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Andrew Weil: Basics remain important among industry innovation

Andrew Weil

He’s been called one of the hundred most influential people in the world, and has been honored by the New York Open Center for holistic learning for his “extraordinary contributions to public awareness of integrative and complementary medicine.” Now Andrew Weil, M.D., the celebrated founder of integrative medicine, will be a featured speaker at Natural Products Expo West. We recently caught up with Weil to get the low-down on his Expo West talk and his thoughts about the changing landscape of natural retail.

Expo West appearance
Andrew Weil, M.D.
Friday, March 7
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Anaheim Marriott, Platinum Ballroom 6

Natural Foods Merchandiser: What will be your topic of conversation at Natural Products Expo West?

Andrew Weil, M.D.: The nature of food has changed. Many of us are eating foods that our great-grandparents wouldn’t recognize today. During my conversation at Expo West, I will discuss the importance of eating whole foods and why many of us, even those who try to eat healthy, should consider supplementing with certain nutrients that may be difficult to obtain through diet.

NFM: What responsibility do natural retailers have to help promote integrative medicine? How can and should they help their customers achieve natural wellness?

AW: Natural supermarkets cultivate trust from shoppers in search of health products and advice, and so assume significant responsibility for promoting integrative medicine in safe, credible ways. Markets should emphasize disease prevention and health promotion, primarily through educating about healthy diet and lifestyle habits and associated products. 

NFM: What do you see as the most important issues currently facing the natural foods industry, and why?

AW: Quality control. Consumers are more and more wary of contamination, scams, false claims and hype. They want products with few and recognizable ingredients, as close as possible to foods they would make at home if they had time; and they need reassurance about safety and efficacy of dietary supplements.

NFM: Many natural retailers struggle with how they should deal with the issue of genetically modified foods. Are you concerned about GMOs from a public health standpoint?

AW: I have long been a proponent of labeling genetically modified foods; that is not to say that GMOs should be completely banned from stores. Simply put, people have the right to know which foods and supplements contain genetically modified ingredients. The issue of GMOs is complex and many questions have yet to be answered, including long-term safety, adequately. Until there is clarity around these issues, labeling GMO foods makes sense.

NFM: What foods, supplements and/or ingredients excite you? 

AW: Healthy convenience foods are a big one—fewer people than ever have time to cook. I’m also excited about new and better vegetable protein products, as well as anti-inflammatory herbs and spices. Turmeric is one example of a culinary spice that has potent anti-inflammatory activity and other beneficial effects on health. Holy basil, a relative of the common culinary basil, not only reduces inflammation but can have positive effects on mood and stress.

NFM: From online shopping to digital information kiosks, technology is radically transforming how we purchase and consume food. How can natural retailers maintain their celebrated personal touch, while also integrating cutting-edge advancements?

AW: Technology can be used to great advantage but may also contribute to social isolation, which is incompatible with optimal health. As more shopping occurs online, retailers should engage and grow their communities with social events such as food tastings and educational seminars, as well as health and art fairs.

Sara Snow: Boost natural products sales with a good story

Sara Snow: Boost natural products sales with a good story

Green living guru Sara Snow has shared her expertise with millions of Americans through television shows, her book Sara Snow’s Fresh Living: The Essential Room-by-Room Guide to a Greener, Healthier Family and Home (Bantam Publishing, 2009) and speaking engagements. Here, she talks about moms’ purchasing preferences and their powerful influence as consumers.

Expo West appearance

Marketing to Moms Workshop

Thursday, March 6

12 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.

Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1-3

Natural Foods Merchandiser: What message do you hope to convey to Natural Products Expo West attendees?

Sara Snow: Moms are generally the CEOs of their households. They make the decisions and have the purchasing power. But, as a mom, I know decisions at the grocery store can get confusing and you can get into panic mode while making last-minute decisions. I’ll try to convey how we can market to moms—who are in that vulnerable position—to provide some assurance, and demystify and clarify all of the labeling jargon. Women account for $7 trillion in business and consumer spending in the U.S. Moms alone are a $2.4 trillion market. If you’re going to explain your product to anyone, address mothers. And finally, be confident they will understand what you’re explaining to them.

NFM: What can retailers and manufacturers do to make their stores and products more accessible and appealing to moms?

SS: When crafting your message, think about the story. Moms read stories all day and they get into that storytelling mode, so think about a product’s tale and not just the nuts-and-bolts features. Who makes it? Are the cows happy? Is the guy who runs the company also a dad and a grandfather? Did the company’s founder decide to do this because her child got sick?

NFM: What’s different about marketing to moms versus other natural foods shoppers?

SS: Moms have a strong emotional tie to their purchases. Maybe she has a child with severe food allergies or who has been sick. Maybe she has a really healthy family and wants to keep them that way. The average consumer shops for him or herself (or for friends or relatives), but the emotional component in his decision-making isn’t as strong as it is with moms.

NFM: Do you have any specific tips for retailers and manufacturers looking to connect with this market?

SS: First, make your message mobile-friendly so it can be delivered at point of purchase. Seventy-eight percent of women in the United States use the Internet [to research] product information before making a purchase, and 55 percent of social media moms said they made their purchase because of a recommendation from a blog. The idea is to engage online with these moms, so if someone tweets you, tweet them back. About 80 percent of direct consumer tweets aren’t responded to, and that’s a missed opportunity. So tweet back and follow back. Remember, this is a mom who has a voice and a strong one.

NFM: Are there any new insights coming out in relation to marketing to moms?

SS: We can’t discount how mothers’ ages have changed. Once, mothers were primarily 20- and 30-somethings; now a lot of 40-something moms are buying for newborns and 2-year-olds; and a lot more teens are buying for newborns and 2-year-olds. When we sketch a picture of the mom we’re marketing to, it’s not just a 25-year-old. They each process information differently and look for different products.

NFM: Your father co-founded Eden Foods, American Soy Products and Blue Horizon, so you grew up immersed in the natural products industry and the world of Natural Products Expo. How have you seen the industry evolve over the years?

SS: There was a little bit of a lull when the economy took a hit, and just in the last year or two things have really amped up again. We’ll continue to see people leave their 9-to-5 jobs to follow their passion to create the next baby food or cleaning product that is going to make a difference in someone’s life. One of the struggles of any company or organization is getting your message out there, but in the last couple of years we’ve seen not only traditional media but also many bloggers at Expo West. A decade ago you would hope the local media would walk by and interview you, but today anyone walking by with a camera could choose to put it up on their Instagram or blog and it could instantly go out to 2,000 or 200,000 people. There is so much more opportunity for your product to be seen by people all over the globe.

DianaPlantSciences wins NBJ innovation award

DianaPlantSciences wins NBJ innovation award

DianaPlantSciences is pleased to announce its selection as the recipient of the 2013 Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) Award for Innovation. DianaPlantSciences is the only company in the world focused on the development of nutritional ingredients through plant cell culture technology. Plant cell culture technology is the growth and reproduction of plants, plant tissues, and/or plant cells in a controlled environment. This technology offers the sustainable production of plant cells with desired bioactives for human use.

"We're thrilled to be recognized as an NBJ Innovation Award Winner," said Marc Philouze, president of DianaPlantSciences. "This award recognizes the years of investment in developing the technology as well as validates plant cell culture technology's future impact on the industry for producing effective, natural and consistent ingredients." 

The NBJ Awards are given out every year at the NBJ Summit, held annually in July at the St. Regis Hotel in Dana Point, Calif. Open nominations are accepted at the end of the prior year. In 2013, over 300 nominations were submitted and reviewed by an industry advisory board that selected the winners.

The process of producing ingredients from plant cell culture technology utilizes non-GMO methods where the whole plant cell remains intact throughout the entire process and cells are carefully selected to exhibit the best concentration and distribution of targeted actives naturally inherent to the plant. In 2013, DianaPlantSciences commercialized its first ingredient—Cocovanol™ Cocoa Actives—based on the technology.

Producing ingredients from plant cell culture technology offer many advantages. Plant cell culture technology is sustainable and can yield an unlimited amount of plant materials all while minimizing the land, energy and water requirements. Plant cell culture technology also allows you to target specific actives within a plant to produce significantly more of the desired compounds while producing significantly less of the undesirable ones. 

DianaPlantSciences develops, manufactures and markets ingredients produced from its proprietary plant cell culture technology. DianaPlantSciences is also looking to establish partnerships with companies seeking to target and produce novel ingredients utilizing plant cell culture technology.

"Developing an ingredient through plant cell culture technology is an ideal way for companies to have a unique and proprietary ingredient," said Philouze. "We've made it attractive with our research partnerships so the investment should make sound business sense for most companies."

In addition to Cocovanol™, DianaPlantSciences will soon be introducing another ingredient based on plant cell culture technology and it has a pipeline of over a dozen others. 

Natural Products Day 2014 raises industry voice on Capitol Hill

Natural Products Day 2014 raises industry voice on Capitol Hill

High-profile members of Congress will speak and be honored during Natural Products Day 2014 hosted by the Natural Products Association (NPA), the nation’s leading nonprofit trade organization representing the entire natural products industry. The 17th annual advocacy day for natural products, held April 8 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., provides all NPA members and industry stakeholders with the opportunity to meet with members of Congress.

Natural Products Day participants will visit Capitol Hill offices to meet with senators, representatives and their staff to discuss legislation and regulatory activity affecting the natural products industry. The event kicks off April 7 with an NPA PAC reception. On the morning of April 8, attendees will participate in a Lobbying 101 breakfast seminar, featuring a high-profile congressional guest speaker. Following afternoon Capitol Hill meetings, NPA will host a Congressional Champions Reception, thanking senators and representatives who work hard to support initiatives important to the industry.

“The natural products industry is growing quickly, with more Americans supporting their health with vitamins, supplements and other products,” said NPA CEO and Executive Director John Shaw. “Now is more important than ever that we use our collective voice to fight for our industry, our businesses and our consumers. Natural Products Day is a must-attend event for industry leaders to meet with lawmakers and ensure our issues are being brought to the forefront of legislative agendas.”

The goal of Natural Products Day is to help maintain and increase support on Capitol Hill by informing members of Congress about legislation and regulations affecting the natural products industry. Retailers, suppliers and supporters will meet with congressional offices on a variety of 2014 issues, including the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, the Dietary Supplement Caucus and efforts surrounding the definition of natural.

There is no registration cost to attendees, and all meetings are prearranged by NPA.

For more information about Natural Products Day 2014, please visit

Ashland polymers improve household cleaners

Ashland makes laundry detergent cleaner

Ashland Specialty Ingredients, a commercial unit of Ashland Inc. (NYSE: ASH) introduced a technology initiative designed to help manufacturers improve the functionality of household cleaning products sold in Asia and Latin America. Rising demand for products with premium attributes in countries such as China and Brazil present a growth opportunity for Ashland’s home care business unit to demonstrate how key polymer technologies can be used in laundry detergents and home cleaning formulations to better support consumer needs.

Dianne Leipold, general manager of Home Care, Ashland Specialty Ingredients, will lead the initiative in support of cleaning product manufacturers that want to create new products with more consumer-friendly label claims, such as “color-safe laundry,” and “easy next-time cleaning” of kitchens and bathrooms.

“A number of dynamics are coming together very quickly in emerging markets that suggest the time is right to support extra performance and functionality in household cleaning formulations,” said Ms. Leipold. “Our technical teams in Asia and Latin America will be helping our customers take advantage of these changing dynamics with some of Ashland’s most innovative specialty polymers.”

Among the technologies to be presented by Ashland is Chromabond™ S-350 polymer, a dye-transfer inhibitor that binds to dyes that are removed from clothes during the wash cycle. Eliminating the ability of rogue dyes to redeposit on fabrics enables formulators to include color-safe label claims on laundry detergent products. Chromabond technology is based on a class of poly vinyl pyridine n-oxide polymers (PVNO) demonstrated to bind to dyes very efficiently at low use levels, including dyes typically used in China, Brazil and other emerging markets.

Ashland’s Sorez™ HS-205 polymer is another key technology that compliments the needs of consumers in emerging markets. Manufacturers of various kitchen and bathroom cleaners may use this polymer to form clear films that serve as a temporary barrier between hard surfaces and various soil and mineral scale. The polymer attaches to hard surfaces, but at the same time, repels unwanted dirt residing above the film, making it possible for consumers and professional housekeepers to clean surfaces more easily next time, with less effort and in less time compared to formulations without Sorez HS-205 polymer.

Improving fabric care performance
Clothing washed in “hard water” or stressed water is significantly affected by “ashing” or graying if the laundry detergent is not specifically designed to address these conditions. In China and Brazil, where powder laundry detergent often contains sodium carbonate builder as an alternative to phosphate-based builder, preventing mineral salts from adhering to fabrics in the wash cycle can be a challenge.

“Sodium carbonate reacts with hard water in situ, leading to the formation of calcium carbonate in the wash cycle,” said Michael Standish, innovation manager for Home Care, Ashland Specialty Ingredients. “Including the Jaypol™ HN70 polymer in powder laundry detergent that contains sodium carbonate builder will help significantly reduce calcium carbonate deposits on clothing during the wash cycle.”

Ashland will offer a second Jaypol polymer to fabric care manufacturers in emerging markets. Jaypol™ 213 is a liquid dispersion polymer that may be used in fabric softener to create richer, thicker formulation viscosity with ease and efficiency.

“Manufacturers that want to create the look, feel and aroma of luxurious liquid fabric softener can do so with Jaypol 213 polymer,” said Standish. “The technology is ideal for manufacturers that want to improve the value proposition of softeners in their markets. The cationic polymer offers luxurious sensory attributes, improves fragrance delivery and retention on clothes.”

American Cleaning Institute Annual Meeting
Ashland’s Home Care R&D and business teams will attend the American Cleaning Institute Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 27 to 30, to discuss its technology offering in emerging markets and to outline how it will support product manufacturers with formulation assistance in Asia and Latin America.


Remembering the fundamentals of true category management

Remembering the fundamentals of true category management

In my experience, most natural companies think of category management as people pulling canned top-line reports and keeping retailers shelves full. But "true" category management goes beyond that narrow definition.

True category management encompasses the entire spectrum of a product's development, considering everything from whether a product idea has merit to its usefulness to the end consumer. It encompasses the 4P’s we have all heard about - product, placement, pricing, and promotion—and includes a 5th P—people.

The authenticity and innovation that define the natural channel bubble up from a constant effort to meet and anticipate future consumer needs and wants. And yet while products exist to support consumer’s needs, meeting their wants can be about much more than simply focusing on their needs.  Remember the “pet rock?" 

In its most basic definition, true category management aims to align products with shoppers needs and wants. It strives to understand the potential consumer needs and wants and then helps you develop strategies around product innovation, merchandizing, pricing, promotion or distribution to help satisfy those needs and wants.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in any channel is that most retailers and manufacturers typically get caught up in “making the sale” as opposed to designing strategies around their core shoppers. Consider this, we all need to eat but how many retailers take the time to ask us what we're hungry for?  True category management works to anticipate the answers to those questions and then to make the foods that we’re hungry for convenient and available.

Can fish oil preserve brain cells?

Can fish oil preserve brain cells?

People with higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may also have larger brain volumes in old age equivalent to preserving one to two years of brain health, according to a study published in the January 22, 2014, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Shrinking brain volume is a sign of Alzheimer’s disease as well as normal aging. For the study, the levels of omega-3 fatty acids EPA+DHA in red blood cells were tested in 1,111 women who were part of the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study. Eight years later, when the women were an average age of 78, MRI scans were taken to measure their brain volume.

Those with higher levels of omega-3s had larger total brain volumes eight years later. Those with twice as high levels of fatty acids (7.5 vs. 3.4 percent) had a 0.7 percent larger brain volume.

“These higher levels of fatty acids can be achieved through diet and the use of supplements, and the results suggest that the effect on brain volume is the equivalent of delaying the normal loss of brain cells that comes with aging by one to two years,” said study author James V. Pottala, PhD, of the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls and Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc. in Richmond, Va.

Those with higher levels of omega-3s also had a 2.7 percent larger volume in the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory. In Alzheimer’s disease, the hippocampus begins to atrophy even before symptoms appear.

The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Capros mitigates cold pressor stress

Capros mitigates cold pressor stress

Natreon is pleased to announce the publication of a clinical study on CAPROS® in healthy volunteers subjected to cold pressor test, which is a cardiovascular test performed by immersing the hand into an ice water bath until pain is unbearable and measuring changes in cardiovascular pharmacodynamic parameters. This study demonstrated that CAPROS showed a significant decrease in the indices of arterial stiffness (augmentation index and radial and aortic blood pressures) and a significant increase in subendocardial viability ratio (SEVR), an index of myocardial perfusion, suggesting that CAPROS may help mitigate cold pressor stress–induced cardiovascular changes.

This is a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover clinical study. Twelve healthy volunteers were randomized to receive two capsules of 250 mg of CAPROS (a patented, GRAS affirmed, highly standardized Phyllanthus emblica extract containing Emblicanin-A, Emblicanin-B, Punigluconin and Pedunculagin as bioactives) BID or two matching placebo capsules BID for 14 days. Pharmacodynamic parameters such as heart rate, augmentation pressure, augmentation index (AIx), subendocardial viability ratio (SEVR), radial and aortic blood pressure (BP) were recorded before and after the cold pressor test at baseline and at the end of treatment. After a washout period of 14 days, subjects crossed over to the other treatment and the same test procedure was repeated. Safety assessments were done at baseline and at the end of treatment. This study was conducted by researchers at the Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India and published in peer-reviewed journal Pharmacognosy Research, January-March 2014, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 29-35.

“We are very excited with the results of this study which suggests that CAPROS may help people cope with cold stress–induced cardiovascular changes," said Natreon CEO Dr. Sanni Raju. "This study further substantiates the cardiovascular health benefits of CAPROS and is an excellent addition to the collection of studies which have been conducted to date. We look forward to the publication of several additional studies in the following months."


Allergen-free store owner to share insights at Expo West

Amy Soergel owner of Naturally Soergels market

When Amy Soergel couldn’t find the allergen-free foods she needed nearby, she decided to open a store that catered to shoppers like her. Today, Naturally Soergel’s in Wexford, Pa., is a haven for loyal customers seeking products, education and community.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: What should natural retailers know about specialty diet shoppers?

Amy Soergel: There are two kinds of specialty diet shoppers, and they are very different from each other. One knows exactly what she’s looking for and which ingredients she has to avoid. For these customers, it’s nice to be able to introduce them to something new that they weren’t expecting to find. The other kind is very new to the specialty diet scene and needs help navigating your store. I really believe that because we have educated our staff and separated our store into sections (peanut free, gluten free, sugar free, etc.), shoppers feel less overwhelmed and are better able to find foods that fit their diets.

Expo West appearance
The Specialty Diets Workshop
Thursday, March 6
8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Anaheim Marriott,
Platinum Ballrooms 2 & 3

NFM: How can retailers reach these customers?
Specialty diet shoppers love new information and want to learn. By hosting allergen free–specific events, you can capture an audience that will be grateful not only for your willingness to offer great products but also for including them in cooking classes and seminars. Our Gluten-Free 101 class lets us have a safe, comfortable forum for people to ask questions and learn about being gluten free. We cover everything from how to read a label and hidden places you might find gluten to how to successfully eat at restaurants, travel and survive the holidays.

NFM: How are natural retailers uniquely positioned to help special-diet shoppers?

AS: We have the advantage of being surrounded by many innovative new companies that other industries may not be introduced to right away. We have customers who come in specifically to find out what is new and exciting. Retailers who keep up on trends, research products, educate their staffs and clearly label will find a unique group of shoppers looking for food that they or someone in their family can eat.

NFM: What is your hope for the future of the specialty diet market?

AS: I hope other industries such as restaurants and foodservice become more educated on how serious these diets can be. For many people, including me, this is not a fad diet or a choice, but something we are medically required to follow. The future is very bright for this market, and with more companies jumping on board, the options will become quite extensive and ultimately more mainstream.


Conviction and optimism helped one woman mother chia craze

Conviction and optimism helped one woman mother chia craze

Janie Hoffman is the founder of Mamma Chia and author of Chia Vitality: 30 Days to Better Health, Greater Vibrancy, and a More Meaningful and Purposeful Life (Harmony, 2014). A founding member of the Slow Money movement, Mamma Chia is also a Certified B Corporation and a member of 1% for hte planet. Hoffman will be sharing the secrets of vibrant life and business at Expo West's Women in Naturals Networking Event. 

Expo West appearance
Women in Naturals Networking Event
Saturday, March 8
5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Anaheim Hilton Lanai Deck

Natural Foods Merchandiser: What did you learn from your first months in business?

Janie Hoffman: You can’t build a breakout and beloved brand by being the same as everyone else. Nothing like Mamma Chia existed when we launched in 2009. Although I had developed numerous chia-based foods and beverages in my kitchen, I knew intuitively that the first Mamma Chia product to launch should be our beverages. I believed our beverage—with the chia seeds magically suspended in gem-colored fruit juices—would bring the most attention to the amazing and worthy chia seed.

NFM: What’s your advice for business owners launching products?

JH: Dare to be different. Mamma Chia is the innovator and creator of the chia-based beverage category. In fact, most people had never even heard of chia other than the Chia Pet. And now chia is one of the fastest growing ingredients and is widely known, not only by the natural and organic crowd, but also by mainstream consumers.

Surround yourself with wise souls. I didn’t come from a food and beverage background, but from the beginning I surrounded myself (and still do) with incredibly talented, passionate and wise souls who know the industry inside and out. I listen and learn, and at the end of the day, I trust my intuition.

Be eternally optimistic but brutally honest. It is essential to have complete faith in your brand and vision, but you also need to be brutally honest when things aren’t working so that you can quickly course-correct. We are eternally optimistic, but we don’t allow it to blind us from the realities of business. We are certain we will succeed, perhaps even fanatically so, but we still don’t drink our own Kool-Aid.

NFM: What will readers find in your new book?

JH: Informed by research, as well as my personal experience with the life-changing health benefits of this little superseed, Chia Vitality offers a 30-day integrative approach to well-being with chia at its center. The delicious meal plan provides easy ways to integrate chia and other flavorful whole foods into your diet to increase your intake of important nutrients. Daily meditations and a revitalizing yoga practice enhance the natural vitality boost that comes from a nutrient-filled diet, ensuring that the body, mind and soul are synergistically nourished.