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Natural Grocers identifies 10 natural food trends for 2018

golden milk, vinegar drinks and mct oil among 2018 food trends

Natural Grocers tapped its nutrition experts, category managers and more to identify the expected breakout trends in nutrition and health in 2018.

The author, Jon Clinthorne, PhD, Natural Grocers’ manager of scientific affairs and nutrition education, breaks down why you’ll see these trends gain ground in the New Year. 

Collagen is in.

Is there anything collagen can’t do? The popularity and selection of nutrient-dense and “superfood” collagen has exploded over the past year, and for good reason. Collagen supplements are rich sources of two amino acids that are important for health, but not typically found in high concentrations in modern diets. One of these amino acids, proline, has been shown to be crucial for joint health and also helps support smooth and supple skin (yes, please!) by strengthening the collagen that keeps our skin firm. Glycine, the other major amino acid in collagen supplements, has been shown to modulate inflammation in the digestive tract, participate in detoxification and liver health, and also helps support healthy, restful sleep.

Everyday detox diets.

Instead of trying unhealthy fasts and juice diets for detoxification, consumers are more interested in what foods they can eat that will help facilitate the body’s natural detox processes. While labels make it easier to avoid foods with GMO (genetically modified organisms) ingredients, there still isn’t a standard label for everyday toxins. Chemical toxins can be found in our food, drinking water, air and even the soil. We recommend looking for foods that contain plenty of sulfur as well as other detoxification supportive vitamins and minerals such as vitamins C and E, selenium and zinc. Try these detox recipes to jump on this trend.

Organic is the way to go. 

American consumers are still confused about which is better—the USDA Organic label or the Non-GMO Project Verified label. But hands down, the USDA Organic label wins. Why? Not only does a “Certified Organic” label mean that an item is naturally GMO-free, it also means that the contents are 95 percent or more organic, free from chemical dyes, grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers and must not be processed using industrial solvents, or irradiation. Additionally, studies show organically grown food is higher in nutrients and lower in heavy metals. As more people realize how synthetic pesticides and nutrition impact their health, they are looking for more nutritious, higher quality and healthier food. The USDA Organic label ensures that the food you choose meets the highest standards possible, and the research coming out on organic agriculture also indicates organics are better for the environment, human health and the economy. 

Pasture-raised is raising the bar. 

Healthy land management begins with properly managing the animals on that land. Rotating animals through pasturelands can dramatically improve the health of the soil, trapping carbon dioxide in the soil (where it belongs), helping with water retention and reducing erosion. As an added benefit, having animals on pasture also results in animal products that are more nutrient dense. Go with grass-fed beef and dairy, and pasture-raised eggs and even turkey to join the movement.

Black seed oil. 

Black seed oil (also called Nigella sativa, black coriander oil, or simply black oil) is very popular in various traditional systems of medicine, like Ayurveda. The seed and its oil have a surprising amount of research showing their effectiveness in various health conditions. Research suggests black seed oil helps insulin function and also keeps the insulin-producing pancreas working at a healthy level. Other studies show that by modulating inflammation, thymoquinone (the active component of black seed oil) helps build strong and healthy bones.

Keto diets.

Shortened from ketogenic diets, “keto” diets are making their mark on the nutrition world. It’s common to think that the body (and more importantly, the brain) relies solely on glucose and fatty acids for energy. However, there’s another type of fuel made from fatty acids, known as ketones—which are especially important for neuroprotection and also have been shown to support brain function and cognition.[xii]  Research shows that medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are easily converted into ketones by the liver, meaning foods that contain coconut oil, palm oil, cheese and butter could all contribute to ketone production in the body—and why demand for these ingredients is high. Diets, like the keto diet, that are high in fat and low in carbohydrate also result in enhanced ketone production.

Traditional medicine meets modern science.

Whether you’re studying the health benefits of garlic or trying a turmeric latte, reference the traditional medicinal uses of plants. Did you know that the Egyptians, Greeks, and Arabs all used aromatherapy as a medicinal tool? And now, modern research is exploring the use of essential oils and aromatherapy for relaxation and other aspects of mental health. The resurgence in popularity of herbal medicine and products is likely related to the hard science that exists which backs up the traditional uses of these valuable plants.

Drinking vinegars.

Similar to kombucha, drinking vinegars are a trendy new alternative to sugar-laden sodas and juices. Most of these are made with apple cider vinegar—what we refer to as a health powerhouse—and other health-promoting ingredients that make them a tasty, tangy and trendy way to balance blood sugar. A study published in the Diabetes Care journal demonstrated that consuming vinegar at bedtime can actually support healthy blood sugar levels when you wake up, so this would be a great post-dinner beverage.[xiii] Vinegar can also help facilitate the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food as well as help you feel full longer.

Sneaking in vegetables.

Americans have a hard time eating enough vegetables, and many people acknowledge this problem and seriously want to increase their vegetable consumption. The trendy solution? Sneaking antioxidant-rich vegetables into your food whenever possible. Swap out typical noodles for organic veggie noodles, snack on real veggie chips and add frozen cauliflower or greens powders to your smoothies.

Botanicals to boost brain function.

Botanicals, such as epigallocatechin from green tea for boosting brain function, are gaining more appreciation. More formulas built for clarity and mood are showing up on the market, and some of the best new botanicals for brain health include herbs and mushrooms. Look for formulas containing ashwaganda, lions mane, reishi, gotu kola, turmeric and holy basil in order to capitalize on the latest research.

Source: Natural Grocers

Want more on natural products industry trends and opportunities? Get the insider insights you need to succeed in the 2018 NEXT Forecast.

Don’t overlook power of Gen X shoppers

Thinkstock/iStock generation X

Millennials might be the shiny object, but don’t overlook Generation X, said Brad Edmondson, author and consultant on demographics. Speaking at the recent PLMA conference, Edmondson said, “Gen X is your most important customer right now. Millennials are the second, but Gen X is the juiciest generation right now.”

Why? Even though millennials are the largest generation, Gen X has many economic and demographic factors that make them highly valuable to retailers.

Consumer spending is chief among those factors. Gen X spends more than other generations on food, both at home and away from home. They spend 40 percent for food at home, compared with 19 percent for millennials, which is third behind baby boomers; however, millennials are growing in this spending area.

One reason for that is Gen X has the largest households of any generations, meaning they have more mouths to feed and need to purchase more food. Gen X is often taking care of older family members as well as millennial children who have moved back into the household.

A second factor for why Gen X is such a powerhouse for retailers is the empowerment of women. Gen X women grew up in the ’60s and ’70s when civil rights and women’s rights started to come to the forefront—birth control was legalized for all women in a Supreme Court ruling in 1965. One way this impacted women was that more women went to college, which means that Gen X households are more likely than previous generations to have dual-income households. In fact, Gen X is the first generation where women’s income equaled that of the man in the household, according to Edmondson.

Because there is this dual-income household, men in Gen X contribute to so-called women’s tasks of grocery shopping, Edmondson said.

Some other demographic highlights from Edmondson’s talk:

  • Convenience is important, but there’s one important thing retailers need to keep in mind. A Pew Research Center survey asked working parents what they missed the most and the answer was fun with family. So that leads to more food delivered to home and frozen foods.
  • The percentage of households that are married is on the decline, and cohabiting couples are on the rise. They don’t have the same setup as married couples, meaning they are likely to pool incomes and less likely to eat together.
  • Gen X was the hardest hit by the Great Recession. “They spent a decade putting their household goals on hold,” Edmondson said. That makes them prime shoppers for a Lidl or Aldi.

This piece originally appeared on Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.

[email protected]: Food waste grabs big brands' attention | Mars joins the ranks of food companies leaving GMA

Thinkstock/maerzkind food waste

Americans waste a huge amount of food every year. Should big brands be worried?

As big food and beverage companies watch the public conversation about food waste grow, some are (finally) looking for ways to address the issue. Anheuser-Busch InBev, for example, is funding a new company called Canvas that makes beverages using the spent grain from beer brewing. “For major food and beverage marketers, anti-waste marketing initiatives will not drive brand preference, but companies have to protect themselves from ending up as the poster child for the problem,” says Allen Adamson, founder and CEO of BrandSimple Consulting. But startups like Toast Ale and Misfit Juicery are steps ahead of them, upcycling would-be wasted ingredients and highlighting the less-than-perfect ingredients that go into their products. Read more at AdWeek…


Snickers owner finds trade group no longer satisfies its need

Mars Inc. confirmed that it will not renew its membership with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, joining Campbell and Nestle in departing from the group. “We believe we can more effectively drive our business objectives and meaningful progress for our categories and consumers by working with other like-minded companies and through other sector-specific trade associations and collaborations," the company said in a statement. Read more at Politico…


Premium chocolate trends: Power through premium

The food transparency movement has fueled small-batch artisan chocolate. Sales of upscale premium chocolate, which IRI defines as products that cost $16 to $23.99 per pound, grew 9 percent last year. Super premium chocolate, which costs more than $24 per pounds, saw double-digit growth. Read more at Candy Industry…


Young farmers share their biggest concerns in a new survey from the NYFC

Sixty percent of farmers under the age of 40 are women, and 75 percent of them describe their farms as “sustainable,” according to a survey of 3,500 farmers by The National Young Farmers Coalition. Their biggest concerns? Access to land, the weight of college loans and access to skilled labor. Read more at Modern Farmer…


Junk food is cheap and healthful food is expensive, but don’t blame the farm bill

It’s often said that junk food is so much cheaper than nutritious food because of crop subsidies dictated by the farm bill. The real problem, though, according to columnist Tamar Haspel, is that produce is just much more expensive to grow than grains. The cost to grow and harvest 1 cup of broccoli, for example, is 14 cents, while a cup of strawberries is 32 cents. Meanwhile, a 1 ounce serving of wheat costs half a cent to grow—even without subsidies. Read more at The Washington Post…

3 things to know about Organic Valley’s newest solar project

Organic Valley organic valley solar
Solar tracking panels, Organic Valley headquarters

Organic Valley is no stranger to renewable energy. According to sustainability manager Jonathan Reinbold, the co-op and brand has utilized wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, geothermal and biodiesel technologies, and has historically been able to meet 60 percent of its electricity needs through these renewable sources. But the bar was recently raised with a new community solar initiative, which will allow Organic Valley to source 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2019. Here’s what you need to know about the new solar project:

1. It’s a community partnership with community benefits. Organic Valley teamed up with the Upper Midwest Municipal Energy Group and OneEnergy Renewables to make the new solar plan happen. Together, the three will create over 12 megawatts of solar installations in Wisconsin, enabling Organic Valley to reach 100 percent renewability and also increasing overall solar energy use in the state by 15 percent. “When we approached this project, we wanted to distribute the benefit to many communities and do so economically,” Reinbold says. “We felt solar was the best way to accomplish that.”

2. It’s just one in a portfolio of renewable initiatives at Organic Valley. According to Reinbold, solar PV makes up a small portion of Organic Valley’s current renewable energy mix. In fact, Cashton Greens Wind Farm is its most significant contributor.

3. It’s pollinator-friendly design is good for farms. Beyond being emissions-free, the new solar initiative will support local pollinator populations. Rather than planting panels in turf grass or areas covered in gravel, the design will include meadow habitats filled with native flowering plants and grasses. According to Organic Valley, these will create as much bee and butterfly habitats as if 30,000 families were to each plant 6-by-12-foot pollinator gardens. “Butterflies, bees and other pollinators are what make our small family farms possible,” Reinbold says. “By incorporating these habitats, we ensure that we're adding benefits to the surrounding community beyond just the emissions-free energy.”

20 things hemp can do (or has done) to rule the world

Thinkstock industrial hemp growing

“No one is going to give you a permission slip to change the world,” said Josh Hendrix, business development manager for CV Sciences, the leading CBD brand at retail. “There is no road map. No one has created a hemp-derived CBD market. We’re all creating disruption and taking on risk.”

What does disruption look like? CBD alone has gone from a $93 million market in 2015 to $132 million in 2016 and is looking like at least $175 million—and perhaps as high as $200 million—by the end of 2017, according to Hemp Business Journal. And the U.S. hemp industry as a whole is estimated to grow over the next five years at 22 percent per year on average, and a whopping 360 percent at mass market retail. The hemp-based product market is estimated to be a $1.8 billion concern by 2020.

How did we get here, and what’s the potential?

The 2004 court victory by the Hemp Industries Association over the big bad Drug Enforcement Agency was yuge, not just because it allowed hemp for nutrition but because it put drug warriors on notice that nature’s most nearly perfect plant was good for more than just a buzz.

The 2008 election of President Barack Obama heralded the famed April 2009 memo from the attorney general’s office that the feds would not interfere with state laws around all things cannabis. That greased the skids for the landmark 2012 election when the good people of Colorado decided, how about a little Rocky Mountain high?

The 2014 Farm Bill provided the legal framework for states to implement hemp-growing programs, but it did not mention CBD. Only Colorado and Oregon have enacted regulations for processing and finished goods over cannabinoids—the equivalent of state-run FDA and USDA. Those two federal agencies should take note of what states are doing.

Amid all the innovation around marijuana strains, vape pens and sky-high THC levels in things like wax and shatter was the discovery and dissemination of the family of cannabinoids other than THC, most predominantly CBD, which today may actually be more controversial than get-high pot. Weird, right?

And when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. Here’s our list of hemp happenings that, along with duct tape and Elon Musk, may actually save human civilization from itself.

Caveat: These items are all very much up in the air. Some are dependent on the politicians we elect. Others on the choices that are made in product development and marketing.

Save small family farms. It’s no secret that family farms are a dying breed. Young bucks these days aren’t so much into fixing that combine and toting that bale. But hemp is cool. Hemp is hip. Hemp holds the possibility of an economic rebirth of the American farm and small-town America. “My son is corporate, but he’s going to tend to our CBD crop this year,” said Michael “Mr. Hemp” Bowman, a hemp farmer in Colorado. “Never in a million years would he come back to grow corn. If we want to reverse the demographics in our rural communities, this is about opening the door for young people to come back.”

Treat CBD like a supplement, not a street drug. That means quality assurance/quality control; it means abiding by Good Manufacturing Practices in producing the product; it means using supplement-style structure/function claims and not drug claims that say the product can treat any disease. “Companies need to make sure the packaging, labeling and claims are compliant so you don’t give the FDA or other regulatory agencies an easy way out of coming after products,” said supplements regulatory lawyer Justin Prochnow, from the Greenberg/Traurig firm. Fellow attorney Bob Hoban, managing partner from the Hoban Law Group, concurs. “That’s the biggest problem this industry has,” he said. “CBD helps with condition X or Y—that’s a no-no. No dietary supplement has been approved for that. You can’t make those types of claims.”

Warning letters. Three times now the FDA has sent a suite of warning letters to CBD makers. They all share one common thread—unlawful health claims. The second raft of letters also featured the FDA purchasing products and testing them to see if they met label claims for CBD content. Most failed. While companies that have received letters have to respond within 15 days, the thing to do is, “simply stop doing what they were doing,” said Hoban. “Send letters to the FDA that they stopped, and there was no further action. No harm, no foul.” But Prochnow cautioned that while warning letters are a “two or three on a scale of one to 10, the next action from the FDA is an eight or nine. The next action is going to court and getting an injunction or seizure order and trying to get a company to agree to a consent decree that they will either cease operation or do things differently before going back into business again. The next step is like four levels above a warning letter.”

CBD is so 2018. But after that? For today, most hemp is grown for CBD. “The money right now is in cannabinoids,” said Andrew Graves, chairman of Atalo Holdings and a seventh-generation farmer. “In 2018 it’s CBD. But in 2019 and beyond it’s all the other cannabinoids.” But the market is leagues greater—everything from building materials to automobile dashboards and textile fibers to paper.  

Um, more opioid deaths? Where some perish, others prosper, as the saying goes. Pharmaceutical makers of pain-killing opioid drugs are in the crosshairs with their overzealous marketing of these drugs, which often leads consumers to the cheaper, street-drug opioid, heroin. Dependency, death. And, it turns out that marijuana could be the answer. A provocative study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine in 2014 found opiate-related deaths decreased by more than 33 percent in 13 states in the following six years after medical marijuana was legalized. As the overdose deaths continue to pile up, and research surrounding marijuana continues to come in, medical marijuana (and CBD) is looking like a solution to pain and, yes, death. This could help wavering lawmakers get on board. 

Winning at Target. In October, big box giant Target said it would start selling CBD from CW Botanicals, pioneering makers of the Charlotte’s Web strain of CBD. Not two weeks later, the FDA sent a warning letter to CW for making drug claims. Target quickly announced they will not be selling CBD.

Words matter. Part of the problem that gets retailers in trouble with local law enforcement is the confusion about what constitutes pot, what’s legal CBD and what’s hemp. While all three come from the Latin binomial Cannabis sativa, marijuana’s active constituent is the cannabinoid called THC. Legal CBD needs to be derived from industrial hemp, which by law has a THC level below 0.3 percent. CBD derived from THC-high marijuana is available only in marijuana dispensaries. Hemp is the stalks, stems and sterilized seeds, while marijuana is the leaves, flowers and viable seeds. “Colorado and California have different definitions,” said Shawn Hauser, with the law firm Vicente Sederberg. “That annoys me at night. Cannabis and marijuana and hemp are not consistently used, and that causes confusion among law enforcement, regulators and consumers. Consistent terminology will help everyone understand the facts.”

Education. Raids on retailers in Indiana and North Dakota come about because local authorities—from state attorneys general to local cops—don’t understand that full-spectrum hemp oil comes from legal industrial hemp and not street-drug weed. Products are put back on shelves once authorities are educated—sometimes.

HR 3530, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2017. Introduced July 28, 2017, by Rep. James Comer (R-KY) with 15 Republican co-sponsors and 21 Democratic co-sponsors, the bill would “amend the Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marihuana.” It is currently in various House committees and subcommittees. The Senate version may be more progressive and not give authority to the U.S. attorney general, which would make the law’s implementation more capricious depending on which political party occupies the Department of Justice.

De-scheduling marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act entirely. The war on (some) drugs started with this 1970 legislation, signed into law by President Nixon. It established five “schedules.” Schedule I drugs are the most onerous. They have a high potential for abuse, no medicinal use and severe safety concerns. We’re talking heroin, cocaine and even LSD. Most surprising is the inclusion of marijuana, despite it being legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C., for medicinal values and the FDA approving synthetic bio-identical THC molecules for use against nausea, vomiting, appetite loss and weight loss. Sixty peer-reviewed studies have been published on marijuana, with nearly seven in 10 showing efficacy, helping everything from aspects of pain and multiple sclerosis to cancer and bipolar. Some people advocate putting marijuana lower on the schedule list, say Schedule II, along with morphine, methadone and oxy. Others say take it off the list entirely, along with alcohol.

Statement of principles. File under: The Empire Strikes Back. On Aug. 12, 2016, the USDA, DEA and FDA put out a document stating that industrial hemp—despite the 2014 Farm Bill—remains a controlled substance as far as they are concerned. The Indiana state attorney general used this statement of principles as part of his rationale for issuing his own opinion that CBD is an illegal compound.

Omnibus bill. The 2017 Congressional spending bill states that as long as a hemp material is Farm Bill-compliant, no funds can be spent by the U.S. Department of Justice hindering the implementation of medical marijuana laws in states. “As long as that omnibus bill is in place," it ties the Department of Justice’s hands back," Hoban said.

New DEA code. On Dec. 14, 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency issued a rule establishing a new drug code 7350. Drug codes are used by DEA registrants like doctors, researchers and hospitals in order to procure substances. Sounds reasonable enough; after all, these parties are all increasingly interested in researching and using these cannabis-derived substances. Problem is, the DEA proclaimed that “extracts of marihuana will continue to be treated as Schedule I controlled substances.” This defines cannabis as an illegal substance, but cannabis is not illegal—marijuana is, Hoban explained. “The DEA can’t do that as part of the drug code. We were flummoxed, to say the least.” This case is currently being considered by the liberal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco.

Source rule. This is winding its way through the courts as we speak. “The mother plant from which the cannabinoids are derived dictate whether you’re a controlled substance or not,” said Hoban. “If CBD comes from a marijuana plant above 0.3 percent THC, it’s a controlled substance, but if it comes from hemp or an exempted part of the plant or any of 25 other plants like hops or echinacea, it’s legal.” Notably, a June 2, 2017, brief filed by the DEA embraced the source rule, but where the courts come down on this remains to be seen.

FDA, a Big Pharma subsidiary. It’s no secret that the FDA believes its role is to be a gatekeeper to medicines for Americans. How do you think they feel about all those states taking citizen health into their own hands by providing for medical marijuana, which is decidedly not authorized by the FDA? Plus, as part of the federal drug warrior apparatus, the FDA is on board in trying to stuff the genie back into the bottle. Under federal law designed to protect drugs over supplements, a supplement-style ingredient can later become a drug, as with Lovaza fish oil concentrate, but once an ingredient is a drug it can never be a supplement. The FDA is considering approving a CBD isolate called Epidiolex for certain child-onset epilepsy conditions. The drug company, GW Pharmaceuticals, petitioned the FDA back in 2007 to consider it, and 10 years later, in 2017, published three small human clinical studies showing that, when all other drugs fail, CBD can help. The FDA is of the opinion that CBD sold at retail as a supplement started after GW Pharmaceuticals first informed the FDA of its plans, hence, CBD cannot be sold without prescription. This aspect was part of the most recent wave of FDA warning letters to CBD companies. 

The market is faster than regulations. A way-unexpected ally on the hemp side is James Woolsey, who was director of the CIA (you read that right) under President Bill Clinton and, for a brief time, was a senior advisor to President Donald Trump’s transition team. “Politicians want to talk about their maneuvering,"said Woolsey. "We want to surprise them and get the (hemp) market growing substantially, and then we’ll smile at them and tell them what we did.” In other words, keep going, disruptors and self-care citizens. If enough toothpaste comes out of the tube, it may well be impossible to get it back in the bottle.

Come together. Perhaps the most important tactic is for all the various interests in the cannabis world—adult-use pot, medical marijuana, health food store CBD, industrial hemp for food, clothes or industrial parts, and all the other service providers from entrepreneurs who don’t touch the plant to lawyers and, yes, shoppers—is to start playing  on the same team and not get stuck in their silos. “We all must work together,” said Courtney Moran, founding principal of Earth Law, which focuses on the cannabis and hemp space. “Congress is paying attention to what’s being done in these states in this developing industry. We can build an infrastructure for a long-term sustainable industry.” Hauser agrees: “What’s next for the industry is combining efforts to challenging things like the statement of principles, the federal, state and local-level laws, and local departments of health, helping them understand what’s marijuana, what’s hemp, what’s CBD and who is bound by what agency. That’­s a cornerstone for the industry—education.”

A webinar on the current state of affairs in the CBD/hemp oil extract business—of great interest to retailers and producers alike—is being held Wednesday, Dec. 6. Click here to register for the free webinar, brought to you by Natural Foods Merchandiser and CV Sciences. 

What is CBD, how does it work, and what’s your retail store strategy for carrying it? Answers can be found in this download

hemp products connect directory logoDiscover hemp and CBD products from brands that are dedicated to quality and transparency in the Hemp Products Connect directory.


What holds more weight for emerging brands: Distribution or velocity?

Elliot Begoun

How many stores, shelves, doors, are you in or on? In some form, that is the most frequently asked question of a founder of an emerging brand. In my opinion, that question perpetuates the wrong strategic focus. Chasing all-commodity volume (ACV), getting sucked in by the allure of store count, can kill a brand before it ever really gets started.

Unless an emerging brand has some compelling reason to be fast and first to market, focusing on building velocity is the smart strategic approach. I will give you five reasons why.

1. It proves product/market fit. A brand learns if its value proposition resonates with its consumers.

2. It allows for fast failure. A brand can experiment with placement, pricing, promotion, and gain critical insight without taking on significant risk.

3. The insight gained allows a brand to optimize its go-to-market strategy setting the foundation for scale.

4. It identifies the pain points and bottlenecks within a brand’s supply chain and order-to-cash process that need to be resolved prior to driving significant growth.

5. It is what investors want to see. They’re interested in brands that can demonstrate traction with their consumers.

I wanted to validate my thinking, especially as it pertains to investors. So, I asked some leading venture capitalists to share their insights.

When evaluating a brand, what holds more weight: distribution (the number of outlets or ACV) or velocity (the number of units sold per point of distribution)?

“At the beginning of a company’s lifecycle, when the team is battling for distribution and shelf placement, velocity should be the focus and we get excited when we see brands demonstrate exceptional velocity in a core set of blue chip retailers. If a management team can demonstrate strong velocity performance on the shelf versus competitors, then expanding distribution has the potential to accelerate growth. As a company matures and grows the base of distribution, % ACV becomes more important.”

Nicolas Mindel—Managing Partner, Trail Post Ventures

“When evaluating a brand, velocity holds more weight than ACV for us. We would rather see a company that has built a strong and growing tribe of devoted customers than one with low velocity that has placement in a lot of stores. If a company’s product isn’t moving off the shelf, a higher store count won't compensate for a brand that isn't selling.”

Lauren Ivison—Partner, Ridgeline Ventures

“In evaluating brands, our philosophy is that deeper is better than wider. What does that mean? We want to see early stage brands focus on driving velocity and building a strong consumer base in strategic geographies and retailers. This way, they can better connect with consumers and be nimbler in how they approach sales and marketing execution. As investors who work in a collaborative, hands-on manner, this approach is all about smart, sustainable brand building that creates longer-term value for all stakeholders.” 

Frank Zampardi—Partner, AccelFoods

“When looking at a brand’s initial traction, we like to see depth over breadth as measured by velocity. Depth of velocity indicates that consumers are coming back to the brand time and time again. If a brand—in a focused, narrow set of distribution points—can bring consumers back and create turns, then there is a story there that is potentially replicable. As the goal is to build brand equity, the starting block for brand awareness and a reason for being is the ability to effect and create velocity. Velocity is a metric that can empower a brand in talks with retailer partners to increase ACV based on an incremental gain-selling story. Velocity reigns all, especially initially; when a brand begins to scale, that’s when it’s important to turn the conversation to expanding ACV whilst maintaining strong velocities.” 

Arif Fazal—Founder & Managing Director, Blueberry Ventures

If you are a founder or a team member of an emerging brand, focus on building velocity. Find the outlets that are going to provide you with the learning, consumer traction and the story that can be leveraged as you scale.

Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group, a practice focused on helping emerging food and beverage brands grow.

What savvy consumers want from 'natural'

Thinkstock what does natural mean to consumers

The use of “natural” on food labels has been a source of confusion for years, yet the word has continued to grow in its importance to consumers. To help brands understand what consumers are looking for when they look for natural, ingredients manufacturer GNT conducted a global survey on people’s perceptions and priorities in 10 countries, and found some interesting results: About two-thirds of consumers worldwide check the ingredients when they’re shopping. Important for most of them are “clean labels” with easy-to-understand product information, including short ingredient lists with names they know and understand.

Here are some other key takeaways.

What consumers mean by natural: 75 percent of consumers said natural means a food should contain no additives; 64 percent thought “natural” and “healthy” food are the same thing; and at least 70 percent thought a product described as natural should be in its natural state, 100 percent pure, fresh, or high in vitamins and minerals.

Artificial colors = bad: Artificial additives, particularly colors and preservatives, topped the consumer blacklist. Two-thirds of consumers reject artificial colors in food and beverages, while more than half place particular value on the use of natural colors, according to the survey.

Yogurt was the category perceived as most natural, and two-thirds of consumers surveyed said they wouldn’t accept additives in their yogurt, preferring that it contains only natural ingredients. One in three people said they would buy sweets, lemonade, ice cream and other treats more frequently if they were made with natural ingredients only. The report noted that while demand for naturalness has reached all food and drink categories, there may be untapped opportunity in sweets and soft drinks, where 40 percent of consumers avoid products with ingredient information they don’t understand. Here, said the report, “replacing additives with natural alternatives can help brands to stand out and create an additional incentive for purchase.”

Be credible: Consumers are increasingly savvy to the fact that natural itself may not mean very much, and are looking for attributes to back up those claims. Front-of-package claims can be effective but need to be credible. Specifically, “with natural colors” and “colored with fruit and vegetables” were found to be perceived as credible by more than three-quarters of consumers.

When consumers saw a label claiming no artificial colors, brand preference rose by up to 20.3 percent, but when they saw “colored with fruit and vegetables,” it rose by up to 32.2 percent—and brand preference was enhanced even when prices also rose. The key seems to be the value of communicating a positive message about what is used in the product, rather than using a negative claim about what isn’t.

[email protected]: Hampton Creek debuts plant-based egg substitute | CA will require brands to disclose 'fragrance' ingredients

Hampton Creek Hampton Creek vegan egg scramble

Hampton Creek wants to scramble the egg industry with new plant-based product

With a new board of directors and company leaders, and new funding, Hampton Creek is stepping out with its much anticipated plant-based egg substitute, which is free of antibiotics and cholesterol. Unlike other brands making vegan eggs, Hampton Creek is turning first to foodservice—Flore in San Francisco will begin using the product in a scramble on its menu. The product is based on mung bean protein and, according to Hampton Creek, takes two-thirds less water to produce than real eggs. Read more at San Francisco Chronicle…


What the heck is ‘fragrance’? Thanks to California, companies now have to tell us.

There are more than 3,000 chemicals that could be labeled as the generic “fragrance” on the labels of household cleaning products. But California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a new piece of legislation that will require manufacturers to disclose certain toxic chemicals online by 2020 and on product labels by 2021. Not all chemicals will have to be disclosed, but more than 2,000 that are on California’s state list of harmful chemicals, including phthalates and perchloroethylene, will need to be. “We see this as a first step toward safer formulation,” says Samara Geller, an analyst at Environmental Working Group. Read more at Mother Jones…


A pet-food company wants to make cell-cultured meats for dogs and cats

A former advertising executive is building a new kind of pet food company that grows meats in bioreactors from a small amount of cells, so that pet food can be produced without needing to slaughter animals. Bond Pets is still in its early stages, but founder Rich Kelleman says once companies figure out how to scale lab-grown meat for human consumption, a pet-focused product could come shortly behind. Read more at Quartz…


‘The hardest bakery possible’: Reinventing the meaning of ‘whole grain’

A new bakery in Washington, D.C., focuses on making 100 percent whole grain bread from locally sourced, freshly milled whole grains. Grocery store breads can bear a whole grain label if more than half of the flour contains grain’s three components—even if the rest of the mix is plain white flour. The reason so many bakers sift the bran out of their bread is because baking with it is difficult. But leaving the germ and bran in the bread adds flavor and nutrition. Read more at NPR…


Finland baker launches bread made from crushed crickets

Bakery and foodservice provider Fazer says it has the world’s first insect-based bread in stores. Each loaf contains about 70 crickets, plus wheat flour and seeds. Read more at Reuters…


Consumer Reports says supplements work for cold and flu—but you shouldn’t take them

Thinkstock Ginger lemon tea

Damning with faint praise is one thing. Whispering that faint praise and then kicking your knees out from under you is another.

Nobody who follows coverage of supplements in Consumer Reports will be surprised to learn that  “The Truth About Cold and Flu Supplements” article posted Nov. 30 holds that truth to be: nobody should bother taking them.

But it’s the evidence to support the “truth” that is so puzzling in this article, which will also appear in the January 2018 printed edition. After quoting the Nutrition Business Journal estimate of $3 billion spent in 2016 on supplements formulated for colds and flu, the writer goes on to examine echinacea, garlic, probiotics, homeopathics, vitamin C and zinc. For each, the article cites evidence and delivers a recommendation in varying degrees of negative. Again, we’re not surprised that Consumer Reports is going to tell readers to avoid supplements, but for each ingredient, the writer cites positive evidence. For echinacea, the article points to a 2014 review of 24 trials that supported the idea that echinacea teas or supplements might prevent colds. Consumer Report actually uses the word “prevent.”

And then they recommend waiting until you’re sick to drink tea, not necessarily echinacea tea, but “any tea.” According to Consumer Reports, taking supplements to help prevent colds is not worth it.

The article tells a similar story about garlic. Yes, garlic extract pills “might help prevent colds,” but—you guessed it—don’t bother actually taking those pills. Probiotics may help “prevent respiratory tract infections,” but Consumer Reports readers are advised to stick to yogurt. Vitamin C gets the same treatment. A review of 29 trials found that regular users might have “slightly shorter colds.” But don’t take supplements. Eat greens and citrus fruit. The article points to a 2015 analysis finding that taking zinc lozenges and zinc syrup during a cold can make those colds shorter and less severe.

But, by all means, don’t take that advice.

Of course, there are real risks and Consumer Reports spends a lot of time on them. Apparently, garlic in high doses raise the risk of bleeding for people taking Coumadin and make HIV drugs less effective. One would hope those people’s doctors would tell them that. It’s hard to imagine a safer substance than garlic for the rest of us. The same with probiotics: people with weakened immune systems can have problems so maybe those people shouldn’t take them. We’re guessing those people know who they are, and talk to their doctors pretty frequently.

So nobody should be surprised by Consumer Reports turning negative on supplements. It’s just interesting to see them bend into such imaginative verbal yoga poses to do it. Our recommendation: Consumer Reports might be a great magazine to read if you are buying a car or shopping for a refrigerator, but you probably shouldn’t read it. Why? If you leave it near an open flame you might burn your house down. 

This week: Blue Apron appoints new CEO | BASF Newtrition launches omega-3 absorption acceleration technology

Blue Apron has appointed Brad Dickerson as president and chief executive officer; co-founder Matt Salzberg has stepped down from the role. Before becoming chief financial officer at Blue Apron in 2016, Dickerson spent 11 years in senior leadership roles at Under Armour.

New from NOW and Algae Health Sciences Inc. is NOW Astaxanthin capsules containing AstaZine natural astaxanthin derived from organic Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae. The product, announced via press release, is being launched in a 4 mg dose with 90 vegan, non-GMO capsules.

Carolina Innovative Food Ingredients' line of sweet potato-based sweeteners is now Non-GMO Project Verified. All of CIFI’s ingredients are sourced from 100 percent USA-grown sweet potatoes and produced in an SQF Level 2 Certified Facility in North Carolina.

Accelon is a new omega-3 absorption accelerating technology from BASF Newtrition Omega-3. Most consumers take omega-3s in the morning, though many skip breakfast or don't eat foods that are ideal for absorption of omega-3 into the body. According to a press release, Accelon was developed to help omega-3 disperse rapidly in a micro-emulsion that passes into the intestine, where its more effectively digested and releases high amounts of EPA and DHA in the free fatty acid form.

NutriGold, an industry leader in certified organic and Non-GMO Project verified supplements, announced the launch of its Non-GMO Project verified omega-3 fish oils in innovative, next-generation PlantGels—a plant-based vegan softgel made from tapioca. PlantGels represent a cleaner and healthier alternative to soft gels made using carrageenan, bovine, porcine or fish gelatin.

Compound Solutions Inc. announced via press release that it signed a six-year global agreement with Phoinix Holdings LLC to bring an advanced pump and performance ingredient, VAS06, to the market. VAS06 is a natural and patented ingredient for nitric oxide production and blood flow to benefit mental performance. It is a patented proprietary green tea oligomer.