate my seeds.” He bought the farm one year later. “That first year, there were a thousand seed orders and $7,000 was the total income. The second year was $25,000 in sales, and it just kept growing. Somehow I managed to keep my head above water.”

In 1979, before most people even knew what the term organic meant in relation to food, the Albion farm received organic certification from the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Johnny’s certified organic seeds hit the market.

Sourcing heirloom seeds

In the 1970s there was no Internet and very few ways for someone like Johnston to establish a supply network for the types of seeds he was seeking. “I made contacts,” Johnston continued. “I would talk to people, learn about other suppliers and talk to them. I developed a cadre of people that had old varieties. For modern varieties, I knew a couple of innovative seed breeders through the farm I was working on. I also built cooperative relationships through the consulates of a number of different foreign countries; I established letter correspondences with some of the breeders that I learned about from the consulates.”

 Johnny’s has always introduced new and exciting seeds, and for a large variety of interests. Gourmets can use the seeds to grow their own radicchio and French radishes, while the company also supplies an entire range of medicinal herb seeds.

In 2000 Johnny’s joined the Safe Seed Initiative, acknowledging that it would not knowingly buy or sell genetically modified seeds or plants.

Today Johnny’s Selected Seeds operates much the same way as in its early days, except on a much larger scale. Seeds are grown and produced on the Albion farm and brought in as well from a global producer. The company continues to seek out older seed varieties that might have gone by the wayside, at the same time making available new and improved varieties from all corners of the world.

“We’ve certainly had an impact on our customers, giving them an economic advantage,” Johnston said. “Our clients are both market gardeners who sell locally and regionally to retail outlets, and avid home gardeners who are growing their own food. Evidently we’ve made an impact, because we have many, many customers who keep coming back.”

Educating about seeds

From the beginning, Johnston felt that educating growers about particular seed varieties was important, as evidenced in his encyclopedic catalogs. That continues to this day. “Education has been a tradition here, because the catalog has always focused on being informative rather than being promotional,” Johnston pointed out. “If you are faced with all these different carrot varieties on the website or on a catalog page, your eyes could glaze over if you didn’t have some help in differentiating one from another. So in the catalog, instead of saying, ‘Everything is wonderful,’ we say, ‘Here’s how one variety compares to another.’ Our job becomes to inform the growers well so they can make their choices.”

Customer as partner

Johnston’s mission has been a simple but powerful one. “My favorite thing is to have somebody say, ‘You know that new carrot I got from you last year—I didn’t do too badly with that,’” he concluded. “It may sound fairly plain, but there’s actually a lot behind somebody saying that. I think we’re serving a purpose: We’re developing teamwork with our customers, where the boundaries get blurred between who’s the customer and who’s the supplier. We’re all in it together to improve the food quality that is available to people.”

In 2012 Johnny’s became fully employee owned, and today the company employees own 100 percent of its stock.

For more information about Johnny’s Selected Seeds, visit

2014's best natural beauty products to stock now

Every year, we think we’ve seen and tried it all: the most luscious moisturizer, the cleverest beauty eco-packaging, the brightest natural makeup. And every year, the outstanding options in this category prove us wrong.

Stock your stores with this year’s Delicious Living Beauty & Body Awards winners, which once again prove that natural ingredients paired with innovation truly are a beautiful thing. 



Krill v. fish oil results may be PUFA-d up

Scientists are calling into question the validity of a recent study that suggested krill oil was superior to fish oil as far as benefits to cardiovascular health. We noted the study, published in Lipids in Health and Disease by Ramprasath, et. al, that suggested krill oil is the mightier weapon against cardiovascular disease. Hey, it looked good to us. However, a new article in Lipids in Health and Disease calls those conclusions "not justified and misleading." It must have been a heck of an office holiday party at Lipids in Health and Disease HQ.

Peter Nichols and the other authors of the new article write that the fish oil used in the trial was "not a typical fish oil." It contained linoleic acid as the dominant fatty acid (32 percent) and an n-6;n-3 ratio of .1. This kind of fish oil is "non-representative of typically commercially marketed fish oil," they write. "Considerable care is needed in ensuring that such comparative trials do not use inappropriate ingredients."

Results of other recent krill studies have been less debated. A study at Momentum Pharma Services in Germany found that krill powder given to obese middle-age men reduced triglycerides by more than 20 percent. The men also dropped their waist-to-hip ratio and the fat-to-muscle-mass ration (though no actual change in body weight). That study was one of the most krilling, er, Top 10 omega-3 studies of 2013, according to Functional Ingredients.

Certain probiotics could help women lose weight

Certain probiotics could help women lose weight

Certain probiotics could help women lose weight and keep it off, according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition by a team of researchers headed by Université Laval Professor Angelo Tremblay.

Studies have already demonstrated that the intestinal flora of obese individuals differs from that of thin people. That difference may be due to the fact that a diet high in fat and low in fiber promotes certain bacteria at the expense of others. Professor Tremblay and his team tried to determine if the consumption of probiotics could help reset the balance of the intestinal microbiota in favor of bacteria that promote a healthy weight.

To test their hypothesis, researchers recruited 125 overweight men and women. The subjects underwent a 12-week weight-loss diet, followed by a 12-week period aimed at maintaining body weight. Throughout the entire study, half the participants swallowed 2 pills daily containing probiotics from the Lactobacillus rhamnosus family, while the other half received a placebo.

After the 12-week diet period, researchers observed an average weight loss of 4.4 kg in women in the probiotic group and 2.6 kg in the placebo group. However, no differences in weight loss were observed among males in the two groups. "We don't know why the probiotics didn't have any effect on men. It may be a question of dosage, or the study period may have been too short," says Professor Tremblay, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Environment and Energy Balance.

After the 12-week maintenance period, the weight of the women in the placebo group had remained stable but the probiotic group had continued to lose weight, for a total of 5.2 kg per person. In short, women consuming probiotics lost twice as much weight over the 24-week period of the study. Researchers also noted a drop in the appetite-regulating hormone leptin in this group, as well as a lower overall concentration of the intestinal bacteria related to obesity.

According to Angelo Tremblay, probiotics may act by altering the permeability of the intestinal wall. By keeping certain proinflammatory molecules from entering the bloodstream, they might help preventing the chain reaction that leads to glucose intolerance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

The Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain used in this study is found in certain yogurts sold in the European market, but Professor Tremblay believes that the probiotics found in dairy products in North America could have a similar effect to this strain. He stresses, however, that the benefits of these bacteria are more likely to be observed in a favorable nutritional context that promotes low fat and adequate fiber intake.



6 ways beet juice enhances healthy diet

6 ways beet juice enhances healthy diet

Beets may not be the most popular vegetable in town. However, these dark red roots are packed with so many health and beauty benefits that they deserve to achieve genuine super food status. Beets have been the subject of many research studies that have shown their health benefits. From fighting free radicals to providing more stamina to athletes, there is compelling evidence as to why the beet deserves more attention.   
The beautiful red-purple color of beetroot is evidence of the amazing plant pigments known as carotenoids. While it is believed that there are at least 500 of these natural compounds, only a handful have been analyzed, with beta-carotene being the best known. 

Here are six healthy reasons to move this underrated vegetable to your “A” list:

  • More nitrates, more oxygen flow – Beetroot juice is one of the richest dietary sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates. Nitrates are compounds that improve blood flow throughout the body—including the brain, heart and muscles. These natural nitrates increase a molecule in the blood vessels called nitric oxide, which helps open up the vessels and allows more oxygen flow.
  • “Red” is the new “green”? – One of the major benefits of beet juice is that it contains a color pigment called betalain. Beet betalains provide some anticancer capacity. It has been observed that betalains provide a more varied and higher antioxidant value than most other vegetables containing beta-carotene. The presence of both higher cellulose content and red beet fiber in the diet significantly reduced the incidence of precancerous lesions in the colon.
  • Cholesterol: lower the bad, raise the good! – The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry published a study that stated beets lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL (good) cholesterol – all thanks to the antioxidant betanin. Folate, also found in abundance in beets, is effective in breaking down homocystein—a biomarker for heart disease.
  • Prenatal development – The B vitamin folate in beets aids in tissue growth. Foods rich in folate are important when a woman is pregnant. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, folate helps the body form red blood cells. Folates are necessary for DNA synthesis within the cells. When given during peri-conception period, folates can prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
  • Better digestion and systems cleanse – Beets detoxify the digestive system, according to Mikhail Tombak, Ph.D., a Russian anti-aging researcher, and break down stones in the bladder, kidneys and liver. They also cleanse the blood and colon specifically.
  • Anti-aging – High in folate, beets stimulate the production and repair of cells, which helps protect against premature aging. They fight wrinkles and skin conditions naturally and prevent age-related macular degeneration with vitamin A and carotenoids, They also preserve brain function with nitrates that improve blood flow.


Many soft drinks carry cancer risk

In Consumer Reports' recent tests of sodas and other soft drinks, varying levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MeI), a potentially carcinogenic chemical byproduct of the production of certain types of caramel color, were found in all of the samples that listed caramel color as an ingredient. Twelve brands of sodas and soft drinks from five manufacturers—including Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Goya—were tested. The full findings are featured online at

"We are concerned about both the levels of 4-MeI we found in many of the soft drinks tested and the variations observed among brands, especially given the widespread consumption of these types of beverages. There is no reason why consumers need to be exposed to this avoidable and unnecessary risk that can stem from coloring food and beverages brown," said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and executive director of the Consumer Reports Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

Caramel color is used in certain food and beverages as a coloring agent and should not be confused with real caramel. Some types of this artificial coloring contain 4-MeI which has been recognized as a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

While there are no existing federal limits on the amount of caramel color allowed in food and beverages, products sold in California that would expose consumers to more than 29 micrograms of 4-MeI in a day are supposed to carry a warning label under the state's Proposition 65 law.

Between April and September 2013, Consumer Reports tested 81 cans and bottles of various popular brands of soft drinks purchased in stores in California and the New York metropolitan region. Twenty-nine additional samples were purchased and tested in December 2013.

In its tests, Consumer Reports found that 12-ounce single servings of two products purchased multiple times during an eight-month period in the state of California—Pepsi One and Malta Goya—exceeded 29 micrograms per can or bottle. While we cannot say that this violates California's Prop 65, we believe that these levels are too high, and we have asked the California Attorney General to investigate.

After Consumer Reports informed PepsiCo of its test results, the company issued a statement that said that Proposition 65 is based on per day exposure and not exposure per can. It also cited government consumption data that shows that the average amount of diet soda consumed by people who drink it is 100 milliliters per day, or less than a third of a 12-ounce can. For that reason, they believe that Pepsi One does not require cancer-risk warning labels—even if the amount of 4-MeI in a single can exceeds 29 micrograms.

Consumer Reports says there is published analysis of government data that shows higher levels of daily consumption of soft drinks generally.

Consumer Reports also found samples of Coke with average levels of 4.3 micrograms or less per serving, which is much lower than California's threshold for labeling.

"While our study is not big enough to recommend one brand over another, our results underscore two key points: The first is that it is indeed feasible to get down to lower and almost negligible levels of 4-MeI. And the second is that federal standards are required to compel manufacturers to minimize the creation of this potential carcinogen," said Rangan.

Other findings from Consumer Reports' tests include:

  • Coca-Cola products tested had the lowest levels of 4-MeI for products with caramel color listed on the label.
  • While Whole Foods' Dr. Snap has a "natural" label, its products contained 4-MeI. All caramel colors are considered artificial.

What the government can do
Consumers Union, the policy and action arm of Consumer Reports, has filed a petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Specifically, it is asking the FDA to:

  • Set a standard for limiting the formation of 4-MeI in those caramel colors that contain it (caramel III and IV).
  • Require labeling of specific caramel colors in the ingredient lists of food where it is added, so consumers can make informed choices.  Not all caramel color contains 4-MeI, but consumers have no way of knowing. Europe already requires this type of labeling.
  • Bar products from carrying the "natural" label if they contain caramel colors.

What Consumers Can Do
At this point, the best consumers can do to avoid exposure to 4-MeI is to choose soft drinks and other foods that do not list "caramel color" or "artificial color" on their ingredient list.

Note:  Consumer Reports partnered with Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future to do the testing and the risk assessment. This project was made possible by donations to the Consumer Reports' Food Safety and Sustainability Center.