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2020 natural product sales: The highs and lows in four charts

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There are plenty of lessons to be learned from 2020 and how the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way consumers grocery shopped, ate and lived during a year like no other.

Chief among these might be the reminder that—try as we might—it’s impossible to predict the future.

Even in the face of so much continuing uncertainty, it’s still possible to identify some of the trends that emerged or shifted in the natural products industry as a result of this global crisis. Of particular significance are those changes that came about as a result of the fact that, for the first time in a decade, people were once again eating at home in higher numbers than eating out, according to data from the USDA-Economic Research Service.

The return to home cooking is a trend (and necessity) that has not only flooded social media feeds with images of homemade bread and other comfort foods like never before but that has also driven growth in once-stagnant shelf-stable pantry categories.

While products such as rice, pasta and beans have been huge winners over the past year, other categories haven’t been as lucky.

The following charts created using SPINS year-over-year natural products retail data for 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 for the SPINS natural enhanced channel, provide some insight into the biggest winning and losing categories over the past year in terms of sales volume and/or growth.

SPINS top 5 categories with largest sales volume increaseTakeaway: Overall, food and beverage categories outperformed supplements and personal care in the natural channel by volume. The year 2020 was all about consumers shopping the basics. Of these five categories, frozen and refrigerated meat, poultry and seafood experienced the biggest spike in sales during the early pandemic stockpiling back in March—up 53.4% in the four weeks ending March 22 over the previous year’s growth—though all five of these categories boasted a steady growth average in the teens or twenties for the year. And while a recent New Hope Network NEXT Data and Insights survey indicates that natural channel consumers in particular are quite carbohydrate and/or sugar wary, the double-digit growth enjoyed by the bread and baked goods and frozen desserts categories in 2020 suggests that comfort foods had a starring role on consumers’ pandemic grocery lists last year.

SPINS bottom 5 categories with largest sales volume decrease

Takeaway: Supplements may have had a banner sales year in general, but not all supplements have felt the love. With most Americans cooking, or at least eating, at home, it should come as no great shock that the rise of home cooking seems to have driven the sales volume decrease in categories that support skipping meals at least partially or altogether. Sales of protein supplements and meal replacements fell by 9% compared with the previous year, while food supplements decreased by 15% and wellness bars and gels—also a typical grab-and-go item—declined by 20% overall in 2020.

SPINS top 5 categories with strongest growth

Takeaway: Shelf-stable pantry categories including beans, grains and rice, as well as pasta, had a blockbuster growth year in 2020. Afraid of shortages—fueled by a chicken-and-egg panic buying cycle—people stocked up on long-lasting pantry staples for both nourishment and peace of mind. This mentality continued well past the early stages of the pandemic. Dry beans, grains and rice, for example, experienced year-over-year growth of 166.1% in March 2020. That rate dropped to 75.7% in April and 54% in June, before holding steady in the 20-30% growth range for the remainder of the year. Shelf-stable pickles and olives (for all those WFH lunches?), frozen fruits and vegetables and refrigerated tofu—perhaps the most surprising item on this list—all had impressive 34% growth.

SPINS bottom 5 categories with declining growth

Takeaway: Grab-and-go favorites including shelf-stable RTD tea and coffee, jerky and meat snacks, and wellness bars were some of the worse-off in terms of growth in 2020—a not-too-surprising result of American families making fewer trips to the grocery store. Mask wearing and at-home grocery disinfection early on in the pandemic also left little room for on-the-go snacking. The declining growth in the shelf-stable baby food category and even refrigerated entrees—an office staple—can likely be attributed to the drastic increase in the number of families cooking at home in the spring, as well as the increased emphasis on healthy food and wellness during these COVID times.

Curiously, refrigerated entrees had been doing well in terms of growth at the start of the year, registering 5.4%, 4.2% and 5.7% respectively for January, February and March 2020, before the pandemic. Shelf-stable RTD tea and coffee had also been on the rise pre-COVID. However, after boasting growth of 9.3% in March 2020, sales dropped by -17.4% year-over-year the following month. This category was soon back in the positives, however, recovering little by little starting in July, before finishing off December with a positive growth rate of 8%.

Supplement industry news and updates – February 2021

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Consumers demand plant-based protein powders

Demand for protein powder unsurprisingly spiked during the pandemic in 2020. However, data from the category on Amazon provided by ClearCut Analytics suggests that the growth in demand for plant-based protein powders significantly outpaced animal-based powders by 16% year-over-year. Learn more about how plant-based protein powders are powering the categories growth headed into 2021. Read more at ClearCut.

Building blocks for growing strong, healthy humans

Adults aren’t the only ones who can benefit from supplements. Read about ChildLife’s approach to ensuring children get the nutrition they need to support strong immune systems, digestion, and brain development. Read more mindbodygreen

New research shows Probiotic DE111® promotes a healthy microbiome for immune support in children

Deerland Probiotics and Enzymes recently published a clinical study that showed support for a specific probiotic maintaining a healthy gut through subtle modulations of the microbiome with significant benefits in preschool aged children. Read more at Deerland.

A look into the sustainable, traceable harvesting of Rhodiolife® Rhodiola rosea extract

Learn about the sustainable harvesting practices of Rhodiolife®, a unique Rhodiola rosea extract with benefits in both sports and cognitive health applications from Nektium and PLT Health. Read more at PLT.

Black history month spotlight - Sarah M. Wilder, Ph.D., R.D. - a trailblazing nutrition pioneer in black communities

Learn about Dr. Sarah M. Wilder, a founding member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition (NOBIDAN) member interest group who also served as a consultant for the World Health Organization and the Cleveland Board of Education. Read more at Natural Products Insider.

Esca Bona

The plant-based movement’s next phase (it’s not analogue meat) – Fodder podcast

What’s next for the plant-based movement? Helena Lumme, co-founder of Halsa Foods, suggests looking at the evolution of gluten free and preparing for evolved consumers.

Gluten free fulfilled a need. Then brands chased the trend and lost sight of nutrition. Consumers followed but then demanded healthier products.

Plant-based foods are following a similar path, Lumme said, with added concern about the environment.

If you think about the plant-based market,” Lumme said, “it started because, one reason for it was, we want to consume less animal-based products, to care for our environment and to care for our planet. But at the same time, we have to be mindful not to create new kinds of environmental problems.”

Lumme and co-founder Mika Manninen put health and earth at the center of all Halsa Foods, maker of oatmilk yogurts, does.

In this episode of Fodder, Lumme talks about:

  • Adopting the word “clean” and its deeper meaning.
  • Meeting changing consumer demands.
  • Helping dairy farmers join the plant-based movement.
  • Getting investment so early.
  • And coming clean about plant-based foods real impacts.

Listen to the Fodder podcast

Find us on the interwebs

This is the Fodder podcast powered by New Hope Network's Esca Bona platform. You can find the Fodder podcast here on newhope.com, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play and other places you find your podcasts.

Have an "innovation for good food" idea we should consider for the Fodder podcast? Want to offer feedback on our latest episode? Email us at [email protected].

2020 Fodder podcast underwriters

Study panned regarding effects of vitamin C and zinc on COVID-19

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When it comes to nutrition science, there are a couple aphorisms that demand reheeding today: One study does not a conclusion make, and any time you see researchers declaring their study to be the definitive conclusion, that no further studies ever need undertaking again, that the compound in question absolutely 100% does not work—take those results with a grain of salt.

Researchers with integrity, when pressed to make larger statements about the utility of a studied bioactive, will always keep their conclusions close to the vest—“All we demonstrated,” they will tell you, “Is this ingredient with that study population with the dose used resulted in these effects this much of the time.”

Researchers with integrity are loath to go out on a limb.

Researchers with an axe to grind, with a clear and present bias, go too far the other way.

So it is with a new study published in the vaunted Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA Open Network.

The study had good intentions—supplying a COVID-19 population with vitamin C and zinc to see if their outcomes improved significantly. After all, many studies have shown such results with vitamin D in COVID-19 patients.

Zinc is known to play a role in immune function via antibody and white blood cell production. Vitamin C has some studies showing it could be protective against the novel coronavirus.

Researchers used 50 mg zinc and 8,000 mg vitamin C. They determined if patients achieved a 50% reduction in symptoms, the study would be a success. They enrolled 529 adult outpatients with confirmed infections.

Problems with the study's execution abounded

For one, complementary physicians assert at least 75 mg/day zinc is required to aid in COVID-19 symptoms, in the form of zinc gluconate lozenges, taken in many doses throughout the day.

For two, doses roughly above 4,000 mg vitamin C/day tend to lead to diarrhea—and that was cited as a primary adverse event in the vitamin D group.

For three, only 214 patients ended up participating, making any benefit difficult to tease out.

This is why the researchers ended the study prematurely after 10 days, for “futility,” before the 28-day trial was planned on concluding.

Even so, patients who took no supplements achieved a 50% reduction in symptoms in 6.7 days. Those taking zinc got to 50% reduction in 5.9 days. Vitamin C, and the combination of vitamin C and zinc, both got patients to 50% in 5.5 days.

That means supplements helped the patients get reasonably better about a day and a quarter faster. That’s nothing to sneeze at, though because of the small population size in the study the researchers concluded that the supplements did not work.

“Based on the current study,” concluded the researchers, “these supplements cannot be recommended to reduce symptom morbidity in such patients.”

There is much to kvetch about.

The study was conducted at The Cleveland Clinic. The accompanying editorial slamming supplements was written by physicians at John Hopkins University.

“These 2 supplements,” wrote the Johns Hopkins doctors, “failed to live up to their hype.”

The editorial opened with a quote from Neil deGrasse Tyson, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

This was meant to pave the way for looking askance at the entire concept of dietary supplements.

They even found time to disparage vitamin D—but not for COVID-19, but for cardiovascular disease.

Ironically, the editorial contained a half-dozen reference citations, one of which concluded that vitamins A and D show potential benefit in COVID-19 cases, especially in deficient populations. It also concluded that selenium and zinc have shown favorable immune-modulating effects in viral respiratory infections. Probiotics were also found to “have some role in enhancing immune functions.”

Grasping at straws

But that didn’t stop the editorial writers from maligning the supplements, even under the less-than-stellar study design.

“It’s not surprising this weak study design and haphazard approach would lead to unclear results,” noted Steve Mister, president and CEO of trade group the Council for Responsible Nutrition. “What’s more disappointing is that JAMA published it at all and accompanied it with a commentary that recklessly makes broad generalizations about the role of dietary supplements in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. The sleight of hand potentially deters future research that may demonstrate the valuable role nutrients play in supporting immune function over time and preventing COVID-19 in particular.”

Mister pointed out the many specifics in the study that should lead to “appropriate skepticism.”

For example, the study used an open-label design with no placebo arm and had major differences in the health status of participants by group. More than 29% of subjects in the vitamin C and zinc group had a history of diabetes compared to 6% in the standard of care group, and people with diabetes are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The vitamin C and zinc group also had higher rates of hypertension, dyslipidemia, and smoking compared to the standard of care group, any of which may lead to worse outcomes in individuals with COVID-19. In addition, the study failed to stratify participants by age, sex, race or duration of symptoms prior to testing, which would have allowed the researchers to analyze the results on a more comparable basis.

“Despite these challenges,” said Mister, “patients who received vitamin C or vitamin C and zinc achieved a 50% reduction in their symptoms 1.2 days sooner than the standard of care group.”

Then Mister got to the meat of the matter, of how the mainstream medical community—with little to no nutrition education while in medical school, and raised on the paradigm of pharmaceuticals and surgery—forges ahead with a clear bias against nutrition and supplements.

“Even more disturbing,” said Mister, “is the commentary by Michos and Cainzos-Achiria that cites the study as evidence that ‘rigorous science’ challenges ‘popular beliefs’ and demonstrates how these supplements fail to ‘live up to their hype.’ Their editorial reads like a conclusion in search of a premise: that dietary supplements should be viewed as a waste of time just waiting for science to disprove their presumed benefits.

“This kind of misapplication of a poorly conducted study has the potential effect of dissuading other serious researchers from investigating the potential of a wide range of supplements, such as vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, melatonin and others, for their ability to support immune function and resistance to respiratory infections, including COVID-19.”

Not the first, won’t be the last

Perhaps the most infamous and inflammatory use of supplements-bashing was in the December 2013 Annals of Internal Medicine, where researchers published a separate editorial titled, “Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements.”

The springboard to the editorial was three research papers published in that issue.

One was a meta-analysis of 27 studies concluding that multivitamins had no effect on preventing death, cardiovascular disease or cancer. The thing of it was, only three of the studies were on actual multivitamins. And of those three, two of them were on a total of some 27,000 subjects and found a lower cancer incidence in men taking a multivitamin for more than 10 years. A study on women showed no difference.

The second paper cited as a reason for the “don’t take vitamins” editorial was to see if vitamins given to people who already suffered one heart attack would prevent a second. And the compliance rate was less than 50%—meaning most people didn’t even take the multivitamin.

The third paper was an investigation of data from the Physicians Health Study II trial, on whether well-nourished physicians who take multivitamins suffer cognitive declines later in life.

The conclusion was multivitamins do not help—but the very same study population, in a paper published the year prior, found that a Centrum brand multivitamin did indeed prevent cancer for this group of doctors.

Oh well. Nevermind. Just another salvo in a greater campaign to discredit supplements, with the implicit conspiratorial theory that pharmaceutical drugs are the only way to improve lives.

Supplement retailers are all too familiar with this story.

So let us end with the Chinese proverb, “The superior doctor prevents sickness; the mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness; the inferior doctor treats actual sickness.”

Health food store retailers? Yeah, you're superior all right. 

[email protected]: Winter weather food crisis | The rise of the wellness app | Kroger closes more stores over hazard pay

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Winter weather crisis is also a food crisis

Recent power outages and freezing weather have left many U.S. citizens without heat, running water and food. The food supply chain ramifications will be widespread and similar to the early months of the pandemic, when grocery store shelves were bare and lines extended out the door. Texas, one of the hardest-hit states, is currently experiencing a red alert with regard to the state's food and agriculture supply chain; Texan farmers and ranchers expect to see a rise in livestock deaths because of exposure to the cold or lack of feed and potable water, and dairy producers have already dumped millions of dollars' worth of milk. Eater reports.

The rise of the wellness app

Mindfulness apps, with a boost from corporate wellness programs, saw a huge surge in popularity over the past year as rates of anxiety and depression skyrocketed in lockdown. But, as The New York Times so concisely puts it, "wellness isn’t something that can be downloaded and consumed." And the problem with many of these apps is that they're geared to help users be more productive, which automatically ascribes one's value to how much he or she contributes to a capitalist system; thus, despite their popularity, most of these apps represent a collective failure to genuinely support the most vulnerable members of American society.

Kroger will close more stores over hazard pay laws for workers

After closing two stores in California for the same reason earlier this month, Kroger will once again shut down locations over mandatory hazard pay ordinances, this time in Seattle. Kroger, much like other big-box food retailers across the U.S., experienced surging sales and profits during the pandemic; it has the means to give workers hazard pay, but instead has chosen to send a clear message to other cities not to pass similar mandates or run the risk of leaving food-insecure families in the lurch. Get the skinny at CNN.  

Yes, alternative seafood is good for the planet. But what about the taste?

To overcome the myriad barriers on the road to mainstream success, seafood alternatives must approach the taste and texture of regular seafood. But replicating sushi-grade salmon or a tuna steak has proven far harder than producing a ground meat analogue. However, as technology improves startups are pushing out plant-based versions of everything from caviar to lox to crab cakes. Head to Grist to find out which dupes are the most impressive.

Meet grocery store forecasters, who crunch data into visions of a nimbler industry

Grocery store forecasters view the past year's pandemic-driven food shortages as "opportunities to learn about unprecedented day-to-day changes in shopper habits during this public-health crisis and reimagine how grocery stores can shape-shift to better serve their customers and become more efficient in the process." In early 2020 members of this profession alerted retailers to the fact that they were about to see a huge jump in sales of frozen and packaged food (which is still the case as we enter 2021); consumers were also expected to purchase what they usually bought, but in much bigger sizes (this prediction also came to fruition). Grocery store companies are now being encouraged to build for resiliency by taking measures like stocking buffer products, rather than efficiency, which is what led to all those empty shelves in 2020. The Counter has more details.

Lil Bucks wins Naturally Chicago Pitch Slam 2021

Lil Bucks lil bucks buckwheat products

The second consecutive edition of the annual Naturally Chicago Pitch Slam event took place virtually on Feb. 17, unfolding in a perfectly timed series of eight energy-filled presentations by some of today’s most inspired—and inspiring—natural food and beverage entrepreneurs.

The eight finalists, chosen from dozens of nominees for this year’s event, were evaluated by a panel of prestigious industry judges: Katie Paul, vice president of category management and growth solutions at KeHE; JP Comte, president of the Americas region for Barilla; and Ryan Pintado Vertner, founder of Smoketown.

lil bucks wins naturally chicago pitch slam 2021The runner-up of the event was Genesis Bencivenga Sr. of Lorenzo's Frozen Pudding, a line of better-for-you gourmet frozen pudding that features locally sourced fruits. And the Naturally Chicago Pitch Slam first-place award winner is Lil Bucks, a brand bringing the lesser-known superfood sprouted buckwheat into the mainstream, that was pitched by founder Emily Griffith.

Lil Bucks will receive a prize package valued at over $100,000, which includes a complimentary booth and opportunity to pitch at the 2021 Natural Products Expo East in Philadelphia, donated by New Hope Network.

How Foodboro helps accelerate digital-first food and beverage brands

Foodboro logo

In this series, New Hope Network covers the ins and outs of accelerators and incubators across the United States that provide mentorship, funds and resources to help grow natural businesses. Foodboro is a new accelerator in partnership with Shopify that helps startups accelerate their digital growth.

What: Foodboro, a digital growth program in partnership with Shopify that helps brands accelerate their digital growth. Participation includes access to Shopify Growth Strategist and six months free Shopify Advanced.
When: The program duration is six months, on a rolling basis.

When are Foodboro applications open, and when is the application deadline? 

Currently, admission is rolling and Foodboro is testing a new cohort at the start of each month in Q1 and Q2 of 2021. Food and beverage brands can sign up for the free newsletter, which informs, connects, entertains, and helps navigate the future of food and beverage.

What types of companies does Foodboro assist? 

Food and beverage makers of all kinds and anyone in the food and beverage ecosystem.

What’s your mission in doing this work? 

Silos are falling in food and beverage and we want to help a diverse group of makers take advantage and navigate the future of F&B.

What top attributes is Foodboro looking for in applicants? 

Foodboro is looking for makers who are building screen first (e-commerce), then looking to go multichannel. Foodboro helps companies that have measurable monthly revenues. The digital side of the business should be less than five years old.

What is one game-changing piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs? 

The Foodboro members tend to give far more game-changing advice to each other than we give to them.

How to become a business maven (and get on QVC)

Chicago French Press Kris Christian, Chicago French Press

When Chicago French Press CEO and founder Kris Christian shifted away from investment banking to become a serial entrepreneur, she knew she’d have to bootstrap her way up.

After years of hard work, Christian’s efforts are paying big dividends with a Feb. 16 launch on QVC, the television network that specializes in home shopping.

“I’m excited,” says Christian, a former financial analyst who now runs a mission-driven, fair trade organic coffee company. “Our growth has been a slow but sure process, but my whole point is to make us accessible to everyone nationwide. We’re still a small business and we needed to not bite off too much other than what we can chew.”

Christian, who graduated from Howard University, grew up drinking instant coffee a.k.a. “coffee milk” with her parents. When Christian entered Wall Street, she found herself pouring in extra flavors to mask the bitterness and staleness of office coffee. That prompted an idea: infuse flavors like blueberries and pecans into coffee beans to achieve a sweeter taste, without adding sugar and cream.

“I had an epiphany, what if there was an alternative way to drink coffee in which you could drink real flavors, not serums,” Christian says. “I was tired of the vanilla creamers, the hazelnuts and I wanted something unique.”

Christian channeled her frustration into creating a brand that is now garnering national attention with distribution in approximately 1,600 T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores in the U.S. and Canada. Christian says it was her unique coffee blends like Chocolate Blueberry, Maple Pecan and Snickerdoodle and sleek Chicago-centric packaging that helped capture the attention of retailers and eventually led to a deal with QVC.  

Christian’s journey into coffee didn’t come quickly.

In 2011, Christian quit Wall Street and started an integrated marketing agency, FAME Enterprises, that focused on e-commerce and digital advertising. After working with large and small brands, including Mielle Organics, which grew into a multimillion dollar company, Christian realized she could become a serial entrepreneur and launch a coffee brand.

“Coffee has always been a passion of mine,” says 34-year-old Christian, who is originally from Memphis and moved to Chicago a decade ago. “I knew the next business I started was less about being successful and more about having an impact on my community. I wanted it to be something I was passionate about but it also needed to have a component of nonprofit and charitable work.”

In 2016, Christian launched Chicago French Press, a coffee company that gives 5% of its proceeds to local charities. Her company has 10 employees plus contractors and recently transitioned from a 900-square-foot studio into 3,500 square-foot warehouse in Chicago’s West Loop with a storefront that will open this summer. Chicago French Press also has a store front at Roosevelt Collection, an outdoor mall in Chicago’s South Loop.

Here’s Christian’s advice to other entrepreneurs.

What is the key to being a serial entrepreneur?

Kris Christian: A lot of organization, multitasking and productivity. Be able to master those because there are a lot of different moving parts with multiple businesses. I really believe you can do it all, but you can’t do everything at once. I quickly realized that after you hit a certain amount of success, it couldn’t just be me. I had to hire more-than-competent people to be able to manage both businesses simultaneously together.

Being a serial entrepreneur is not a one-man job, it’s about teambuilding that allows you to be successful, to maintain, sustain and thrive after a certain amount of time.

What are some of the things that you’ve done to be more productive and efficient?

KC: I’m a huge proponent of Basecamp to make sure your tasks are on task as well as your planning. I also use Trello to visually plan out in advance. Now that we have multiple teams with a warehouse team, a store team and a marketing team, we use Connecteam, an app that integrates time scheduling, task management and calendars.  

You can’t take away your in-person, weekly meetings. I have a consistent Wednesday meeting with my managers that keeps us on track while using those apps in productivity to stabilize us and help us be more efficient.

What else has helped you as a business owner?

KC: For me, it was a transition from knowing it all and thinking I could do it all. Then to teaching myself and knowing even though I was capable of doing things, there are so many more people out there that know more than I do. It’s about being a good listener and surrounding myself with those types of people that allowed me to grow faster.

When did you make your first hire?

KC: My first hire was a fulfillment and shipping agent, someone who could take on the physical labor. I knew I couldn’t pack bags and ship everything out for the rest of my life. Then it was my marketing team and then operations with an operational manager, who is amazing, followed by customer service. Then I’ve hired around the store. We are small but mighty. During COVID we’ve kept it lean because we don’t want too much risk.

You’ve made a big point about being mission driven. What kind of charity work have you done?  

KC: We work with the Alzheimer’s Association, we work with groups to fight homelessness and other initiatives. We work with #TheTakeback Chicago, a nonviolence initiative where we give school supplies and different resources to underprivileged families. We work with ChiGivesBack, they have a variety of programs throughout the year, teacher appreciation, a really great toy drive and we volunteer throughout the year. We work with Yo Soy Ella, a Latina nonprofit that works with women around health and wellness, specifically mental health, which is a big pillar of ours. We also work with The Simple Good, which is an arts education initiative started by Pruta Shah, she goes into schools and now [during COVID] it’s all online, and works with under-resourced, under-represented neighborhoods and the kids there use art to create positivity in their environment.

Five percent of our proceeds go back to nonprofits in Chicago. We also volunteer and do what we can in the community. It was kind of the premise of Chicago French Press.

Not everyone has “friends and family” who can financially help launch them, what did you do?

KC: I became a serial entrepreneur to fuel my own business. I bootstrapped everything. The money that came in, I reinvested back into Chicago French Press. I was able to teach myself, through all types of marketing and branding gigs, important techniques and tactics. For a long time, I had to do both. I know a lot of people have a 9 to 5, but I was a full-time entrepreneur so I employed myself to use that to fund my dreams.

Once you gain some level of success, you’re able to have more leverage when it comes to getting loans, grant opportunities or have investors take interest. But getting off the ground is really hard.

What are some things entrepreneurs might not think about when they are trying to secure financing?

KC: I didn’t have it all together, even coming from finance. The biggest thing is to have clean books. I was doing everything myself, my profit-and-loss statements without a consultant, for the first three or four years of my business. By not hiring people, you think you’re saving money when you’re really not, by not having the right professionals do it. And it’s going to slow down the process.

The first thing a bank is going to ask you is for your P&L and your cash flow balance sheet. If you do not have those, it’s a no—an absolute no.

The past two years I’ve hired a company, Bench.co, and they do everything, all of your books and everything is in order. My advice: hire the appropriate accounting and tax consultants. Don’t try to do it yourself.

SnickerDoodle_Chicago_French_Press.jpgHow did you make the leap into becoming a national brand?

KC: I hired an operations manager to do that. I knew what we did at T.J. Maxx wasn’t going to be a one-off thing and we were going to grow, that it could be duplicated and really expanded. That’s when QVC came in. You just have to start somewhere. It’s going to be bigger than what you’ve ever done before, because that’s just part of it.

I’m really a "go hard or go home" kind of person. At the end of the day, if I think I can do it, I’m going to do it. But I knew we had to really get organized and shift a bit because we had been online for most the time since our inception. 

How did the shift begin to happen?

KC: I have a long history of hosting events. I always knew that having events would allow me to get my coffee out in front of people. Last January, at a women’s conference at the Roosevelt Collection [which has a collection of shops in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood], I was brought into one of their empty spaces in front of 300 women. The management there liked my energy and execution at the event and they asked me if I’d like to do more.

For me, it is always been about being strategic about where I’m going and what I was doing and how I executed because you never know who is looking.

What was last year like?

KC: Last year was our biggest year. I had no idea that we were going to grow at a 500% growth rate. I could have never planned that. I had planned on 100% growth, I wanted to double. I wanted to open up a storefront, but that didn’t happen until COVID happened when the previous coffee shop had to close. You can’t predict those opportunities just popping up out of the sky.

What helped you get in the door with big brands like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and a soon-to-be QVC?

KC: I spent a lot of time and effort in our branding and packaging. Sometimes when you’re starting off, you start off small because you can’t afford to invest in expensive packaging and a graphic designer. I was the complete opposite. I’d rather not start at all if I can’t start on the right foot. It’s all about the presentation, so when an opportunity comes and you’re next to a reputable brand that has 100 years in the game, they don’t know the difference.

QVC came to us because someone saw our website, loved the packaging and loved the flavors and the uniqueness of it. 

That’s incredible. Since QVC hasn’t happened yet, how did you capitalize on being in T.J. Maxx and Marshalls?

KC: We’re in every T.J. Maxx and Marshalls in the country and we’re also in Canada. But we don’t have thousands of bags in the store. They only have selections. They have our Pumpkin Spice, our Snickerdoodle and Golden Maple coffee. It’s a smaller quantity but it’s in every store.

What’s your advice to other entrepreneurs?

KC: Be able to differentiate yourself from other people. The coffee industry is very competitive. But how many coffee companies sell chocolate blueberry? It was really important for me to be able to differentiate ourselves as being unique and to have that pop in the presentation so we can stand out.

[email protected]: Nestle water brand revamp | FBI pursues pork producer critics | Giving drinking water legal personhood?

Nestle nestle water brands

Man who saved Pabst comes to rescue Nestle's ailing water brands

Nestle recently sold its Poland Spring, Pure Life and Deer Park water brands to One Rock Capital Partners, which means the future of these businesses is now in the hands of the same man who changed the fortunes of Hostess Twinkies, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Chef Boyardee and Bumble Bee Tuna. Dean Metropoulos faces a challenge with these bottled water companies, however, both because 2020 COVID-19 restrictions drastically reduced consumption and criticism regarding their plastic waste and exploitation of natural resources abounds. Bloomberg has the scoop.

After pork giant was exposed for cruel killings, the FBI pursued its critics

Iowa Select, the largest pork company in Iowa, came under international fire last year after videos of pigs being killed off en masse because of a pandemic-related drop in sales were released to the public. Former employees say the company disregarded state "double stocking" rules as well, which limit the number of pigs kept in an intensive animal feeding facility, despite having ample resources to facilitate the killing of healthy pigs. Now the FBI is investigating Berkeley-based animal activist group Direct Action Everywhere, going so far as to ask one former truck driver whether he would be comfortable engaging in recorded conversations with group members or trying to buy drugs from them; the agency unfortunately has a long and storied history of targeting nonviolent activist groups. The Intercept reports.  

A different kind of land management: Let the cows stomp

Agriculture accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., which is why the regenerative agriculture movement has gained such an ardent following in political and commercial spheres. But scientists say the data hasn't yet caught up with some of these far-reaching carbon-sequestering claims. Farmers who implement these sustainable farming methods are seeing greater benefits than just carbon sequestering, though; they're reviving animal and plant species, and technology to aid the process is only getting better. Learn more at The New York Times.

Is giving our drinking water legal personhood the best way to protect it?

The Freedom from Chemical Trespass Rights-Based Ordinance backed by the citizens of Nottingham, New Hampshire, seeks to give the streams, rivers and tributaries that flow into the town's water supply (as well as the surrounding air and soil) their own legal personhood. This means petroleum refinery waste, sewage, heavy metals, chemical residue or "any other waste that poses a present or potential hazard to human health" would be illegal, with a $1,000-per-day fine for polluters plus the cost of restoration. The ordinance was overturned last week after a judge ruled it was too vague and unenforceable. The Counter expands on why this makes little sense: If corporations can attain personhood, why not natural resources?

USDA forecasts dip in net farmer income in 2021

USDA has predicted that net farm income will drop $10 billion this year. This metric includes all sources of farm revenue including payments from the government (these were especially high in 2020). However, soybean receipts are expected to rise by 24.3%, corn to rise by 14%, wheat by 2.2%, cattle by 6.4%, hogs by 15% and broiler chickens by 10.6%. Get the data at Modern Farmer.

Certified B Corporation: 15 natural companies newly approved

Being a Certified B Corporation doesn't mean a company's products or services are innately better than another's.

Being a Certified B Corporation means a company has a positive effect on its employees, community, environment and customers. It means a company is legally required to consider the impact of its decisions on its stakeholders—not just its shareholders—and be transparent.

Certification is not a one-and-done exercise, either. Once a company is certified—meaning it scored 80 points or more, out of 200, on an assessment of its operations and business model—it must undergo a review every three years. More than 3,800 companies in 150 industries were certified as of Feb. 16.

A search of the B Corp directory turned up 15 companies in the natural or healthy industry that have been certified since October.