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Foxtrot Market closes $42M in Series B investment round

Foxtrot Market foxtrot website

Foxtrot Market, the corner store and café redefining convenience for the modern consumer, announced it has received a $42 million Series B growth investment. The round was led by David Barber's Almanac Insights and Monogram Capital Partners. Backers also include food and hospitality industry heavy hitters David Chang, founder of Momofuku; Nicolas Jammet, co-founder and chief concept officer of Sweetgreen; and Walter Robb, former CEO of Whole Foods.

With this investment, Foxtrot expects to double its store count by the end of 2021. This growth will include adding as many as nine stores in Chicago and Dallas where they presently have a footprint, and expansion into new markets including Washington, D.C. Funds will also be used to expand its line of private label packaged goods and gift offerings and to continue the investment into nationwide shipping which launched in January. The retailer will also accelerate its e-commerce capabilities and offering nationwide shipping on items like chef-driven packaged products, private label and exclusive-to-Foxtrot goods and wine.  

Additionally, Foxtrot has made three new appointments to its executive team: Sumi Ghosh, COO; Scott Holloway, SVP, Delivery; and Caroline Barry, VP, Strategy. The newest leadership additions, who have earned their stripes in leadership at Starbucks, Instacart and Sweetgreen, respectively, will be core to the brand's growth in this next phase. 

"With this new round of funding and an incredibly strong executive team now fully in place, we see 2021 as a year of tremendous growth for Foxtrot," said CEO and co-founder Mike LaVitola.

"We have built a business that marries the local approach of a corner store with the convenience of e-commerce. We know how our stores operate best and in which markets, which is where we'll be going deep with our expansion efforts next. We also look forward to showcasing to customers coast-to-coast what Foxtrot is all about as we continue to rollout shipping nationwide." 

Launched in 2014, Foxtrot combines an upscale corner store and café with app-based purchasing that makes its entire inventory available for delivery in under an hour. Foxtrot derives its revenue equally between online sales and in-store purchases. The brand's delivery model has been central to its customer service strategy since inception, making Foxtrot uniquely positioned for strength during the pandemic. In 2020 company sales increased over 100% fueled by consistent year-over-year growth across channels. Of that growth, 55% derives from retail, largely from same-stores sales, and over 200% from e-commerce, driven by a 100% increase in app downloads.

"Foxtrot has mastered giving their customers a seamless and convenient shopping experience--using innovation to meet guests where they are, when they want," said David Barber, founder of Almanac. "Foxtrot's commitment to building a sense of community in every market they enter by creating a space for both members of that neighborhood and local makers to test products and grow distribution is admirable. We're proud to lead this latest investment round and be part of helping Foxtrot reimagine the future of the neighborhood corner store."

Jared Stein, co-founder and Partner of Monogram added, "Foxtrot is leading the way in the long overdue re-platforming of the convenience channel, creating an environment that is both a third place for meetings and community engagement and an incredibly easy on-demand convenience offering across both physical retail and omnichannel delivery. The company was built for where the consumer is moving in terms of providing a small format store for all of a customer's essentials, and a few bonus items that you can't find anywhere else, elevating the curation with its own best-in-class proprietary offerings." 

In addition to grocery staples, Foxtrot stores offer a full-service café, sommelier-curated wine shop and unique gift bundles for every occasion via on-demand delivery and in its tech-enabled brick and mortar stores. Select gift bundles are also currently available in Foxtrot's Ship Shop, which will continue to add offerings as it expands its nationwide shipping capabilities.

Additional investors in Foxtrot's Series B round include Imaginary Ventures, Wittington Ventures, Fifth Wall, Lerer Hippeau, Revolution's Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, M3 Ventures, The University of Chicago, Collaborative Fund, Wasson Enterprise, Bluestein Ventures and Barshop Ventures.  

Source: Foxtrot Market

Total US online grocery sales hit $9.3B for January 2021

Getty Images black-shopper-covid19.jpg

The total U.S. online grocery market posted $9.3 billion in sales during January as more than 69.7 million U.S. households placed on average 2.8 orders across delivery, pickup and ship-to-home according to the Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey fielded Jan. 28-31, 2021. The delivery and pickup segment captured $7.1 billion in January 2021, accounting for 77% of all online grocery spending during the month.  

Total sales grew 15% in January 2021 vs. November 2020, driven largely by a 16% increase in the number of households buying online. Among the total household monthly active users, 78% engaged with either a delivery or pickup service–up from 64% in November. The ship-to-home usage rate dropped from 56% to 46% during the same period. Even with this growth, January’s overall usage rate fell short of the record 76.7 million households who shopped online in April 2020 when much of the U.S. was living under stay-at-home orders. 

While the average number of total online grocery orders placed by monthly active users for January 2021 remained at 2.8, essentially flat versus November 2020, the delivery and pickup segment collectively gained nearly six percentage points of order share, accounting for 66% of all online orders completed during January 2021.

The average order value decreased nearly 11% in January 2021 versus November 2020 when analyzing the aggregated spend rates across all three segments (pickup, delivery and ship-to-home).

The strong gains in the total number of households shopping online during January were tempered by sharp declines in the leading indicator “likelihood to use a specific service again,” which measures the share of customers who are extremely or very likely to place another online order with the same provider within the next month. The overall satisfaction metric dropped to 56% in January, down more than 32 percentage points from the record high ratings level in November 2020; the pickup segment had the greatest decline (35 points) during the period.

“Even though many grocers remain capacity constrained–especially with pickup–others are growing market share as they staff up or expand pickup to a larger store base,” explained David Bishop, partner, Brick Meets Click. “While throwing more labor at the issue isn’t ideal, this, along with improving assembling productivities via enhanced pick and pack practices, is vital to remaining competitive in the near term and not inadvertently giving your customer a reason to shop elsewhere.”

January’s drop in repeat intent scores can be partially explained by shifts in the customer mix, but retail conditions are also a factor. Compared to November levels, the share of first-time customers climbed by three percentage points overall and more than six points for pickup in January 2021.

This first-time customer group has consistently reported lower intent rates in past surveys. Additionally, retail conditions are causing a decrease in satisfaction levels among even the more experienced customer cohort; intent-to-repeat for this group dropped by almost 18 points in January compared to November. Brick Meets Click defines first-time customers as shoppers that place their first order with a specific service within the last three months, and “experienced” customers as those who made at least four orders with a service over the last three months.

“It’s clear from the data that retailers will face a challenge in holding on to a lot of online shoppers as experience is not meeting expectations,” said Sylvain Perrier, president and CEO, Mercatus. “To remain competitive with mass merchandisers, regional grocers need to enhance the digital shopping experience so as not to give their customers a reason to spend their money elsewhere. Grocers have to look at where they can improve operationally, how they can efficiently scale to meet online demand, and which services will be most effective at revenue protection going forward.”

Source: Brick Meets Click

How dropping the competition mindset can help foster long-term brand growth

Chauniqua Major-Louis majors project pop promo chauniqua major louis

For years, Chauniqua Major-Louis, founder of Orlando-based Major’s Project Pop, has tried to grow in a slow and measured way. Moonlighting, she incrementally grew her organic kettle corn brand while working a traditional 9-to-5 job in publicity. 

After the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement took off last year, Major-Louis, like so many other Black entrepreneurs, was featured in national media outlets like never before. First came a story in VegOut magazine that went viral. Then Major-Louis, known to many as “Major,” captured the attention of Esquire, Forbes and Country Living and other media outlets, catapulting her business—which she launched in 2014 as a side hustle—into a tier of popularity she never imagined with orders flooding in.

“Last year was insane,” says Major-Louis, who originally called her company Eat Project Pop. “Even though I’m a publicist, I never really promoted the company. I knew it would come with it. I knew more exposure can often time lead to more sales, and I knew I wasn’t ready for that. I didn’t have the infrastructure.”

Major-Louis had to adapt and streamline her processes and systems when orders began flooding in.

That lasted for months. In January Major-Louis says “sales were in the drain” and began to wonder if last year was an anomaly.

“I had to grapple with that and get my bearings,” she says. “Because I was used to running at a really fast pace."

By the end of January, it was “crazy again,” Major-Louis says, and she was getting emails from production studios.

Early in February Major-Louis was featured in a Parade magazine roundup of “Black Entrepreneurs, Authors and Businesses to Support During Black History Month.” Once again, the orders started flooding in.

“I started reading the notes from customers, and many told me we love your story, don’t give up, Black Lives Matter,” she says. “It was the sweetest thing. But I’ve been extremely overwhelmed because thousands of dollars of orders came in again in one day. We are sold out right now because the level of orders we’ve experienced between corporate and consumer is beyond me right now.”

Major-Louis, who will turn 32 in March, began her career working in account management and public relations at Rockaway PR, an agency that works with food, travel and hospitality brands. Although Major-Louis has since left that agency and started working at another one, it gave her a chance to work with chefs and restaurants across the country.

“I quickly learned I had a deep love and appreciation for food,” Major-Louis says. “Not just for the way that it tastes but an affinity for the people that actually make it, the growers and the whole system in between.”

After working many late nights, Major-Louis says she got an itch to do something else. Growing up in a military household, she considered joining the Army, and even made plans to get on a bus from Central Florida and go to Tampa to get her physical and be sworn into the military.

“I had a bus set up to take me down, and I just never got on the bus,” she says.

Then Major-Louis applied to Boston University’s MBA program, but says she wasn’t accepted. Major-Louis was still searching for something to do when she came up with her business idea while wandering through a farmers’ market. It took Major-Louis years to turn her dream into a reality. After launching in 2014 and becoming an LLC in 2017, she’s now made a name for her organic kettle corn brand.

Below is her advice for other entrepreneurs.

How did you come up with the idea for Major’s Project Pop?

Chaniqua Major-Louis: There was a place at the farmers’ market in Winter Park that would do these really cool fries. They would drizzle with olive oil and use fresh thyme. It was an upscale fry experience and I thought, how cool would that be to do it with popcorn, instead of cheap ingredients you have in the store. I put the idea in the back of my mind and moved on.

Then what happened?

CML: A couple of years later I received an air popcorn machine for Christmas from my employer. I started to play around with fun recipes and it became something cool to do in the office. I would make popcorn and have colleagues taste it. It was just fun.

Then I won a limbo contest in Miami and won a Williams Sonoma gift card. I decided to buy a Whirley Pop Popcorn Maker to up my popcorn game. I started playing with recipes and having fun.

How did you end up launching the business?

CML: I signed up for a foodpreneur series in Orlando [in 2014]. It’s a two-part series and it walks you through the journey of starting a food business from start to finish in a couple of weeks. I joined with a friend and we were going to launch a juice company. I soon learned how challenging it was to launch a juice company, including sourcing all the ingredients. Halfway through the program she dropped out.

So I was like, what the heck am I going to do? I committed to finishing the program. I ended up locking myself out of the house, so I had to walk from Winter Park, Florida, to East End Market in Orlando. It was a five, six or seven mile walk. During the walk, I told myself "Let’s just do this popcorn thing and see what happens."

In a few short weeks I create a logo and started playing around with recipes. I had to present to the public everything from the idea to the product. Everyone loved the version of kettle corn I made, and I’ve literally been running with the same recipe since then. It has served me well and people love it.

Chauniqua Major-Louismajors project pop product

What was life like for your business before the pandemic and death of George Floyd?

CML: In 2019 I started doing events. People were starting to like the brand more. I had a couple of partnerships with different hotels. Then I got an email from VegOut magazine; I filled out some information, and little did I know what I was signing up for.

That story led to, in like minutes, hundreds of orders piling in. I was working from home and looking at my computer. I started seeing the sales. It got to the point it was so overwhelming that I shut off sales for weeks. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know how to scale and I was not ready. I didn’t even have a label maker.

With hundreds of orders coming in, what did you do?

CML: I had to hand write every label. I knew I had to get it together. Thankfully my husband also works in marketing and production, and told me to get some systems in place. Because there was no way I could be writing down labels. It wasn’t going to work.

So I started putting systems in place and changed my mindset, very, very fast.

Everything I thought couldn’t happen, happened last year. I partnered with Amazon, Netflix and I was featured in Forbes. There was so much good happening it was sweet but bitter, because in my heart I knew it was happening because of the death of someone else, because of George Floyd and others who passed in 2020. Finally people started profiling Black businesses and people who have been producing amazing things for a long, long time finally got a light shined on them. It led to this explosion of support.

Truthfully, I never would have taken the steps to get to that point out of fear that I wouldn’t have been able to do it. That’s the beautiful irony in all of this. I was very blessed and pushed into the deep after playing it very safe for a long time.

Wow, that’s powerful. What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are just getting started?

CML: Make sure this is something you actually want to do. I’m most proud of the fact that I haven’t quit. Because there is an opportunity every day, like anything you do, whether it’s your marriage, your job, just anything. You have an opportunity to quit. Every day I’ve made a decision to keep going.

You’ve got to get a resolve, to find something deep inside of you, a deeper meaning that just your brand mission, a purpose, a true calling for what you are doing so that you can stick with it, even when you’re not making any money or when it’s amazing and you’re not sleeping. Both sides can be amazing, but very stressful.

What other advice would you give?

CML: I also tell people not to spend so much money on getting started. I’ve done almost everything for my business to date. I had a friend who helped me with my labels. I created the logo. I made the website. I worked with people to get some photos for me and for the most part have been able to create this whole system.

A lot of people feel that in order to have a successful business they need to spend $40,000 on a website and have a bajillion dollars and packaging. You don’t need any of that to get started. Maybe in the future you need to upgrade your systems to take it to another level. But I would advocate for people to start where they can. Don’t invest too much in the beginning.

The whole point is just to get started. As you grow and make money and make connections, I believe there will be people there that can help you along the way. Relieve yourself of that pressure of feeling like everything has to be done and you have to invest so much money to get started.

What are some of the small fixes that many early stage food entrepreneurs forget?

CML: Get a thermal label printer. It will save your life. It’s probably the best $200 you can spend on your business because it’s so practical and will ease your production.

Get some people around you that will encourage you and remind you why you are doing what you’re doing. It’s really easy to feel like you’re in it by yourself, especially late at night when you’re in the kitchen or you’re at an event and it’s just you packing up and setting up. It can feel lonely amid people clamoring for your attention or your product.

I have an amazing support system. My family, my friends, anybody I could get, I’ve asked to put some labels on bags and tape up boxes for me. I used every ounce of anybody who loved me, and they came through. 

You mentioned changing and implementing a lot of systems. Can you be more specific? What exactly did you change to improve your business?

CML: I had to get really organized and figure out what’s really going to work for me, for my business. Do I need to create some things on the back end of my website so that the user experience is easier, but it’s also easier for me?

It sounds simple, but it was crucial. And I finally invested in a thermal printer.

I adopted a shipping system called Pirate Ship, which a lot of people have never heard of. It gives you very steep USPS discounts because we’re still not big enough to have one of these big accounts with UPS and FedEx. Half of my sales were going to shipping, so making that change was key.

I had to change my packaging and go slightly smaller so I could control the weight of each bag. Before I’d make a bag of popcorn, because we are still hand packing, and I’d say, oh it can be a little bit more so every bad was overweight. The customer got about 98% of before but I was able to get more bags out to customers and it cut my shipping costs in half. The ounces change from 4 ounces to 3.8.

No one has said anything, but sometimes you have to be willing to make those small changes and adjustments.

What other adjustments have you made that have helped?

CML: In January, I made the move from Wix, which I’ve used for many, many years and has served me well, to Shopify. It was one of the hardest things I think I’ve had to do as a business. Because I had to learn so much, but it has integrations with Pirate Ship that Wix did not. When orders come in, all I have to do is just click ship and integrates with Shopify and all the orders will pop up. It’s simple changes that will save you time.

Before I had to download all my orders to an Excel sheet and then organize them and reupload them to Pirate Ship. Not a major big deal, but I didn’t want to be doing that.

Another cool setting on Shopify is, when I’m out of stock, people can just click to sign up and get notified when we’re back in stock. So that takes off the stress if people are going to come back and buy again. If they sign up, they want to buy again.

Any final words of advice?

CML: Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know. We all want to make it seem like we have it all together, but most of us rarely know what we are doing, if we’re growing.

Find people who are doing similar things in similar industries and build relationships with them, especially with people in different time zones.

For example, one of my friends, who is a visionary, told me to add tipping to my Shopify site. Last week, in two minutes, I got $12 in tips, which is going to pay for my website costs. It’s the little things like that, that you don’t know because you don’t know everything. People can give you little tips and encouragement, texting you at two o’clock in the morning because you’re both cooking.

It might seem like everybody is competing. If you drop that and realize you’re not competing with anybody, if you stay in your own lane and carved out your own niche in whatever you do, there’s never a need to compete. Losing that competition mentality can save your life because you don’t always have to look over your shoulder.

My company is the company it is today in large part because of the people I’ve connected with.

[email protected]: More consumers are growing food at home | Kroger plans COVID-19 rapid testing kit rollout

Getty Images home gardener vegetables

The COVID-19 gardening renaissance depends on seeds—if you can find them

Seed sales are sky high once again, pointing to a longer-term trend of consumers growing their food at home. While fears regarding food shortages are less heightened than they were at the onset of the pandemic, planting one's food provides a sense of stability and control that remains out of reach for the majority of Americans. As one expert interviewed in this article puts it: "In this world, where it feels like anything that can be commodified is commodified, to be able to grow your own food and save your seed and then grow more of your own food—it feels like a revolutionary act." Experienced gardeners are also experimenting with seed saving practices and engaging with others through seed swapping groups. Civil Eats has the full story.

Kroger plans rollout of iPhone-assisted COVID-19 rapid testing kits

Pending FDA approval of the test for public sale, Kroger will soon begin distributing an at-home COVID-19 rapid test kit that uses shoppers' iPhones to display results. Kroger's health arm plans to make the test available to buy online, as well as in its 2,200 pharmacies and 220 clinics across the country. Get the skinny at Apple Insider.

Plant-based burgers aren't a health food. That's a good thing

While most people know that the overconsumption of meat is leading us directly toward irreversible climate disaster, the general public is still eating record-high amounts of it. This is where next-gen meat alternative companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, which prioritize taste over nutrient density, come to the rescue. Expending capital making their products healthier won't do much to capture flexitarian consumer dollars—but bringing down the price point will. Fast Company reports.  

The CDC recommended states prioritize farm workers for the COVID-19 vaccine. Some large agricultural states have not

Agriculture-rich states Texas and Florida have left farmworkers out of their COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans thus far. Similar to safety protocols for employees, there is no federal standard for vaccine prioritization, and immunization is especially difficult when it comes to a migratory workforce that frequently moves across state lines. Many farmworkers have had to choose between their health and a paycheck over the past year. Learn more at The Counter.

The perks of working for delivery apps are dwindling amid scams and scheduling penalties

Employees of delivery companies including Uber, Instacart and Postmates are facing a multitude of challenges including low wages, scams and penalties—all of which have worsened over the past few weeks. Instacart, for instance, has been temporarily suspending the accounts of workers who cancel deliveries even in "no fault" cases. So far, these companies have used the pandemic-driven demand for their services to exploit the gig economy and lobby for legislation like California's Prop 22, which solidified that gig workers could not be considered employees of the apps they work for. Dive in at Eater.

Unboxed: 10 inclusive Black-owned natural beauty brands to stock

In response to a beauty industry that still overwhelmingly caters to consumers with lighter skin tones and straighter hair, Black entrepreneurs are using time-tested ingredients and innovative formulas to meet the unique needs of their community (one that is on track to spend $1.5 trillion in 2021, according to Essence).

And their buying packs even more power. A Nielsen report from 2019 digs into the ripple effects of Black consumer spending—what Black shoppers buy influences how other demographics spend their dollars across the board. An earlier Nielsen report also found that Black shoppers spend nine times more than their non-Black counterparts on hair and beauty products.

As the United States as a whole becomes more multicultural and less predominantly white, finding beauty brands suitable for the new population is a must for natural retailers. Many companies already realize this: Luxury retailers have intensified their focus on Black-owned beauty brands since the Black Lives Matter protests last year, and big-box beauty retailer Sephora recently pledged to double its assortment of Black-owned brands by the end of 2021.

With revenue at stake and no time to waste, here are 10 outstanding Black-owned natural beauty brands to stock that will drive customer loyalty and help shoppers of all races feel welcomed at your store.


Innovation and sustainability: Conventional food companies' 2021 plans

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Agility and innovation were the buzzwords during this year's virtual Consumer Analysts Group of New York meeting—at least for the conventional food companies we had an eye on.

In their pre-recorded presentations, executives generally highlighted how their companies reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic, their financial results and their goals regarding environmental and social issues. Of the seven presentations we watched, four companies offered information most relevant for natural retailers.

 General Mills Nature Valley recyclable wrapper

General Mills

"We work hard to make sure our brands stay relevant to consumers' ever-changing needs and demands. Staying relevant requires clear communication about each brand's purpose and meaning. We do this because know that brands with purpose deliver stronger business results." —Jeff Harmening, chairman and CEO

In wanting to be a force for good, General Mills has four priorities:

  • Regenerating the planet.
  • Improving food insecurity.
  • Strengthening communities.
  • Advancing inclusion among its executives and employees.

"These are areas where General Mills can have a real impact, and they're inherently tied to the success and sustainability of our business," Harmening said.

Highlight: Nature Valley is launching the first plastic snack-bar wrapper that can be recycled with plastic bags at retailers' drop-off bins.  



"We know that sustainability matters more to people than ever before, and that young people, in particular, they feel that it's time for business and brands to show more responsibility." —Alan Jope, CEO

Unilever expects to see strong growth in skin care, prestige beauty, functional nutrition and plant-based foods, with much of that growth come from acquisitions, Jope said.

However, the company uses science and technology to make its products more sustainable: Its plant-protein structuring ability gives the company's vegan, vegetarian and alternative meat products "superior taste and texture," he said.

  Conagra new frozen 2021


"We're focused on serving our customers and delivering growth for our shareholders while continuing to foster inclusion, support our local communities and make a difference for our environment." —Sean Connolly, president and CEO

Consumers have eating more frozen food, particularly ready-to-eat or heat-and-eat foods, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of consumers who are new to buying Conagra products, 45% are millennials or Gen Zers.

Highlight: New Gardein plant-based products scheduled for release include Ultimate Plant-Based Chick'n filets and nuggets; Ultimate burgers in black bean, falafel and chickpea varieties; and plant-based chili, with and without beans.

 Kellogg Incogmeato new 2021


"We enter '21 with a strong pipeline of launches for this year and for years to come, centered on the key areas of taste, well-being and plant-based protein, all of which are areas in which we have the expertise, the brands and the food to win in the marketplace." —Nigel Hughes, senior vice president, Global Research and Development

Consumers are more interested in health and well-being, and Kellogg is fulfilling that demand with new zero- or no-sugar variations of its products, as well as keto-friendly and plant-based proteins.

Highlight: Incogmeato, a plant-based meat alternative under the Morningstar Farms brand, will add Chik'n Nuggets and Bites, burger patties and Italian Sausage to its line.

[email protected]: E-commerce wins | Amazon killing Whole Foods? | Purpose sells

Getty Images fresh direct online grocery deliver

Groceries and sporting goods benefited most from 2020’s e-commerce boom

E-commerce spending grew a whopping 32.4% last year over 2019. Winners included groceries, sporting goods and home improvement gear. Still, though, e-commerce only reached 14% of total retail sales. CNBC reports the latest from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Major meat corporations pay millions to settle price-fixing suits

Grocery shoppers, restaurant chains and supermarkets accused Tyson, JBS and others in a four-year-long battle of conspiring to raise pork and poultry prices. Anti-trust experts are now crying foul as settlements roll in. Food and Power examines the cost of penalties and settlements.

Purpose builds consumer trust and sales

“When someone sees a logo of a brand they know is purpose-driven, they automatically associate it with words like ‘responsible,’ ‘compassionate’ and ‘ethical.’ And when someone considers a brand purpose-driven, they’re also more likely to remember it, buy it, and want to work for the company that makes it,” Fast Company breaks down “system one” and “system two” thinking to understand the latest research.

Just how Erewhon is so cool

We know how cool health food is. Thanks to location, celebrities, influencers and its own hipness factor, Erewhon has become the hottest hangout in L.A. City growth and consumer changes play a role, too. The New York Times takes the world there.

Related: Check out what Erewhon debuted in its sixth Los Angeles store

Did Amazon spoil Whole Foods?

Whole Foods might be the only grocer to not get a pandemic boost. Is it all Amazon’s fault? Those in the natural products industry can point to disappointing changes since the online retailer bought the supernatural food store. Now consumers are complaining, too, about the warehouse-like atmosphere. Yahoo Finance gives a good market analyst’s take.


Natural Products Expo Virtual: Everything you need to know

Natural Products Expo Virtual

For the past 40 years, New Hope Network has hosted Natural Products Expo East and West to gather the natural and organic products industry to capture and propel the incredible innovation, connections and inspiration that exist within the community.

New Hope Network is committed to continue serving and uniting this industry, connecting buyers and brands, and providing new environments for product discovery, networking and education.  Until the community can safely gather again, this will happen via Natural Products Expo Virtual.

Wondering what exactly this virtual trade show and conference series will look like? Here are some answers to key questions.

What is Natural Products Expo Virtual?

Natural Products Expo Virtual is an online platform focused on connecting buyers and sellers through a series of virtual events that provide information to support natural products retail buying decisions throughout the year.

Through this platform, attendees will have the ability to request meetings, view brands’ products and content, as well as request samples during three Spark Change virtual events and during any virtual components of Natural Products Expo West and Natural Products Expo East.

Learn more at

What is Expo West Virtual Week?

Originally designed to complement the Anaheim trade show experience with digital programming access, Expo West Virtual Week, May 24-27, 2021, will now expand to feature virtual booths, a comprehensive sampling program, networking opportunities, curated retailer/buyer programs and conference programming focused on organic and natural product innovations and trends.

Where can I find Natural Products Expo West cancellation information?

Get answers about the conference and trade show cancellation in the Expo West 2021 Cancellation FAQs.

What is Spark Change?

In 2020, New Hope Network, which produces Natural Products Expo, introduced Spark Change, an effort that took buyers and sellers along a virtual journey of product discovery, networking and education to both address the challenges of the year and provide a meaningful virtual platform to help the industry stay connected.

Spark Change 2021 events will continue to unite manufacturers, service providers, buyers and sellers through a series of product/service discovery activations and focused virtual meetings. These online events will address the specific needs of key audience members while providing engaging and meaningful virtual experiences throughout the year.

In 2021, the Natural Products Expo Virtual platform will support the following events:

  • March 2-4, 2021 - Spark Change: Spark Brand Success 
  • May 24-27, 2021 - Natural Products Expo West Virtual Week
  • July 14, 2021 - Spark Change: Modern Health Innovations
  • Sep. 22-25, 2021 - Natural Products Expo East Virtual Extension
  • Nov. 10, 2021 - Spark Change: Sustainable Solutions

OK, I'm ready! What's next for Natural Products Expo Virtual?

The first Spark Change event, on March 2-4, 2021, is Spark Brand Success. From digital marketing inspiration and outside-the-box go-to-market strategies to advice for creating a truly diverse and inclusive company, some of the natural products industry’s most exciting and successful brands will share their secrets for growing responsibly, innovating for good and thriving (through the pandemic).

Pop in for any (or all!) of the fast-paced sessions on branding, distribution, trends, financing, certifications and more. Plus, find the right partners for your brand during the Spark Brand Success speed networking sessions and discover young talent at our first-ever Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) networking event. Come hungry for a whole lot of food for thought during these three binge-worthy days of brand education and networking.

Want to know who will be there? Here's a snapshot of event attendees.

How do I register for Natural Products Expo Virtual?

Qualified natural products industry business members should register as soon as possible to stay digitally connected with the community in 2021.

Do I need to register for each event?

Once a businessperson qualifies to attend, he or she will have access to all events hosted on the Natural Products Expo Virtual platform; no need to register for each one. Questions? Contact the New Hope Network customer service team.

How do I exhibit in Natural Products Expo Virtual?

Through Natural Products Expo Virtual booths, manufacturers, suppliers and service providers will have the ability to showcase their brand throughout 2021, including during three Spark Change virtual events and during any virtual components of Natural Products Expo West and Expo East, in a simple, high-impact way.

This is an opportunity to highlight new and exciting products, stay connected to the natural products community, including influencers and members of the press, and deliver rich company content.

Virtual booths will open Feb. 22, 2021. Contact your sales representative to get a virtual booth.

Best practices for virtual trade shows


How else can I get my company in front of the right people?

The Natural Products Expo Virtual booths provide a place for brands, service providers and suppliers to get your products in front of key decision makers. From there, sponsorship and marketing opportunities provide ways to highlight your innovations for good, lead important conversations and connect with the natural products industry. From brand storytelling opportunities to thought leadership and education options, Natural Products Expo Virtual offers solutions that fit your company's needs.

To take advantage of these opportunities, contact your sales representative.

What about sampling?

The Retail Box gives manufacturers an opportunity to send product to 100 top Spark Change retailers specifically interested in certain product categories.

The Press Box gives manufacturers an opportunity to send product to 100 top Spark Change members of the press.

Is Expo East still happening?

An enhanced Natural Products Expo East is currently scheduled to take place this fall in Philadelphia on Sept. 22-25, 2021. Along with connecting buyers and sellers in more curated ways, Expo East will bring to life our standards-driven approach to CPG sourcing and strengthen our industry’s efforts to grow organic and regenerative agriculture, engage in climate action and foster justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.


Danone welcomes Follow Your Heart to its plant-based family of brands

Danone Follow Your Heart vegenaise and cheese

Leading global food and beverage company Danone and Earth Island, maker of Follow Your Heart brands and a pioneering leader in plant-based foods, today announced that they have entered into a share purchase agreement under which Danone will acquire 100% of the shares of Earth Island. With a proven track record of growth and innovation, and a long-term commitment to nutrition, sustainability and environmental stewardship, Earth Island represents a strong cultural fit with Danone and provides Danone with a unique opportunity to strengthen its plant-based business.

Founded in 1988 to meet the growing demand for Vegenaise at the Follow Your Heart Market & Café, Earth Island is a pioneer in the U.S. plant-based marketplace with a leading dairy-free cheese brand—offering shredded and sliced plant-based cheese, grated and shredded plant-based parmesan and cream cheese alternatives—and the most iconic egg-free mayonnaise brand, Vegenaise. The company also produces delicious plant-based sour cream, salad dressings, and VeganEgg within their Follow Your Heart portfolio. As part of the Danone family, Earth Island will be able to accelerate the growth of the Follow Your Heart brand nationally and internationally alongside some of Danone's best-known plant-based brands, including Alpro, Silk and So Delicious Dairy Free.

"Our mission has always been to produce the best plant-based food products and to make them available to as many people as possible," said Bob Goldberg, co-founder and CEO of Earth Island. "We're very pleased to be joining the Danone family of plant-based companies in a collective effort to bring positive change in the world through the creation of sustainably and responsibly-made foods."

As a global and U.S. leader in plant-based food and beverages, Danone is committed to bringing innovative, delicious plant-based offerings to consumers, in an unmatched variety of formats, for every moment throughout the day, lifestyle and need. In the U.S., plant-based food and beverages are a $5 billion category, and plant-based cheese is one of the fastest growing segments within it. This partnership will enable Danone to enhance and expand its plant-based offerings to provide consumers with plant-based alternatives for even more occasions throughout their day, while also contributing to its goal of increasing plant-based sales worldwide from more than €2 billion in 2020 to €5 billion by 2025.

"We are delighted to welcome Follow Your Heart's team to our amazing team at Danone," said Shane Grant, executive vice president and CEO, Danone North America. "The Follow Your Heart family shares our commitment to producing high-quality products that delight consumers while contributing to the wellbeing of People and Planet. Consumers are increasingly eating flexitarian diets, and we look forward to working with the Follow Your Heart team to offer our consumers even more choices. This partnership will build on our success in plant-based beverages, yogurt alternatives and creamers, further accelerating the growth of our North American plant-based business."

Danone's North American business is the world's largest Certified B Corporation with a mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible. Like Danone, Earth Island is a mission-driven company dedicated to innovating and producing high-quality foods that enhance the lives of its consumers and contribute to the betterment and wellbeing of the Earth and its inhabitants. Together, the two companies will continue to lead the plant-based revolution to support the health of people and planet.

The transaction is subject to receipt of required regulatory approvals.

Source: Danone

Amid pandemic, grocery chains get ‘seal of approval’ for health, safety practices

Coborn's Coborns cart sanitizing covid-19

With COVID-19 still a big concern to shoppers, six supermarket chains from across the country have joined the Ecolab Science Certified program to bring a “seal of approval” to public health and safety conditions at their stores. 

With the move, Ingles Markets, Brookshire’s Food and Pharmacy, Cub Foods, Coborn’s, Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres have committed to “rigorous” cleaning protocols, training and audits to earn the Ecolab Science Certified seal, Ecolab Inc. said yesterday. The St. Paul, Minnesota-based company is a global provider of water, hygiene and infection prevention solutions and services to businesses in the food, health care, hospitality and industrial markets.

The Ecolab Science Certified program combines advanced chemistries with public health and food safety training, as well as periodic auditing, to help the food retailers achieve a higher level of cleanliness amid health and safety challenges and new consumer expectations amid the coronavirus crisis and other emerging pathogens, according to Ecolab. By passing Ecolab’s independent audit and adhering to the program guidelines, the grocery chains will be able to display the official Ecolab Science Certified seal at their combined 475-plus store locations.

Brookshire Grocery Co.Brookshires Grocery-produce worker-face mask-COVID.jpg

Visible signs of health and safety practices, such as this Brookshire's associate donning a face mask and gloves, are a key element of the Ecolab Science Certified program for food retailers.

Visible signs of health and safety practices, such as this Brookshire's associate donning a face mask and gloves, are a key element of the Ecolab Science Certified program for food retailers.

“The safety of our customers and associates has been of paramount importance to Ingles since the outbreak of the pandemic last year,” Ron Freeman, chief financial officer at Asheville, North Carolina-based Ingles Markets, which operates 197 supermarkets in North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Alabama. “The Ecolab Science Certified program allows us to demonstrate our commitment to rigorous, science-based cleaning protocols, training and audits to our customers and associates. The program is an important part of our overall standards to help provide a safer and cleaner shopping experience and workplace by reducing the risk of exposure to germs, including the COVID-19 virus.” 

The Science Certified program incorporates Ecolab’s expertise in helping keep hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses clean. It employs the company’s science-based solutions and insights from a global team of 1,200 scientists, with audits performed by Ecolab specialists. 

In grocery stores, restaurants and hotels, key elements of the Ecolab Science Certified program include the use of hospital disinfectants and food-contact sanitizers—approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use against COVID-19 virus and other pathogens—and elevated hygiene standards and protocols based U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, according to Ecolab. Detailed public health and food safety training and regular auditing by Ecolab personnel ensure that public health and food safety practices are being followed, while front-of-house cleaning and disinfecting and the Ecolab Science Certified seal provide a visible sign of “cleaner, safer practices” to customers, the company said.

Proprietary consumer research conducted in May found that 72% of frequent grocery shoppers feel “very safe” or “extremely safe” knowing that hospital-grade disinfectants were being used in stores, Ecolab reported. Consumers also expressed greater feelings of safety knowing that a store’s cleaning and disinfecting practices are verified by an independent auditor with cleaning expertise. And an Ecolab survey last month revealed that 95% of consumers want “as much or more” cleaning and sanitation practices where they eat, stay and shop even after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

Part of the Brookshire Grocery Co., Brookshire’s operates over 180 stores in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. In the Midwest, Cub Foods—a unit of grocery distributor United Natural Foods Inc.—has 79 locations in Minnesota and Illinois, and Coborn’s operates more than 60 supermarkets in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. And In Southern California, gourmet grocer Bristol Farms has 14 locations from Santa Barbara to Palm Desert, while natural food market Lazy Acres fields five stores from Santa Barbara to San Diego. 

“Through the Ecolab Science Certified program, we’re helping our customers recalibrate to meet higher standards throughout the industry,” commented Adam Johnson, vice president and general manager of Ecolab’s global food retail business. “We look forward to helping these leading food retailers build consumer confidence as they implement our comprehensive program.” 

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