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Articles from 2020 In October

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[email protected]: Are grocery store workers COVID-19 super spreaders? | Tyson replaces federal inspectors with own employees

Getty Images meat plant workers

About 20% of grocery store workers had COVID-19, and most didn't have symptoms, study found

Yikes! After 104 grocery workers were tested for COVID-19 at a store in Boston in May, around 20% of them had positive nasal swabs. But 3 out of 4 of those that tested positive were completely asymptomatic. This information has led some experts to believe grocery store employees have served as a "middleman for the virus" this whole time. CNN has the scoop.

Tyson to replace federal inspectors with own employees at beef plant

Also in not-so-great news, Tyson—which has faced criticism for lacking protective protocols across its processing facilities since March—is taking on the work of federal inspectors at its beef processing plant in Holcomb, Kansas. The company plans to hire 15 employees per shift to check carcasses for violations. The fact that these in-house inspectors have a financial tie to the plant's owners, however, makes it far more likely that violations will be covered up. Read about the controversial move at Modern Farmer ...

Canada Dry settles for $200K after man sues over lack of 'real ginger'

Victor Cardoso felt duped by Canada Dry after finding out exactly how much ginger was in its Ginger Ale product, which touts "Made From Real Ginger" on its label. Now, he's walking away with $1,500 after the soda brand agreed to settle. Cardoso believed that Canada Dry had medicinal properties and argued that he was misled by commercials depicting the soda bottles being hoisted from the dirt attached to actual ginger roots. Head to Vice to learn more.

Colorado’s Meati secures $28M for whole-cut alternative meats

The whole-cut alternative meat market is heating up! Boulder, Colorado-based startup Meati is developing such products using mycelium (the protein-rich root structures of fungi) and recently accumulated $28 million in a Series A funding round backed by Acre Venture Partners. While meat-free burgers, nuggets and meatballs have been on the market for a while now, Meati's technology adopts processes popular bread- and cheese-making to create the alternative steaks. Ag Funder News delves into the announcement.

Black farmers breathe new life into agriculture in the South

Black farmers who are well versed in how the conventional agricultural industry has used predatory lending and land grabbing in the past to prevent the demographic from reaching major markets are taking a community-focused approach in the region. They're reclaiming history, the future and local perceptions of what Black farming looks like. Get to know the backstories of a few of them at Civil Eats.

The Analyst’s Take: Natural personal care growth remains steady despite COVID-19

Claire Morton

Even in the middle of a pandemic that has altered the personal care habits of many consumers, natural and organic personal care growth remains steady at 5.5%. However, digging beneath the surface of this $16.5 billion market reveals that the growth trajectory varies wildly across categories and channels as a direct result of consumers' shifting lifestyle and shopping patterns in 2020.

Not surprisingly, personal care categories related to vanity and grooming took a hit this year as many Americans have been spending more time at home. Natural and organic cosmetics, a $939 million market, had been growing at a steady rate of 7-8% for the past five years, but dipped to just 3.2% growth in 2020. Another example here is shaving product sales, which are expected to decline by 9%.

On the other hand, some categories are faring much better this year, namely those related to hygiene and self care. The biggest winner in personal care this year is the $2.2 billion natural and organic bath and toilet soap market, which is expected to grow over 20%, driven by a spike in sales of hand soap and sanitizer in 2020.

Arguably the most dramatic impact, though, is to sales channel dynamics in the industry. While the shift to e-commerce this year has been universal across industries and categories, the impact in personal care is particularly notable. The retail landscape in this industry is quite different than in supplements or food and beverage, with sales coming in through channels like department stores, spas and specialty personal care stores, all of which took an incredible hit in 2020, with many permanent closures.

By Nutrition Business Journal projections, this will lead to “other direct channels,” of which e-commerce is the large majority, reaching $6.4 billion by 2023, more than doubling from $3.0 billion in 2019.

On the surface, the natural and organic personal care industry growth trend ticking up from 5.1% in 2019 to 5.5% in 2020 might seem less than newsworthy. But looking at the insights across categories and channels tracked by NBJ, the story is quite a bit more interesting.

nbj personal care special reportGet more data and insights in NBJ's Personal Care Special Report.

Naturally Boulder awards a truly Grüvi brand

2020 Naturally Boulder Pitch Slam winner Gruvi

It may have taken place online instead of in person, but the energy and excitement of yesterday’s Naturally Boulder Pitch Slam 2020 event was still palpable—albeit virtually.

In a series of fast-paced, energy-infused presentations that took place in and around beautiful Boulder, Colorado, 10 up-and-coming natural products companies had 3 minutes each to pitch their brand to a panel of four judges—judges who were then given 3 minutes to question the brands about different aspects of their products and business during this live event.

But more than just a pitch extolling a product’s virtues, brand founders representing the 10 finalist brands selected for this year’s Naturally Boulder Pitch Slam event had to provide information about their company’s margins, growth, differentiating characteristics, consumer appeal, etc., as well as answer tough, on-the-fly questions about business strategy and the "whys" and "hows" of their brands.gruvi pale ale

In the end, the award went to Niki Sawni of Grüvi, a nonalcoholic beer and wine brand that has become a mainstay of the Boulder craft beverage scene. He will receive a prize package worth $100,000 that includes a booth at Natural Products Expo East 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

When asked what attributes they looked for in the winner, judges Peter Burns of ONE Brands, Robyn O’Brien of rePlant Capital, John Simmons of Weller and Lizzi Ackerman of Birch Benders explained that they chose the winner based on different criteria ranging from the founders’ tenacity and passion to the scalability of the brand, its ability to make money and whether or not it represented a unique concept in the category. Those watching must have shared in these sentiments, as Grüvi was also the recipient of the night’s People’s Choice Award, voted for by viewers in an online poll.

Autumn Awards

In addition to the Pitch Slam, Naturally Boulder also presented four Autumn Awards to important figures in the natural products industry. Kombucha brand Rowdy Mermaid was named the 2020 Breakout Brand of the Year. Tea brand Organic India won the Climate Catalyst of 2020 Award. And Bill Capsalis, currently the CEO of Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, was presented with the Industry Leader/Community Champ of 2020 Award.

6 need-to-know marine sustainability programs

Like many of us, the United Nations is concerned about the sustainability of the oceans.  

Besides the fact that more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal diversity to make a living, the oceans contain 97% of the planet's water, according to the U.N.

Our activities as humans—driving cars, burning fossil fuels for heat and electricity, carelessly discarding plastic waste—directly harm the oceans, resulting in warming, acidification and the loss of oxygen. Disturbingly, when the oceans aren't healthy, the Earth can't be healthy. And that means we can't be healthy, either.

Already, scientists are using bacteria found deep in the ocean to create rapid-results testing for COVID-19. Other species in the ocean also carry the promise of valuable pharmaceuticals.

Preserving and improving the sustainability of the underwater ecosystem is vital. One way to have a positive effect on the ocean is to consume fish and seafood responsibly: Consume only what we need; choose products that aren't endangered or overfished; reduce plastic waste. Food manufacturers, restaurants and retailers, especially those in the natural foods industry, should follow these guidelines.

Finding fish and seafood that are raised or fished using eco-healthy, sustainable methods can be difficult. A seemingly simple internet search can push one to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Click through this gallery to see what organizations are working—and often, working together—to help seafood lovers make good choices.

Look inside the new third location for Healthy Living Market and Café

Healthy Living Market and Café​ opened its new Williston, Vermont, location Thursday, Oct. 29, at 129 Market St. The Williston location is the third store for Healthy Living, with existing stores in South Burlington and Saratoga, New York.

The new location is 20,000 square feet. It includes all of the same departments that South Burlington and Saratoga shoppers have come to enjoy, including local produce and dairy, speciality meats and cheeses, a robust selection of craft beer and wine, fresh sushi and a wide selection of prepared meals created by James Beard-nominated chef Matt Jennings. Here, shoppers will find a modern, brightly lit grocery store with visually enticing displays of food throughout ample aisles and convenient to-go prepared options to make dining at home without having to cook an easy choice.  

"A great grocery store is the cornerstone of all great communities, and we are thrilled to open our third store in Williston, a community we love," said Eli Lesser-Goldsmith, CEO of Healthy Living. "Healthy Living is a place that people love to work and shop at, and we're pumped to open our doors in our newest location. Our approach to food shopping is different from most. We deliver an awesome shopping experience every time, with the highest product standards, a staff that is trained and focused on hospitality, and the cleanest, safest stores. Our family has been in the all-natural grocery business for 35+ years, and we're excited to expand and grow as more and more people focus on wellness, health and immunity."

Healthy Living Market and Café has sustainable but aggressive growth plans for the coming years.

“We aim to be the leader in midsized natural foods grocery in the Northeast,” explained Lesser-Goldsmith. “We have two additional stores in development, with more to come. Healthy Living will be able to serve communities all over the Northeast—and we're excited to keep growing."

Healthy Living Market is a regional, independent supermarket specializing in local, organic and natural foods with stores located in Burlington and Williston Vermont, and Saratoga Springs, New York. Founded by Katy Lesser in 1986, Healthy Living pioneered natural food stores within Vermont. The company now employs 320 team members across the three locations and is managed by Lesser and her two children, Eli and Nina. Healthy Living is committed to create a premier grocery store experience and to sell the finest and cleanest food at the fairest prices possible while supporting local farmers and producers. Healthy Living is a triple bottom line company focused on mission, vision, and values from the top down. For more information, visit

Source: Healthy Living Market and Cafe

Monitor: How consumers soothe their 2020 stress


Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, Oct. 30, 2020
A global lockdown might make weeks feel like months and months weigh like centuries, but business allows little room for ennui. As distracting as the daily inundation of the negative can be, the time to look forward is always now. In this feature, Informa Health and Nutrition sister properties provide that right-now-right-here update. Look for the Industry Health Monitor every other Friday to learn the major news that is affecting the natural products market immediately and the less obvious insights that could dictate where the market may struggle or thrive in the months to come.

Consider this: 2020 can't end soon enough, but new habits may be here to stay

Between a devastating pandemic, a season of social unrest and a bitter election season, the sooner the 2020 calendar can go into the paper shredder the better. From a mental health perspective, the best way to look at this year is going to be in the rearview mirror.

But with no fast-forward button and still weeks from that appointment with the paper shredder, what people are doing with the surplus of stress matters now, not in 2021. And it matters for natural products industry brands.

To see why it matters, New Hope Network surveyed consumers about what they are doing to deal with the overabundance of stress. The results suggest that new habits could be forming and it could be true that connections made during crisis will long outlast a year many consumers would gladly skip.

In the survey, 70% of consumers reported they are more stressed than they were in 2019. Few will be surprised that the number one way these consumers are coping with the stress is through entertainment—movies and books—but aspirational activites are also high on the list. Exercise and physical activities are second to entertainment, followed by “culinary hobbies.”

How those aspirations play out in commerce, however, tells a different story.

When asked what they are buying as a result of the stress, indulgence tops the list.

Physical activity may have been the second most chosen activity but spending money on gear for such activity was dead last. The percentage of people who said they are spending more on sweet snacks came close to double the number who said they spend more on outdoor and exercise gear.

That’s not to say that consumers have taken up physical and emotional entropy as a hobbies. The number of respondents saying they are spending more on books, puzzles and games for entertainment is roughly even with the number of people who say they are spending more on alcohol. Candles and aromatherapy items are not far behind that.

Indeed, many of the categories reflect an aspirational bent that could lead to long-term consumer connection. A quarter of consumers say they are spending more on “new and interesting ingredients” for cooking. A quarter are also spending more on skin and body care products.

It’s in this aspiration that brands may have the biggest opportunity. Great numbers of consumers may be stressed by external events, but life at home may also be more simple and streamlined. Gardens got planted. An exploding number of consumers joined the Peloton population. Sourdough starters got, well, started.

Helping customers put 2020 behind them and emerge with higher intentions and healthier habits may be among the biggest opportunities the natural products industry has ever been faced.


Listen to this

Lasting changes. The “forged in crisis” ideal is often forgotten as soon as the crisis passes, but “consumer experience futurist” and author Blake Morgan notes in a piece for Forbes that consumers have a fairly optimistic view of how they will emerge from 2020. She cites statistics that 80 percent of consumers report feeling more connected to their communities, and 69 percent say COVID-19 has made them focus on their mental health and well-being.

An unsettled society. To be clear, this is nothing new to the consumer experience. In her New Hope Network Spark Change keynote presentation, “green nutritionist” Kate Geagan shares a slide from 2019, before 2020 took us off the rails, and she observes, “Even then we had incredibly high levels of stress and low well-being.”


Natural Products Industry Health Monitor indexes

Consumer behavior indexes measure dramatic shifts in consumer behaviors as we march through COVID that is compared to a 2017 “normal” benchmark before COVID-19 emerged. These indexes are assessed through bi-weekly surveys of how consumers perceive their shopping behaviors. 

The natural products industry engagement index measures dramatic shifts in social and mass media engagement—of the top 50 trends shaping the natural products industry—as we march through COVID-19 that is compared to a Q4 2019 “normal” benchmark before COVID-19 emerged. The index assesses weekly keyword engagement of these top trends. 

The natural products industry investment index measures dramatic shifts in investment activity as we march through COVID-19 that is compared to a 2019 “normal” benchmark before COVID-19 emerged. Nutrition Capital Network monitors weekly financial activity in the natural products industry. 


Enjoy this: One fridge at a time

The phrase “You Are What Eat” was never meant to include politics but a New York Times quiz published this week, has us questioning our assumptions about how dietary habits and voting patterns overlap. The quiz presents readers with photographs of refrigerators and challenges them to choose whether the owner is a Biden supporter or a Trump voter. A pair of warnings: it’s a bit addictive; your assumptions are probably way off (it turns out Trump supporters eat Greek yogurt too!).

Spark Change brands communicate transparency to consumers

Spark Change Transparency Trend

The Product Discovery Zone at Spark Change provides a great firsthand look at many of the brands exemplifying the trends and macro forces that will shape the natural products industry for years to come.

This Spark Change-inspired series shines the spotlight on some of these brands by highlighting a different trend each week.

Trend of the week: Transparency

Brands exemplifying the Transparency trend are learning to be honest and upfront about their ingredients, processing and sourcing methods, even showing vulnerability in areas where they strive to be better.

Transparency Spark Change Trend product manifestations

1. Theo Chocolate

Theo Chocolate is dedicated to full transparency along its entire supply chain. It trades directly with suppliers to determine fair and transparent prices—a process that includes visits to all of its cocoa sources every year to understand their current challenges and general circumstances. The company also works closely with cocoa farmers to bring them into the chocolate pricing process; it pays them a premium for high-quality beans and provides stable prices that give the farmers security. Consumers can visit these farms virtually and learn about where all of the ingredients used in Theo Chocolate's products are sourced and in addition to the people behind the products.. Find Theo Chocolate in the Product Discovery Zone.

2. Nellie's Free Range

Nellie's Free Range was a pioneer when it came to transparency in the egg category in the early 2000s. But consumer confusion is still a significant roadblock in that same aisle today; there are many certifications on egg cartons that can mean vastly different things and end up confusing well-meaning shoppers. The discrepancies between "free range" and "cage free," for example, are enormous (the latter isn't even regulated by USDA or FDA standards!). Nellie's Free Range, which also recently added Free Range Butter to its egg-centric product line, is committed to Certified Humane's Free Range standard and is just as eager show off the impressive facilities where it houses its chickens and livestock. Find Nellie's Free Range in the Product Discovery Zone.

3. Humanist Beauty

Humanist Beauty is especially transparent when it comes to the star ingredient in its product line: CBD. Shoppers need only navigate to the brand's website to see passing test results from independent labs for all of its latest batches that can also be viewed from the source thanks to a handy QR code. These comprehensive tests ensure that the raw cannabinoid materials implemented contain 0.3% or less of THC and are totally free of heavy metals, pesticides, mycotoxins and residual solvents. Find Humanist Beauty in the Product Discovery Zone.

See the latest in natural products and connect with exhibitors in the Spark Change Product Discovery Zone. Learn more about Spark Change.

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3 branding tips to follow in the age of antiracism

Getty Images black shoppers grocery store

Our nation is in a state of reckoning when it comes to systemic racism. And brands with connections to racial stereotypes are making changes accordingly. Quaker Oats announced in June that its Aunt Jemima brand of syrup and pancake mix will be getting a name and image makeover. Mars is changing the name of rice brand Uncle Ben’s to Ben’s Original and removing the imagery of an elderly Black man from its packaging. Responding to concerns surrounding insensitive naming, Trader Joe’s is repackaging and renaming its Trader Ming’s and Trader Jose products.

greg polachek headshot“Antiracism is at the forefront of people’s minds right now and companies that have racist or stereotypical names or images are getting attention, and it’s not because they did it on purpose or have malicious intent,” says Grant Polachek (left), head of branding at Inc. 500 company, a naming platform with over 25,000 customers including Nestle, Philips, Hilton and Pepsi. “In the past, they could just say ‘oops.’ Well, not today. Today, people are going to call them on it and say oops isn’t enough.” What is enough? Here are his guidelines for responding to concerns and rethinking brand imagery and naming.

1. Be proactive.

This is especially important for older brands that carry images or names that used to be accepted but now are not. “Lots of these brands may not want to change because of the fact that they are older and are widely recognized,” says Polachek. “But brands must preemptively make a change if they detect an issue, before consumers tell them to do it.”

2. Make a change.

If consumers start telling a brand that they take issue with their words or images, companies have to respond. If the response is to make a change, Polachek recommends engaging focus groups, doing significant research and running new names through linguistics softwares to be sure that the name doesn’t carry negative connotations in other languages. Polachek recalls the Chevrolet Nova which, translated into Spanish literally means “no go,” which doesn’t work well for a car brand.

The good news is that if a change is made, there’s an opportunity for authenticity. “Essentially, the communications should say, we’ve heard you and here are the steps we’re going to take and when,” says Polachek. “You can make this an opportunity rather than a hindrance.”

3. Respond in kind.

Perhaps a more difficult path is deciding not to make a change in branding after complaints are made. “It is so important to listen and respond to concerns,” Polachek says. “People need to know that they’ve been heard. Do not brush it under the rug. Address it openly and develop a strong reason why you’re not making a change.” Then, create a communications plan. Polachek recommends a multi-step strategy that includes a widespread announcement as well as smaller social media campaigns people can engage with.

UNFI’s Risk and Safety Team recognized as Gold Winner in 2020 Golden Bridge Business and Innovation Awards

United Natural Foods Inc.

United Natural Foods Inc. today announced that its Risk and Safety Team has been recognized as the Gold Winner for Workplace Safety by the 12th Annual Golden Bridge Business and Innovation Awards. This recognition follows an extended period in which UNFI has been expanding its risk management initiatives and safety measures to protect more than 21,000 associates across its 59 distribution centers and additional office locations.

UNFI’s Risk and Safety Team Recognized as Gold Winner in 2020 Golden Bridge Business and Innovation Awards (Graphic: Business Wire)The annual Golden Bridge Awards honor the world's best in organizational performance, products, services and more. Public and private organizations operating across sectors are eligible to submit nominations. This marks the first year in which UNFI has participated in the process and received recognition as a winner.

“Since March, UNFI’s risk and safety, human resources and operations leadership have seamlessly collaborated to implement swift, meaningful and wide-ranging actions to safeguard the health and safety of our warehouse associates. We are very proud that these risk and safety efforts have been recognized during this extremely trying year that has presented extraordinary health and wellness challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jill Sutton, UNFI’s chief legal officer, general counsel and corporate secretary.

“UNFI has relentlessly focused on creating safe and secure workplaces for our valued associates across North America. As a result of increased investments in safety, we have implemented enhanced cleanings, enacted stringent hygiene practices, distributed important protective gear and maintained socially-distant workstations at all facilities. Our disciplined focus and meaningful investments have helped us successfully safeguard associates and keep the food supply chain moving throughout the pandemic. We are determined to build on this momentum and continue fulfilling our role as an essential business in the months ahead.”

UNFI continues to evaluate and introduce new risk and safety initiatives and is in the process of rolling out company-paid in-home COVID-19 testing for all associates regardless of health plan or previous exposure to the virus. The company is also piloting a voluntary wellness mobile app designed to help associates monitor their health and has revised its close contact rules in response to last week’s Center for Disease Control guidance.

“Since the earliest days of the pandemic, we have recognized that keeping our workforce safe and limiting the spread of COVID-19 at our facilities are critical to keeping America fed,” added Andre LaMere, UNFI’s senior vice president of Risk and Safety. “Our dedicated Risk and Safety Team is committed to its role in keeping our associates safe so that UNFI can meet its stakeholders’ needs in the face of changing operating environments. Our operations leadership has been steadfast in their partnership and support for our COVID-19 protocols and continues to hold workplace safety as a central goal as they deliver excellent customer service. We also want to take this opportunity to thank our valued associates for their partnership, focus on safety and tremendous efforts this year. We are proud to reinforce our commitment to the safety of our front-line associates.”

UNFI’s designated team of experts consistently monitors pandemic-related updates while adopting and evolving our latest protocols to provide assurance, safety and support to associates as they work to keep America fed. The company recently expanded its team by adding Brett Norton, who has joined UNFI as vice president of occupational safety after previously leading worldwide safety programs at Starbucks Corporation. Mr. Norton has extensive experience implementing effective safety programs that utilize leading indicators to address safety issues before injuries occur and threats emerge.

“I am excited to join a strong Risk and Safety organization and look forward to working with UNFI associates and leadership on continuing to move food forward by doing the right thing and keeping our workforce safe every day,” concluded Mr. Norton.

Source: UNFI