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Articles from 2015 In November

We have a plastic problem

We have a plastic problem

Houston, we have a plastic problem. And it’s a global one, at that.

For the past few days, I’ve been traveling through Singapore, reportedly one of the cleanest city-states in Southeast Asia. Nearly every public bathroom has a meter on the wall where users can rate how clean they think the bathroom is. Public places seem spotless. Spitting your gum out onto the street is illegal. In the main city center, trash is rarely found on the concrete.

But in stark contrast to my home city of Boulder, Colorado, where paper bags cost 10 cents and all clerks first ask if you want your items in a bag in the first place, plastic is everywhere in Singapore. It’s deeply engrained into life.

In grocery stores, cashiers bag cold items, fruit and beverages individually in plastic bags, and then place that in another plastic bag. Takeaway containers are almost always plastic or Styrofoam. Beverages in paper cups are placed in a cup-specific plastic bag to tote around like a little purse, a seemingly useless bag for an already convenient product.

And while I’ve seen many recycling consoles around the city, they often contain trash that does not belong in recycling. Food scraps that could be composted. Plastic bags that gum up recycling centers. Trash bins often contain recyclable cans and bottles.

Besides on the streets, I’ve seen plastic trash everywhere. Take a handful of sand by the beach and it’s dotted with small rounds of colored plastic and pieces of Styrofoam cups and containers. Most surprising, I saw plastic piling up on a remote island outside Singapore—bags wrapped around mangrove trees and crushed Pepsi cans in the dirt. A lizard scampering over a plastic Coke bottle.

Plastic waste is maddening not just because it accumulates in bodies of water where marine life mistake it for food, nor because it adds to the estimated 11 million tons of floating plastic covering “an area of nearly 5 million square miles in the Pacific Ocean,” according to the Environmental Cleanup Coalition. But plastic is even working its way back into our food supply. A recent study by Chinese scientists found that microscopic pieces of plastic are present in sea salt, and even salt sourced from lakes. After testing fifteen brands of common table salt bought at supermarkets in China, researchers found particles from the common water bottle plastic polyethylene terephthalate, cellophane and more.

While it’s not yet clear the effect of such plastic contamination in sea salt on human health, the study does indicate plastic pervasiveness.

So what can we do about it?

On a personal level, when I return to the States I am motivated to reduce plastic in my life. I’ll bring my own cloth bags to buy bulk grains and nuts, and try making my own hummus and dips to save the plastic container. I vow to never buy water bottled in plastic again unless I’m dying of thirst in a desert.

On an industry level, I’m confident that the collective of natural brands called OSC2 (Organic Sustainable Community Squared)  will drive the solution to environmentally friendly plastic. At Esca Bona, CEO of Numi Tea Ahmed Rahim said plastic packaging is the Achilles' heel of the natural products industry. Given that plastic pollution is a global problem, cutting plastic use just a little bit is not enough. We need compostable packaging that effectively biodegrades in a home composting system. This isn’t wishful thinking. Brands like Alter Eco, Numi and more have already brought compostable packaging to market.

Finally, education and awareness at the consumer level must continue. What happens to that bag after it’s used? And is throwing away a plastic bag worth it, considering the extraordinary resources used to make it?

Such education doesn’t have to be drab. In the words of comedian Jim Gaffigan, “I just feel weird buying garbage bags because you buy your garbage bags, they put them in a grocery bag, you bring your groceries home, you take the garbage bags out of the grocery bag, and then you put the grocery bag in the garbage bag … Am I being Punk’d?”

5@5: Soda taxes among 2016 political trends | Whole Foods looks at $1B debt plan

5@5: Soda taxes among 2016 political trends | Whole Foods looks at $1B debt plan

Taxes on fizzy drinks seem to work as intended

Academic evidence suggests that taxes on sugary drinks are working as intended, it also indicates that bad design can undermine much of the benefit. For one thing, relatively high taxes are needed to change consumer behavior. Various states in America have had extra sales taxes on fizzy drinks, of 3-7%. This has helped to raise revenue, but the impact on consumption has been marginal. Read more at The Economist...


War over soda taxes coming to a polling place near you

Government do-gooders and conservatives who are worried that America is becoming a nanny state have one more thing to fight about in 2016: soda taxes. Health advocates are plotting to bring voter referendums and legislation to tax. Read more at Politico...

New York is first U.S. city with salt warning on restaurant menus

A tiny salt shaker symbol that warns certain meals are high in sodium will appear, starting Tuesday, on menus in chain restaurants in New York City, the first U.S. city to take the step in an effort to combat heart disease and stroke. Read more at Reuters...


Whole Foods upsizes bond deal to $1B

Upscale grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. has doubled the size of its planned debt sale to $1 billion, according to Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services. Read more at Wall Street Journal (subscription required)...


8 details of note about the unveiled Amazon drone

Almost exactly two years after first announcing its plans to deliver packages with a drone, Amazon revealed a new prototype of one of its delivery drones. Here are some interesting revelations. From the The Washington Post...

Natural product movers & shakers - November 2015

Natural product movers & shakers - November 2015

Organics Unlimited has hired Jairo Antonio Hernandez de los Santos as the latest engineer to join the team in Colima, Mexico, as a farm operations manager.

Bay Area organic ice cream company Three Twins welcomes marketing veteran Sarah Bird as its chief sales and marketing officer, where she will help build the brand at retail and drive consumer engagement.

Popchips has named David Ritterbush its new chief executive officer. Former CEO Paul Davis will become co-chairman of the board.

Sally A. Howard is the new head of regulatory affairs for Human Longevity Inc.

Vegan meal delivery startup Purple Carrot revealed that former New York Times food writer Mark Bittman joined as chief innovation officer.

Wixon, a manufacturer of seasonings, flavors and technologies for the food and beverage industry, has named Greg Gonzales as packaging operations manager. Gonzales has more than 20 years of food industry experience from a variety of production management assignments, with companies including Kangaroo Brands/ConAgra Foods, Unilever and Ventura Foods.

Manufacturer of shelf-stable and frozen beverages Bevolution Group announced the appointment of David Prill as chief financial officer.

Plant-based food company Impossible Foods has name David Lee, formerly of Zynga, Del Monte Foods and Best Buy, its new chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

The Nutrition Coalition announced the appointment of nutrition expert Sarah Hallberg, DO, Medical Director and Founder, Indiana University Health Arnett Medical Weight Loss Program, as chairwoman of the coalition’s newly formalized Science Advisory Council.

Stauber Ingredients joins Hawkins chemical supplier

Stauber Ingredients joins Hawkins chemical supplier

Hawkins, Inc., has agreed to acquire Stauber Performance Ingredients from ICV Partners II in a stock-for-cash transaction.

Stauber Ingredients, which has its headquarters in Fullerton, California, generated revenues of approximately $117 million for the 12 months ended Sept. 30. Hawkins has agreed to pay $157 million, subject to customary purchase price adjustments, to acquire the issued and outstanding shares of Stauber on a cash-free, debt-free basis, according to a Hawkins press release.

The purchase is the largest in the history the Roseville, Minnesota-based Hawkins, according to CEO Patrick H. Hawkins.

"We have previously stated our intent to expand our portfolio of value-added specialty products within new markets. Today’s announcement accelerates that strategy. Hawkins will gain a wider array of products and a customer base outside of our traditional focus. At the same time, Stauber’s distribution model is one we know well. With Hawkins’ long-term perspective and available capital, we can make key growth investments to maximize the significant potential we see with this new business segment,” Hawkins said.

Dan Stauber, CEO of Stauber Ingredients, said, "Our new parent company is built on a foundation of integrity, quality, and transparency. From what we have seen in various people we have interacted with and gotten to know so far (especially their CEO Patrick Hawkins), they are a perfect match for how we run our business."

Stauber Ingredients' management team will continue to operate the company, which will keep its identity.

Founded in 1969, Stauber offers specialty products and ingredients to the nutritional, food, pharmaceutical, cosmetic and pet-care industries. With approximately 160 employees, the company has facilities in California and New York.

Hawkins distributes, blends and manufactures bulk and specialty chemicals to a wide variety of industries. The company operates 38 different facilities in 17 states.

Human Longevity acquires San Diego-based Cypher Genomics

Human Longevity

Human Longevity, Inc. (HLI), a genomics-based, technology-driven company, announced Monday that it has acquired Cypher Genomics, Inc., a leading genome informatics company that offers highly accurate, rapid and robust human genomic interpretation software solutions.

The San Diego-based company has 14 employees who will join HLI, including Cypher CEO and co-founder Ashley Van Zeeland, Ph.D., who is now the head of HLI's Pediatric Business. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

"Cypher Genomics has created important automated and scalable genome-interpretation technology informed by additional expertise in genetics and biology that we believe will be invaluable to HLI's business,” said J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Human Longevity, Inc. "The Cypher team, led by Dr. Van Zeeland, is a very impressive group of scientists who will be crucial in augmenting HLI's already unparalleled and comprehensive genomic database business."

Cypher has developed and marketed Mantis, proprietary software that provides comprehensive and unbiased interpretation of genomic-sequencing data that allows customers to rapidly uncover clinically significant variants. The company has also developed Coral, a biomarker-discovery service.

Industry collaborators for these products include Celgene, Illumina and Sequenom. Cypher also has a number of key academic collaborations including Scripps Translational Science Institute, University of Pennsylvania and Clinic for Special Children. Cypher, in partnership with Lockheed Martin, was also recently selected as one of the finalists to aid in genome interpretation as part of Genomics England's 100,000 Genomes Project.

"At Cypher, we saw an unmet need for automated interpretation of human-genome-sequencing data. We developed Mantis and Coral to provide rapid, automated genome interpretation at scale, enabling disease gene identification, population-based studies, diagnostic development and biomarker identification," Van Zeeland said.  "We look forward to joining the HLI team and to helping advance HLI's mission of applying the power of human genomics and informatics to improve healthcare."

HLI has created the world's largest and most comprehensive database of whole genome, phenotype and clinical data. The company is developing and applying large-scale computing and machine learning to make novel discoveries to revolutionize the practice of medicine. HLI enables customers in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, insurance, academic and government sectors.

Poll: Are these ingredients natural?

Poll: Are these ingredients natural?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently asked for public comment on whether it should define the term ‘natural’ as used on food labels, and if so, how it should do so.

The following 10 ingredients have been the subject of lawsuits regarding their presence in products labeled as natural. Learn about each and weigh in on whether it fits your definition of natural.

5@5: EPA wants to take a second look at Dow's Enlist Duo herbicide | U.S. aquaculture struggles

5@5: EPA wants to take a second look at Dow's Enlist Duo herbicide | U.S. aquaculture struggles

EPA seeks to revoke approval of Dow Chemical's Enlist Duo herbicide

The Environmental Protection Agency asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to withdraw its approval of the herbicide, which is designed to be used with genetically modified seeds, upon learning new information that might have changed its approval decision. Read more at Wall Street Journal...


Things to know about aquaculture as industry struggles to expand into U.S. federal waters

More acquaculture production in the U.S. is crucial to relieve the stress put on our oceans and secure the country's food supply, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says, but the industry is still challenged by environmental concerns and a lack of regulatory framework. Read more from The Associated Press...

Not ready to eat crickets? Try feeding them to your dog

Could pet food be a bridge for Americans to start incorporating sustainable insect protein into our diets? Entobento and BugBites are among startups incorporating cricket flour into foods for pets. Read more at Fast Company...


'These are conscious meal replacements': Snacking becomes the norm

The lines between snacks and meals are blurring, as snacking becomes something people do more frequently at home, and not just on-the-go. Read more at Bakery & Snacks...


General Mills sets goal to buy all cage-free eggs by 2025

General Mills updated its animal welfare policy to establish a 10-year timeline for sourcing only cage-free eggs. Read more at Food Manufacturing...


A post-FDA age for supplements?

A post-FDA age for supplements?

The month of November, with five federal agencies announcing sweeping action against supplement companies and the National Association of Attorneys General laying out a blueprint for state-by-state enforcement, could be the dawn of a post-FDA age for supplement regulation, says United Natural Products Alliance President Loren Israelsen.

The FDA will obviously still be enforcing supplement regulations, but the administration is just one player on a much larger and more organized team now, Israelsen notes. “If you look at the Department of Justice press conference and what was said at the attorneys general conference, the common line appears to be that FDA regulation of dietary supplements is a failed concept,” Israelsen says. “It is clear that the FDA is unable to tackle the companies masquerading as purveyors of dietary supplements. The industry itself can't do that, as frustrating as that is.”  A year that began with huge questions raised by the New York attorney general moving against major retailers and supplement makers is ending with a clear message that the rules are going to be enforced more widely by more people, Israelsen explains.

Last week, the Department of Justice staged a press conference announcing 117 criminal and civil actions against supplement companies, most prominently USP Labs, makers of the notorious sports supplement Jack’d. On Nov. 2, the attorneys general group presented a program highlighting spiking issues in supplements, bringing in experts that included perennial supplements critic Pieter Cohen.

Israelsen says there is more than a dotted line connecting the two: “You see the same language, the same litany of complaints, the same syntax, calls to action, restatement of the same issues, literally using the same references and citations.” All of this, the UNPA president notes, clearly sets the stage for revisiting and rethinking DSHEA. A paper released in conjunction with the NAAG meeting, “Breaking the gridlock: Regulation of dietary supplements in the United States,” lays out that agenda, Israelsen says.

UNPA welcomes more enforcement, and the Alliance's response to last week’s federal sweep remains “Carry on,” but the industry has to be prepared to fully engage with enforcement and lawmakers who might see revamping DSHEA to be a necessity. In particular, the industry should be pointing to proposals in the “Gridlock” paper that the supplement makers asked for in the buildup to DSHEA, Israelsen says, explaining that supplement makers sought measures like a botanical monograph system back in 1992. Such history is critical for all sides in the debate.

Retelling the story that the industry was ready for and actually asked for that kind of regulation will be essential as the new coalition of critics emerges, Israelsen says. “Part of it is we have to shift the perception of the new regulatory players. If they want to engage, we’ll go point by point, and say ‘Let’s talk.'"

Whether policy of that depth is ever proposed, Israelsen says, the industry needs to see the NAAG meeting and Department of Justice press conference for what they are: the beginning of a new era. “What’s interesting is the clarity of the message of critics of the industry, not just their attention to the tactics and strategies,” Israelsen says. “That should inform industry in taking decisive action.”


Gratitude for the good food movement

Gratitude for the good food movement

Thanksgiving is the holiday I adore the most. It’s about exercising my culinary muscle while throwing all buckets of restraint down the drain. I was just 12 when I concocted my first Thanksgiving meal for the family, so I’ve had some practice. As I remember, I secured a Butterball in a plastic bag, plopped canned beans in a creamy quagmire of mushroom soup topped off with French fried onions, then rehydrated a box of mashed potatoes … my how my culinary times have changed!

Even as the crepuscular light creeps further towards darkness, I am planning this year’s feast. The Tofurky is braising and the goose is brining, all the yams have been candied—drunk on bourbon and organic marshmallows, while the fresh asparagus and olive salad lies crisping in the cooler. The braised greens and Israeli salad of turgid cucumber, carrot celery and tomato will be a refreshing compliment to the 21-gun salute of the main courses. Then the aftermath, a fine pippin tart, will cool while the dough rises on sweet muffin-top hot cross buns (I’ll want two please).

Whilst this reverie of food preparation commences toward the great meal, which we will outlandishly and extravagantly partake, I have culinary and cultural ruminations on the state of our food, including the abundance we enjoy, the grace of the people who bring it to our table and immense gratitude for how far we have come in the good food movement.

Progress, dear pilgrims, is being made. Just this year, Big Food has begun singing a different song, recognizing the consumer’s disgust at ingredients that just don’t belong in our food. Nestle and Kraft will be striking artificial flavors and colors from their chocolate candy and mac and cheese, respectively. Dunkin Donuts will brush off the nanoparticle titanium dioxide that made its frosting white. Subway and Tyson will stop using human antibiotics in their meats. McDonald’s has served its first organic hamburger in Germany. General Mills has taken the GMO out of Cheerios. Campbell’s is launching lines of certified organic children’s soups, removing MSG and GMOs.

The cavalcade of good food victories is the grist of an ever-increasing bombardier of headlines. I am grateful for this shift. The good food movement is alive, shaping the bottom lines and brands of many big food companies!

As I take note of this shift, I set aside the headlines and feel the grace of the overarching abundance in this North American culinary existence. We have so much plenty, and so many souls contribute to this wealth. I hold much gratitude for the farmers, the orchardists, the vintners and the bakers. I give thanks for the retailers—our front line soldiers, the food and farm workers—never alien, but real hardworking salt of the earth that harvest, clean and pack and prepare our food. I hold deep appreciation for the long-haul driver with long red-eye nights “truckin'” to bring that bounty cross continent. I think of the forklift drivers, the customs broker and the salespeople—they all play a part in bringing a myriad of ingredients to my table. We must raise a toast to every one of those who have a hand in this copious culinary plenty. (If you are one, give yourself a hand.)

We eat in a world of amazing abundance and the good food movement is quickening, but our work is certainly not done.

Once the meal has been properly consummated and brought to titillation, and before the torpor of the aftermath sets in, let’s assign grace to the work we have yet in our future. We must labor to secure more funding for organic farming and seed production. We must fund projects that allow easy access to land for beginning farmers and ranchers. We must protect biodiversity in the landscape as well as through our foundation seeds. It’s time that the government fully regulates, tests and labels foods with GMOs. Our labor includes driving many of the cruel factory farming practices out of animal husbandry. Ultimately, we must bring to light the true cost of real food and the hidden costs associated with cheap food.

So let’s celebrate this day of gratitude fully realizing all that we have, recognizing those who have helped bring it forward while noting the progress we have made and the work still to do. The good food movement is growing; as you partake of this Thanksgiving, know that you are an instrumental part of moving it forward.

Enjoy a delicious holiday.

What food industry thanks are you giving this Thanksgiving?

Not-for-profit B Corp CORE Foods practices next-level stewardship

Not-for-profit B Corp CORE Foods practices next-level stewardship

CORE Foods makes organic, fresh, healthy on-the-go foods. So fresh, in fact, that they’re found in the refrigerator aisle at the grocery. The company is a not-for-profit B Corp, sowing stewardship and its golden-rule mission deep—from the supply chain to community outreach.

On Dec. 7, CORE Kitchen—the first produce-only restaurant—will open in Oakland, California. CEO Corey Rennell spoke with NewHope360 about mission-driven food production, building a company based on service and what to expect next.

NewHope360: When did you start shaping the mission for CORE Foods of the golden rule and fresh food?

Corey Rennell: I spent about 14 months living with 12 different tribes on Earth, studying traditional foods. What I learned from that experience was that healthy food is really simple: It’s basically fresh food.

In these traditional societies, community reciprocity is an inherent value. When a problem is presented to the community, they don’t ask, “Is this Joe’s problem? Is it Joe’s fault?” They ask, “The problem is here. How are we going to solve it together?”

That inspired the values system of the company: We believe we are only as successful as we are together, and if we want to ever have hope of creating a healthy food system, we really want to align the incentives of health with the business practices of food companies. We felt as though a fundamental part of that was removing the profit aspect, because if you have a food company that’s aligned with profit motives, there’s a huge incentive to lower the quality of the ingredients, which ends up not being aligned with the principle of increasing the quality of the health of the food.

NH360: On the company website, you talk about “ownership vs. stewardship.” How did you land on a not-for-profit business model and decide Core Foods should become a B-Corp?

CR: The general idea is that businesses are the engines of creating communities and building progress within communities, and we got in this habit over the past 100 years of only measuring businesses based on their own financial resources. But really a measure of a business is about how it serves the community, how it treats the people that work there, how good the product is that it produces, and what value that business can offer society.

NH360: What are examples of ways you’ve reinvested in your community in Oakland?

CR: A very simple way businesses give back are donations. Over the past two years we’ve given over 37,000 healthy meals to families in need. But what we’re more interested in are businesses that include the externalities within their operating procedures. So, if you have a powerful business, and then you give a lot to charity, what you’re really doing is you’re creating something negative as part of your business and then you’re trying to fix it somewhere else. But if instead, every aspect of your business is what it should be, the service is embedded in what you’re doing.

We’re doing that for the CORE Kitchen, which is the world’s first produce-only restaurant that we’re opening Dec. 7. We’re sourcing from low-income farmers in California that have a hard time growing their business even though they have extremely high-quality products. We’re working as hard as we can to hire the kitchen from people from workforce development—people who’ve served prison time or people who’ve had challenges to employment. We’re working with Kaiser [Permanente] to try to partner with them (for patients’) diet instructions… so we can work with them to achieve their goals to be able to get healthy again.

We’re trying to look at every aspect—where are the services that we can provide? Where can we connect with the services that people really need?

NH360: How do you share your story with customers?

CR: On our website, people can see every single farmer we work with by name, and where they are and the details of that ingredient. Transparency is a huge thing for us. We list every single ingredient that touches our food on our package. There are no hidden manufacturing ingredients.

Every year we publish an accountability report openly on our website. It includes our financial information, it includes the metrics we think are important and the challenges that are in front of us, we encourage our customers to read those reports and challenge us back and help us get even better.

NH360: Finally, you’ve talked a bit about the restaurant, how do you envision CORE Foods’ reach growing and expanding over the next year, and what are you most excited about?

CR: We’ve had an incredible experience in the grocery industry in the past five years, but I think what we’ve really learned is that when we believe that fresh food is healthier, distributing fresh food in grocery stores that have limits on how low the shelf-life can be becomes very challenging. Milk, at eighteen days, is sort of the lowest that you can get for widely-distributed items unless your velocity is just enormous. What we’re trying to do now with the CORE Kitchen is create three-, four-day shelf life items and then create a very dense refrigerated distribution system in one market to be able to deliver those things rapidly to all of our grocery partners. So where I really see the growth in health is through the grab-and-go section in grocery stores through direct-store delivery service and local suppliers.

We’re piloting this model in Oakland. We’re counting on Whole Foods and the independent grocers to help us raise the bar in the quality of the freshness of the food, and then if we see success here in Oakland, we’ll be replicating this model in all of our major cities across the country.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.