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Articles from 2018 In October

[email protected]: Epic Provisions' epic effect on General Mills | Seaweed-based sauce packaging debuts

Brian Flaherty Epic Provisions meat snack packaging

Can a startup transform General Mills? The saga of Epic Provisions

Epic Provisions has ambitious plans to revitalize the sustainability goals of General Mills’ other brands at large, and it seems to be working. The startup was acquired by General Mills after only three years of existing, and founders Kate Forrest and Taylor Collins did their best to ensure Epic Provisions’ mission and values were kept at the forefront of the minds of everyone involved. Now, the couple has learned to love its “odd home” in General Mills, and is rallying other brands under the company to follow the same sustainability guidelines that rocketed them to their initial fame. Read more at Inc. ...


Just Eat broadens trial of seaweed-based sauce sachets to fight plastic pollution


Online food delivery business Just Eat has teamed up with sustainable packaging business Skipping Rocks Lab to trial its fully compostable, seaweed-based sauce sachets. The trial will take place in London, and is expected to prevent around 40,000 plastic sauce sachets from being used and sent to landfills. Read more at CNBC 


Rural America’s favorite store is moving into the big city

Dollar General is breaking into the urban millennial market with its new DGX store model, an affordable mishmash of a drugstore, convenience store and corner grocer that sells everything from beer to bug spray. The chain has long been found in economically struggling rural areas, but CEO Todd Vasos sees immense potential in younger, price-conscious urban consumers. Read more at Bloomberg  …


Is Certified Transitional the new organic?

There is a 36-month transitional period that all farms must go through before being granted the status of organic by USDA-accredited agents. During this time “they are producing decreased yields, putting in extra work to regenerate soil and transition equipment and using significant capital without getting paid the premium prices commanded by certified organic crops.” Read this article to learn more about the trials and tribulations preventing the Certified Transitional label from becoming widely adopted. Read more at Forbes …


The LaCroix of cannabis? The marijuana market bets on beverages

Companies such as Coca Cola are looking for nonalcoholic, CBD-infused beverages to better tap into the health and wellness population that is currently embracing cannabis in all its many forms. The beverage format is arguably easier to incorporate into consumers’ lives, and due to its non-psychoactive nature these cannabis products can be bought by a much wider audience. Read more at Fast Company …

Esca Bona

Top takeaways from Esca Bona 2018

Esca Bona 2018 group photo

“We need to get beyond guessing and accelerate the process of learning,” Tom Chi said from the Esca Bona stage. Chi was talking about the importance of rapid prototyping, something he co-developed while on the Google X team—creators of Google glass, Google’s self-driving car and several other cutting-edge technologies. In innovation, traditional companies spend too much time in the guessing phase of problem solving, and take too much time creating a working model of the sought experience. Experience alone brings concrete learning, Chi says, and until then, “it’s all guessing.”

Chi was in Austin, Texas, as part of New Hope Network’s fourth annual Esca Bona conference, the coming together of nearly 250 leaders, entrepreneurs, investors and guides to de- and re-construct the food system.

With deep dives into the what, the how and the why of the natural products industry, Esca Bona (literally Latin for "good food") could reasonably be called disruption therapy—complete with a discussion of the role of intimacy in management. Yes, intimacy, as presented in Monday night’s welcome keynote delivered by conscious leadership coach Sue Heilbronner of venture capital fund MergeLane.

A quick fix

Esca Bona is many things. It’s a networking event, it delivers practical advice and it provides inspiration.

Inspirational highlights included Chi, brief mindfulness drop-ins with Seton Cove’s Health Educator and Spiritual Director Daniel Hope and Change Finance’s Donna Morton, who proposed 10 critical goals for any business working to build a better world, titled 10 Things … in 10 Years to Save Our Butts. With urgency, realism and hope, Morton delved into topics from carbon taxes to indigenous wisdom; electoral reform to “business beyond fear.”

The biggest dose of practical advice came in the form of the Innovation Fix. Eight early-stage and mid-cap brands presented specific challenges they are facing, and then stepped aside as breakout groups of peers, experts and veterans tackled the challenges to expose blind spots and lay out practical next steps for these entrepreneurs. Reaching well beyond the recipients of the practical advice, The Fix coalesces all participants through teamwork, vulnerability, generosity and listening.

Now what?!

At the close of the conference, co-emcees Carlotta Mast and Adam Butler stood in front of a slide that read, "Now what?!" and discussed how to carry inspiration back into our offices and forward into our businesses.

What’s next for Esca Bona? Look for an expanded platform in 2019 as the conference teams up with non-profit partners FamilyFarmedAt the Epicenter and Food Funded—each focused on supporting and accelerating the good food movement—to bring Esca Bona programming to multiple sites and multiple audiences.

Organic Valley and Dr. Bronner's launch Grassroots Aid Partnership to support disaster relief

Dr. Bronner's kitchen aid relief north carolina

Organic Valley CEO George Siemon and Dr. Bronner’s Cosmic Engagement Officer David Bronner are no strangers to giving back, and their recently launched Grassroots Aid Partnership (G.A.P.) is testament to that spirit. The burgeoning non-profit is Siemon’s and Bronner’s attempt to formalize what’s already been a long-standing commitment to helping people in need, and they’re hoping to inspire the rest of the natural products industry—or anyone, for that matter—to join them.

“We’ve always been driven by volunteers,” admits Siemon, adding that his 2,000+ member cooperative has been spreading goodwill as far back as he can remember. It started years ago after an Organic Valley truck driver experienced a tornado in the co-op’s home state of Wisconsin, and came to Siemon with a plea to help those affected. “So we did that,” says Siemon, “and it just opened our eyes to the incredible need in these disasters.”

Siemon goes on to say that “it’s so much more than just handing out a bottle of water to somebody. When you bring the food and cook for people, it turns it into a whole other personalized experience. I’ve been really happy to be a supporter of that, but it really became so much a part of our personality; we realized we needed to start formalizing the process more than we had, and bring in more people as partners. And that led us to Dr. Bronner’s, which also wanted to get involved in disaster relief.”

Indeed, Bronner himself is recently back from a weekend trip to Rocky Point, North Carolina, where GAP mobilized to support people in crisis after Hurricane Florence ravaged the area in September. “A local church [Lighthouse Worship Center] was set up and feeding everyone but was very overwhelmed,” shares Bronner, “so we got our kitchen in there with FFRE [Family of Friends Relief Effort], Rainbow Family and Organic Valley.” That kitchen is a large customized trailer that Dr. Bronner’s has used for its renowned festivals; the company deployed it last year to Immokalee, Fla., for Hurricane Irma relief after Organic Valley tipped them off to the need while assisting with Hurricane Harvey relief in Houston, Texas.

Unfortunately, the disasters keep coming: in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, Florida finds itself in crisis once again, and GAP plans to be there to help. Bronner admits a lot of it is trial and error at this point. “We’re building the plane while we’re flying it. This new coalition is real early…it was supposed to launch next year, but we figured we’ll learn a lot more by doing it than not doing it.”

And doing it they are. In just a 2.5-week period after Florence hit North Carolina, GAP Donations Coordinator Amanda Krause says their team served roughly 13,500 meals, handed out umpteen bottles of Dr. Bronner’s soap, distributed more than 35,000 pounds of Organic Valley and Sanderson Farms organic dairy and meat products and gave away fair trade chocolate sent by Equal Exchange. 

“We see an opportunity for natural products brands to really participate in a very meaningful way,” offers Bronner, whose company has donated $50,000 to get the initiative rolling. While still in its infancy, the GAP website accepts PayPal donations, supports in-kind donations and solicits volunteers. And true to their philanthropic natures, both Siemon and Bronner encourage anyone wanting to get involved to contact them directly. The pair also plan to ensure that GAP has a presence at Expo West 2019.

Siemon sums it up in a heartfelt way: “By formalizing this, we’d really like to see more natural companies join in with us. People do give away food already but it kinda goes into the great big warehouses, and this is an opportunity to get closer to the real story…there’s nothing like working at a disaster relief to restore your faith in humanity.”

3 important data points about convenience-seeking shoppers

Getty USDA Report Promo

You likely know that convenience-focused foods and beverages are a growing trend. Heck, you may have already expanded the grab-and-go section of your natural store to boost sales of these quick, easy and convenient products.

The demographic that is actually consuming these prepared products, however, is difficult to discern. This may be because people are notoriously bad at judging their own behaviors—ask me what I ate last Tuesday night, and I’ll probably not mention the post-dinner chocolate cupcake. But understanding how, why and who purchases prepared foods can help you better serve your customers. For example, if prepared foods appeal the most to families, providing larger servings of side dishes or “speed scratch” items would be beneficial. 

A new USDA report conducted by the Economic Research Service entitled Adult Eating and Health Patterns: Evidence from the 2014-16 Eating & Health Module of the American Time Use Survey sheds light on consumer demographics, and can help you gain a deeper understanding of your shoppers.

Below you'll find several interesting insights from the report, and you can click here to examine the full research.

The location of a grocery store is the most important factor for shoppers, followed by price. Time, it seems, is more valuable than money.

Younger shoppers—especially those aged 18 to 24—are more likely to purchase prepared food than older shoppers.

Couples with children purchase more prepared food than single people without children. 


Should you really not take probiotics with antibiotics?

The latest media-fueled nutrition study, this time on probiotics, got the nutrition science woefully wrong. Tom Aarts, from Nutrition Capital Advisors, separates the nutritional wheat from the big pharma chaff. 


Noosa Yoghurt to join Sovos Brands

Sovos Brands buys Noosa Yoghurt

Sovos Brands—the food and beverage company behind Michael Angelo’s frozen Italian meals and Rao’s Homemade artisan Italian sauces, pastas and oils—on Tuesday announced that it has signed a merger agreement with Noosa Yoghurt LLC.

The agreement expands Sovos Brands into the yoghurt category. Both Sovos and Noosa are backed by Advent International, an investment firm that operates in North America, South America, Europe and Asia.

Noosa was co-founded in 2009 by Koel Thomae, an Australian expat, and Rob Graves, a Colorado dairy farmer, who set out to bring the Aussie-style yoghurt with a creamy texture and sweet-tart flavor profile to the U.S. market.

Noosa is made with whole milk, a touch of wildflower North American honey and real fruit purées on a family farm in Bellvue, Colorado. Sovos values Noosa’s unique culture and its commitment to Colorado and plans to continue to manufacture products at the Bellvue facility.

Headquartered in Berkeley, California, and led by experienced consumer packaged goods executives, Sovos focuses on acquiring high-quality brands in on-trend categories with the potential to accelerate growth by investing in distribution, marketing, production and product innovation.

Noosa is the third brand to join the Sovos portfolio in the past two years. In January 2017, Sovos acquired Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Foods, and in July 2017, it purchased Rao’s Specialty Foods Inc.

“Noosa fits perfectly into our portfolio of one-of-a-kind brands in the food and beverage sector, and we have been impressed by its compelling growth opportunities, attractive consumer demographics and talented employee base,” said Todd Lachman, president and CEO of Sovos Brands. “Noosa shares our unwavering commitment to authentic, delicious-tasting products using only the highest quality ingredients.”

Sovos will guide Noosa into its next phase of growth while remaining true to the brand’s standard of making the finest yoghurt with the finest ingredients, according to Bill Johnson, chairman of both the Noosa and Sovos boards of directors and former chairman, CEO and president of H.J. Heinz.

“With the addition of Noosa, Sovos will become a more powerful force in the food and beverage sector,” Johnson said. “I’ve had a chance to work first-hand with the team at Sovos, and they bring a wealth of knowledge and capability that will help Noosa continue to scale and grow its brand.

“As part of Sovos, Noosa will continue to create the same great ‘farm-to-fridge’ products that consumers expect, and I’m excited about what our companies can achieve together.”

Advent, which acquired a majority interest in Noosa in November 2014, has worked with the company’s founders and management team to accelerate growth. During the past four years, Noosa has more than tripled its sales, market share and local production capacity in Bellvue; introduced more than 25 new flavors and sizes; and increased distribution from 5,000 stores to 25,000 nationwide.  

“Noosa’s merger into Sovos is a clear and logical next step for both companies, as they share the same brand and customer-centric values and growth goals,” said Jeff Case, a managing director at Advent. “Noosa has established itself as a market leader in the premium yoghurt category, and we are confident that it will be well positioned for continued success as part of Sovos Brands. We look forward to working with Sovos to identify new growth opportunities across all their brands.”


Source: Sovos Brands

[email protected]: 250 companies join forces to end plastic waste | USDA rethinks criteria for 'healthy' food products

plastic bottles on beach

250 organizations are joining forces to end plastic waste

Companies representing around 20 percent of all plastic packaging produced in the world have joined forces this month in an effort to create a “circular economy for plastic.” This union was led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and aims to bring these organizations together to work in a more cohesive way while creating sustainable packaging and changing the behavior that sends even recyclable products to the trash. Read more at Fast Company ...


Gum, bottled water, pizza bagels want to be called ‘healthy’


As nutrition science barrels forward, the FDA has been pressured into changing its criteria for the kinds of products that can market themselves as ‘healthy.’ This push comes after many a brush with food companies whose products may have had, for example, too much fat from nuts to make the cut. Fairly recent science has proven that these fats are good for us, but the FDA’s regulations on fat content has remained the same for more than two decades. The main problem with the term is that “healthy” is relative–“Subsisting on broccoli alone, for instance, wouldn’t be healthy.” Read more at AP News 


Why is CBD everywhere?

Both the ‘natural’ derivation of CBD and its tension-relieving effects have contributed to the supplement’s becoming “a perfect cure for our times,” according to The New York Times. Retailers are adding CBD to everything—alcoholic drinks, melatonin gummies and beauty products alike. However, separating hype from science will be crucial in moving forward; CBD is not a cure-all, although its safety and efficacy in a number of maladies will make it a mainstay in the supplement industry for years to come. Read more at The New York Times  …


Food stamps for soda: time to end billion-dollar subsidy for sugary drinks?

A 2016 report from the USDA found that recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) spend about 10 percent of their food dollars on sugary drinks, as opposed to only 7 percent of the rest of the US population. These drinks have been proven to impact both weight gain and Type 2 diabetes, and yet changing the SNAP program so as to push recipients toward healthier options is an intimidating venture. Read more at NPR …


Why peanut reactions have become ‘almost epidemic’—and what to do about food allergies

Peanut allergies have tripled since 1997, meaning that about two children per classroom are likely to have life-threatening allergic reactions to certain foods. Dr. Scott Sicherer, director of the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital, believes that this may be because of a collective lack of exposure to germs that help build up immunity as children grow up. When kids become accustomed to the “clean living” of computers and sanitized spaces, the immune system begins to attack foods rather than germs. Read more at CNBC …

Consumer Reports takes wide, mostly critical view of 'natural cures'

cupping therapy

When you see a headline reading “Natural Cures: Which Work, Which Don’t” on the cover of Consumer Reports, it’s a safe bet that “Don’t” is going to dominate the discussion. But on a tour of supplements and other non-medical solutions, which literally span from A to Z, you would also expect some rational discussion.

And Consumer Reports doesn’t disappoint on either expectation.

The 10-page spread, which quotes sales estimates from New Hope’s Nutrition Business Journal several times, could roughly be summarized as “it’s not what you take, it’s what you do.” Activities like yoga, tai chi and meditation are held up, appropriately, as legitimate strategies, while most of the supplements mentioned are dismissed as lacking in proof.

Even when the writers cite studies supporting proponents' claims of having benefited from supplements, these positive statements are accompanied by “more research is needed” qualifying statements that are then quickly followed by the standard cautions about inconsistent doses and purity levels.

·       Berries “deserve their reputation as food superstars,” but there is no mention of the use of extracts or supplements, nor the fact it might be a challenge to eat enough berries to achieve the same benefits that could be easily obtained through a tablet.

·       Probiotics have proven benefits for antibiotic-related diarrhea and C-difficile, the article outlines, but the writers question the safety of probiotic supplements and suggest replacing them with fermented foods instead.

·       The writers point to American Health Association research finding that omega-3s “might” help people with a history of heart disease, but also state that “there wasn’t enough evidence to show whether they improved cardiac health in people without existing heart problems.” No mention is made of the fact that upwards of 80 percent of American’s don’t eat the AHA-recommended two servings a week of fish, a primary omega-3 source.

None of this means that caution is inappropriate—a sidebar to the article rightly points out that consumers can and should look for third-party certifications on supplements—but some of these cautions seem unreasonable. Writing that too much zinc can cause nausea and that therefore zinc-rich foods are “a safer bet” ignores the fact that supplements come with recommendations for how many tablets a given person should take. OTC drugs carry far greater risks, and yet dosage recommendations are widely accepted in that category.  The magazine has pointed out that tap water is better regulated than bottled water, and yet if you put tap water in a Neti pot you risk contracting “serious bacterial infections.”

The article is not entirely unbalanced. They cite their own survey that 29 percent of people who try alternative therapies do so at a doctor’s direction.  That “alternative treatments can help people feel in control of their health and rescue their reliance on medication” is an affirmation that the natural products industry would welcome. The magazine’s survey finding that 52 percent of respondents prefer natural remedies over mainstream medicine is encouraging, too. Still, the disclaimer that patients who forego conventional medicine in favor of alternative treatments face dire risks should come with an accompanying statement saying that those conventional drugs and procedures have their own huge risks attached as well.

Consumer Reports is a great source for reviews of durable consumer goods, but health and nutrition may be best left outside the magazine’s mission. Cars and refrigerators are far easier to review.