5@5: Better diets help manage chronic health conditions | Discount retailers see fast growth


Food can help control some chronic health conditions, in some cases eliminating the need for drugs

It’s been scientifically proven that food can help manage chronic health conditions, but few of the 60% of Americans who have at least one construct their diets in a way that supports healing. Nutrition services aren’t always covered by health insurance either, but support groups and access to online health resources can help patients change their habits in a way that becomes self-reinforcing after results begin showing. Read more at The Washington Post

Why discount stores are one of fastest-growing retail sectors

Discount retail stores are growing at a significantly faster rate than other retail environments, in part because companies like Aldi and Dollar General “can capitalize on untapped markets in more rural areas—with fewer people—and open low-margin locations.” Analysts suspect that the 2008 financial crisis also plays a large role in American consumers’ penchant for money-saving chains and private labels. Read more at Modern Retail

Acclaimed chefs are turning to 100-mile dinners to showcase local food and wine

A concept called the 100-mile dinner restricts ingredients to those sourced within a 100-mile radius of a given restaurants, helping local farms and supporting a more environmentally sustainable food system as a result. The participation of several acclaimed chefs underscores the fact that the locavore movement is only getting stronger as concerns about where food comes from and its ethical implications rise among consumers. Read more at Fortune

Pizza Hut is testing Zume’s compostable round boxes

Pizza Hut today revealed plans to pilot a compostable pizza box from packaging startup Zume. The box will be trialed in just one location in Phoenix, Arizona, and will be accompanied by a limited-edition plant-based sausage topping by MorningStar. Read more at Tech Crunch

Fast-food chains heat up breakfast fight

Consumers continue to swap cereal for protein-heavy breakfasts at fast-food restaurants such as Wendy’s. However, as competition increases in the space, chains are fighting to retain consumer loyalty using tactics such as new menu options and special promotions. Read more at The Wall Street Journal

Rule Breaker gets a crowdfunded boost

Nancy Kalish of Rule Breaker

Last spring, vegan and gluten-free chickpea cookie brand Rule Breaker took to the web to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a new product: Rule Breaker Bites. In just three weeks, the campaign exceeded its original goal of $10,000 by nearly three times that amount, with 403 bakers pledging $28,403 towards the launch of this new line of three varieties of bite-sized cookies (Birthday Cake, Deep Chocolate Brownie and Chocolate Chunk Brownie).

The upside? A marketing boost fueled by enthusiastic backers with high conversion rates, great media coverage and outstanding word of mouth—particularly among vegan communities. The downside? A lot of hard work, planning and not-a-few delays.

What does this kind of initiative look like for a brand that already has a name for itself and a product that’s firmly entrenched on store shelves? We caught up with Rule Breaker's CEO and founder Nancy Kalish to ask her about her experience with this popular crowdfunding platform.

What was the impetus for launching the Kickstarter campaign and whom did you target?

Nancy Kalish: There are two basic answers. The first is that we’re still small enough that the money did come in very handy. The item we put on Kickstarter, Rule Breaker Bites—a bite sized version of our Blondies and Brownies—uses a slightly different manufacturing process, including a packaging process. We were going to be investing in new equipment and every little bit counts.

I also looked at it as a marketing step. One of the challenges for our brand, with a very limited marketing budget, has been getting noticed. I figured this was a really good way to get noticed by a new audience. I did a little research on Kickstarter and found that there’s a vegan designation for food … so I thought that, [as] one of our core audiences, we can reach a new group of vegans and look at this as a marketing effort. Pre-orders are also always great when launching a new product. It turned out successful … and we did make a lot of new customers and a lot of new fans. It also turned out to be really hard.

How many of the 403 backers were new customers and how did you get the word out about the campaign?

NK: We did have some friends and family, of course, but those were really at a minimum. The good news is that almost everybody was new to us.

We [relied] on our Instagram. We have a pretty decent Instagram following and I think we had some followers who weren't quite ready maybe to take a chance on us and buy our products, so this jazzed people up and got them going.

Rule Breaker BitesI'm definitely glad I did it. But it takes a huge amount of preparation and synergy and keeping at the whole thing … emailing people, reminding people, updating people, making sure that your email list … that you've really prepped and you're reaching out to everybody you’ve ever known. It was good in a way for us to have to go through that exercise … but it was extremely labor intensive. That’s my big warning to anyone who [thinks they’re] just going to put up a page and then collect the money.

But in the end, you got nearly three times the amount you asked for...

NK: Yes, it did end up financing our production. It went a long way. We did do a couple of events to support it locally in New York that ate up a lot of it. It takes money to make money. By the time all is said and done it’s not that whole amount of money.

It was a little bit of a strategic move. We also knew that we were going to launch these new products regardless. I felt very strongly that this [new product] was a way to get Rule Breaker into more retail outlets—more of the bigger players—so we had planned and budgeted for it. Kickstarter just made it a lot, lot easier … both [in terms of] marketing and financing at the very beginning.

What was the direct-to-consumer experience like for you?

NK: From the beginning we were mainly in brick and mortar, starting with Whole Food stores northeast and then lots of little health food stores… Since then we've expanded to Kroger and Wegmans, and more Whole Foods … We didn’t have a shelf stable product, which made it very hard to sell online. And shipping was really difficult because our product needed to be refrigerated. So about two years ago we went back to square one and re-formulated. We wanted to have a shelf-stable product, but also one that had no preservatives and that had chickpeas as the first ingredient because that's our calling card. We are now shelf-stable for 12 months with no preservatives.

That opened up online for us and at that point we started concentrating much more on Amazon and our own website, and then we built that part of the business. [But in terms of Kickstarter,] I promised a very early delivery date, which turned out to be a mistake, and in fact we had every production problem that we could possibly have with packaging. We were able to make the little bite sized cookies just fine, but the actual packaging—a new kind of resealable bag— turned out to be quite a bear. We had a lot of delays.

One of the fascinating things about Kickstarter, and it’s kind of both the good and the bad of it, is that you really meet your customers, almost face to face. You're interacting with them on a level that I had not experienced before. And in some ways it was a great, and in some ways it was not so great. There's a lot of back and forth … and you have to do a lot of writing and telling people about your progress—stuff I'm not really used to doing. But you really do foster a sense of community with the brand and I think people get invested in a way that’s hard to do otherwise. Now I have these 400 good customers, which is really valuable. And almost everyone has reordered at least once.

Here's the $6 million question, would you do it again?

NK: I don't know. It turns out to be a really big undertaking. It really is almost full time. I probably would. I would look at it as part of a marketing plan, but not as a money-making plan.

It was also a marketing effort that was also successful on a wholesale level, because our retailers, and our distributors really liked it. Retailers don't feel like they're in competition because it's just spreading the word about Rule Breaker and then more people come into stores who are already familiar with the brand. People in the business really liked it. Now our bites are getting set up in distribution with distributors that we've been with for a while like UNFI and KEHE and others, and it's a pretty good calling card to go in and say, “Well, we exceeded our goal on Kickstarter when we launched these by two and a half times plus.” It's a good kind of vote of confidence.

Whole Foods Market’s local foragers could be your entry in

Local labels on Whole Foods shelves

Are gone the days of getting your brand discovered at the local farmers market and finding its way to retail? Did that dream die after Justin’s made it? Kelly Landrieu, global coordinator for local brands at Whole Foods Market, says the dream is still alive and well. In fact, she runs a program with local "foragers" that charges Whole Foods Market team members with discovering the best new suppliers (which includes farmers, fishermen and CPG brands) in their regions.

How do they do that? The local Whole Foods Market foragers go out and explore farmers markets and specialty shops—as well as trade shows like Natural Products Expo—looking for the right partners to bring into regional distribution. Once in the stores, the foragers build relationships with these brands and serve as points of contact within the retailer. “They are the shepherds for the local suppliers,” Landrieu says.

Baby steps into natural retail

Though Whole Foods Market is a national retailer (with stores in the U.K. too), it’s a good place for emerging brands because it has a lot of regions but the brands still have the opportunity to start out small. Landrieu says making it into Whole Foods is usually a brand's first time working with a large retailer—and there’s room to expand. “We work hard to grow the brands within the company and reach their potential,” she says.

When Landrieu was a local forager herself in Austin, Texas, she discovered August Vega at a farmers market where she was selling her cold-pressed nut milks. Vega’s unique product attracted Landrieu enough to place MALK in one store, which is all the founder was ready for. Then, they planned a growth strategy for Vega. From there, she grew to the whole region and then expanded as her capacity increased.

Incubating brand partners

Oftentimes, brands that are discovered are too small for national distribution, or even regional, at Whole Foods Market, but the local foraging program can assist them in growing. The local forager teams are at the heart at that assistance, Landrieu says, working alongside the regional purchasing teams to help their brands grow. “When we find a supplier we love but is not ready for market, we’re able to take our experience and put it into advice … sometimes we act as advisors.”

In some ways, the local foragers act similarly to incubators, too. “It’s really about building that partnership from the beginning so we can grow together. We’re all about the win-win relationship,” she says. “The local program really strives to make sure that that win-win is there and to embody it.”


The right fit

Though it’s not common for a brand to start out at national distribution with Whole Foods Market, it does happen. It just depends on the capacity of the supplier, and the capacity of their business, Landrieu says. “There are suppliers that come in and are ready to work. Maybe they have the experience or the ability to build a team that has the capacity.”

“It’s not a one size fits all opportunity. It really is the right size for the right partner opportunity,” she says.

Grabbing Whole Foods' attention

There are two hot trends that Whole Foods Market's local foragers are looking at right now, according to Landrieu. Snacking is quickly becoming the new way people eat, and products that fit that trend are getting noticed.

A specific category that is catching the eyes of local foragers is seeds and spreads. Think: not nut butters. For example, 88 Acres Foods, which is also a recipient of Whole Food Market’s Local Producer Loan Program, was recognized for its unique watermelon seed butter, which debuted at Natural Products Expo East 2019 and caught the attention of the New Hope Network editors.

From farmers market to shelf

There is still value in starting out at a farmers market, Landrieu says, because of the interaction that environment creates. “The thing that works out so well for them is they get to engage with their customer, get feedback and see how people react to it in real time,” she says.

Like brands doing demos, part of what’s so engaging about farmers markets is that customers are not just tasting the product, but they’re also engaging in the brand’s story.

Landrieu says she has seen the landscape of farmers markets change in recent years. Before working with Whole Foods, Landrieu ran a farmers market where, she said, there would be a few packaged goods like jams made from the farmer’s harvest. But now she sees much more packaged goods suppliers, and this allows brands to engage with the larger food community. “All kinds of people go to farmers markets. You get a really wide swath of people there,” she says.

And one of them might just be a Whole Foods Market local forager.

Whole Foods Market relationship secrets

So, what are the secrets to developing a relationship with Whole Foods Market? Landrieu says the secret sauce of the local program is finding great partners. “We want amazing, innovative products that speak to a need in the market,” she says. For them, it’s not just about taking your product out of the box and putting it on the shelf.

 “We’re always looking for the next exciting high-quality natural and organic product to bring to our customers.”

Unboxed: 5 better-for-you candies for a nutritional Halloween boooost

Halloween is just over a week away, marking the beginning of a sugar-fueled retail high that will hopefully last through the end of the year. Considered the second most important shopping holiday after Christmas, Halloween has moved squarely into the retail sweet spot, with the National Retail Federation estimating approximately $8.8 billion in sales this Halloween­—$2.6 billion of which will be spent on candy.

Even so, consumers are increasingly searching for cleaner ways to enjoy this confection-crazed holiday. Unsurprisingly, this mirrors the growth pattern of the candy category overall, which, according to a recent SPINS report on “Cleaner Candy,” is being overwhelmingly driven by natural and specialty products.

Both children and adults can enjoy these cleaner, natural treats to help take the fear out of Halloween indulgence.

Plant-based diets might reduce men’s risk of prostate cancer

Getty Images high consumption of dairy products could be linked to prostate cancer Mayo Clinic

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among American men, with an 11.6% lifetime risk, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The United States' rate of new cases, 101.8 per 100,000 men, in 2016 was not the highest prostate cancer rate in the world—Australia and New Zealand had rates of 111.6 per 100,000 men in 2012, according to the World Cancer Report 2014—but it was far higher than the worldwide rate of 34.2 per 100,000 men.

John Shin, M.D., a Mayo Clinic oncologistChina, Japan and India have the lowest rates, and residents of those countries also consume fewer dairy products than Americans do. Increasingly, research is finding a possible link between plant-based diets and lower risks of prostate cancer. For this study, researchers from the Mayo Clinic reviewed previous publications looking for an association between diet and prostate cancer.

“Our review highlighted a cause for concern with high consumption of dairy products,” lead author John Shin, M.D., a Mayo Clinic oncologist, said in a released statement. “The findings also support a growing body of evidence on the potential benefits of plant-based diets.”

Summary: After examining 47 studies of varies sizes, the researchers determined that most of the studies found a relationship between eating plant-based foods and a lower risk of prostate cancer; animal-based foods—especially dairy products—are associated with increased risk of prostate cancer.

The study: Researchers looked for studies published between 2006 and February 2017 that included terms such as prostate cancer, dairy products, milk, vegan and plant-based diet. After eliminating articles that did not investigate a link between diet and prostate cancer, studies were grouped by design and size for analysis.

The 47 chosen studies included 29 cohort studies of various sizes; 13 case-control studies; four meta-analyses; and one population study. The cohort studies consisted of two with 100,000 or more subjects; six with between 40,000 and 99,999 subjects; 11 with 10,000 to 39,999 subjects; and 10 with less than 10,000 subjects. All the studies examined were conducted in English and involved human participation.

The findings: Regarding vegetarian diets, two of the five cohort studies found an association between plant-based diets and lower risks of prostate cancer; three cohort studies did not find a change in the risk. Three studies involving vegan diets all found that following a vegan died lowers the risk of prostate cancer.

Researchers reviewed 12 studies, including a large population study, to look at the effect of eating meat and fish on the risk of prostate cancer. The large population study found an association between eating meat and developing prostate cancer, but two cohort studies found no effect. One case-control study found that consumption of beef, pork or lamb was linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer; two found that men who eat the most meat have a higher risk than men who eat less.

Of the 24 studies that considered an association between dairy consumption and prostate cancer, two meta-analyses, seven cohort studies and one case-controlled study found an increased risk of prostate cancer. One cohort study found a decreased risk when men consumed dairy as children. Thirteen other analyzed works did not find an association between dairy and prostate cancer.

Study conclusions: The researchers found that most studies looking at consumption of plant-based foods “showed either no significant association or an association with decreased risk” of prostate cancer. Alternately, the majority of cohort studies found increased risk or no change in risk of prostate cancer when animal-based foods, including dairy, are consumed.

“Furthermore, increased intake of calcium also appeared to be associated with increased (prostate cancer) risk. Since dairy products are rich in calcium, this raises the possibility of calcium playing an important role in the link between dairy and (prostate cancer),” the study’s authors wrote.

They added, “There does not appear to be a clear association between increased (prostate cancer) risk and increased consumption of other types of animal-based foods, including red, white, or processed meat, fish, and eggs.”

Why the research is interesting:

  • The National Cancer Institute estimates that 31,620 men in the United States will die of prostate cancer this year—the second-highest mortality rate of all cancers in men.
  • As Americans consume less meat and dairy products and eat more plant-based foods, mortality rates for several common cancers are decreasing, according to a 1997 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. A 1981 study estimated that 35% of cancers could be linked to diet, and a follow-up study in 2015 essentially supported those findings.
  • The 47 studies reviewed here including more than 1 million participants. Researchers looked at dietary patterns as well as how subsets of foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains affected prostate-cancer risks.

Points to consider:

  • Studies such as this cannot prove causation, just a relationship. Therefore, other factors—participants’ regular diets, exercise habits, smoking and drinking history—could affect the findings without the researchers’ knowledge.
  • The studies reviewed here primarily collected information about participants’ diets based on the participants’ memories, which may not be as reliable as having participants keep food diaries, for example.
  • Some of these studies looked at the incidence of prostate cancer, while others considered only mortality.
  • The authors suggest that more randomized, controlled studies are needed to verify these findings. Research also is needed to understand the effects of other factors such as smoking and exercise on the risk of prostate cancer.

Authors: John Shin, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Medical Oncology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota; Denise Millstine, M.D., Women’s Health Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale Arizona; and Barbara Ruddy, M.D., Mark Wallace, M.D. and Heather Fields, M.D., Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Published: Effect of Plant- and Animal-Based Foods on Prostate Cancer Risk, Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, October 2019.

Related reading:

Major study finds a reduced risk of cancer by eating organic food: Will it make a difference?

Slaying prostate cancer with saffron

Food companies try to be better partners for farmers and soil health

Food companies try to be better partners for farmers and soil health

As more research continues to pour out linking soil with a healthy environment, the clearer the connection becomes between the food system and climate change. Responding to consumer demand for sustainability or corporate mandates or both, some food companies have started to not only question their own role in building it up or continuing its decline—but also to act in ways that can ensure they’re doing the former. One of the key ways they can do that is to think from the ground up, rather than the product down.

Conversations with farmers quickly reveal that growing things like legumes and small grains is good for their soil—it can help reduce the need for fertilizer, pesticides and water use—but farmers can only grow those things and remain in business if they have places to sell them. Here, we take a look at a few companies that have started having those conversations with farmers, and then discussing internally how they can transform those crops into ingredients for their product lines.

They’re all in different stages of the process—which is not an easy one. But it seems likely that as consumer demand for sustainability grows, and if interest especially in plant-based foods keeps up, more companies will be joining what is now a relatively small club.

Patagonia Provisions 

When the outdoors brand got into the food space, it was exactly for this purpose—to build markets for more sustainable agricultural practices. Because using rotation crops is part of their whole raison d’être, they’ve come up with a number of different products for doing so: lentils in dry soup mixes, barley and oats in breakfast grain pouches, buckwheat and hemp in savory seeds packets, baobab in fruit-nut bars, to name a few. Keep an eye out for more in the coming months.

Clif Bar

Incorporating rotation crops into products is something that Clif Bar has been focused on as part of a larger effort to collaborate with farmers in building healthy soil and and a sustainable food system. Last year, the company introduced granola with pea protein; yellow peas are great nitrogen-fixers. Clif has also redesigned its formal product development process to add a step for consulting with farmers and sustainable agriculture experts, and says it has other products currently in testing phase.


In the last two years, Annie’s has begun sourcing some of its grains directly from farmers in Montana who use regenerative practices—first releasing limited-edition versions of their bunny grahams and mac & cheese favorites that featured the farmers on the back of the boxes. They sourced wheat and oats from them, and then found a way to add peas to some of its mac & cheese recipes—boosting protein content in the product, while giving the farmers a place to sell a crop they may not otherwise be able to afford, in the short-term economic sense, to grow. Annie’s recently expanded this effort, adding two new families who are growing spelt—a first for Annie’s.

Earthbound Farm

Rotating and diversifying the crops grown on a farm is important everywhere in agriculture, whether it’s dryland farms growing grains or California fields growing fresh fruits and vegetables. The produce company, recognizing that brassica vegetables help to deter pests that may be drawn to things like strawberries, has been exploring uses for broccoli in value-added products—to build demand and generate greater profitability than broccoli itself tends to offer.

The proliferation of legume-based products

They may not necessarily be consulting farmers on what their rotation crops should be, but the rise of companies using legumes to feed the explosive growth in plant-based, gluten-free and high-protein foods have also done farmers a service. From bean-based chips and lentil crackers to chickpea pasta and breakfast cereal made with navy beans, recent food trends may not only make people feel better about what they eat, they may actually be benefiting the soil and climate, too.

5@5: 'Prime' pork lawsuit against Tyson, Fresh Market | Lab-grown meat's texture innovation


Fresh Market and Tyson Foods accused of deceiving consumers over ‘prime’ pork

A recent lawsuit accuses Tyson Foods and Fresh Market of deceiving consumers through its use of the word “prime” in relation to pork. Pork is not graded by USDA in the same way that beef is, and plaintiffs who purchased the product say that they paid more money than they would have had they known this fact. Read more at The Sun Sentinel

Real texture for lab-grown meat

Lab-cultured meat is set to mimic the texture of real meat thanks to edible gelatin scaffolds that Harvard researchers found allow the muscle cells to mimic the texture and consistency of real meat. Eventually, scientists believe it will be possible to design meats with specific textures, tastes and nutritional profiles. Read more at Harvard News

Pod Foods is bringing its food distribution network to New York

Pod Foods, a company that helps emerging food brands navigate the complexities of the wholesale food distribution system, is expanding to New York. Pod Foods is partnering with New York-based distribution company Spense and hopes that an assets acquisition and integration of the Spense network into its business will give the company a head start in the area. Read more at Built In NYC

Could this tree be an eco-friendly way to wean Indonesian farmers off palm oil?

Planting new, sustainable agroforests comprised of the damar tree could be a way forward for Indonesians looking to switch from destructive palm oil planting practices. The Indonesian government is currently planning to increase the country’s community-owned forest lands to 12.7 million hectares. Read more at NPR

Singapore Airlines is redefining fresh airline food

Singapore Airlines’ new “farm-to-plane” meal menu on a flight from Newark Liberty Airport to Singapore’s Changi Airport is the result of a partnership with vertical farm company AeroFarms in Newark, New Jersey. The airlines will serve fresh greens from the farm to business class passengers but hopes to expand the venture to premium economy passengers in the near future. Read more at CN Traveler

10 food trends Whole Foods Market says will rock 2020

Whole Foods Market whole foods market 2020 trends predictions
These products represent that align with Whole Foods Market's 2020 food trends predictions.

Whole Foods Market’s global buyers and experts on Oct. 21 revealed the most anticipated and innovative food trends for 2020 in the retailer’s fifth annual trends predictions announcement. Regenerative agriculture, West African foods, meat-plant blends and new varieties of flour are among the food influences and movements expected to take off in the next year.

Each year, more than 50 Whole Foods Market team members including local foragers, regional and global buyers and culinary experts thoughtfully compile the report based on decades of experience and expertise in product sourcing, studying consumer preferences and participating in food and wellness industry exhibitions worldwide.

While Whole Foods Market's 2019 forecasted trends, including a rise in hemp-infused and topical CBD products, faux meat snacks and eco-conscious packaging, show no signs of slowing down, the 2020 trends represent a new crop of flavors and products for consumers to watch out for both in and outside the aisles of their local grocery stores.

Whole Foods Market’s top 10 food trend predictions for 2020:

Regenerative agriculture

Farmers, producers, academics, government agencies, retailers and more are taking a closer look at how to use land and animal management practices to improve soil health and sequester carbon. While the term “regenerative agriculture” can have many definitions, in general it describes farming and grazing practices that restore degraded soil, improve biodiversity and increase carbon capture to create long-lasting environmental benefits, such as positively impacting climate change.

Try the trend: MegaFood Turmeric Strength for Whole Body; MegaFood B12 Energy Ginger Gummies; White Oak Pastures Grassfed Ground Beef; Zack’s Mighty Tortilla Chips; Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam; Soli Artisan Essential Oil Sacred Forest Collection: Palo Santo, Rosewood; Bonterra Sauvignon Blanc


Flour power

As seasoned and amateur bakers alike look to scratch a creative itch in the kitchen, an array of interesting flours are entering the market making baking more inclusive and adventurous. Consumers on the baking bandwagon are seeking out ingredients used in traditional dishes, like teff flour used for Ethiopian injera. 2020 will bring more interesting fruit and vegetable flours (like banana!) into home pantries, with products like cauliflower flour in bulk and baking aisles, rather than already baked into crusts and snack products. Consumer packaged goods are getting in on the trend by replacing traditional alternative flours with tigernut flour in chips and snack foods, and tasty pastries made with seed flour blends. As consumers look for more ways to boost their bake, “super” flours delivering protein and fiber join the trend. Let the adventures in baking begin!

Try the trend: Late July Tortilla Chips made with tigernut flour; 365 Everyday Value Cauliflower Flour; 365 Everyday Value Organic Coconut Flour; Gemini Superfoods Tigernut Flour; Superseed Life Donuts: Dark Chocolate, Wild Blueberry


Foods from West Africa

From indigenous superfoods to rich, earthy dishes, traditional West African flavors are popping up everywhere in food and in beverage. The trio of tomatoes, onions and chili peppers form a base for many West African dishes, and peanuts, ginger and lemongrass are all common additions. The 16 nations within West Africa share similar foods, but each have their own specialties based on subtle influences from the Middle East and Western Europe. Brands are looking to West Africa for its superfoods too like moringa and tamarind, and lesser known cereal grains sorghum, fonio, teff and millet. Chefs like Pierre Thiam are embracing the region too. His new Harlem restaurant, Teranga, is an ode to African culture through food.

Try the trend: Kuli Kuli Organic Pure Moringa Vegetable Powder; Ginjan Organic Ginger Juice; Essie Spice Condiments, Mango Chili Medley; Yolélé Fonio


Out-of-the-box, into-the-fridge snacking

Life isn’t slowing down, but snack options are more than keeping up. The keyword is “fresh” in this new generation of grabbing and going—gone are the days when the only options were granola bars and mini pretzel bags. The refrigerated section is filling up with the kind of wholesome, fresh snacks typically prepared and portioned in advance at home: hard-boiled eggs with savory toppings, pickled vegetables, drinkable soups and mini dips and dippers of all kinds, all perfectly portioned and in convenient single-serve packaging. Even nutrition bars have made their way from the shelves to the chiller, thanks to the addition of fresh fruits and vegetables. These snacking innovations mean ingredients lists are shrinking and there’s a lot less guesswork in picking up a quick snack you can feel better about.

Try the trend: Peckish Fresh Protein Packs: Eggs & Maple Waffles, Eggs & Fried Rice; Nona Lim drinkable soups: Vietnamese Pho Bone Broth, Coconut Lime Chicken Bone Broth; Perfect Bar Refrigerated Protein Bars: Peanut Butter, Coconut Peanut Butter, Dark Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter; Good Culture Organic Cottage Cheese single serving cups: Mixed Berry


Plant-based, beyond soy

Tofu scrambles may always have a place at the vegan breakfast table, but in 2020 the trendiest brands are slowing down on soy, which has traditionally dominated the plant-based protein space. Some of the products touting “no soy” in the next year will be replacing it instead with innovative blends (like grains and mung beans) to mimic the creamy textures of yogurts and other dairy products. In the supplement aisle, brands are swapping soy for mung bean, hempseed, pumpkin, avocado, watermelon seed and golden chlorella, maintaining the smooth textures in vegan protein powders and bringing a spectrum of plant-based amino acids to the table. As the plant-based movement gains traction with flexitarian eaters, brands are looking to avoid as many of the top allergens as possible, so look for plant-based prepared foods (especially meat alternatives) and traditionally soy-based condiments going soy-less!

Try the trend: Ocean’s Halo: Organic No Soy Soy-Free Sauce, Organic Soy-Free Vegan Fish Sauce; soy-free plant-based items coming to the Whole Foods Market Chef’s Case: Hearts of Palm Cakes, Smoky Vegetable Goulash, Ultra Green Vegan Spanakopita; Plant-Based Vega Protein & Energy: Classic Chocolate


Everything butters and spreads

Has (insert nut, seed, snack) been made into a butter yet? It’s likely to happen in 2020. Think seed butters beyond tahini—like watermelon seed butter—and seasonal products like pumpkin butter year-round. Nut butters beyond cashew, almond, and peanut (hello, macadamia) and even chickpea butters (no, it’s not a new name for hummus). Look for creamy vegan spreads perfect for toast, crackers, bagels, and celery sticks that get their full flavors from trending superfoods like pili. It helps the trend that spreads and butters are touting paleo- and keto-friendly attributes, but transparency is also a key player in this trend. Many brands are looking to either eliminate the use of palm oil or promote a Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil certification and use nuts that are grown in ways with less likelihood for environmental impact.

Try the trend: FBOMB Macadamia Nut Butter squeeze pouch: Salted Chocolate; 88 Acres: Watermelon Seed Butter, Roasted Pumpkin Seed Butter; Milkadamia Butta-Bing Butta-Boom Buttery Spread: Salted, Unsalted


Rethinking the kids’ menu

Are the days of picky eaters numbered? Judging from the number of kids’ cooking and baking competitions on TV, kids are kitchen-savvier than ever. By 2026, 80% of millennials will have children, and many parents are introducing their kids to more adventurous foods—with great results. (Seeing kids chowing down alongside parents at the Whole Foods Market sushi bar is a common sight.) Food brands are taking notice for the next generation—possibly our first true “foodies"—expanding the menu beyond nostalgic foods with better-for-you ingredients and organic chicken nuggets. They’re bridging the gap from old-school basic kids’ menus and taking more sophisticated younger palates into consideration. Think non-breaded salmon fish sticks. Foods that are fermented, spiced or rich in umami flavors. Colorful pastas in fun shapes made from alternative flours. Maybe it’s time adults start taking some cues from the kids’ menu.

Try the Trend: gimMe Organic Premium Roasted Seaweed: Sea Salt; Whole Foods Market olive bar; Happy Fish Responsibly Farmed Salmon fish-shaped frozen salmon patties; Whole Foods Market Limited Edition Lemon Basil Chia Shortbread Cookies; Serenity Kids 100% Wild Caught Coho Salmon puree pouch; Cerebelly Organic Pea Basil puree pouch; Whole Foods Market Goat Cheese Crumbles


Not-so-simple sugars

Sure, there’s sugar. But for those seeking sweetness outside of the usual suspects like sugar, stevia, honey and maple syrup, there’s lots more to choose from for your cooking, baking and tea- or coffee-stirring needs. Syrupy reductions from fruit sources like monk fruit, pomegranates, coconut and dates are one way to add concentrated, unique flavors into recipes for desserts, meat glazes and marinades. Sweet syrups made from starches like sorghum and sweet potato can be compared to the deep flavors of molasses or honey, and can be used for baking and sweetening beverages. Swerve, a cup-for-cup zero-calorie non-glycemic replacement for sugar, combines erythritol with ingredients from fruit and starchy root vegetables to produce a sweetener that’s available in granular, confectioners’ and brown versions.

Try the trend: Just Pomegranate Syrup; Lakanto Monk Fruit Sweeteners; D’vash Sweet Potato Nectar; Birch Benders Monk Fruit Sweetened Pancake Syrup: Classic Maple; Swerve sweeteners


Meat-plant blends

Butchers and meat brands won’t be left out of the “plant-based” craze in 2020, but they’re not going vegetarian. Chefs across the country have been on board with the trend for years through James Beard Foundation’s The Blended Burger Project, a movement that strives to make the iconic burger “better for customers and for the planet” by blending in at least 25% fresh mushrooms. For the health-conscious at-home chef, adding plant-based ingredients to meatballs and burgers has an added bonus—it’s budget-friendly. Major brands like Applegate are seeing if meat-eating consumers will swap a traditional beef burger for one with 30% plant-based ingredients, touting benefits of less fat and cholesterol when compared to USDA data for regular ground beef (check out Applegate’s website for nutritional comparison information). And other brands are taking note, too, with products like the Lika Plus Burger made using 75% ground beef blended with 25% Lika Plus (wheat, mushroom, barley yeast and water), showing up at meat counters in Whole Foods Market’s Southwest region. Flexitarians looking to strike a tasty balance between meats and plants can expect more blended products in their future.

Try the trend: Applegate’s The Great Organic Blended Burger; Lika Plus Blended Burger; Beef, quinoa, vegetable meatballs; The Blended Burger Project winning recipes


Zero-proof drinks

With so many consumers seeking out alternatives to alcohol, unique non-alcoholic options are popping up everywhere, from menus at the world’s most acclaimed bars to specialty stores. Many of these beverages seek to re-create classic cocktail flavors using distilling methods typically reserved for alcohol, creating an alternative to liquor meant to be used with a mixer rather than a drink on its own. Think alt-gin for gin and tonics and botanical-infused faux spirits for a faux martini. Add to that options enjoyed straight from the bottle or can, like hops-infused sparkling waters and zero-proof apertifs, and you can be sure guests avoiding the bar cart will never get bored.

Try the trend: HopTea Sparkling Teas: The Really Hoppy One made with black tea, The Green Tea One made with green tea, The Calm One made with chamomile; Heineken 0.0; Athletic Brewing Company non-alcoholic brews: Run Wild non-alcoholic IPA, Upside Dawn non-alcoholic Golden Ale; Kater Wingman longneck sparkling waters

Source: Whole Foods Market

5@5: Can robotics make vertical ag profitable? | How U.S. agriculture exploits farmworkers


Can cutting costs via robotics unlock vertical farming profits?

For vertical agriculture to be sustainable and profitable in the long term, “a fully integrated solution of robotic hardware and software” may have to be implemented to help drive down labor costs. This coupled with energy-saving initiatives are quelling some investors’ fears that such operations can never match the profitability of traditional outdoor farming methods. Read more at Forbes

American farming runs on exploitation

American agricultural employees—oftentimes foreigners with no effective ways to advocate for themselves—are underpaid, overworked and put in unsafe conditions on a daily basis. This, and the fact that trade war subsidies are being handed almost entirely to a few select billionaires, has led to an “exploitative house of cards” that is now poised to collapse the U.S. agricultural system as we know it. Read more at New Republic

Restricting plant-based ‘meat’ labels won’t save the meat industry

The meat industry’s efforts to restrict the use of the term ‘meat’ to exclusively pertain to animal-based products may be unnecessary according to new research. The same number of survey respondents chose traditional meat products when the plant-based protein options were labeled as meat as when they were labeled with no meat-related terminology. Read more at Civil Eats

Soda comeback drives sales gains at Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has been following the consumer shift toward low- and no-sugar beverages closely, and their sugar-shirking reformulations are gaining traction as a result. The company is hoping its two new sugar-free SKUs—Coca-Cola Zero Sugar and Coca-Cola Energy—will get younger consumers into cola and older consumers into energy drinks, respectively. Read more at The Wall Street Journal

Nearly 1M kids will lose automatic free lunch eligibility under USDA’s proposed SNAP changes

An analysis of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants shows that an imminent USDA plan to save the agency $90 million per year would also take away free school meal eligibility from almost 1 million children. At a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Republicans applauded USDA’s intentions to uphold SNAP “integrity” while the majority of Democrats criticized the rule for putting more unnecessary burdens on hungry children and their struggling families. Read more at New Food Economy