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Natural Products Expo

Dance your heart out at Expo West 2020 with these bands

Expo West concert

After a long day of exhibiting, learning and networking at Natural Products Expo West 2020, you deserve to kick back and enjoy an evening of music and dancing with fellow natural products industry peers. We’ve got you covered. From March 4-6, 2020, on the Grand Plaza Stage, join us for free concerts sure to help you let go of the day’s work and unwind with friends.

We’re excited to announce this year’s Expo West 2020 Evenings on the Plaza musical acts. Make sure you register for Natural Products Expo West to see these bands live!

The Hip Abduction

The Hip Abduction

The St. Petersburg, Florida, funky band brings a unique twist to music. It's technically Afro-pop mixed with alt-rock, making for a fun, playful Wednesday night.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020
6-8 p.m.
Grand Plaza Stage

Black Pumas

Black Pumas

This soulful funk duo reigning from Austin, Texas, were just Grammy-nominated for “Best New Artist,” making them a must-see on Thursday night. Expect to involuntarily dance—they have that kind of effect.

Thursday, March 5, 2020
6-8 p.m.
Grand Plaza Stage

Nahko and Medicine for the People

Nahko and Medicine for the People

Led by musician Nahko Bear, the 6-person band prides itself on its alternative world music sound. End your Expo West week with Nahko and Medicine for the People, whose mission is to “motivate and inspire our global Tribe.”

Friday, March 6, 2020
6-8 p.m.
Grand Plaza Stage

Teamsters urge 'no' vote on proposed UNFI executive pay package

Teamsters oppose UNFI's proposed executive compensation package

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters doesn't want United Natural Foods Inc. to reward its executives with double-digit pay raises since the company's stock spiraled downward over the past 16 months.

The Teamsters' main argument centers on UNFI's dramatic fall in value since the company announced its plan to acquire rival food distributor Supervalu.

Before the acquisition, UNFI was valued at about $2.2 billion, according to the Teamsters. Now, however, its market capitalization is less than half a billion, the union says. At the end of November, reported UNFI's market capitalization at $465 million.

"Even as management has succeeded in destroying billions of dollars in shareholder value, the Compensation Committee…has taken numerous steps to cushion the financial blow to CEO Steven Spinner" and Chief Operations Officer Sean Griffin, the Teamsters wrote in a November letter to shareholders.

Shareholders will vote on the compensation plan during Wednesday's annual meeting, but their decision regarding pay is simply advisory.

According to the Compensation Committee's report, Spinners' proposed pay, including incentives, is $7.1 million based on fiscal 2019 results. That's a 39% increase from the $5.1 million he earned a year ago.

Griffin's total pay, as proposed, totals $3.7 million, an increase of 78% from the $2.1 million he earned last year. Before the acquisition, Griffin was the CEO of Supervalu.

UNFI management has deserved higher compensation many years, says Alan Meyers, a senior capital markets adviser or the Teamsters. "This is not that year."

UNFI did not respond to request for comment, but the Compensation Committee's report detailed the process of determining Spinner's base salary and cash incentive.

How the CEO's salary is calculated

Spinner joined UNFI in September 2008 as the company's president and chief executive officer, and become chairman of the board in 2016. The 59-year-old has more than 30 years' experience in food distribution.Steven Spinner, CEO and chairman of UNFI

Spinner's base salary for fiscal 2019 was increased to $1.2 million, effective Oct. 22, 2018, in part because the addition of Supervalu gave Spinner greater responsibilities.

In general, pay packages for named executives are based on the pay at companies with similar revenue—between $10 billion and $25 billion in UNFI's case, according to the Compensation Committee's report.

"This is one of the reasons shareholders are skeptical of empire-building: Because it pushes the CEOs' pay peers into a different bracket," Pryce-Jones says.

In analyzing companies with market caps of $200 million to $800 million, determined the median CEO total compensation was $1.7 million.

Bonuses designed to motivate executives

UNFI's pay packages are designed so executives are motivated to create short-term and long-term stockholder value. Therefore, the CEO's pay is weighted so 85% of his potential pay package—including cash and vesting shares of stock—is determined by the company's financial results.

Originally, Spinner's compensation bonus was to be based half on adjusted EBITDA and half on adjusted EPS, then compared to benchmarks for those measures. If those metrics reached the committee's target, Spinner would receive a bonus equal to 150% of his salary, or $1.75 million.

In September, the Compensation Committee further adjusted both EBITDA and EPS, based on accounting adjustments that did not affect the company's core business, according to the report. The adjusted EBITDA was $588.9 million or 43.49% of target. Similarly, an $80 million adjustment to EPS increased that metric to $2.51 per share, generating a 200% payout. As a result, Spinner would have received  a total payout of 121.74%, according to the committee's report.

The committee determined the payout was "not in line with performance," so the members used their discretion to eliminate the EPS portion of the bonus. This decision was made, the committee report states, "for internal equity purposes." EPS was not a factor for the bonuses of the other named executives, including Griffin, according to the committee's report.

But Pryce-Jones and Meyers argue that the committee should have taken the $80 million out of the EPS calculation and proceeded with the 50-50 split. This would have lowered EPS to about $1.28—below the threshold for any bonus based on EPS. Consequently, Spinner's blended bonus payout would have been 21.5% percent of target: $384,272 or 32% of his salary.

Instead, Spinner's payout, based solely on the adjusted EBITDA, was 43% of the target payout: $759,556 or 65% of his base salary. The other executives' payouts were also based on 43% of the EBITDA target, but they had varying levels of compensation tied to the target.

UNFI stock has fallen 82.72%, to $6.84 on Friday from $34.48 per share on July 26, 2018.

Falling value has been a long-term problem

The Teamsters' letter to shareholders noted that UNFI wasn't a strong investment even before the Supervalu acquisition was announced on July 26, 2018. During the five years prior, the stock fell 40.96%, while the S&P 500 grew 67.73%.

UNFI is "among the worst investments in the United States," the Teamsters' letter stated.

As of Dec. 13, the company's stock has fallen 80.2%, to $6.84 on Friday from $34.48 per share on July 26, 2018. At the same time, the S&P 500 increased 11.7% and the NASDAQ 100 grew 11.2%.

The Teamsters, including its affiliated pension and benefit funds, "have substantial holdings" in UNFI, according to the letter signed by Ken Hall, the union's general secretary-treasurer.

Pryce-Jones and Meyers could not estimate the Teamsters' holdings because the union's money is invested through separate funds, the men said in a phone interview. Neither the international organization nor the locals hold stocks directly, Meyers says.


PDF versions of UNFI's proxy statement (top) and the Teamsters' letter to shareholders (bottom) can be downloaded by clicking here:


Personalized nutrition: What I learned from dozens of tests and reports

Tom Aarts

As a passionate believer in the power of nutrition, regularly consuming 25 to 30 supplements a day, I was eager to dive into the personalized nutrition movement, seeking out a spectrum of diagnostic technologies to dial in my health.

On these pages in 2013, I explored what companies in the space need to do to succeed. I suggested the future may belong to a company that comes from a testing or technology standpoint and adds in nutrition as opposed to a supplement company that adds diagnostics on top of its products. I still believe that. Among the keys to success is accessibility. We should be able to lick a sensor on our smartphone and access our personal genome and other key biomarkers. We are not quite there, but we’ve made great strides in simpler diagnostics and delivery.

There are urine-testing devices and toilet-attachments that quantify vitamins and minerals. An EKG can be transmitted from phone to doctor. I still believe it’s not far off where we’ll be able to measure other inputs directly using our mobile phones for various diagnostic tests.

On my journey, I have taken 20 diagnostic tests using the inputs of blood, urine, saliva, and stool. Although some have been around for a long time—we’ve been taking blood for more than a century—analysis for DNA and the microbiome have advanced. In 2016, I paid $2,000 for a full genome test. The same test is now under $500, on its way to $100 before long.

To pair diagnostic tests with products requires transparency from the outset. Smart companies are using the tests to design a better product for individual consumers. I recently took a Sun Genomics test, a personalized program of probiotics based off stool test results. The idea is to “correct” the microbiome using the provided products. I will re-take the test in three months to learn if it’s working.

Most of the results look great, but many left me searching for the “so what?” and also the “now what?” What behavior changes could I make, and would they be easy to follow? The test results can seem overwhelming, and the results difficult to decipher. The conclusions are too often either over-simplified or too complicated. The interpretation and presentation of results are as important as the results themselves.

Robust technology is paramount, but when brands can’t explain what behaviors consumers should change and what benefits they can expect, the value proposition falls flat. I started my diagnostic journey in 2016 with a 23andMe test. My results were difficult to understand. I used the NutraHacker app to decipher the data, which told me some very interesting things, but I still needed expert help to tell me what I should take away from my genome testing.

I’ve done five personalized blood tests, six DNA tests (including my full genome) and seven microbiome tests. Some provide only results, others angle their testing to sell supplements. I’ve done a few additional tests that help me monitor those diagnostics, including the Oura ring for sleep, nitric oxide test strips for blood flow, and Zeavision’s MPOD device for measuring macular pigment (a predictor of macular degeneration and damage from blue light).

My motivation is not solely my interest in the industry, I also want to see where I can move the needle on my health and possibly catch conditions before I see symptoms. I was inspired by Dr. Larry Smarr, an astrophysicist turned computer scientist and one of the top researchers and thinkers at the University of California San Diego in the Calit2 computer engineering program. Larry combined a passion for health with his technology background to produce groundbreaking studies, most notably charting the body’s microbiome and specifically his own gut—efforts chronicled in The Atlantic as “The Measured Man.” I wanted to be the most measured man in the nutrition industry.

Changes made

Despite the challenge of interpreting the reams of results, I now feel confident many of the answers I found will make a positive impact on my health. I’ve already changed my behavior in several ways. In my 23andMe test, I learned my ability to process vitamin B is reduced 40%, a variation examined by many functional/integrative medicine doctors. I don’t methylate vitamin B properly, and I need a different form of vitamin B. As soon as I started taking methylfolate, my energy increased and I felt better. DNA testing also told me I have the APOE 3/3 gene combination and not the 4/4 combination, which increases the lifetime risk of early onset Alzheimer’s disease by over 50%.

My father suffers from moderate dementia at 89 and his grandmother died at 88 with dementia. I’m appropriately but urgently concerned about my cognitive health, but I was happy to learn that I have the 3/3 combination, which only makes me 9% more likely to get Alzheimer’s. Still, I’m now looking at what I can do to stay sharp well into the century mark.

Though there is significant research on preventing Alzheimer’s—a horrible disease not only for families but potentially for the economy—many people think there’s little they can do about it. I believe the right nutrition can mitigate most diseases, and now people like Dr. Dale Bredesen, author of The End of Alzheimer’s are proving that a combination of nutrition and behavioral changes can delay early onset Alzheimer’s even for people with the APOE 4/4 combination.

Going to the gut

Obviously, the data can be confusing, and I’ve taken multiple microbiome tests all with various different reports on the hierarchy of bacteria in my gut. Detail and diligence varied. I would need an entire issue of NBJ to compare and contrast all of the various reports and conclusions from the microbiome tests, but some of the broad and general findings have changed how I eat and think about food.

One of the more extensive tests came from Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory. This DSL test goes through practitioners, and I learned from my test in 2017 that I had a high level of steatocrit, which means too much fat in the stool and poor fat digestion linked to low lipase production. I also noticed from this analysis that I had elevated anti-gliadin, meaning that I have high gluten sensitivity but shy of a celiac diagnosis. The Vibrant Gut Zoomer test validated that I have high levels of zonulin, both an indicator of gluten sensitivity and a precursor to leaky gut. I changed my diet and took additional probiotics and prebiotics. I cut out all gluten, focused on going lower carb and higher protein and as a result I lost some weight around my gut. Tested a year later, the steatocrit level was lower and fecal zonulin also normalized.

In 2019, I went deeper into my microbiome with three different tests from three different companies. Sun Genomics is more focused on selling supplements than selling tests. DayTwo sells no products, but recommends changing diet based on how certain foods affect glycemic response. Owned by practitioner-channel brand Thorne, Onegevity provides test results and makes product recommendations. Most of those products are made by Thorne, which raises questions of disclosure.

Much of the actionable data from these tests centered around the diversity of my gut. The Onegevity test determined that 91% of the population had a less diverse gut than me. This was validated with the test from DayTwo which gave me a gut diversity index of 9.91 and ranked me at the 99% level in diversity compared to the general population.

DayTwo also ranked foods based on how they impact glucose levels. After logging my meals into the app for three days, DayTwo identified foods such as coconut and strawberries that would support a healthy glucose response. When I pick foods now, I try to pick those marked green on the DayTwo app. Benefits I can expect from these changes include more energy, weight loss, less food cravings, and a lower A1C3 marker. It did not indicate how long I needed to make these changes before I saw results.

All of this sounds easier to interpret than it was. You almost need to be a microbiologist to understand all the details of the report, and I don’t think the average consumer will be likely to see a “so what?” and “now what?” I was also concerned that some of same bacteria percentages varied by company.

In the Onegevity test, I was told that gut inflammation is bad, that certain bacteria can contribute to gut inflammation, and that I needed to reduce certain bacteria in my gut. The report did not give me specific guidance on how to increase or decrease certain bacteria, although they did make product recommendations.

At the end, Onegevity recommended a boiler plate ketogenic diet and recommended foods to include and avoid on this diet. It also made recommendations of Thorne supplements to maintain normal inflammatory processes in the intestines, support my gut immune function, and nourish my beneficial gut flora in the intestinal track.

Interesting, but actionable?

The key behaviors that I changed as a result of all this testing include being more aware of how foods affect my microbiome. I’ll be supplementing missing microbes with key probiotics, and I’ll take prebiotics to feed the health-promoting bacteria in my gut.

I also learned that decreasing stress benefits the microbiome. I’m trying to meditate more, which has proven to be difficult. I’m monitoring sleep quality with the Oura ring, which measures REM sleep, deep sleep, and heart rate variability (HRV). These are important measures that contribute to my overall sleep score. Having the daily monitor on my phone helped to change some of my behavior around this all-important part of life.

I’d still like to discover the impact of certain foods on circadian rhythms. Based on my results and my genome testing and my microbiome testing combined, I believe that certain patterns of eating might be better for me. The science on intermittent fasting is coming on strong. If these tests would tell me not only what to eat but when to eat it, that would be enormously helpful.

Actionable and affordable?

I believe that over time, just as the genome test cost has come down, microbiome testing will be less expensive. The prices for microbiome tests were anywhere from $175 to $400, an expense almost never covered by insurance. As science gets better and more people take these tests, I think the price for microbiome testing should cost less than $100. Still, there’s debate whether a simple stool test can deliver accurate and/or applicable microbiome results. What a user ate the day before can make a big difference. Two tests to the customer, one before intervention and one after, might provide a better value, but the microbiome is inherently a moving target.

In the end, personalized nutrition can only be brought to the mass market consumer when they’re ready for it. As an NBJ Summit speaker said last year, people are not ready to do all the testing that I did and will likely find it impossible to interpret and then use the results to make actionable changes in their health. I think we need to meet the consumer at the very basic level and make it as easy as possible for them.

One of the more interesting companies along the easy-to-do curve is Baze, which has technology to measure blood through a microneedle device. The test is done at home and provides levels for eight basic vitamins. Other companies are offering at-home urine tests. This is how I think personalized nutrition diagnostics will meet the consumer in a massive way. Stanford Behavior Scientist BJ Fogg Ph.D. says, “Behavior change occurs when a behavior is easy to do and someone’s motivated to do it.” If both of those things aren’t true, people don’t cross over the action line and achieve behavior change.

As personalized nutrition gets easier for consumers and meets them where they’re motivated to make change, I believe we’ll begin to see the beginnings of this new field approaching the promise so many see in it. As these tests get easier—and cheaper—we’re going to see which supplements make a difference and which do not. The tests will bear out which products are efficacious and which are not. Can you imagine taking a test and then taking a probiotic that doesn’t improve your gut? I would be disappointed in a product if it didn’t move the needle on my test results. This will be disruptive to our industry in the best possible way.

Personalized nutrition has so much potential, but the industry has to live up to its potential. Consumers will be watching, one test at a time.

NBJ LogoThis piece was originally published in Nutrition Business Journal's Personalized Nutrition Issue

3 ways to use unique sampling methods

Bhakti tuk-tuk

When RollinGreens co-founders Lindsey and Ryan “Chef Ko” Cunningham wanted to launch their business they took out a $25,000 loan to customize a food truck. Less than two months later it was operational and on the road.  

For five and a half years, the food truck was a RollinGreens staple that helped grow a brand that has become synonymous with its Ancient Grain Millet Tots.

“We were constantly booked, we worked seven days a week, 100 hours a week,” says Lindsey Cunningham whose company launched its packaged product line in 2015 and had the food truck as a farmers market staple in Boulder, Colorado. “We were able to get face-to-face with our customers and got feedback on a daily basis. It was such a unique approach to launch food into the marketplace.”

Here are a few other ways to offer unique sampling methods from natural food business owners who know.

1. Host a charity event.

Chef Ko began doing store demos, along with other people they hired for three years to constantly get that consumer feedback. Last summer RollinGreens took it a step further and teamed up with Beyond Burger, Sir Kensingtons, Health Ade Kombucha and Whole Foods Market for a traveling pop-up burger bar at 12 different Whole Foods. Customers paid $8 for the meal with proceeds going to a charity of Whole Foods’ choice.

Besides giving back to others, Cunningham says the experience also got their tots in front of new customers.

Thanks to a connection with a board member, RollinGreens teamed up with Cooking Matters which is part of Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit organization working to end childhood hunger in the U.S. To raise funds for Cooking Matters, RollinGreens donated a “Night with Chef Ko” where he would go to someone’s home and cook a dinner. The proceeds of the event were then given to Cooking Matters, Cunningham says.

To find good charity partner for a food sampling event, review GuideStar, which rates and ranks charities, at

2. Deliver your product by using a creative delivery method.

Go almost anywhere in Asia and you’ll probably see or ride in a tuk-tuk at some point.

Brook Eddy, the founder of Bhakti, the chai beverage company whose name in Sanskrit means “devotion through social action,” loved India while traveling through the country in 2002. To meld the ritual of drinking a cup of spicy chai with a business plan, she converted a tuk-tuk into a sampling station, and hired a driver who traveled around the U.S. for a year before returning to Colorado.

“We wanted to get across how fun we were,” she says. “And we wanted to create an experience.”

They customized the tuk-tuk to hold refrigerators on both sides in the back with a table that slid out to display merchandise and offer pressed pots of hot chai once the two-seater vehicle was parked. After hosting a contest, they named the tuk-tuk Ginger and brought her to Targets, cafes and yoga festivals.

To find the right person who could do “guerrilla marketing and pass out bottles,” Eddy says they hired someone personable, who had been traveling abroad and was only looking for a year-long job and was willing to get his motorcycle license—a necessity in some states if you want to drive a tuk-tuk.

“It is a big spend to pay someone full-time, but it brought a lot of awareness for the brand,” says Eddy, who has retired Ginger to doing local events in Denver and Boulder, Colorado, such as the Jaipur Literature Festival.

What she didn’t anticipate before making the $80,000 purchase for the customized tuk-tuk was all the mechanical things that needed to be fixed along the way, from batteries needing to be charged to refrigeration pieces.

“But a lot of people would stop us because they wanted to know what was that thing driving down the road,” she says. “That’s when we’d stop and hand out a bottle of chai.”

3. Limit access, offer targeted sampling.

It certainly helps to have celebrity backers like actress Kate Hudson and retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez touting your product. When Zak Normandin, the founder and CEO of Iris Nova, the parent company of Dirty Lemon Beverages, launched in 2015, he knew it needed to be a direct-to-consumer operation. After founding Little Duck Organics, a kid-based food business in 2009, Normandin soon realized he couldn’t get all product ideas directly into the hands of the consumers because of the buyers.

“We were coming up with cool ideas and often getting stopped by buyers,” says Normandin, whose company is backed by Coca Cola. “We wanted to find an easy way for customers to receive the product but reorder them.”

So they used technology as a value-add for their investment to distribute beverages throughout the platform with an order-by-text philosophy.

Unlike most companies, they didn’t sample on a national scale. Instead, they focused on “strategic wholesale accounts” where consumers could buy a single drink instead of spending $65 on a six-pack.

The Drug StoreThey opted out of traditional grocery stores and focused on being in high-end establishments such as Barry’s Bootcamp locations and Erewhon Market in Los Angeles, as well as setting up space in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood “Drug Store” as its first of several permanent locations.

“We looked at this as a great opportunity for customers to sample the product before buying it,” says Normandin, whose Iris Nova company is now working with startups and established companies to distribute third-party beverages.

By limiting the number of locations customers could access the product, Normandin says they were able to create demand by being highly selective while collecting data to better understand their target demographic. 

[email protected]: Organic's deforestation loophole? | More government oversight for CAFOs


Does a loophole in organic standards encourage deforestation?

Buying products that use organic palm oil doesn't necessarily guarantee that rainforests weren't obliterated in order to produce the ingredient. And this is just one facet of ecosystem destruction that organic production is currently responsible for according to the National Organic Standards Board; the group is trying to push for legislation that will close the loophole and ensure that no organic farming results in the destruction of native ecosystems. Read more at Civil Eats... 

Two new bills would blunt impact of factory farms on public health and the environment

Two pieces of legislation introduced this month seek to give FDA the authority to investigate CAFOs implicated in foodborne illness outbreaks as well as banning new large CAFOs. The bills were brought to the Senate by New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Cory Booker, respectively. Read more at New Food Economy...

Facing a 'food desert,' Oklahoma City wants Dollar Stores to sell fresh food

Zip code 73111 in Oklahoma City is one of the unhealthiest in the nation–largely because residents don't have access to grocery stores and get most of their food from Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. This week the City Council is holding a public hearing that could require new retailers in the area "to designate at least 500 square feet of space to fresh food" in order to address this lack of access. Read more at The Wall Street Journal...

Obesity is linked to food insecurity. SNAP cuts may make both worse

Over 11% of households in the U.S. are food insecure, a status that in most cases leads to poorer mental and physical health. Thus, the Trump administration's most recent rule change, which will likely take away SNAP benefits from almost 700,000 people, . Read more at NPR...

Cultured or cell-based? The struggle to find the right name for lab-grown meat

The deadline is coming for lab-grown meat companies to decide on a unifying term for their product before the first iterations hit shelves in 2020. As one cell-based meat producer states, such companies are aligned on pretty much everything, including mission and infrastructure, but "the nomenclature question just rarely comes up." Read more at Quartz...

5 (actually, 10) things that should concern us about CBD

Steve Mister, CRN

For its new Hemp & CBD Guide 2.0, Nutrition Business Journal asked me to write a short piece on five things that should concern the supplement industry about CBD, but the list quickly expanded to ten, and it’s not so short. It’s just that complex of an issue. Here they are:

1. How will the FDA interpret the so-called "clinical investigation exclusion?"

It worries me (assuming the FDA acts at all; see #10) because of the long-term implications for future ingredients. This provision of DSHEA gives pharmaceuticals a monopoly for an ingredient if they conduct the clinical research first. GW Pharmaceuticals has done the research on CBD for its Epidiolex product and conceivably could attempt to claim that monopoly. Potential supplement ingredients may never get to market if the FDA broadly interprets the clinical investigation exclusion as giving pharma companies too much incentive to lay claim to ingredients they never commercialize. Safety concerns are not part of this preliminary decision; it’s about market economics and giving consumers access to products through different regulatory categories (drugs, supplements, food, cosmetics etc.). However, the FDA could shut down the whole discretionary process by focusing on safety before supplement companies get to conduct their own research. Who would conduct safety studies for supplements if there’s no market at the end of the process?

2. How will the FDA handle NDI notifications for CBD?  

Here is where safety should be center stage. Assuming CBD is judged to be a legal ingredient, most industry members agree that CBD products must follow the requirements of a new dietary ingredient. The FDA and industry have never resolved their differences over how to determine whether an ingredient is “reasonably expected to be safe.” How much safety data will the FDA require? What if the agency objects and a manufacturer goes to market anyway? With so much about the NDI draft Guidance still unresolved, CBD will likely be the stress test to force resolution of the NDI issues—with uncertain outcomes.

3. Will CBD spell the end of GRAS self-notifications for supplements?  

Some firms have long used the second prong of the NDI provision in DSHEA as a workaround for NDI notifications. By conducting a self-affirmation that an ingredient is “generally recognized as safe,” and then introducing that ingredient into the food supply first, they bring the ingredient into supplements shortly thereafter and avoid the requirements of an NDI notification. The FDA and many consumer organizations strongly disfavor this process because it avoids stringent scrutiny of the scientific data by the FDA. Given the FDA’s deep reservations about CBD’s safety, would the agency leap at this opportunity to end self-GRAS for dietary ingredients entirely?

4. A place for synthetic CBD?  

While there are reputable firms producing various forms of synthetically derived CBD (from yeast mediums to chemically created versions), there are companies marketing “synthetic CBD” that is not CBD at all. Given the larger backdrop about the dangers of synthetic marijuana, and that we are still battling with the FDA over the issue of whether DSHEA permits synthetic botanical constituents at all (not to mention the fact that synthetic CBD doesn’t employ any farmers in Kentucky), we could see the FDA prohibit synthetic CBD altogether. And that decision could set precedent for whether other synthetic versions of botanical constituents can be used in supplements at all.

5. Migrant companies versus legacy manufacturers?  

With most new ingredients, established supplement manufacturers and marketers introduce new products into their existing portfolios of ingredients. They already know how a dietary supplement company is supposed to behave, what legal labels and structure/function claims look like and how to observe GMPs. The CBD market is different. It’s filled with firms that have migrated to the dietary supplement category for the first time because they think it’s a viable path to market to avoid the requirements of a drug. Therefore, they don’t really appreciate the legacy of DSHEA or the culture of self-regulation and commitment to consumer safety that has developed over the past 25 years of DHSEA. Which leads me to …

6. Products labeled as dietary supplements must play by our rules.  

It’s simple: If products put a dietary supplement Statement of Identity on their front label or a supplement bfox on the rear label, then they have agreed to play by the rules of this category. I worry about the products marketed as CBD supplements already on store shelves that play fast and loose with established legal requirements. Where is the contact information for reporting an adverse event? If it’s a topical product, it’s not a dietary supplement; so why is it “flavored”? Can a product labeled for pain management, containing menthol and camphor, also contain CBD and call itself a supplement? CBD product manufacturers need to pick a lane and then live by those rules.

7. Can this category withstand the media spotlight?  

Given the intense media scrutiny that CBD is receiving today, any product errors or safety mishaps will have tremendous implications for the entire category. This is no time to screw up. Several market tests have revealed CBD products containing more CBD than the label states, containing no CBD at all or contaminated with heavy metals, pesticides or solvents. These manufacturing errors, and the potential for public harm they create, could spell a market crisis if we don’t weed out the bad actors, or at least teach them how to play by the rules. Imagine a headline containing “Dietary Supplement Containing CBD Kills.”

8. Does it really do everything?

CBD is already referred to as a 21st-century snake oil because of the sheer breadth of unsupported claims being made for it. Part of #6 (above) is that CBD products make blatant drug claims for everything from cancer, to migraines to autism. Even if those claims are true, products making such claims must go through the rigorous process for a new drug to give patients confidence they really work. Supplements cannot legally claim to treat, cure or mitigate diseases. I worry the reckless use of these claims on so-called supplement products will mislead consumers, will engender pushback from drug manufacturers if these products eat into their market share and will lead the FDA to limit claims across all supplements.

9. Can we keep the THC out? 

I’m also troubled about the lack of attention to keeping the psychoactive constituent THC out of CBD dietary supplements. The Farm Bill legalized constituents of hemp only so long as they contain less than 0.3% THC. But some products are delivering much more. And even at the mandated level, it’s possible that habitual use of a CBD product could trigger a positive drug test for THC. Do consumers realize that? Are manufacturers being meticulous to remove the THC and alert consumers of the risks?

10. What if the FDA refuses to act?  

What if the FDA’s indecision towards CBD drags on for three to five years, as former FDA Commissioner Gottlieb predicted back in March? During that time, the risk of a deadly event from poorly made products could increase while more poor-quality products continue to fill the marketplace and many responsible players stay on the sidelines. I worry that the FDA believes that it will be insulated from any blame if it does nothing and that the presumption that “no decision is better than a wrong decision” will paralyze the agency from acting. Meanwhile, our consumers are at risk. An unregulated CBD marketplace that demolishes consumer confidence in the supplement category that we have worked so long to build could be our greatest threat of all.

Organic Trade Association receives $3M from USDA to boost organic exports

Organic Trade Association logo

The Organic Trade Association will be showcasing American organic products at events throughout the world next year, from the world’s biggest organic trade show in Germany and the largest trade show in the Gulf Region, to the leading retail shows in the Pacific Rim, Australia and Canada.
Bolstered by awards totaling almost $3 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Organic Trade Association’s robust export promotion efforts in 2020 and beyond will return to tested venues to build on earlier successes and participate for the first time in exciting and potentially significant new markets.
USDA announced on Thursday the award of $812,786 to the Organic Trade Association by the agency’s Market Access Program (MAP). The association received funds totaling $1,127,085 from USDA’s Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program earlier in the year. The ATP funds are to be used over the course of three years.
The Organic Trade Association also has received funding for two Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops (TASC) programs. The first project, funded with $268,400 to be used over two years, will develop an equivalency application template for other countries to use when applying for organic equivalency with the U.S. The second TASC project, funded with $687,000 for a three-year period, revolves around the changing regulations in the European Union and possible impacts on U.S. organic exporters.
“The significant export promotion funding from USDA is allowing the Organic Trade Association to both explore new markets and dig in deeper where we have seen success in recent years,” said Alexis Carey, Manager of International Trade for the association. “Right now, U.S. companies are uniquely situated to expand and diversify the global organic marketplace, and we want to enable them to take advantage of the numerous opportunities available.” 
The Organic Trade Association has been an official cooperator in USDA’s Market Access Program for almost 20 years now–investing in the promotion of American organic agricultural products in global markets and connecting buyers and sellers to create new organic customers around the world.

Taking US-grown organic around the world 

International activities spearheaded by the trade association reached new heights in 2019 with the advent of additional funding from USDA. By the end of this year, the Organic Trade Association will have led 11international events in seven different countries, from Asia to the Middle East, Europe, and South America.  
Between the Market Access Program and Agricultural Trade Promotion Program funding, over $1 million in USDA export promotion funding was put to good use in attending domestic and international trade shows, leading trade missions and buyer missions, and conducting consumer promotion activities in Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, and the U.A.E.

At the Anuga trade show in Cologne, Germany, the largest food and beverage trade show in the world, the Organic Trade Association hosted an Organic Pavilion showcasing organic products from 12 American organic companies – nine of which were new to the show. The participating companies estimated that they generated over $13 million in new sales at the show. A successful trade mission to Seoul, Korea, in November resulted in projected new sales of over $7 million for the four participating companies. In early December, four organic companies participated in a trade mission to the Middle East Natural and Organic show in Dubai where they met with regional buyers and learned more about export opportunities to the Gulf region.

Another full schedule of organic activities spanning the globe is planned for 2020:

  • In Germany, the Organic Trade Association will host its large Organic Pavilion at the BioFach World Organic Fair, the world’s leading organic food show. The Organic Trade Association will showcase 14 member companies, and will also have speaking sessions during the event’s congress.
  • From Germany, the Organic Trade Association will travel to Dubai with six organic companies to participate for the first time in Gulfood, the largest trade show in the Gulf Region. Drawing visitors from some 200 countries, the event is an exciting new export prospect in a region that is experiencing significant organic sales growth.
  • In Tokyo, the Organic Trade Association will return to the FoodEx Japan show after record success in 2019 with a larger pavilion to accommodate eight U.S. organic exporters. 
  • The Food and Hotel Asia show in Singapore will be another first, which the trade association will attend with eight U.S. organic companies. This show draws buyers from major Pacific Rim countries such as Japan and Korea, and also Southeast Asian countries. 
  • Canada is the largest export market for U.S. organic products, and the Organic Trade Association will lead five American organic companies to SIAL Canada in Montreal in April.
  • In the U.K. and the EU, the Organic Trade Association is collaborating with Foreign Agricultural Service offices in London and The Hague to lead for the first time an organic trade mission to these two regions in conjunction with the Free From Functional Food Expo in Amsterdam. This event will give U.S. exporters a better understanding of the European market and two major import centers. Sign-up for this trade mission is coming soon.
  • In the “Land Down Under,” the Organic Trade Association will lead a small group of U.S. organic exporters to the big Fine Food Australia trade show in Melbourne for the first time. Australia’s developed market presents an opportunity for U.S. organic processed products. Sign-up for this trade show is coming soon.
  • In France, the Organic Trade Association will attend two headline events -- the IFOAM World Congress in Rennes, France, and SIAL Paris, the largest trade show in the world for food and beverage products. There, the trade association will host a group of U.S. organic exporters and meet with buyers from around the world. Sign-up for SIAL Paris is coming soon.
  • In South Korea, Mexico, Japan, UAE, and South America, the Organic Trade Association will partner with local retailers to promote U.S. organic products in retail stores, through seminars, or other organic-centered events.
  • In the U.S., the Organic Trade Association will again host a buyers’ mission in Monterey, Calif, at the Organic Produce Summit after massive success in 2019. Buyers will be invited from Mexico and the Pacific Rim for one-on-one meetings with U.S. exporters. Buyers’ missions will also be coordinated at the Natural Products Expo West and Expo East trade shows. Sign up for the Organic Produce Summit Buyers’ Mission,  Expo West Buyers’ Mission, and Expo East Buyers’ Mission.

The membership of the Organic Trade Associations provides the bulk of U.S. organic exports. The market promotion activities administered by the association are open to the entire organic industry, not just association members.

Source: The Organic Trade Association

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