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Articles from 2016 In December

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Negative headlines don't sway supplement shoppers

supplement headlines promo image with oranges and juice

Although negative media is the commonly cited culprit behind shoppers’ skepticism about supplements, independent stores can actually turn this problem on its head. For Emily Kanter, co-owner of Cambridge Naturals in Cambridge, Massachusetts, bad press actually gives her store good fuel to draw customers back into its aisles.

“After a story comes out, shoppers have told us they’re concerned about quality, so they’ve stopped shopping big-box and returned to our store because they know they can trust what we have,” she says. “Negative publicity seems to be a way for us to encourage more people to seek out quality brands and stores.”

Cheryl Hughes, owner of The Whole Wheatery in Lancaster, California, feels the same way. She has never seen sales dip because of a bad story.

On the manufacturing side, Jeffrey Brent Brams, vice president of product development at Garden of Life, views negative press as an opportunity to highlight transparency and traceability. Plus, he adds, the natural products shopper isn’t easily swayed by flash-in-the-pan findings. “We all suffer from following the bouncing ball of confusion of what’s good and what’s not,” he says. “Our consumers who have always had a relationship with food are less impacted by the temporary controversy over science. They know whatever is being said today will change tomorrow.”

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Take these steps to address customer trust in supplements

Supplements, kale, green powder, green smoothie, nutrition bar

There’s no doubt about it: When it comes to consumer trust, the dietary supplement industry is facing its fair share of challenges. According to a survey by Nutrition Business Journal and New Hope Network, just 39 percent of consumers find supplement manufacturers trustworthy. Only half believe the industry follows strict regulations and, worse, a whopping 59 percent think there could be undisclosed ingredients in their supplements.

While it might be tempting to attribute these findings to a lack of information, Alan Lewis, director of special projects at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, says the real problem is actually an oversaturation of information. “Medical doctors receive a total of just 19 hours of nutrition training during medical school, so one of consumers’ most important sources for personal health information is simply silent on nutrition—or worse, dismissive of it,” he explains. Lewis believes this knowledge gap, in turn, prompts consumers to reach out to all types of places for guidance on supplements, many of which are not credible. The internet, of course, comes to mind. With so much readily accessible info, it can be tricky for consumers to discern the legit from the questionable, fueling confusion and distrust.

Beyond an overabundance of information, an oversaturation of products and retail outlets is further muddying the waters. “Consumers are accessing more and more products that used to be reserved for the natural channel in club and mass retail where there is no shopping assistance,” says Jeffrey Brent Brams, vice president of product development at Garden of Life. Online shopping poses a similar problem, as human interaction is nonexistent. “This model does not support expertise,” he says. “It supports price, availability and selection.”

Cheryl Hughes, owner of The Whole Wheatery in Lancaster, California, also believes today’s dizzying selection of vendors and products is hindering trust. “Supplements are everywhere and every company has its own brand, which makes consumers wonder what’s actually going into these formulations,” she says.

Terry Lemerond, EuroPharma founder and owner of two Terry Naturally retail locations in Green Bay, Wisconsin, agrees that product proliferation erodes confidence, especially when some bad apples don’t include efficacious doses in their supplements. This undermines the credibility of legitimate products, too. “If a consumer uses an ineffective product,” he says, “they lose trust not only in that product, but also in the industry as a whole.”

But there is a silver lining. When presented with 14 institutions, including the police, the medical system and newspapers, more than 70 percent of survey respondents placed small businesses squarely at the top of the list as the most trustworthy. They also rated the natural and organic food industry highly, with more than half giving it their seal of approval. And consumers are optimistic: 68 percent of respondents think the industry is continuously trying to make products more effective; 66 percent believe the industry is trying to improve quality. Now brands and retailers must live up to their reputation and potential.

Action items: brands

The most effective trust-building tool in supplement companies’ arsenals is their commitment to quality. Most brands stocked by independent natural retailers are already going above and beyond in this area. At Europharma, for example, raw materials and products undergo a minimum of three levels of testing before supplements ever reach the shelf. Its curcumin ingredient has 30 published studies at its back. And if ever a customer still isn’t satisfied, Europharma makes good on its money-back guarantee on all products.

Brams believes this kind of commitment to quality has to be the baseline—a jumping-off point rather than an end point. To engender unwavering trust, manufacturers must take every baseline standard and elevate it.

At Garden of Life, this means upping the purity baseline by investing heavily in third-party certifications such as USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified and B Corp. “This is a really important strategy for this channel,” Brams says, because it establishes trust by offering specialty customers the truly specialty products they want. For instance, not just a protein powder but a USDA Organic protein powder. A side benefit of this is that, as more third-party seals pop up in the independent market, “you start to bridge that consumer crisis we’re experiencing because now they’re educated about third-party testing and auditing,” Brams adds.

Generating trust through transparency is a common call in the supplement industry, and it’s a worthwhile baseline. The Council for Responsible Nutrition intends to debut its Supplement Online Wellness Library this year, which will make transparency simpler for brands by allowing them to register with label information and additional certifications and documentation. “That’s the cornerstone of a good regulatory paradigm—knowing what’s on the market and what’s in each product,” says Duffy MacKay, CRN’s senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs. But even MacKay admits this is just the start.

“Transparency does not equate to goodness; it equates to not hiding,” Brams says. “Transparency is the invitation to the party, but it’s not the party.” The party, he argues, is traceability. That’s why quality brands must take transparency to new heights with cutting-edge initiatives.

As Brams points out, truly natural brands can take shoppers on a trip that companies that use artificial ingredients cannot. They can highlight where the seeds were sown, which farmer grew them, which auditor verified them and how the finished product was manufactured in an eco- or socially friendly way. “Traceability is the journey your food takes from seed to plate, and it implies that someone is tracing the product,” Brams says. “That, to me, is what our promise as an industry needs to be.”


Action items: retailers

Many independent natural products retailers already do a lot to foster trust. Knowledgeable staffs, educational seminars, in-store demos, informative shelf-talkers and signage, and community partnerships are cornerstones of this industry and enable retailers to remain solid sources of education for their core base. But in order to gain even more confidence—and attract customers from beyond that core—they need to step up every one of their initiatives. Here’s how.

Do demos right. In-store demos are a mainstay at Massachusetts-based Cambridge Naturals, but second-generation co-owner Emily Kanter upgrades this tactic by asking brands to send executive-level sales reps. “They must be able to answer questions about efficacy testing or where herbs are grown—information that higher level representatives have at their fingertips,” she explains. “It’s a next level of trust we’re trying to communicate. We’re saying we have nothing we want to hide from shoppers and, in fact, it’s to their benefit to seek out this information.”

Amplify store voices online. Conversations between knowledgeable staff members and shoppers are key, but retailers should expand these conversations beyond the aisles. At The Whole Wheatery, Hughes leverages social media to help her shoppers solve their most pressing health problems, which, she says, builds confidence in spades. She tracks trends online to home in on what her shoppers might want most, matches products to those needs and promotes them on social media as solutions. “Taking that second to say ‘We can help you’ builds trust,” Hughes says. “And if we can do it online, we’ll reach people we maybe couldn’t in the store.”

Kanter uses social media to share employee endorsements and create personal connections. “We want staff to get personal about products,” she says. “They may say why they love a supplement or share that they got to visit a facility and were so impressed with it. These are things we communicate in the aisles, but not everyone asks. By using social media, we can get the word out there even if nobody asks.”

At Terry Naturally, Lemerond amplifies the impact of in-store events and lectures by uploading them to YouTube so the entire community can access the information.

Up the educational ante. Hosting a panel or a nutritionist talk is a great idea, but education can be even more impactful when you make it entertaining. Natural Grocers recently partnered with hip-hop artist DJ Cavem to host “culinary concerts” at local schools and in-store. Lewis says the events—part concert, part cooking demonstration—target kids in order to drive purchases.

Certify and beautify. It’s true that quality sets independent natural retailers apart from big-box stores, but if you can communicate that quality without saying a word, you’ll really instill confidence. For example, Cambridge Naturals has become a certified B Corp, which demonstrates that the store goes above and beyond with its commitment to quality and socially and environmentally friendly business practices.

It also helps to let your high-quality products do the talking. “There’s a lot of emphasis on making produce and grocery look beautiful,” Kanter says. “But it’s also a disservice to leave the supplement section scattered and not front-faced because that doesn’t communicate quality. We want to have a beautiful [supplement department] because it communicates that people have invested money and research in order to make these products.”




[email protected]: Reviving heritage grains | Backlash for Hunt's non-GMO message

wheat field rain storm

Amber waves of heritage grain: Minnesota's historic grains and seeds are seeing a revival

We know that heritage grains are making a comeback, but do we know why they're so important? Modern strains of wheat, a staple crop in Minnesota, lack genetic diversity, rely on chemicals and are replanted every year, which takes a toll on the soil. Here's a look at how organic farmers, small producers and community gardeners are bringing back the good stuff. Read more at The Growler...


Hunt's responds to 'non-GMO tomato' backlash

The company recently released a video in which it declares that "no matter how far afield you look, you won't find a single genetically modified tomato among our vines." Well, yes, but that's because there aren't any GMO tomato seeds commercially available. Farmers, consumer and scientists took to Hunt's Facebook page, calling the company's message "deceptive" and "fear-mongering." The company responded saying it was "sorry for any confusion" and that it recently updated many of its tomato products to meet Non-GMO Project Verification standards. Read more at Ag Web...


Byte Foods raises $5.5 million for smart vending machines that serve local fare

The founders of Byte previously ran a meal delivery service but were inspired by a smart refrigerated kiosk to change their direction. Byte's employer-focused model places kiosks in offices and refreshes them daily with fresh healthy foods and beverages. Read more at Tech Crunch...


Danish study links fish oil during pregnancy with lower asthma risk in kids

In a study involving 700 women during the third trimester of their pregnancy, the children of women who took 2.4 grams of fish oil capsules saw 30 percent fewer cases of wheezing and asthma before age 5 than the control group. The benefit was especially apparent in babies born to women who, in the beginning, had low blood levels of the lipids found in fish oil. Read more at NPR...


Mountain Rose Herbs buys assets of smaller Eugene herbal products company

The inventory, recipes and production equipment of Terra Firma Botanicals, an herbal extract and elixir company whose founder passed away in November, have been bought by Mountain Rose Herbs, which will also hire Terra Firma's seven employees. Read more at The Register-Guard...

Natural Foods Merchandiser

A look at the innovative natural products arising across the nation

Innovating in the east

Even though New York City is a hot spot for new food companies to gain traction, brands are innovating with ready-to-go options for busy lives all along the Eastern seaboard.

Smiling Hara Tempeh Soy-Free Smoked Salt and Pepper Hempeh
Ideal for vegetarians who eschew soy, this Asheville, North Carolina-based brand’s “hempeh” is sure to please. With 22 grams of protein per serving, this delicious gluten-free meat alternative is made with fermented peanuts, hempseeds and brown rice flour and seasoned with smoked sea salt and black pepper. This hearty hempeh cutlet can be treated like a steak—brush with oil and grill or bake, or slice and add to stir-fries. SRP: $5.99

True Made Foods Vegetable Ketchup
Traditional ketchup ranks low on the nutrition scale. Sure, it contains tomatoes, but most brands pack in refined sugars. To deliver a healthier sauce, this Washington, D.C.-based brand incorporates vegetables such as butternut squash, carrots and spinach into tomato puree. This low-sugar condiment pairs well with grilled cheese, burgers or sweet potato fries. Also available in veggie-filled BBQ Sauce and Veracha Hot Sauce. SRP: $5.99

New Pop Skinless Popcorn Hot and Sweet
The folks behind this New York–based brand retooled everyone’s favorite movie theater nosh by omitting the crunchy skin that gets stuck between teeth. Popped with high-pressure technology, these slightly sweet corn kernels have zero oil, butter or salt and only 32 calories per serving. The Hot and Sweet flavor is made with just three ingredients: corn, red chili peppers and raw organic cane sugar. Other flavors include Original and Sweet Cinnamon. SRP: $2.99 to $3.29

Fawen Drinkable Soup Sweet Potato & Red Lentil
Disclosure: Fawen’s new organic ready-to-drink soups haven’t been through an accelerator program, but we love the innovation (and flavor!). This version is a delightful beta-carotene-packed blend of sweet potatoes, onions, red lentils, coconut water, coconut milk, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, ginger root and ground turmeric. Each serving delivers just 220 mg of sodium, relatively low for the drinkable soup category. SRP: $6.99

Molli True Mexican Flavors Veracruz Cooking Sauce
Molli True’s beautiful authentic cooking sauces are inspired by cities in Mexico. This bright red beauty, emblematic of the port city of Veracruz, is a sweet-spicy blend of tomatoes, onions, green olives, salt, garlic and the robustly flavored smoked Morita peppers. Suggest Veracruz for authentic fish dishes—just simmer and serve over rice. Also available in delectable flavors that nod to cuisines from Mexico City, Morelos, Acapulco and more. SRP: $8.99


Building from center

The Midwest isn’t necessarily renowned for healthy food originality. But natural brands spanning from Austin to Chicago are dishing up special diet-friendly snacks, beverages and even baby food.

Siete Foods Cassava & Chia
Finally! A grain-free, gluten-free tortilla that has the taste, pliability and puffiness of a traditional wheat-based tortilla. Made with care from a Mexican-American family in South Texas, these refrigerated tortillas showcase simple, pronounceable ingredients: cassava flour, coconut flour, chia seeds, coconut oil, avocado oil, apple cider vinegar and sea salt—that’s it! They’re a little pricey but totally worth it. SRP: $8.99

Pure Spoon Creamy Avocado and Apples
This cold-pasteurized baby food brand wins for simplicity and cleanliness of ingredients. Just USDA Organic apples, avocados, grape juice and lemon juice are inside this refrigerated puree. Pure Spoon’s products are an antidote to the yearlong shelf-life of conventional baby food brands that contain preservatives. Pure Spoon doesn’t even include citric acid or ascorbic acid in their products. SRP: $2.69 to $2.99

Austin Eastciders Hopped Cider
This Texas company chooses tart, bittersweet apples from Europe and Washington to impart a dry flavor (not supersweet like most ciders), making this beverage more palatable to beer drinkers. This version is  infused with hops to coax out hard apple cider’s bitter notes. At 5 percent alcohol, this drink is for retailers in states with flexible alcohol merchandising laws. Also available in Texas Honey, Original and Pineapple flavors. SRP: $8.50 per 6-pack

Binnie’s Coconut Butter Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt
For nut-free children and adults, Binnie’s chocolaty coconut butter is an awesome answer. Suggest a smear of this concoction of organic shredded coconut, extra-virgin coconut oil, agave nectar and cacao powder on toast, pancakes or apple slices. Binnie’s hasn’t been involved in a food accelerator, but the company first garnered local Colorado interest via farmers markets before expanding distribution. SRP: $12.99

TeaSquares Acai Blueberry
Based in Chicago, this new snack company blends wholesome ingredients (almonds, pumpkin seeds, blueberries, coconut oil, millet) with one very unique add-in: tea powder! Available in several flavors that use either matcha or black tea powder, TeaSquares are designed to sate hunger at the office, before the gym or when folks just don’t have time for a bowl of cereal in the morning. SRP: $6.99


Growing west

Long hailed as the place for out-of-the-box thinkers, the West and Mountains are pioneering natural food brands that win in health, flavor and super-clean ingredients.

Skinny Dipped Almonds Dark Chocolate Cocoa
Most chocolate-covered almonds have way more chocolate than nut, making them more candy than healthy snack. Not so with these lightly coated almonds from SkinnyDipped. Also available in Dark Chocolate Raspberry and Dark Chocolate Espresso, these decadent Non-GMO Project Verified snacks are sweetened only with organic maple sugar. Each 1.5-ounce serving contains a very reasonable 6 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein. SRP: $3.29

Good Culture Organic Cottage Cheese Strawberry Chia
Involved with 301 Inc., the venture capital and business arm of General Mills, this Irvine, California-based brand takes cottage cheese, a staple often containing fillers and stabilizers, and turns it totally natural. We’re talking USDA Organic ingredients including skim and whole milk, cream, strawberries, cane sugar and chia seeds plus live active cultures. The result is a healthy snack with a whopping 17 grams of protein and just 5 grams of fat. SRP: $2.49

Smashmallow Cinnamon Churro
Take the much-adored campsite dessert into the gourmet realm with these beautiful marshmallows, made with organic cane sugar and natural flavors. At just 80 calories for four ’mallows, these squishy treats can supercharge desserts of all ilk. We particularly love Cinnamon Churro, coated with a street food–style dusting of cinnamon and sugar to provide a slight crunch and a ton of flavor. SRP: $3.99

Spicy Mo’s Spicy Smoked Gouda Dip
This dip from Los Angeles-based Spicy Mo’s is a masterful blend of smoked gouda, home-made mayonnaise, rich cream cheese, and super-hot, locally sourced habanero peppers, green onions and cilantro. Spicy Mo’s is involved with L.A. Prep, a community kitchen with a network of more than 50 food businesses that work in the same building to foster healthy food and healthy growth in partnership with Food Centricity, a business accelerator. SRP: $7.99

Wonder Fuel Coconut Oil MCT Superdrink With Cold-Brewed Mocha
Packed with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs to the cool kids), this functional beverage contains a slew of healthful organic ingredients, including coconut water as a base, coconut cream, fair-trade coffee extract, acacia for fiber, cocoa, vanilla and cinnamon. With 90 mg of caffeine, 9 grams fat and 140 calories, this unique dairy-free beverage is a Bulletproof dream. SRP: $5.39



Natural Foods Merchandiser

Natural food accelerators feed innovation across the nation

innovative natural food products such as New Pop, Hempeh, Fawen, Molli take center stage

From the hipster-packed avenues of Brooklyn to Indiana suburbs to the sun-drenched cities of Southern California, natural food startups are launching in droves.

It’s tough to pinpoint exactly how many brands spring up every month. But of the 1,450 exhibitors at last year’s Natural Product Expo West, more than one-third were first-timers. Even though their distribution may be regional, fledgling brands have major impact. Sure, large national corporations can focus-group new products into existence and retool earlier SKUs with consumer-friendly features like reduced sugar or portability, but true innovation usually comes from startups.

New natural companies are fueled by lofty ideas, dreams and uncertainties. They’re bound not by shareholders but by promises made to themselves, their families and their friends. Identifying and celebrating these startups is the main goal of New Hope Network’s prestigious NEXTY Awards, which sleuth out new natural products that win on innovation, inspiration and integrity.

While they’re not short on ambition, these entrepreneurs are often plagued by insufficient resources. This is why so many startup brands turn to crowdfunding platforms for capital. At press time, Kickstarter had 30 active food-focused businesses vying for money. Another platform, Barnraiser, is devoted entirely to backing food brands. When it works, crowdfunding  can generate serious capital to launch a business. Remember the potato salad satire company that exceeded its $10 goal by more than  $55,000 on Kickstarter?

But beyond seeking financial help, brands are increasingly turning to accelerator programs designed to, well, accelerate business through expertise, relationships and funding. “As a fund that invests in early-stage companies, we strive to always bring more than just capital to the companies we work with,” says Lauren Jupiter, cofounder and managing partner at AccelFoods, an accelerator based in New York. “We focus on three basic pillars: access, expertise and infrastructure.”

There’s been a groundswell of accelerator programs sprouting up across the country. Almost all provide regionally relevant resources and relationships to foster retail viability. For example, when selecting brands to work with, SKU, a CPG accelerator based in Austin, Texas, identifies companies on the cusp of gaining wide distribution. “We’re looking for market-validated products that are ready to scale,” explains Shari Wynne Ressler, founder and president of SKU. “We look at brands operating in growing sectors and for people in these companies who want to turn their product into a very discernable brand.”

Mark King, cofounder and president of Austin Eastciders, a hard apple cider company based in Austin, Texas, says graduating from SKU’s accelerator program provided invaluable resources. “SKU helped us connect with successful entrepreneurs in our space and opened doors for investors to become involved in our business,” he notes. 

Connecting with engaged mentors through accelerators—as well as from more seasoned natural food brands that have survived the trials and tribulations of starting a business—can help guide new brands to success. “Mentorship is a vital component of an entrepreneur’s development and a tremendous support in navigating the many successes and challenges along the way,” Jupiter says. “As mentees, founders are able to push the boundaries of their strategic thinking, test assumptions and avoid common startup pitfalls.”

As a natural products retailer, you are uniquely positioned to leverage the innovation coming out of accelerator programs. Your customers are constantly seeking new products that express their food values, whether it’s a special diet, conscious sourcing or an authentic mission. Therefore, stocking a steady supply of unique new products along with your best-selling standbys ensures that shoppers will have a sense of discovery, adventure and excitement while also snagging staples such as eggs, bread and almond milk.


9 natural personal care predictions for 2017

natural personal care predictions

No longer a niche movement favored only by hardcore natural evangelists, nontoxic beauty is thriving—and the innovative, high-performance products entering the space are proving that the category has staying power. Natural and organic personal care experienced an 8 percent sales increase in natural retail in 2015, according to Natural Foods Merchandiser’s annual Market Overview. Even more telling about its future: Its growth surpassed that of both food and supplements in the natural channel last year.

So what’s driving this sales boost? Medical breakthroughs are proving some of the risks associated with cosmetics chemicals—and mainstream media is covering it. But interest in the space isn’t as closely tied to fear as it once was. Thanks to innovation and performance, demand is more about want than want not. New, mission-driven companies are launching impressive products and inspiring us to make healthier personal care choices; existing companies are reformulating in a more sincere way; and consumers are connecting the dots between health, beauty and sustainability.

Today, nontoxic personal care is contributing to larger movements tied to both the future of consumer wellness and to innovative, do-good business models. And many of the trends we believe are shaping the future of the natural and organic personal care space are manifestations of today’s larger top-of-mind issues—those of health, environmental sustainability, trust and integrity. Now, who says beauty is only skin deep?

The gut-skin connection

It’s critical to address the relationship between health and beauty when it comes to natural beauty’s growth, and a key piece of this puzzle is the microbiome—the millions of bacteria and biomes found in and on the human body. The rapidly growing gut-health category is no longer linked only to digestion, according to NBJ's 2016 Healthy Solutions Report, which shows that gut health is increasingly being tied to immunity, brain health and more, including skin health. As a result, we predict that the skin care and nutricosmetics will start capitalizing on the role of healthy bacteria in healthy skin.

The concept hasn’t exploded just yet because, well, it’s young and it’s complicated. Manufacturers and marketers must figure out exactly what these solutions can look like. What we do know is that research shows that skin actually has its very own microbiome and that our internal microbiome relates to skin health. Early approaches to supporting the skin’s microbiome are threefold: ditch harsh synthetic skin care that can attack "good bacteria;" support your internal microbiome with probiotics, since mounting research shows gut bacteria imbalances can contribute to acne; and, finally, experiment with topical probiotics that can help balance the skin’s microbiome.

This last approach holds the greatest challenges and opportunities, which industry experts are beginning to explore. According to David Keller, vice president of scientific operations for probiotic ingredient supplier Ganeden, challenges to effective topical probiotics include shelf stability and shelf life (dead bacteria are not probiotics, the company points out), research on specific strains and their targeted beauty benefits, and FDA compliance. The company is addressing these by investing in a research-backed anti-aging ingredient called Bonicel that is derived from probiotics. "When probiotic bacteria grow, there are many beneficial byproducts that are produced," Keller says.

We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Natural beauty is the new craft beer

The craft movement is alive and well—a result of consumers demanding full ingredient transparency and craving a stronger connection to products—and, it’s not just showing up in chocolates, coffees and brewskis. Much like these products have done so successfully, personal care companies are getting back to basics in order to cater to a market that’s hungry for craft products and authenticity.

Craft and DIY beauty is going strong as more consumers shift toward safer, cleaner personal care products and crave the knowledge about where ingredients come from. As a result, more shoppers are turning to bulk bins for ingredients that support healthy skin, hair and nails; and companies committed to apothecary-style packaging and simple, authentic messaging abound, particularly for simple products like soaps and body lotions. "Craft and artisan soaps have really caught our customers’ attention," says Jonathan Lawrence, director of vitamins and body care and general manager at Illinois-based Fresh Thyme Farmers Market. "They love the idea of going back to the basics and making products by hand. This adds to the unique shapes, scents and overall appeal in the same way that craft beer has exploded."

Another trend emerging as part of this movement is hyperlocal and even foraging for beauty. Hall Newbegin, founder of Berkeley, California-based body care company Juniper Ridge, forages domestic woodlands for ingredients to use in soaps, body washes and other personal care products. "We go out to the mountains and harvest the plants, then distill out their goo," he says. "You’re getting a real experience of fragrance. People are rightfully afraid of fragrance because there are so many synthetic scents out there."

Diversifying the natural beauty retail landscape

Both value and high-end beauty products are appearing on natural retailers’ shelves—and, depending on the retail environment, there is certainly room for both, especially when retailers focus on creating dynamic shopping experiences for different types of beauty consumers (think the shopper used to purchasing in department stores or salons, as well as those who buy beauty at drugstores or convenience stores). Sales of NOPC products in natural retail are significantly outpacing those in conventional for these categories because natural retailers are bringing product diversity, deep education and stringent standards to the table.

But natural beauty distribution outside of natural retail is where we can expect to see some developments in 2017. Conventional retail will continue to stock more natural options, while also dabbling in local or regional offerings and building some holistic beauty education into the mix. Meanwhile, more high-end/luxury retailers will bring certified organic, biodynamic and fair trade offerings into their aisles, as opposed to just products simply touting a few plant-based ingredients. Finally, we expect to see drugstores, universities, airports and other convenience-oriented retail outlets bringing more natural options into the mix.

It better work better

One of the biggest barriers to acceptance of natural beauty products was the perception that they didn’t "work." This was particularly an issue in categories like oral care and deodorants. Today, however, companies are committed not only to formulating with the right amounts of the right ingredients but also to convincing shoppers that these products work as well as their conventional counterparts. Our NEXTY Award winner Schmidt’s Deodorant is leaving its mark on the natural deodorant industry and proving that there is a natural solution that gets the job done. For this company, the best way to get consumers on board is to get them to try the product. Meanwhile, natural skin care companies focusing on antiaging, clear skin and more are putting their products to the test in order to earn consumer trust.

Regardless of which beauty category a company is in, we will continue to see brands rising to the occasion—and raising the bar. Skin, body, hair and nail care featuring gentle, plant-based active ingredients that also lend clinical results was once a pipe dream. Today, that’s what responsible companies are delivering. "Ten-plus years ago it was very rare to find the words scientifically proven or clinically proven on a product label at your local health food store," according to Jeremiah McElwee, founder and chief thinkubation officer at Thrive Market and Simply Fair Skin Care. "Like most of the natural products industry, the skin care products you find on shelves today are far more efficacious and higher quality than they ever have been." Our prediction: they’ll just keep getting better and better.

Waste-not beauty

Waste has been one of the most important topics in the food industry—as manufacturers, advocacy groups, retailers and more explore ways to "save" potentially wasted good food and distribute it where it’s most needed. But food isn’t the only industry that needs to address waste. Today, repurposed plants are showing up in everything from soap to face cream. What started with ancient cultures using discarded ingredients in unique ways is transforming into green chemistry innovations, according to Kantha Shelke, PhD, CFS, principal at Corvus Blue LLC, a Chicago-based food science and research firm. "Biotechnologists are now advancing this practice in a more systematic manner to find ways to recycle and valorize agro-food industry by-products."

A few brands we’ve seen making the most of waste include Further Products, which makes soap from glycerin left behind from converting depleted restaurant waste grease, and The Grapeseed Company, which leverages upcycled wine ingredients in its bath and body products. Other large scale initiatives such as The European BioRice Project are taking shape to explore how rice byproducts can be used for the beauty industry. And organizations including FoodSolutions Team and Phytonext are repurposing a range of vegetable wastes using green chemistry methods.

Also expect to see more happening in waste-free packaging in the beauty space. Innovative botanical papers processed eco-efficiently from plant waste such as coca husk from the chocolate industry, coffee chaff and cellulose from rice are some of the most up-and-coming potential solutions to wasteful plastic packaging.

Nontoxic antibacterials go "viral"                                                                                  

It’s a very, very rare occasion that the FDA will actually ban a cosmetic ingredient (after all, the U.S. has banned only around a dozen cosmetic ingredients, while Europe has banned more than a thousand). So despite years of dialogue and contention around triclosan, a common ingredient used in soaps and other "antibacterial" products, this year’s triclosan ruling to ban the chemical ingredient from soap was a significant event that has some serious long-term implications.  

A little bit of background: In September, the FDA banned triclosan and 17 other chemicals used in hand and body washes marketed as "antibacterial." Why? Research has linked the ingredient to issues ranging from liver damage to hormone disruption and allergies, while other studies have shown that using soaps with triclosan were no more effective at preventing illness than using regular soap and water.                                      

While triclosan has been off-limits for naturally minded brands and retailers for years, this ruling will inspire more large companies to invest in the science supporting natural antibacterial alternatives. For years, the greatest innovations in these areas have come from Seventh Generation and CleanWell, which uses thyme for its antibacterial properites. However, we can expect to see more in 2017. Natural companies will still have an advantage, as even some triclosan alternatives are still potent and potentially dangerous chemicals.

Industry self-regulation is the only way

Triclosan is the exception, not the rule, when it comes to government action in the personal care space. While different pieces of safe cosmetics legislation have been seriously introduced since 2013, we have seen little to no progress, leading experts who follow the space to conclude that for now—and for the foreseeable future—the only way for the industry to clean up its act is by industry action.

The least regulated category (looking at personal care, supplements and food), there are essentially no restrictions on personal care ingredients, no checks and balances to ensure quality production and no ability of the government to act if a product is found to be unsafe. This means that large conventional brands can use a range of potentially dangerous chemicals; it also means that extremely small companies could be formulating in a dirty bathtub in a basement.

While all of this may sound discouraging, what it has led to is consumer advocacy that has prompted companies to reform; and also organizations and trade associations that unite companies committed to safe cosmetics, such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Companies are choosing to become certified—USDA Organic, B Corp, Fair Trade, NSF "contains organic," Biodyanamic—in order to prove their commitment to quality. And, above all, responsible companies are committed to full transparency of ingredients, trade secrets, manufacturing processes, sourcing partners and more.

Essential oils keep going…and going…

With strong ties to health, beauty and the DIY artisan beauty movement, essential oils and aromatherapy will continue to grow. This year, brands become more experimental with blends and deliveries. And essential oils aren’t just booming in direct-to-consumer—more retailers are finding success with essential oils and aromatherapy products thanks to the consumer trend toward plant-based foods and heightened interest in artisan beauty products. The demand for natural or holistic alternatives across all facets of life makes essential oils’ versatility in food and beverage, supplements, household products, and personal care another major contributor to growth. More companies are entering the space or expanding their offerings, and as consumers become more attuned to the environmental and social impact of their products, smaller brands can more readily ensure that ingredients are sourced responsibly and delivery on a promise of product quality and ingredient integrity.

Better together: pairing topical and ingestible products

I’ve long been predicting the opportunity for companies to launch topicals that pair with complementary beauty supplements. And while we’ve yet to see many brands tapping into the health-beauty connection in this direct way, we are starting to see supplements and beauty companies partnering on in-store promotions and marketing efforts to connect the dots. One recent example is NeoCell and MyChelle, who worked together to position their vitality-focused products together in the aisles of Sprouts.

Of course, we still see the opportunity for the inside out and outside in approach to beauty. And the increasing awareness about the role of the microbiome and healthy bacteria in skin health, could be a strong gateway (i.e. what Ganeden has done). Companies that formulate with ingredients that are effective both topically and when ingested also have some big opportunities: think resveratrol, collagen, CoQ10 and more.

Rising functional ingredients [NEXT Forecast 2017]

ashwagandha functional ingredient

The following is an excerpt from the NEXT Forecast, an insider’s guide to where the natural products market is now—and where it’s headed. Drawing from proprietary data sets, expert interviews, in-market case studies and the Natural Products Expos, the NEXT Forecast is the industry’s leading source of forward-looking insights. Learn about this and many other in-market trends laddering up to dominant macro forces in this report.

While multivitamins and supplements are still experiencing strong growth, younger demographics, like millennials, are resistant to taking them every day in a pill form—they can be difficult to swallow, expensive and easy to forget they’re sitting, unopened, in the medicine cabinet. As a result, inherently functional ingredients are popping up in foods and beverages that consumers are already consuming every day—cereals, bars, beverages, snacks and even treats like chocolate.

  • Sales data show that ingredients promising energy, better nutrition and vitality are resonating with both natural and conventional consumers. In the 52 weeks ending November 29, 2015, several superfoods experienced significant sales gains, according to SPINS. For instance, consumer sales of chia seeds and chia seed oil, riding on their rock-star health reputations, spiked 36.2 percent.
  • Similarly, the Peruvian root maca, prized for its hormone-balancing potential, grew a whopping 49.2 percent.

Growth in select functional ingredients, Expo West 2015-Expo West 2016

Next Forecast 2017 opportunity

Natural companies are dead-set on infusing their products with ingredients that garner consumer interest for purported health benefits. Exotic-sounding whole-food ingredients such as baobab, lucuma, purple corn and coffee fruit are the latest foods stirring attention. But rather than formulate on the latest flavor of the week, the smartest brands find ingredients that deliver unparalleled flavor and healthfulness and that have a sourcing story that cements an emotional connection with shoppers.

Get the full NEXT Forecast to see how 14 macro forces will shape the future of the natural products industry. | Order now

Probiotics may help skim pounds

A daily dose of probiotics really may help people lose weight, according to a recent review of research. But hold off on the happy dance—the actual weight loss experienced by study subjects was minimal.

Researchers from the Department of Cardiology at Taizhou People's Hospital in Taizhou, China, analyzed 25 different human studies, including 1,900 healthy adults, that investigated the impact of probiotic consumption on body weight and body mass index BMI. Taking the bugs was associated with reduced body weight and BMI, with the biggest effect on the most overweight subjects. Taking more than one type of probiotic and taking them for eight weeks or longer was associated with more weight loss.

How much weight did subjects lose with a probiotic push? They lost about .59 kg, about 20 oz.—about the weight of a Big Mac. Although the amount was minimal, even a small reduction can have enormous public health benefits, according to a release from the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, where the study was published. Earlier this year, a Virginia Tech study suggested that a daily microbe milkshake may help men lose weight, and a previous study suggested probiotics may help women lose weight and keep it off.



[email protected]: Nestle's food-meets-pharma approach | Hollywood funds food and ag tech

nestle food meets pharma nutrition

'Nature is not good to human beings': The chairman of the world's biggest food company makes the case for a new kind of diet

While Big Food as a whole has made many moves over the past few years toward fewer artificial ingredients and more better-for-you offerings, Nestle's outgoing chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe has helped position the company in a direction somewhat less "natural"—somewhere halfway between food and pharmaceuticals, where scientific knowledge is applied to food products. The company has invested billions in healthcare companies, upped its R&D spending and partnered with Samsung on a digital health project. Read more at Quartz...


39 celebrities investing in food and agriculture technology

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National biotechnology panel faces new conflict of interest questions

Members of a panel under the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which provides policy guidance to the government, have connections to biotech businesses and nonprofits that critic say could affect the committee's upcoming report on biotechnology in a way that downplays health and environmental worries. Read more at The New York Times...


Baldor, Brick Farm Market form food waste partnership

Baldor Specialty Foods, a produce processor and distributor in the northeastern U.S., wants to divert 100 percent of the organic waste generated by its Fresh Cuts operation, which processes more than 1 million pounds of produce per week. It's working with partners to turn fruit rinds and pits into animal feed; to use trims and scraps to make juices and soups; and to process the rest of its organic waste in a waste-to-water system. Read more at Progressive Grocer...


Canada's healthy-eating guide fights to stay relevant

Canada's Official Food Rules debuted more than 70 years ago as a way to help prevent malnutrition during wartime. It got a makeover during the 70s and added a warning to eat sugar, fat and salt in moderation in the 80s, but Canada's obesity rate has tripled since then. Health Minister Jane Philpott is leading the charge to update it again next year, with hopes of coming down hard on processed food and trans fat. Read more at BBC...

Natural Foods Merchandiser

9 ways to attract and serve sports nutrition customers

Thinkstock/JackF Sports nutrition shoppers

Sports nutrition is a booming category, with an ever-expanding customer base and more products available than ever. But with so many places to purchase protein powders, nutrition bars, pre- and post-workout supplements and other sports-focused formulas, how can you hook these shoppers and keep them coming back? We asked one independent retailer who has found a winning formula and two longtime sports nutrition experts with deep roots in natural products to share their best suggestions.


Partner up. We partner with local fitness centers, yoga studios, CrossFit gyms and other likeminded businesses that believe eating well and fitness are synergistic. We’ll offer the owner or head trainer a discount to shop with us and also give them grocery lists to fill out for their customers who ask which foods and supplements they need. Then, because we know it’ll be an expensive first-time shopping trip, we’ll give those folks a onetime 20 percent discount for everything on that list and an ongoing discount for future purchases. This strategy really works.

Work closely with vendors. We have great relationships with our sports nutrition vendors, from both the buying and marketing perspectives. Once they see their lines grow and that we’re not just giving out samples for no rhyme or reason, they’re usually happy to offer us discounts. Also, we often ask them to send swag—drawstring bags, T-shirts, anything we can use to merchandise alongside their products. We’ll even rubber-band them to products so customers feel excited about getting something useful for free. Stores that are very heavy on sports supplements have tons of swag, so we need to compete with that.

Focus on products mass doesn’t have. Now more than ever, people understand the relationship between food and fitness, so it’s easier to lure them away from, say, GNC. Now the scariest competition is coming from mass. Target and Walmart carry some brands for $5 cheaper, so we do what can with the products also sold in those stores. But instead of pouring all of your energy into trying to compete against them, focus on unique product lines not available in mass. We have all kinds of plant proteins and amino acids and stock as many sample-size and individual packs as possible so people don’t have to commit to huge packages when trying something new.

Kathy Andrew, marketing director at Nutrition Smart, a seven-store natural products chain in Florida


Sports nutrition expert

Hire a sports nutrition specialist. The most important elements that independent natural products stores typically lack are product selection and knowledge. So a staffer will say sure, we have a few products, but after asking a few questions, even a semi-informed shopper will realize the retailer doesn’t really know what he or she is talking about. Bring in someone who is committed to catering to this market—who knows all about this category, knows which products to order and can give shoppers correct sports nutrition info. If this specialist uses these products, competes in sports, has a relevant certification or has a fit physique, even better.

Represent at events. Given all the different local sporting events, from 5K and 10K races to triathlons to high school swimming meets, why not go and put up tents, booths or tabletops? Offer samples of products you sell, have items available for purchase and hand out coupons. You might make a few thousand dollars just off of traveling athletes who forgot to bring necessities. Even locals may buy last-minute items from you, learn that you sell products they like or didn’t know you carried and become regular customers.

Push quality ingredients and certifications. Today, many sports nutrition customers are looking for third-party certifications and the presence or absence of certain ingredients. Consumer confidence comes in two ways: The first is through the absence of undesirable and unnamed ingredients, so this is an easy place to raise a flag and say, “Look at what we carry based on the ingredients these products do not contain.” The second is through the additional, research evidence-based benefits your products offer. Point out that they’re safe and effective, and call out Certified Gluten-Free, ELISA-tested or third-party banned substances testing certifications.

Anthony Almada, cofounder of EAS, founder of Vitargo Global Sciences and cofounder of the International Society of Sports Nutrition


Sports scientist and dietitian

Market to moms. Moms have a lot of influence over the products their families consume, and they tend to think more long-term about health. By contrast, many teenage boys and young men just want to get big and full of testosterone and impress people and don’t consider their overall health. We’ve softened up our company’s look even more to attract females, and we’re seeing other sports nutrition brands do the same. It’s been interesting to see the trend of marketing to mothers take off—and work well. 

Don’t forget your food focus. As a scientist, sports supplements formulator and dietitian, I believe food is the answer. If people get back to eating real food and avoiding processed foods full of artificial ingredients, they’ll be so much healthier. Even when selling sports nutrition products, encourage customers to shop the perimeter of your store and remind them that supplements are for supplementing their diet. The real question to ask is how they regularly eat—not how they wish they ate. After looking at that, you can help customers improve their diet and then augment it slightly with supplements.

Promote balance. Our bodies have really fallen out of balance, and we need to bring them back to where they should be. This time of year, many people are trying get back into exercise. Encourage those shoppers to stay hydrated, eat lots of fruits and veggies, and take antioxidant and adaptogen supplements to stave off oxidative damage and excessive muscle soreness. Adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms go back millennia in Eastern medicine, which is all about restoring balance, and we’re seeing them used a lot more in sports nutrition. Stock plenty of branched-chain amino acid supplements and recommend them to replenish amino acid pools immediately after exercise.

Mark Olson, dietitian and founder and CEO of Metabolic Response Modifiers in Oceanside, California