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Articles from 2017 In October

Colorado, Kentucky lead the nation in hemp harvest

iStock/Thinkstock cannabit plant growing CBD

Led by Colorado with 7,500 acres in the ground, and Kentucky's 3,000 acres, hemp acreage has doubled in the last year as states are getting in on the promise and potential of industrial and nutritional hemp, according to the 2017 U.S. Hemp Crop Report

The report documents state-by-state progress of hemp legislation passed in 2017, reports acreage of hemp grown, identifies states with active hemp pilot farming programs, as well as advocacy work the organization has lead over the past year. It was issued by Vote Hemp, the the nation’s leading grassroots hemp advocacy organization working to change state and federal laws to allow commercial hemp farming.

“We’ve seen hemp cultivation significantly expand in the U.S. in 2017," said Eric Steenstra, President of Vote Hemp, "with over double the number of acres planted in hemp compared to last year and the addition of four more states with hemp pilot programs. The majority of states have implemented hemp farming laws, in clear support of this crop and its role in diversifying and making more sustainable our agricultural economy. It’s imperative that we pass the Industrial Hemp Farming Act in Congress (H.R. 3530), so that we can grant farmers full federally legal rights to commercially cultivate hemp to supply the growing global market for hemp products.”

The Industrial Hemp Farming Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. James Comer (R-KY), amends the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of "marihuana" so long as the cannabis plant contains no more than 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive component of the plant that gets people high. 

Since the passage of Section 7606 of the Farm Bill, “Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research,” hemp cultivation in the U.S. has grown rapidly. The number of acres of hemp grown across 19 states totaled 23,343 in 2017, more than double the 9,770 acres from the previous year. State licenses to cultivate hemp were issued to 1,424 farmers; and 32 universities conducted research on the crop.

Despite this progress, hemp farmers face logistical and legislative hurdles that yet hinder the full-scale commercial cultivation of hemp to supply American consumers. Specifically, said Steenstra, farmers rely on imported certified hemp seed from countries such as Canada and Italy, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has obstructed interstate commerce of U.S. grown and manufactured hempseed oil and protein powder. And though H.R. 3530 The Industrial Hemp Farming Act has been introduced in Congress, farming of the crop remains prohibited at the federal level.

Among the fastest-growing categories in the natural foods industry, hemp seed is a rich source of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, providing both SDA and GLA, highly digestible protein, and naturally occurring vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E and iron. An excellent source of dietary fiber, hemp seed is also a complete protein—meaning it contains all 10 essential amino acids, with no enzyme inhibitors, making it more digestible by the human body. Hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) products constituted 19 percent ($130 million) of the $688 million U.S. hemp retail market in 2016, making the CBD dietary supplement market the fastest growing product category in the hemp sector, according to Steenstra. 

Advancements in hemp research and manufacturing demonstrate the remarkable versatility and product-potential for hemp. Hemp bast fiber has shown promising potential to replace graphene in supercapacitor batteries, which could then be used to power electric cars and handheld electric devices and tools. Hemp fiber can also be used to create environmentally friendly composites, and hard bio-plastics for use in everything from airplanes to car parts. Hemp houses are also on the rise, as hempcrete (which is energy-efficient, non-toxic, and resistant to mold, insects and fire) has many advantages to synthetic building materials, lumber and concrete.

To date, 33 states have defined industrial hemp as distinct and removed barriers to its production. These states are able to take immediate advantage of the industrial hemp research and pilot program provision, Section 7606 of the Farm Bill: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

A better gut feeling

Thinkstock gut health woman grabbing stomach

If there’s anything more uncomfortable to discuss than digestive and gut health issues, it’s the astounding numbers of Americans these issues affect. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 1 in 5 Americans suffers from digestive diseases, including constipation (63 million cases), GERD-style heartburn (65 million prescriptions per year), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (15 million cases) and Crohn’s Disease (1.8 million prescriptions).

And these are just the traditional diseases. Everyone knows someone who has complained of digestion woes and whose life has been radically improved by eating a gluten-free diet. And that’s not even considering those who are diagnosed with celiac disease, for whom consuming gluten can lead to a range of uncomfortable complications. For those who think they might have a gluten issue, the latest recommendation from the American Medical Association, as of August 2017, is to get screened for celiac disease, because doctors cannot distinguish the disease from the lesser sensitivity because symptoms are similar. Also, once a person starts a gluten-free diet, testing for celiac disease is no longer accurate.

Heartburn is another digestive-health issue that can be ameliorated by eliminating certain triggers. Gravity is a primary cause—so don’t lie down after a meal! Other common triggers include fried foods, spicy foods, chocolate, carbonated beverages, alcohol and coffee.

Gut helpers

But simply doing away with offending foods and actions may not alleviate all symptoms of common gastrointestinal issues. In those cases, supplements can stimulate healing from within.

Heartburn, for example, often occurs alongside functional dyspepsia, which includes other symptoms such as bloating and nausea. A German herbal preparation, Iberogast, has been the subject of a dozen human clinical trials on functional dyspepsia and IBS. The formulation includes extracts of peppermint, licorice root, lemon balm, caraway, bitter candy tuft and Matricaria flower (German chamomile). In one study on 120 patients with functional dyspepsia, 43 percent of people who took the botanical blend enjoyed complete relief of symptoms, compared with 3 percent of those who took a placebo.

IBS affects as many as 15 percent of people worldwide. Symptoms include abdominal discomfort, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and gas. One of the better symptom-relieving supplements is peppermint oil. Its primary active ingredient is menthol, which makes up 35 percent to 50 percent of peppermint oil. A meta-analysis of 121 studies for IBS found peppermint oil was more effective than antispasmodic drugs, antidepressant drugs and fiber. Look for higher levels of menthol in peppermint supplements.

The power of probiotics

Probiotics are known to support healthy digestion. That’s because the intestines contain trillions of bacterial cells, not all of which are friendly, and inserting a few billion of the good guys promotes a healthier environment. It also benefits immune health, because the intestines house about 70 percent of the body’s innate immune function.

By stabilizing the gut, probiotics can ameliorate IBS symptoms, such as bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhea and constipation. In a 10-week 2016 study of 50 patients, a probiotic mixture of seven probiotic strains relieved overall IBS symptoms and improved stool consistency.

The trick with probiotic supplements is that species and strains matter. For those looking to maintain general good gut health, suggest a multistrain formulation that also includes a prebiotic such as inulin or fructooligosaccharide (FOS) to feed the probiotics. But for those with a specific digestive-health issue, not just any acidophilus will do. As new research emerges, supplement makers are starting to match specific probiotic strains with specific health end points, but we’re not quite there yet.

Top tummy relievers

Natural Factors Relief Biotic
This formulation contains four probiotic strains with demonstrated efficacy against gut issues. Two strains, Lactobacillus rhamnosus R0011 and Lactobacillus helveticus R0052, reduce the duration of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Two other strains, Enterococcus faecium R0026 and Bacillus subtilis R0179, have been studied in 23 clinical trials involving some 1,800 adults, and found to promote a healthy digestive system.

Health Plus Prebiotic Formula
Often lost in the hype about probiotics is mention of the food source the friendly bacteria rely on to survive. Called prebiotics, they’re a good idea for general GI tract upkeep. This formulation contains a gram’s worth of four prebiotic sources: inulin, FOS, burdock root and arabinogalactan bark. It also contains a few generic probiotic species and ingredients for additional digestive support.

Nordic Naturals Nordic Flora Probiotic Comfort
This blend of 15 billion CFUs worth of 13 probiotic strains has been shown to promote regularity as well as alleviate gas, bloating and constipation. One strain in particular, Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1, was shown to relieve discomfort related to lactose intolerance. It also contains a prebiotic lunch box for the friendly bacteria to munch on.
Plus, it requires no refrigeration, making it ideal for travelers.

Country Life Kids Care Probiotic
Here’s a good way for children to benefit from probiotics. Nine probiotic species and prebiotics, plus eight different real fruits in naturally flavored chewable wafers make a tasty way for your child to board the probiotic train and boost overall digestive and immune health.

Herb Pharm Better Bitters
So-called bitters are a recent supplement innovation. These tinctures jump-start your digestive juices, because when your taste buds detect the bitter taste, the body produces bile and other gastric juices. Just squirt a dropperful into your mouth (or into a bit of water if you prefer) about 10 minutes before a meal to help you better digest your foods. Comes in four yummy (albeit bitter) flavors.

Ingredient suppliers are helping cannabis go pro

From California to Canada to The Continent, cannabis is sweeping the globe. In an interesting twist, ingredient suppliers from the dietary supplements world are bringing a level of expertise to the field that will ensure quality, consistency and innovation in everything from CBD to adult-use THC. This is so NOT your weird uncle's pot. 

Sophie's Kitchen on the emerging market for plant-based seafood

The seafood industry has seen its fair share of negative headlines in recent years related to supply chain, labor, environmental and sustainability issues. Meanwhile, sales of plant-based alternatives to animal-based products are growing quickly.

Those forces have given way to the emergence of the vegan seafood category, with newcomers like Good Catch and New Wave Foods. One of the earliest entrants was Sophie's Kitchen, which makes plant-based alternatives to crab cakes, shrimp, scallops, salmon and tuna.

Susan Carskadon of Sophie's Kitchen explains how the category is a natural progression for the now-mature meat alternatives category in this video from Natural Products Expo East.

Industry pioneer Bob Anderson on where organic goes from here

Bob Anderson organic

He’s an organic pioneer who’s championed organic standards and helped grow organic businesses since the 1960s. He’s the longest-serving chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Standards Board. He runs Sustainable Strategies, an advisory and consulting business for food and agriculture. And, he’s the recipient of The Organic Trade Association’s 2017 Growing the Organic Industry Leadership Award.

Here, Bob Anderson reveals the biggest challenges organic faces today, what still needs work and how retailers can help.

What do you think is the biggest hurdle that organic faces?

Bob Anderson: I think the biggest challenge for the industry overall is a shortage of supply when it comes to ingredients. Organic is growing so rapidly, especially in the animal and livestock area. But many farmers are not yet certified.

What needs to happen to clear this hurdle?

BA: One thing that I as well as OTA and many many people in the organic industry are promoting is a transition to organic program which would allow producers to have a modest value added to the product after the first year of certification. It allows for some small premium in the intermediary, while producers work toward full certification. It mitigates some of that risk and cost over the three years of certification. Ultimately, the goal here is to reward or at least keep producers engaged and mitigate some of the cost in transitioning to organic with a modest premium.

What would you like to see from organic retailers?

BA: I believe that, given the competition from mass market stores and the internet, it’s critically important to create an experience. You have to create reasons for people to come to the store and embrace local organic producers. Feature those folks, bring them into the store and create an authentic experience. Information, but also fun. What can you do with parents and their kids? What can you provide in terms of recipes and cooking classes and, again, experiences that enrich consumers and develop their loyalty? Take people on an outing to a local organic farm, and cross-market with picnic picks for the day from your store.

This all takes the chore out of shopping and puts the joy back in. Smaller shops have the luxury of being scaled for the individual experience and not the crowded supermarket experience. Done right, shoppers will see the store as an extension of themselves, and be proud to be a part of the local business.


Pharmaceutical company campaign against omega-3 supplements won’t proceed in trade court

Omega 3s

A pharmaceutical company’s attempt to use international trade law to stop supplement makers from selling concentrated ethyl ester forms of fish oil to consumers won’t be considered by the U.S. International Trade Commission, and trade association heads are calling it a victory for the entire supplement industry.

Amarin had claimed that the process behind fish oil concentrates made them synthetic and thus an unfair competition to its fish oil-based Vascepa prescription drug. The company filed a complaint with the U.S. ITC that drew attention from congressional representatives, supplement trade associations and, perhaps most importantly, the FDA.

The FDA wrote to the ITC declaring that FDA had jurisdiction over matters covered in the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act. After the FDA contact, the ITC twice delayed a decision on whether to take up the Amarin case before deciding last week that it would not consider the matter.

Adam Ismail, executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA, said the ITC “basically reiterated the FDA’s arguments.” The core arguments that the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act took precedence over provisions in the Lanham Act that the Amarin complaint relied on had been made by others, including industry trade associations, but having a federal agency weigh in "probably had a lot of weight."

Council for Responsible Nutrition President Steve Mister agreed that the FDA’s overture “probably carried a lot of influence with the ITC.” The ITC also heard from Utah Rep. Mia Love and New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, Mister noted. “We understand that other members of Congress reached out informally.”

Mister said he is not surprised that Amarin’s case could not hold up to scrutiny: “They were hooking the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act to the Lanham Act and hooking that to the tariff act to get a private right of action.” Ismail said he had never seen a pharmaceutical company attempt to use the ITC. “I think this is unprecedented.”

The matter may not be over. Amarin could go directly to the FDA, but it is unclear if the decision to leapfrog FDA jurisdiction will have an effect on Amarin’s prospects there. Mister called the case a victory but also a reminder that the industry can’t know where the next challenge is going to come from. “The filing was a surprise to us. That certainly required us to pivot and jump in really quick," he said. "I hope this sends a message that we have to protect our interests and things can happen in unexpected ways.”


Nutrition Business Journal: November 2017

When we talk about confidence in the supply chain for the supplements industry, we are talking about something that is sorely needed and widely misplaced. For supplements, confidence is a work in progress, and progress can seem elusive.

Last year we surveyed consumers about how much they trusted supplements. The news was not encouraging. Consumers saw supplement makers as only a bit more trustworthy than Congress in a year when distrust of the status quo had seismic implications. We repeated some of that research this year, and the results were even more disheartening. Trust in supplements actually fell. The work that has been done in the industry has been notable, but the problems that chip away at that trust can seem intractable. Trust is won in the long haul.

The same technology that allows consumers to trace a lot number from their phones in the aisle at Whole Foods is, of course, a completely achievable option at the B2Blevel. "What you don’t know won't hurt you" is over.

Confidence may be a work in progress for the industry, but nothing stirs progress like profit. Making a lack of confidence costly could be the most important change the supply chain will ever see.

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[email protected]: FDA rethinks soy heart health claim | What matters to natural beauty consumers

Thinkstock soy tofu

U.S. moves to revoke claim that soy protein products protect the heart

The FDA says that studies published since it authorized heart health claims for soy protein products in the late '90s have produced inconsistent findings. It’s proposed a rule revoking the rights of companies to make claims that their soy products protect the heart. Read more at Reuters…


California SCC Suppliers’ Day keynote explores how beauty consumers define ‘natural’

Natural and organic has great value in the personal care space, but what does the word natural mean to consumers? The Benchmarking Company, a consumer testing and research firm, conducted a survey to find out. More than 80 percent of natural beauty consumers said they want to see all ingredients listed on a company’s website and think it’s important that brands don’t test on animals. Burt’s Bees was the leading brand in the space, along with Tom’s of Maine, JASON and Dr. Bronners. Read more at Cosmetics Design USA…


McCormick’s recipe for packaging that’s more sustainable

In an effort to reduce packaging weight and carbon footprint, the spice company has redesigned some of its cans with a fully recyclable PET container, reduced the materials and weight for all of its European glass jars and improved its transportation logistics. Read more at Packaging Digest…


We may be consuming more glyphosate than ever before

More people are exposed to glyphosate than in the 1990s—and more of it, according to a new study published in JAMA.  Researchers looked for glyphosate in the urine of 100 elderly people in California, once in the '90s and then again 20 years later. In the most recent samples, 70 percent of people had glyphosate concentrations above the detection limit. Read more at Consumer Reports…


Junk food is almost twice as distracting as healthy food, study finds

We have an implicit bias for fatty and sugary foods, according to a new study which found that people who were engaged in a task were more distracted by photos of junk food than photos of healthy foods. Read more at Johns Hopkins Hub…

Esca Bona

5 ways to innovate better and faster

Thinkstock business strategy brainstorm

Big and small companies in the food industry are colliding in more ways than ever, through acquisition, investment and collaboration. In a presentation at Esca Bona last week in Austin, Mike Lee, co-founder of Alpha Food Labs, a platform for building and launching healthy and sustainable food companies, highlighted some of the ways big and small companies can learn from each other to work toward a better food future.

The lessons that big companies can teach small are obvious—scaling, distribution, marketing, product development and so on. But where small companies excel, and why big companies are eager to work with them, is their ability to innovate quickly and recognize opportunity in the outliers.

Here are five elements of small business-thinking that can spark innovation.

Be a student of society. Because food is so ingrained in our lives, innovation in food starts with being citizens of the world and students of human behavior. You never know where you might find inspiration for a new idea. “The more things you’ve seen, the more things that you can connect and the more innovations that can happen,” Lee said.

Let constraints define creativity. The least effective brainstorms are ones without limits, Lee argued, because constraints on time or budget or resources catalyze creative thinking. “Try going backpacking for 14 days with an ultra-light backpack,” he said. “A piece of rope becomes a really interesting, creative thing. A piece of duct tape becomes the Swiss army knife of all things.”

Incentivize smart failure. Some ideas will undoubtedly fail. A key to keeping them from being destructive to a company is to spot those ideas before they get too big. “When you’re small you have no choice but to do this because you don’t have the resources to fund anything else that is suffering along the way,” he explained. “Big companies can suffer from death by a thousand cuts when they’re doing projects that aren’t really succeeding.”

Make innovation a priority. “Half the game is showing up,” Lee proclaimed. That might mean creating structure or rhythm or workflow for team members to come up with new ideas, test them and share feedback.

Have a bias toward action.  The best way to settle an argument, according to Lee, is just to go out there on the market and do it. “We can sometimes fall into analysis paralysis—especially at big companies,” he said. He gave the example of when he worked for Chobani, and one of the company's greatest assets for innovation was the Chobani Café. The innovation loop that foodservice works on is much faster than what CPG works on, so the team was able to test out new flavors and ideas much faster.

Watch Lee’s full talk below, and the rest of the Esca Bona conference here.


Natural Foods Merchandiser

Retailer Roundtable: What special diets are your customers talking about?

gluten free products grocery store

“Much like functional beverages started hitting some huge growth numbers starting a few years ago, we now see good fats, protein and probiotics gaining ground in everything from bars to chips. Snacking is now an opportunity to do something good for you!”

Scott Owen, grocery merchandiser, PCC Community Markets


“It seems like there is a constant shift in diets customers come to our stores for: paleo, vegan, vegetarian, raw, gluten free, blood type, etc. It can be a challenge to keep up with. In the past year, our meat department grew a great deal. We are not sure if people are eating more meat or they shifted from supermarkets because they want free-range, organic products. Customers also are looking for more nondairy and plant-based foods. And our gluten-free sections keep growing.”

Ralph Johnson, CEO, FoodWorks Natural Markets


“We attract a gluten-free audience because that is our focus. But the low-FODMAP diet is really catching on and gaining speed for us. I too have found the diet can be really challenging, but it makes you feel better. And while not a lot of packaged products exist yet—there are a couple of product lines and several gluten-free breads work well—our customers have comfort that we know what they are talking about.”

Amy Soergel, owner, Soergel Orchards


“Gluten free is still next to foundational. Our paleo section is holding and the gluten-free crowds rejoice. Raw foods is now perceived as the 'real' foods section; and folks still want fresh bread.”

Debbie Formica, Martindale's Nutrition