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Baking up better-for-you breads

Thinkstock/olgakr organic bread from flour and seeds

Kowalski’s Markets sells plenty of decadent cakes and pastries, but it’s also having strong success with its better-for-you cookie.

Made with cranberries, dark chocolate, granola and oats, it’s high in fiber, and has no artificial colors or sweeteners. Plus, it tastes good.

“The name of the game is that it has to taste good,” said Russ Tourville, bakery director for the Woodbury, Minn.-based chain. “The cookie has the benefits of fiber and a clean label. And it tastes really good.”

The popular cookie comes in a four-pack of 2.5-ounce cookies that sells for $2.99. Kowalski’s sells other clean-label cookies, including rolled oats cookies made with a few simple ingredients: flour, brown sugar, butter, oats, vanilla, salt and baking soda.

“Crispy and delicate, they're still sturdy enough to stand up to a bit of a soft sweet or tangy cheese,” the Kowalski’s website reads. “They're also perfect on their own with a hot cup of tea or coffee.”

Kowalski’s is also exploring other health and wellness bakery items, including vegan products that do not contain dairy or other animal by-products.

Kowalski’s joins the rising number of bakeries that are selling healthier options. Selections like gluten-free breads, sugar-free pies and vegan cookies enable in-store bakeries to cater to today’s ingredient-conscious shoppers.

Take the Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle chain, which sells a variety of grain breads, including multigrain sourdough and honey sprouted wheat. A multigrain Tuscany bread does especially well at its store in Aliquippa, Pa., according to Collette Golixer, the store’s bakery associate. Made with oats, sunflower seed, millet, flax and cracked wheat, the bread typically sells out every day.

“People love it because it’s healthy, yet very tasty,” Golixer said. “It has a hard crust with a tasty soft interior.”

Going “clean”

Interest in such baked goods comes at a time when more consumers want fresh products and clean ingredient labels, said Darren Seifer, food and beverage analyst at market research firm NPD Group. Clean ingredient labels are key, as about 65 percent of people associate clean eating with healthy eating, according to NPD research.

“Many people view it as an easy way to stick to a healthy eating regimen,” Seifer said.

Consumers view a product as being “clean” if it contains wholesome, natural and organic ingredients. The use of ingredients that come from humanely raised animals, like cage-free eggs, is preferred as well.

“The whole supply chain is coming into the mind of consumer,” Seifer said.

Bakery products that contain ancient grains and other better-for-you ingredients can do well because, for the most part, consumers don’t want to significantly change their eating behavior.

“Consumers aren’t looking to abandon bread,” Seifer said. “They are just looking for better versions of what they’ve been eating all along.”

Bashas’, Chandler, Ariz., sells many baked goods for health and wellness shoppers, said Cyndee Vaillancourt, bakery manager of a Bashas’ store on Gilbert Road in Chandler. For instance, a six-grain bread is baked fresh in-store. It contains flax seed in the mix, and is rolled in flax seed, wheat germ, bran and oatmeal. Bashas’ also sells better-for-you snack bars that are whole grain, high in omega-3 fatty acids and all-natural. 

“They are very popular at our location,” Vaillancourt said. “Kids even like them!” 

Other popular sellers include the store’s non-GMO authentic French brioche bread, which is available in a 17-ounce loaf and 8-count rolls.

“Healthier-for-you products have increased in popularity,” said Vaillancourt. “A lot of consumers are actively seeking these items out.”

Among other efforts, Bashas’ now uses all trans-fat free icings, shortenings and fillings. Several months ago, its suppliers reformulated nearly every type of shortening and icing to be trans-fat free, according to Vaillancourt.

“We now have nothing in the department that contains trans-fats,” she said. 

Package downsizing

Along with selling better-for-you breads, cakes and cookies, another way that in-store bakeries are catering to health and wellness shoppers is by offering smaller packaging sizes.

Half loaves of bread and two-count packages of buns are among the reduced sizes offered at Kowalski’s Markets, Woodbury, Minn. Since most all-natural baked goods don’t have preservatives, they spoil faster. As a result, the smaller count packages let shoppers enjoy a better-for-you baked good without fearing some of it will go to waste, said Russ Tourville, Kowalski’s bakery director.

At the same time, the smaller packages appeal to those who want to limit their portion sizes. Additionally, they are perfect for small households with just one or two people, said Tourville. “If it’s just two people in a house, the smaller packages mean they no longer have to throw away unused product.”

The smaller packages have been so popular that, with the exception of the Fourth of July and other big sales periods for buns, Kowalski’s no longer sells eight-count packages of buns.

Kowalski’s even uses small-pack sizes for a unique cross-merchandising strategy involving the prepared foods department. Bakery personnel slice two pieces of fresh-baked artisan bread, bags them and merchandises them at the soup bar. Each bag costs 99 cents.

A Hy-Vee supermarket on Army Post Road in Des Moines, Iowa, also offers half-size packaging on some of its breads and buns. For instance, shoppers can get four-packs of hot dog buns instead of eight-packs, and six-packs of dinner rolls instead of a 12-count package. Hy-Vee charges half the price for the half sizes, according to Gybsin Long, assistant bakery manager.

“Anytime people want a special count size, we’ll work to give them what they need,” Long said. “Since many of the new breads have less preservatives and don’t last as long, this lets our shoppers continue buying products they like without wasting any of it.”

This piece originally appeared on, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends insights.

Naturally Boulder expands its model to the Bay Area

Since 2005, Naturally Boulder has helped drive the growth of Colorado’s thriving natural and organic products business community. Now in its 14th year, the nonprofit trade organization has been instrumental in helping numerous Colorado companies emerge to become leading regional and national brands. With a mission to nurture conscious growth, leadership and innovation in the natural products community, the nonprofit trade association is now branching out to the Bay Area, but with a goal of sharing its values and mission with other communities, as well.

Announcing the launch of Naturally Bay Area

Working together with a team of Northern California business leaders in the food and natural products sectors, Naturally Bay Area is launching as the first regional affiliate partner of the Naturally Boulder network. Naturally Bay Area will connect entrepreneurs, investors and innovators in the food and natural products community in Northern California with a goal of replicating the success of Naturally Boulder in supporting local food and natural products businesses in Northern California—another pioneering hotbed of natural products innovation.

Kick-off party in conjunction with Fancy Food Show

Naturally Bay Area will offer year-round education and networking events for its members, leading with a kick-off party held in conjunction with the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco on Sunday, Jan. 21, from 5 to 7 p.m. at International Smoke, a new restaurant by celebrity chefs Michael Mina and Ayesha Curry, 301 Mission St., San Francisco. Space is limited and advance registration is required. To register to attend and for membership information for Naturally Bay Area, contact Sandie Jirongo at [email protected].

Membership in Naturally Bay Area and Naturally Boulder will include a number of shared benefits, including a member directory, job board, shared content and resources, discounts to events and other benefits. Naturally Bay Area will launch its website in the near future.

For other communities interested in learning more about the Naturally Boulder “hub and spoke” affiliation network, contact [email protected]

Quotes about the launch of Naturally Bay Area

“We receive requests from all over the country about how Naturally Boulder did it, and how other communities can form their own associations to help strengthen and accelerate local natural products business growth. As such, we decided to engage with other communities in open source collaboration to not only help create these organizations, but also to stay connected and aligned, with Naturally Boulder sharing its experience and resources, and serving as a hub organization. The San Francisco Bay Area and Boulder are sister cities in natural and organic food innovation, and we’re excited to work with a strong group of Northern California business leaders in the launch of Naturally Bay Area.”

—Carlotta Mast, president of Naturally Boulder and senior VP of content and insights for New Hope Network

 “Our mission is to stimulate growth, entrepreneurship and leadership in the Northern California food and natural products industry; foster sustainable and responsible best practices in our industry; and facilitate collaboration and mutual support among our members and with other like-minded organizations. We are following Naturally Boulder’s lead of being very open source and making our offerings available to the entire food innovation and natural products community in our region.”

—Don Buder, Naturally Bay Area Organizing Committee member and partner, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP in San Francisco

"The expansion of Naturally Boulder's model, including its inspiring mission, vision and guiding principles, demonstrates a vital characteristic of the natural and organic products community. We seek and advocate for deep and generous collaboration to further the common good as leaders in business and stewards of the environment. Really, it's a continuation of the very spirit which gave rise to this industry decades ago."

—Arron Mansika, managing director, Naturally Boulder

Source: Naturally Boulder

[email protected]: What chefs are adding to (and taking off) their menus | Grocery Outlet plans 25 new stores

Thinkstock fall squash

The foods we’ll eat—and shun—this year

Chefs and restaurants are often where new food trends start, before they make their way into packaged food products. So how are chefs innovating on their menus this year? With seasoned raw fish, duck meats, carrots, squash and Asian-inspired flavors. Meanwhile, some are booting kale, microgreens and avocado toast from the menu. Read more at The Wall Street Journal…


How one packaged food company is cashing in on the vegan movement

Pinnacle Foods has seen its stock jump 9 percent since this time last year. And at least according to social media mention data, its vegan brand Gardein is a big part of that. The company's range of meat alternatives also landed at the top of a consumer survey of favorite vegan brands conducted by Veganuary last year. Read more at Forbes...


Grocery outlet to open 25 new stores in 2018

More than a dozen new locations of the discount supermarket will be in Los Angeles, with the others in other markets where it’s already established a presence. Grocery Outlet employs an independent operative model and enlists local entrepreneurs to own and operate stores in their own neighborhoods. Read more at Grocery Winsight Business…


Montana barley fields become front line for climate change and beer

Barley is tough to grow—it requires a specific amount of water and sunlight. And in the unpredictable seasons Montana is experiencing, farmers are struggling to keep their fields healthy. Read more at NPR…


The world’s top banana is doomed and nobody can find a replacement

A fungal disease is threatening the Cavendish—the variety of banana that’s common in supermarkets around the world. The U.S. imports $2.3 billion of Cavendish bananas a year. Companies and institutions are spending millions to research and develop new banana varieties and to stop the spread of disease. Read more at The Wall Street Journal…

Organic industry call to action: Just days left to address livestock, poultry practices

Thinkstock chicken-pasture

The credibility of the entire organic sector will be called into question if the USDA proceeds with the withdrawal of Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rules, say organic organizations and industry experts issuing a call-to-action for comment to be sent to the USDA before the January 17th deadline.

The rules, 14 years in the making, garnered more than 99.9 percent support from industry and consumers in the initial comment period. They aim to clarify organic certification requirements regarding animal welfare, bringing those requirements in line with consumer expectation. (On Monday, a federal lawsuit was filed against Walmart alleging that the retailer's certified organic eggs, produced by Cal-Maine, misled consumers who expect organic's outdoor access to mean just that.) To date, however, the Trump Administration and the USDA have rejected the rules, in effect diluting the very meaning of organics.

Such clarification, at first glance, is unnecessary. The National Organic Program already requires “year-round access for all animals to the outdoors, shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight, suitable to the species, its stage of life, the climate and the environment.”

“That’s pretty plain language. You think those animals are outdoors,” says Mark Kastel, co-founder of Cornucopia Institute, adding (and paraphrasing) that there’s also a requirement to afford livestock, “the opportunity to exhibit their natural instinctive behaviors.”

“Unfortunately, the regulations have not been consistently interpreted,” says Organic Trade Association Farm Policy Director Nate Lewis. Various events, he continues, naming the 2003 appeals decision which set the precedent that enclosed “porches” could satisfy outdoor access requirements, have created confusion around the language in the NOP. “This has led to a greater and greater need for USDA to further clarify and develop the standards based on National Organic Standards Board recommendations and level the playing field with regard to outdoor access for poultry.”

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule seeks such clarification and standards, and failure to include these rules, “is going to be destructive to the whole organic field,” Jesse Laflamme, co-owner and chief executive at Pete and Gerry's Organics, told the Washington Post in December. “What's so upsetting is that there is such a gap between what organic consumers expect and what these factory farms are producing.”

The chicken came first

The Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule, true to its name, indeed extends beyond poultry. But poultry takes center stage because of the 2003 court appeal that started the confusion, and because giant-scale organic egg producers are among those most in violation of outdoor requirements and allowing animals to exhibit their natural behaviors.

“In the case of chickens, their natural instinctive behavior is what we call the foraging behavior,” says Kastel. That’s the scratch and peck the birds engage when on pasture. “What they’re doing naturally, they’re instinctively trying to uncover insects and worms and weed seeds.” This is not possible in the giant confinement operations. 

Cornucopia has been assessing this problem for years, and it produces a thorough scorecard rating certified organic egg brands. “We don’t want people to think that organics are fraudulent. They’re not,” says Kastel. “It might be the majority of the eggs that are produced by these big egg companies, but the majority of the farmers are organic and abiding by the spirit and the letter of the law.”

The call to action seeks to protect the welfare of those scrupulous producers, as well as the animals.

Take a stand

Alan Lewis, who handles regulatory affairs and organic compliance for national retailer Natural Grocers, says that improved animal welfare rules will, “level the playing field by making large industrial producers accountable to the same principles that smallholders are.”

Without OLPP, he says, “organic farming may become only slightly better than the corporate agricultural model whose methods it calls into question.” It’s important to take a stand, he continues. “OLPP supports soil, biodiversity, humane treatment and rural welfare. Let's stand up for all of it!”

To assist consumers and businesses to take such a stand, both OTA and Cornucopia link to comment pages from their sites. OTA provides separate comment pages for consumers, businesses and farmers.

The comment period closes Jan. 17. OTA asks for brands and retailers to comment and to spread the word to their customers and networks. The time to take action on behalf of organics, they say, is now.

You can download the Organic Trade Associations animal care standards toolkit below.

[email protected]: Sprouts partners with Instacart on grocery delivery | Diet Coke gets a millennial makeover

Sprouts Farmers Market Sprouts Instacart grocery delivery

Sprouts signs on with Instacart as US grocers experiment with delivery

Phoenix and Tuscon, Arizona, will be among the first markets to be able to order groceries for delivery from Sprouts Farmers Market via Instacart. It's just the latest deal for Instacart, which has strengthened its relationships with several large grocers including Kroger and Albertsons since Amazon bought Whole Foods Market in July. Sprouts currently works with Amazon Prime Now to offer delivery in eight cities. Read more at CNBC…


Diet Coke’s new cans and flavors are millennial-friendly

U.S. consumers are inching away from sugar and artificial sweetener-laden sodas and toward energy drinks and flavored waters—and that’s a problem for Diet Coke. In an effort to “modernize” the brand and appeal to today’s young consumers, Coke has launched four new fruity flavors and a new look for its diet sodas. The new can is slender—like Red Bull—and taller. To get there, Coke interviewed thousands of consumers and spent two years on the redesign. Read more at CNN Money…


This 24-year-old started her own turmeric business to help Indian farmers

Trendy turmeric is appearing in coffee and tea drinks in upscale cafes across the world, but that luxury status is a long way from the fields of India where turmeric grows. That’s why Javeri Kadri started Diaspora Co. last year—to bring the same kind of direct trade and traceability that has transformed the coffee and cacao supply chains to spices. She sources the ingredient directly from a southern Indian city called Vijayawada, from a fourth-generation farmer. Spice farmers often get a raw deal and work in convoluted supply chains where they see little profit. “We are here to put money, equity and power in the hands of Indian farmers, and to disrupt and decolonize a colonial, outdated commodity spice trading system that profits only the trader,” the company says on its website. Read more at Munchies…


Walmart is facing a federal lawsuit over deceiving buyers of organic eggs

Underscoring consumer confusion around production practices in the egg industry, a lawsuit filed against Walmart accuses the retailer of misleading shoppers about its Organic Marketside brand eggs.  On-package labels say the eggs came from hens with outdoor access, but the lawsuit claims that the producer of the eggs, Cal-Maine Foods Inc., keeps the birds inside enclosed structures with screens to let air in. Such enclosed structures meet standards for organic livestock, but many consumers expect more for the premium they pay on organic goods. Read more at Fortune…


Fresh Thyme to replace 365 by Whole Foods in College Mall

What was formerly planned to be a new 365 by Whole Foods Market store in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana, will now be a new Fresh Thyme Farmers Market location. Fresh Thyme has opened 66 locations since it was founded five years ago. Read more at Herald Times Online… 

Study shows high doses of vitamin D reduce arterial stiffness

Augusta University Dr. Yanbin Dong and Dr. Anas Raed

Study findings: Participants who received 4,000 IUs of vitamin D per day saw their arterial stiffness decrease 10.4 percent in the four months of a recent study. These participants’ blood levels of vitamin D increased the quickest—reaching a healthy level in eight weeks—but then plateaued.

In those who took 2,000 IUs, arterial stiffness dropped 2 percent during the study. Among participants who took 600 IUs, arterial stiffness increased 0.1 percent; however, those who received the placebo saw their stiffness increase 2.3 percent over the 16 weeks. (During the study, the RDA for most adults and children was 600 IUs of vitamin D.)

The study: Anas Raed, PhD, and Yanbin Dong,PhD, looked at arterial stiffness and vitamin D levels in 70 black people age 13 through 45 before and after a 16-week double-blind study in which some participants took placebos, while others took 600 IUs, 2,000 IUs or 4,000 IUs per day in a monthly dose to ensure compliance.

Arterial stiffness was measured from the carotid artery in the neck to the femoral artery using non-invasive pulse wave velocity.

Study conclusions: Arterial stiffness improves in young, overweight black people with vitamin D supplementation. The reduction in stiffness corresponds with the dose of vitamin D consumed. Participants taking the highest dose of vitamin D considered safe benefited the most from the supplement.

Why the research is interesting:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Black people tend to acquire heart disease and die from it at a younger age than white people.
  • Stiff arterial walls are a predictor of cardiovascular disease and death; vitamin D deficiency seems to contribute to these problems, as well. Blacks are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency because dark skin does not absorb as much sunlight as lighter skin. Also, fat holds vitamin D, preventing the body from receiving its benefits.
  • This study is the first of its kind, according to the researchers. Because of this research, the Institute of Medicine increased its highest limit of vitamin D to 4,000 IUs from 2,000 IUs.

Points to consider:

  • This was a small, short study. The researchers say a larger study among high-risk populations that lasts a year would provide more information, such as whether higher levels of vitamin D would reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • More than 80 percent of Americans have insufficient levels of vitamin D.

Current RDAs: For adults 19-70 years old, the National Institute of Health recommends a daily supplement of 600 IUs. For those older than 70, the RDA is 800 IUs. The upper limit of daily supplementation is 4,000 IUs for anyone 9 or older.

Authors:  Dr. Anas Raed and Dr. Yanbin Dong

Published: PLOS One, Dec. 7, 2017

Related reading:

High doses of vitamin D rapidly reduce arterial stiffness in overweight/obese, vitamin-deficient African-Americans

Ultra-high doses of vitamin D reduce arterial stiffness in black patients

Suja's spunky new video celebrates plants

Talk about a fun way to get consumers excited about eating plants! Suja's new campaign—"Drink Plants. Take Their Power!"—features an eccentric video depicting fruit- and vegetable-obsessed folks munching on lettuce, hugging trees, mashing berries with their hands and sprinting along the seaside while holding a watermelon high above.

This video is hilarious. The unbridled joy of the narrator. The bright, punchy colors. The cheeky messaging, such as, "Plants are basically solar batteries you can eat and drink!" Not only does it inspire love for fresh juice, but also the video instantly lifts viewers' moods.

According to Suja's VP of Marketing Greg Rose, “At Suja we have an irrational love for plants. Some people have bedroom posters of athletes or musicians, but we have posters of celery and wear pineapple pajamas. So it was only natural to make a video about our obsession.” In addition to the video, Suja is also rolling out the campaign by renting billboards, building a living plant wall and dishing out real seeds to consumers to plant.



5 supplements people will dig for digestion (and one for dogs)

Probiotics are to thank for consumers finally coming to understand the importance of digestive health to the body’s overall wellness. But probiotics are not the only game in town.

[email protected]: Food waste startup finds investors in Walmart's Walton family | Simple Truth to add more fair trade products

Thinkstock/Thomas Northcut chopping produce at restaurant

Wal-Mart’s Walton family backs startup trying to cut food waste

Colorado-based startup FoodMaven has raised $8.6 million, including an investment from Walton Enterprises. The company, which counts former Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb as a board member, connects surplus or “ugly” food rejected by retailers with restaurants, hospitals and large institutional cafeterias that can use it. CEO Patrick Bultema says it has 700 customers in Colorado and expects to pull in about $10 million in revenue this year. Read more at Bloomberg…


Soaring popularity of grass-fed beef may hit roadblock: less nutritious grass

Sales of grass-fed beef skyrocketed from $17 million in 2012 to $272 million in 2016, according to Nielsen data. But there may be a hang-up on the horizon. Instead of feeding them grains, farmers who raise grass-fed animals depend on pastures, which, according to some researchers, are getting less and less nutritious. Levels of crude proteins in plants have dropped by 20 percent since the mid-90s, according to researcher Joe Craine, who suspects that at some point prairie grasses may no longer have enough protein to support grazing. Read more at Civil Eats…


Kroger expands organic brand, offers special deals for customers

In addition to adding new beverages, snacks and non-animal proteins to its Simple Truth line this year, Kroger says it will add 10 new Fair Trade certified products. Kroger already offers more fair trade products than any other U.S. private label grocery brand. Read more at Dayton Daily News…


7-Eleven launches its own line of organic, cold-pressed juices

Speaking of private label…7-Eleven is out with its own line of organic, Non-GMO Project verified juices with no added sugar. The 14 oz. juice bottles retail for $2.99 a pop. Read more at Food & Wine…


Avon expanding into health and wellness with supplement line

Espira is a new line of supplements from beauty brand Avon. It includes products for sleep, energy, metabolism and food cravings, as well as a plant-based protein powder. Read more at Well+Good…

How Chobani Incubator supports natural entrepreneurs

Chobani Chobani Food Incubator

Updated July 28, 2020.

In this series, New Hope Network covers the ins and outs of accelerators and incubators across the United States that provide mentorship, funds and resources to help grow natural businesses. Here, Zoe Feldman, director of Chobani Incubator, provides insight into the program, which has also run two food tech cohorts and one cohort specifically dedicated to U.S. military service veterans.

What: Chobani Incubator; a three-month on-site program in New York with Chobani team members; travel expenses and equity-free capital provided.
When: Annually, next cohort expected in 2022.
Notable alumni: Banza, A Dozen Cousins, Partake Foods.

What type of companies does Chobani Incubator assist?

Chobani Incubator works with emerging and established CPG food and beverage companies. Eligible companies must already have a packaged product on shelves and be generating revenue in market.

What’s your mission in doing this work?

The goal of Chobani Incubator is to help companies bring better food to more people. Using the structure of the incubator, the incubator provides access to Chobani’s resources, employee expertise, mentorship community and equity-free capital to enable founders to grow their businesses. Chobani Incubator is extremely focused on offering folks who may not have had prior opportunities a seat at the proverbial table.

What top attributes is Chobani Incubator looking for in applicants?

We want to support like-minded founders. We look for companies that share Chobani’s values—striving to make delicious, nutritious, natural and affordable foods and disrupt their categories with options that are better for you and better for the planet. Chobani Incubator particularly loves scrappy, passionate founders with big hearts and a desire to create real change, whether social or environmental.

What one game-changing piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs?

Be kind, be humble, be scrappy, be open.

What is your favorite project to have come out of your accelerator?

We could never pick just one. All 45 of our companies give us a reason to boast as proud parents.