Out with the old, in with the blue: 7 natural products that riff on Pantone's 2020 'Color of the Year'

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After a year’s worth of colorful and eye-catching branding awash in gorgeous muted corals accented with yellows, greens, oranges and purples, Pantone has bid farewell to “Living Coral,” its 2019 “Color of the Year,” a sweet and optimistic—if not slightly desaturated—pinkish hue. This color was chosen for its uplifting playfulness and oceanic connotation. In its stead, the company has taken a more somber approach to the new decade with the announcement of “Classic Blue” as the 2020 “Color of the Year.”

Classic Blue Pantone

According to Pantone, the hue is “a timeless and enduring blue … elegant in its simplicity.” The company chose it because the “reassuring qualities of the thought-provoking Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue highlight our desire for a dependable and stable foundation on which to build as we cross the threshold into a new era.”

It seems that the natural products industry is one step ahead of the game, however, at least where Pantone is concerned. Various shades of deep blue—sometimes so intense they verge on black—have appeared on an increasing number of products in recent months. This is particularly true for many of the recent product rebrands that we’ve seen this winter and fall, suggesting that blue is on track to make a huge splash this year.  

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Beyond color

Two other design trends that we expect to see more of in the new year are matte colors and packaging finishes that steer away from the ultra-gloss look of previous years. Chief Creative Officer Derek Springston of Moxie Sozo, the Boulder based agency that is responsible for many of the most recognizable designs in the natural products industry (think HopTea and Icelandic Provisions for starters).

He expects to see more bright colors in the coming months, in addition to ultra-clean labels and great typography. And while the retro look and vintage-style illustrations will certainly still be popular, Springston emphasizes that the important thing is for brands to differentiate their products on store shelves. “If the competitor has a vintage design… you need to do something different to stand out.”

“At the end of the day,” Springston says, “you’re hopefully creating something new and fresh and that the brand truly owns.”

5@5: Walmart and Kroger focus on fresh | Monsanto aims to dismiss all glyphosate lawsuits

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Supermarkets pick fruit, vegetables for healthy growth

Produce sales increased by over $1 billion in 2019, and big players in the grocery industry are expanding their produce sections in response. The move is also an effort to bolster faltering inner aisle sales (think cereal and canned soup) and large investments in delivery that have yet to pay off. Read more in The Wall Street Journal

Monsanto attempts defense that would negate all glyphosate-causes-cancer lawsuits

Monsanto's newest defense strategy is to argue that putting a glyphosate warning on its label would have been in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and therefore no lawsuits should have been brought against the company to begin with; the EPA has repeatedly stated that glyphosate does not cause cancer. If successful, it will be nearly impossible for victims to successfully take Monsanto's parent company, Bayer, to court. Read more at Modern Farmer

Every ridiculous food trend predicted for 2020

Behold, the master list of just about every food trend experts have predicted will make a splash over the next year. Some universal agreements? Zero-proof alcohol alternatives will continue to rise in popularity, but there may be a decline in purchases of once-ubiquitous foods such as hummus and acai. Read more at Eater

Plastic-munching mealworms may be key to helping clean environment

Scientists have discovered that yellow mealworms can break down plastic without adding any toxic chemicals into the food chain. In the future these larval creatures could be released in large numbers to help cut down on plastic pollution in a way that won't harm "the chickens, fish, snakes and even humans who eat them." Read more at The San Francisco Chronicle

2019 was a big year for sustainable seafood

Sustainable seafood and seafood replacements saw massive growth and innovation in 2019. Transparency-focused partnerships, tasty seafood alternatives and even cell-based seafood options are officially on consumers' radars. Here are the companies and movements driving the trend. Read more at Triple Pundit

Beyond bloggers: Brands get creative with influencer partnerships

Luna Bar Luna Bar Equal Pay Campaign

In the age of the influencer, it’s easier than ever for brands to forge meaningful partnerships with bloggers, YouTubers and other social media superstars to get the word out about new products, initiatives and events. But in spite of the abundance of online influencers, some brands are going back to the basics and finding success through partnerships with established experts and celebrities to achieve a variety of goals, including:

Reliable education

Last year, The Vitamin Shoppe proved you don't need to partner with a content creator to tell a story when it launched a Wellness Council comprised of 10 leaders in the health and wellness space across nutrition, fitness, sports medicine, natural medicine and weight management. The goal? “To help demystify the wellness category,” says executive vice president and chief customer and digital experience officer Stacey Renfro, “and offer clear, objective advice to our customers.”

The Wellness Council includes a doctor of natural medicine, personal trainer, weight loss expert, orthopedic surgeon, skeletal muscle physiologist and others. What they provide is proven, expert advice that’s hard to find elsewhere.

“We have had an incredibly positive response to the Wellness Council, which has become a meaningful platform to amplify The Vitamin Shoppe’s message of quality, innovation and expertise,” Renfro adds. “Our hope is that members of our Wellness Council help inform, educate and inspire our customers to go out and become their best selves, however they define it.”

Positive partnerships

“Everything we’ve done at Tessemae’s has been because of an impact we’re trying to leave in the world,” says Genevieve Vetter, co-founder and executive vice president of marketing. “It’s about being thoughtful, real and trustworthy, and I want people to feel that when they see our partnerships.”

So while the brand has successfully forged genuine partnerships with bloggers in the past, it did something a bit different when it teamed up with Spike Gjerde, a local restauranteur and James Beard award-winning chef, whose farm-to-table model focuses on maintaining the mid-Atlantic ecosystem. Tessemae’s shoppers will see Gjerde’s Snake Oil Hot Sauce for sale among the brand’s offerings.

“It’s an innovative partnership because we’re taking a product that already exists, and merging it in an uncompetitive way with our products,” Vetter says. “It’s a mutual respect between us as brands to bring the best products to people.”

Social awareness

For its 2018 Equal Pay Day campaign, LUNA Bar partnered with journalist Catt Sadler, who shared her experience in her personal battle for equal pay. In 2019, the brand continued its campaign by partnering with the US Women’s National Soccer Team Players Association, which is recognized as a leader in pay negotiation. “While they succeeded in many ways, inequalities remain such as the World Cup roster bonus,” explains Juliana Ead, public relations manager at Clif Bar & Company.

Specifically, she explained, women are each paid $31,250 less than the men. In an effort to “inspire women everywhere to ask for what they deserve,” LUNA bar closed the roster bonus gap by donating $31,250 to each player selected for the 2019 World Cup team.

Ead says that partnering with these influential women brings attention to equal pay and ensures the brand’s consumers feel heard and involved in the cultural conversation. And, by all accounts, it’s been a success. The campaign launch achieved 2.9 billion total impressions, and 205 earned media placements, as well as a 98.9% message pull-through rate. LUNA Bar dominated the Equal Pay Day conversation, with an 85 percent share of voice for branded conversations across social media, and lunabar.com saw a 77% increase in visits during this time.

Earth Fare sees sales lift from digital signage strategy

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Earth Fare now has Mood Media digital signage at 26 stores, including more than 180 screens and 400 media devices.

Natural and organic food retailer Earth Fare is banking on increased sales with the rollout of a digital signage program to nearly half of its 50-plus stores.

Earlier this year, Asheville, North Carolina-based Earth Fare piloted custom-designed digital displays from Mood Media in the café area of a store in Charlotte, North Carolina. Serving up a variety of information, marketing and entertainment content, the displays generated a 10% gain for the café’s eat-in food sales during th 60-day test.

The better-for-you grocery chain now has Mood Media digital signage at 26 stores, including more than 180 screens and 400 media devices. Besides the café area, digital displays are located in such areas as the bakery, bar, seafood, deli, coffee/espresso, smoothie/juice, sushi, sandwich and pizza counters.

“In addition to our commitment to provide clean and healthy food options for our shoppers, we are also dedicated to ensuring that our shoppers have enjoyable and memorable experiences,” Mike Savage, senior vice president of merchandising at Earth Fare, said in a statement. “Mood Media helped us create a branded café environment that positively distinguishes us from other grocers. With new visual technologies and engaging, customized content, shoppers felt invited to eat, drink, lounge and relax.”

For the pilot, launched in mid-2019, Earth Fare developed creative digital media content, which was displayed on five 55-inch, ultra-high-definition LCD screens, supplied and installed by Mood Media. Signage in the café included digital menu boards at the point of sale for food and beverages, Earth Fare branded content and targeted messaging promoting eat-in food options, live sportscasts (specifically for March Madness college basketball games) and local weather forecasts.

Earth Fare Mood Media digital displays

Signage in the café included digital menu boards, Earth Fare branded content and messaging, live sportscasts and local weather forecasts.

Signage in the café included digital menu boards, Earth Fare branded content and messaging, live sportscasts and local weather forecasts.

Austin, Texas-based Mood Media noted that relevance was key to the digital content strategy for the pilot, given that Earth Fare customers tended to dwell longer in the café than other grocery departments.

“Earth Fare understands the importance of creating an authentic experience that allows customers to interact with their brand across multiple channels while also driving further sales,” commented Trey Courtney, global chief products and partnerships officer at Mood Media. “We were thrilled to partner with them for this latest test, which served to showcase firsthand the difference that incorporating smartly approached, dynamic digital signage elements can make, including to the bottom line.”

Authorized employees at Earth Fare manage the digital media content via Mood Media’s Mood Harmony platform. The tool’s interface lets them instantly change, edit and publish content for one or multiple screens across locations. They also can schedule content in advance, even down to the second, Mood Media said.

“With a clear layout and the ability to drag and drop, the CMS is straightforward and simple to use, and I know exactly where each of our hundreds of pieces of content will live, in this case the café area,” according to Bradlee Hicks, creative director at Earth Fare. “Within seconds, we can schedule content and push updates to several locations, a key factor for a retailer of our size.”

Earth Fare is also leveraging Mood Media’s partnership with DISH by occasionally airing live TV on screens in the Charlotte store’s café.

“We were thrilled to partner with them for this latest test, which served to showcase firsthand the difference that incorporating smartly approached, dynamic digital signage elements can make, including to the bottom line,” Courtney added.

Overall, Earth Fare operates 55 stores across 10 states in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest.

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

Supplement trade associations react to new FDA commissioner Dr. Hahn

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A new FDA commissioner, confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Dec. 12, has the dietary supplement industry peering into tea leaves for signs on what the agency will do regarding CBD and other matters, but first responses from trade associations were more careful than questioning.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, confirmed as new FDA commissioner on Dec. 12, 2019And few would argue that supplements, CBD or not, are at the top of the to-do list for Dr. Stephen Hahn, previously the chief medical executive at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. The new commissioner faces crises around vaping, opioids and prescription drug pricing along with other pressing matters while facing perhaps the most tumultuous election year in U.S. history.

Hahn’s predecessor, Scott Gottlieb, left the post in March and the Agency had been headed by two interim commissioners in nine months. Gottlieb had spoken of a “pathway” for CBD as a dietary ingredient, but the only definitive steps that have been taken were a series of warning letters in late November that staked questioned the safety of CBD.

Asked for response on Hahn’s confirmation, trade associations were largely careful and congratulatory.

  • Council for Responsible Nutrition President and CEO Steve Mister referenced CBD and other matters in his statement: “CRN recognizes the importance of having a confirmed FDA commissioner because the agency can drift during interim periods and important decisions are postponed. Dr. Hahn’s leadership will be critical to moving FDA forward, and CRN expects to maintain an open dialogue with him and his staff on the full range of issues CRN is working for its members. CRN looks forward to working with Commissioner Hahn on top industry priorities including CBD, mandatory product listing, third-party GMPs, certificates of free sale, and other issues.”
  • Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association was carefully congratulatory: "AHPA congratulates Dr. Hahn on his confirmation and looks forward to supporting FDA efforts to enforce dietary supplement laws and regulations as intended by Congress. The supplement industry looks forward to working with Dr. Hahn to further FDA’s goals of safety, product integrity, and informed consumer decision-making. We are optimistic the industry will continue to work effectively with FDA under Dr. Hahn's leadership."
  • At the Organic and Natural Health Association, CEO and Executive Director Karen Howard expressed curiosity about the dynamics Hahn will face: "The U.S. Senate has exercised its authority to approve a man with considerable medical experience and no government expertise as the next commissioner of the FDA. Oddly, in this highly antagonistic era of governing, he garnered bipartisan support with only 18 dissenting votes. Had he taken a firm stand on teenage vaping, he might have flown through unanimously. This is a man who clearly seeks to avoid the spotlight and controversy. In some ways, Congress is hungry to do the work they were elected to perform. That said, it’s business as usual at the FDA. Ergo, it is business as usual for the dietary supplement industry."

Unboxed: 6 reasons it’s all about the sprout

Once considered a thing of the past, or at least the purview of only the most dedicated health food consumer, sprouted foods such as grains, nuts, seeds and legumes have been making a comeback—as well as a leap into the shopping carts of more conventional shoppers. The reason is clear: The increasing number of people seeking better-for-you, more nutrient-dense foods are drawn to the healthy properties of sprouted grains.

These sprouted foods (all of which are technically seeds) are intentionally germinated in temperature and humidity-controlled environments, which cause them to undergo a biochemical reaction that increases their nutrient content, their levels of antioxidant-rich vitamins and the bioavailability of minerals. In addition to improved digestibility and greater amounts of soluble fiber, sprouted seeds also offer customers rich and nutty flavors.   

Given all this, it’s hardly surprising that products containing sprouted ingredients are becoming increasingly common on store shelves, particularly in the snack category.

Here are a few of the sprouted products that have caught our eye recently.

Naturally Boulder leads creation of national network

Naturally Boulder leads creation of national network, Naturally Network

In 2005, a handful of people involved in the natural products industry in Boulder, Colorado, started an organization to advocate on the industry's behalf.

"It wasn’t even a real entity at the start, it was a self-organized group of individuals trying to further the natural products industry for the city," says Arron Mansika, executive director of Naturally Boulder.

Flash forward to 2019, and Naturally Boulder has grown to more than 1,500 members and is celebrating its 15th anniversary. As it's grown and attracted national attention—and Boulder has become the hub of the natural foods movement—the directors and staff of Naturally Boulder have become increasingly busy mentoring affiliate organizations around the country.

And now, as many affiliates have swiftly grown to several hundred members, more communities want their own local group. Thus was born the idea of Naturally Network as a governing body.

"The beauty of the hub and spoke model is the hub was Naturally Boulder. This is now elevated to Naturally Network and each affiliate is a spoke. These are all local organizations that serve regions and communities with content and programming ideas. It’s going to be a very collaborative enterprise," says Don Buder, an industry lawyer with the firm Davis, Wright, Tremaine.

From local to national

Early on, Mansika says, questions were supply-chain oriented, like "How do I find a copacker?" These questions evolved to, "How do I find capital?" or "We need sampling opportunities." Mansika would make connections for people. Then, the questions started to change, coming from different cities around the country.

"People were seeing what was happening in Boulder and wanted to know how to replicate that. So we would give out free advice, including 'This is how we do the pitch slam,' 'This is how we found our board members,'" he explains.

Over the years, as the natural products and organic industries reported sales growth stronger than that of the overall food and beverage industry, Naturally Boulder transformed to offering education and networking opportunities. The pitch slam allows new entrepreneurs to showcase their product for industry experts, while Spring Fling is a vibrant social event for newcomers and industry veterans. As its popularity continuously increases, the organization is continually looking for venues big enough to host it.

And then came a New York Times article in February 2017, which confirmed Boulder’s arrival as the hub for launching natural and organic food products. With a long list of Boulder-based companies—Justin’s, Birch Benders, Quinn Snacks, Purely Elizabeth, Made in Nature and Good Karma Foods—many successful founders credited Naturally Boulder for its assistance.

Within hours of its publication, Naturally Boulder noticed an increase in interest, which translated to a jump in membership within weeks, Mansika says. Naturally Boulder had arrived as a nationally recognized leader in the natural products industry.

So it’s not surprising that Naturally Boulder’s hard-working volunteer Board of Directors started talking about expanding the organization. In the past year, the nonprofit has spread its wings to embrace and mentor affiliates from around the country, including Austin, Texas; San Francisco, California; Chicago, Illinois; and San Diego, California. Many leaders from the new affiliates had been traveling to attend Naturally Boulder events and were excited to create the same synergy in their own communities. 

"The organization has proven to play an important role in supporting and nurturing the Colorado natural products industry. And over the years, other communities have noticed what Naturally Boulder could do as a community focused, nonprofit organization and started asking us if we could help them get started in similar communities," explains Carlotta Mast, senior vice president of content and insights for Informa’s Global Health & Nutrition Network as well as a former board president for Naturally Boulder.

A collaborative spoke and hub model

Buder, an industry lawyer in Northern California, saw the possibility of starting an affiliate modelled after Naturally Boulder. Naturally Bay Area launched in January 2018, and its first event drew more than 200 people. Now the group has roughly 500 members. "It really speaks to what a collaborative industry this industry is and a desire for people to learn and network and connect with each other," says Buder, Naturally Bay Area's chairman of the board.

The group hosts similar events to Naturally Boulder—educational programs, a pitch slam, and networking events. "The fact that there has been such tremendous interest in Northern California, it’s really serving a need providing the education and professional support for early stage entrepreneurs and helping to mentor them. It makes for an easier path for each of them," Buder says.

Naturally Boulder didn’t want to just hand over their model to have everyone operate separately, however.

"We want to find a way to be together," Mansika says. As a national network, the affiliates will be bonded by the mission, vision and guiding principals of the organization. Content and programming can be synchronized and leveraged to have a greater impact than Naturally Boulder could have on its own, he says.

Becoming a change agent

In creating a national network, Naturally Boulder will surrender its leadership position and be an affiliate just like the others. Although this is a big change, it will enable Naturally Boulder to focus on doing what it was designed to do: serve the Colorado community, Mast says.

In addition to serving the affiliates, the national organization can be a change agent for the industry. For instance, the organization could help define what it means to be a part of this industry, in an environment when the term ‘natural’ is not even defined.

"The goal is to be a change agent as far as we can the way companies in the natural products industry do business and prioritize organic and regenerative, diversity and inclusion and the communities they serve. We have big aspirations for the positive impact we would like to have on the industry and ultimately, the world," Mast says. "When we all come together, the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts because of what we can create together."

With affiliate leadership stepping up from all different backgrounds—including retailers, manufacturers, investors and legal experts such as Buder—no one doubts that Naturally Network is the next step. The organization is expected to incorporate in the first half of 2020; organizers hope it will be up and running by the end of the year.

And yes, you can still be a member of Naturally Boulder or any local affiliate. Members can choose local or national membership. With national membership, you won’t need to worry about missing any events while you’re on the road. You could catch the pitch slam in Austin or the spring fling in San Francisco—and make new connections while you’re at it.

5@5: 'Amazon Choice' badge concerns | Ritual baths spread bad bacteria

Amazon.com A Wall Street Journal investigation has found that questionable or even banned products might carry illegitimate "Amazon's Choice" badges.

'Amazon's Choice' might not be the best choice

A Wall Street Journal investigation has found that questionable or even banned products might carry illegitimate "Amazon's Choice" badges. Two examples included are an energy supplement that claims to burn fat and sexual-enhancement products that illegally include prescription medication. Although the fake badging isn't limited to supplements, more than 75% of sports nutrition products and of dietary supplements carry the label. Read more in The Wall Street Journal
Editor's note: Buzzfeednews.com reported a similar issue with the badging in June. Also, on Monday afternoon, no "Amazon's Choice"-labeled products could be found on the website.

Opinion: Don't censor alt-meat names

Politicians from ranching states are, like their colleagues from dairy-producing locales, are trying to limit how alternative, plant-based products can be marketed. The "Real MEAT Act"—Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully (yes, artificials) are the words behind the acronym—requires certain foods to be labeled as "imitation." Jessica Almy, policy director for The Good Food Institute, points out what could happen if such policies are carried to the extreme: Does anyone think Rocky Mountain oysters come from a secret, high-altitude ocean? Read more at The Hill

The Ganges shows deadly germs are everywhere

As it starts to flow from a Himalayan glacier, the Ganges is pristine, but hundreds of miles before it encounters factories, hospitals or cities, it fills with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The source? Humans who immerse themselves in the river to wash away their sins, according to scientists who are studying the problem. Read more at The New York Times…

Lawsuit: Biggest turkey companies fixed prices using proprietary stats

Two food wholesalers are suing several turkey producers—including the four biggest that control 80% of the market—for fixing prices via the use of Agri Stats reports. Agri Stats provides proprietary information about sales, production and farmers' wages; although the companies are not identified, witness have said it's not hard to determine which company is behind each data set. The companies are accused of reducing the number of turkeys slaughtered each year while per-pound prices increased as much as 56.7% between 2000 and 2016. Read more at TheFern.org

The cost of going green generates savings after seven years, Stanford professor says

Revamping the world's infrastructure wouldn't be cheap, but it would pay for itself relatively quickly. Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson's research, published Friday, found that the $73 trillion cost would save $11 trillion annually. There is cause for caution, however: a 2017 article by Jacobson was criticized for its methodology regarding the cost of phasing out fossil fuel. Read more at Bloomberg