Vitamin Angels premieres online documentary

Vitamin Angels premieres online documentary

Vitamin Angels, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing vitamin supplementation to at-risk children worldwide, today premieres its first online documentary, "A Supporting Role." Three talented, award-winning filmmakers were selected in collaboration with the National Film Festival for Talented Youth (NFFTY) to document their experiences learning firsthand about effects of undernutrition and what Vitamin Angels is doing to address the critical issue. Through fresh perspectives, "A Supporting Role" follows the directors to Peru, India and the U.S.


The directors immersed themselves in the surrounding cultures and documented the unique challenges each population faces in acquiring adequate nutrition and health services. Joel McCarthy, 22, tells the story of how Vitamin Angels is changing the lives of children in Peru, where the organization distributes multivitamins to children under five and prenatal vitamins to four villages in the High Andes outside of Pisac. Caleb Slain, 21, documents the problem of undernutrition in the northeastern state of Nagaland in India as part of Vitamin Angels' vitamin A program for at-risk children under five. Alex Bohs, 23, shoots his footage and interviews across three states in the U.S., which isn't exempt from the need for children's multivitamin and prenatal distributions.

"We're proud to premiere 'A Supporting Role' and share the Vitamin Angels story with new audiences online," said Howard Schiffer, president and founder of Vitamin Angels. "Through three gifted filmmakers' perspectives, we hope this film will educate viewers about the life-threatening problem of micronutrient deficiencies and what Vitamin Angels is doing to reach children around the world."

Millions of children worldwide do not have access to proper nutrition or regular health services. Vitamin Angels aims to alleviate global micronutrient deficiencies by distributing high-dose vitamin A, prenatal multivitamins and children's multivitamins to at-risk populations in need. Forty-five percent of all childhood deaths are attributable to undernutrition, and vitamin supplementation is a simple and cost-effective way to give childhood back to children in need.

Beginning today, Vitamin Angels is encouraging the public to view "A Supporting Role" online: To learn more about Vitamin Angels and what it's doing to help deliver essential vitamins and minerals to at-risk children in need, visit

Nutrastar revenue jumps 18% in 2013

Nutrastar revenue jumps 18% in 2013

Nutrastar International Inc., a leading producer and supplier of premium branded consumer products, including commercially cultivated Cordyceps militaris, functional health beverages and organic and specialty foods, announced its results for the year ended Dec. 31, 2013.

Financial highlights 

  • Net revenue was $43.35 million, an increase of 17.9 percent from full year 2012.
  • Gross profit was $33.72 million, an increase of 20.4 percent from previous year, representing a gross margin of 77.8 percent.
  • Net income was $22.17 million, an increase of $4.93 million from year 2012, representing a net margin of 51.1 percent.
  • Basic and diluted EPS were $1.38 and $1.30, respectively, with 15.95 million basic shares and 17.09 million diluted shares outstanding.

Management commentary
"We are pleased to report augmented sales in each of our consumer product categories for the full year 2013,” said Ms. Lianyun Han, CEO of Nutrastar. “Cordyceps product sales were up $5.94 million or 21.4 percent year-over-year. Functional health beverages containing Cordyceps and organic specialty foods, our ancillary consumer product categories, saw an 8.2 percent and 3.6 percent sales increase, respectively. As a whole, revenue was $43.35 million, up 17.9 percent, just short of our forecasted revenue of between $44 and $46 million due to a push out of the anticipated ramp up of our organic and specialty food business. As seen in past years, growing demand within China for our core consumer product Cordyceps was the primary driver of our overall increase in revenue.

“As for our bottom line, we continue to operate at highly efficient and profitable levels, and see improvements in cost and operations. For the year ended Dec. 31, 2013, gross profit and net income, as a percentage of revenue, increased to 77.8 percent and 51.1 percent, from 76.2 percent and 46.9 percent, respectively. Aiding in this improvement was the Q1 2013 completion of our multi-phase, multi-year production capacity expansion project. For the year 2013, we were at approximately 91 tons capacity and expect to hit the upper 90s by the end of 2014.

"Right now, while we are in an excellent position to capitalize on numerous opportunities with the Chinese consumer product market, our focus remains steadfast on growing our core consumer product offerings. As the largest producer of commercially cultivated Cordyceps militaris, we are keenly aware of market demand and are confident in our ability to stay on top of the competition particularly within China. As mentioned in our third quarter 2013 results, we are actively working towards expanding into the international market with our in-development Cordyceps capsules and tablets, designed to complement our current premium consumer product offering and cater to our everyday customer looking for an on-the-go health supplement similar to other vitamin-type supplements. This is a huge milestone we expect to achieve in 2015."

On the subject of the Company's financial position and growth ahead, Ms. Han added, "We closed the year with a cash balance of approximately $102.6 million. This cash balance was vouched and verified by our independent auditor, and is earmarked the Company's future organic and inorganic growth initiatives such as continued capacity expansion, brand and product development, marketing and advertising, any potential strategic and synergistic acquisitions. With the proper, intelligent allocation of funds, we will continue building greater market awareness for our premium Cordyceps consumer products in China and ease our way into the international market with Cordyceps in tablet and capsule form."

Nutrastar encourages any interested party to reach out to directly for more information on the Company and its innovative, premium consumer product portfolio.

Outlook for the year ending Dec. 31, 2014
Based on management's current expectations, full year 2014 revenue should fall in the range of $47 million to $50 million, representing an approximate 8 percent to 15 percent top line increase year-over-year.


Make your best impression on natural products customers

Make your best impression on natural products customers

Natural companies offer unique products that meet specific market needs and provide cutting-edge solutions that are leading the way in “better for you” product acceptance and adoption. Now, more than ever, an opportunity exists for natural to take the leadership role in this area. While conventional retailers are increasingly carrying natural products and jumping onto natural trends like gluten-free, natural retailers have a better connection to their consumers and can be more nimble in responding to their needs. They can use this advantage to differentiate themselves from the big guys.

So how exactly do natural retailers get ahead in this new environment?

Stock the items customers expect. Every shopping trip must absolutely leave a favorable impression given the number of retail choices shoppers have today. Nothing is more frustrating for consumers than to find out of stocks (especially on advertised sale items). Bottom-ranked items that virtually nobody is buying frequently take the place of absent top-selling items, forcing consumers to shop other retailers just to find what they are looking for. Just like other shoppers, if I can’t easily find what I need, I will go to another store, and as the expression goes, “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression."

Broaden your horizons. Focusing only on customers that completely embrace your mission will not generate enough sales to stay in business. Retailers need to appeal to a much broader audience to keep their doors open. They must focus on increasing foot traffic (the number of shoppers that enter their store) and Market Basket size (the amount each shopper buys while in their store). As more people start to embrace a better-for-you-lifestyle, they will continue to go to mainstream grocery stores if they can find what they're looking for. Natural retailers cannot sit back and watch this trend play out. They need to take advantage of the growing number of consumers that are interested in natural and organic products. This is their opportunity to capitalize on the trend natural retailers themselves started and bring those consumers back into the fold they created.

Competitively price key items. Natural retailers can attract new customers by carrying top-selling natural items at prices that are competitive with the Safeways and Krogers of the world. If key products are priced similarly, consumers will assume prices are competitive throughout the store and start looking around, which allows the natural retailer to impress them with all the store has to offer. Competitive pricing starts with creating efficiencies in the distribution system that allows a retailer to lower prices without huge sacrifices in margins.

Impress new customers with exceptional service. Every new shopper who enters your store should be treated as an opportunity to showcase your passion for healthy living. If you don’t have the item they are looking for, recommend a quality substitute. Exceptional customer service encourages repeat purchases. Satisfied customers share their experiences with their friends. Doing this will drive additional traffic into your store and give you an opportunity to introduce new shoppers to the unique products that you feature.

Imagine a strategy that grows sales by meeting your customer’s needs and exceeding their expectations.  This strategy is perfect for natural retailers because they already expertly support natural and organic products, they are not restricted by large corporate bureaucracies, they are innovative and are able to adapt to consumer needs. Your store can become the source and destination for new and trending items. The increased foot traffic can then help you develop a new trust relationship with your customers, which can in turn, lead to a larger Market Basket and greater profits.

Not a bad trade off for a little extra effort, a little extra postage, and a targeted marketing strategy!


There's a new consumer binary at play

The NEXT Innovation Summit debuted at Expo West this year with a pivot -- in tone and audience -- to better address the industry dynamics of natural products more broadly. In the opening keynote, editors from Nutrition Business Journal and Functional Ingredients laid out a "new consumer binary" shaping trends and product innovation throughout the industry. Here are a few highlights or download the entire presentation here.

Penford acquires Gum Technology

Penford acquires Gum Technology

Penford Corp. (NASDAQ: PENX), a leader in ingredient systems for food and industrial products, announced that it has completed the acquisition of Gum Technology Corp., a gum and hydrocolloids blending, services and distribution company serving primarily the food and beverage industries. 

“Gum Technology’s product line, culture and approach to the market are aligned with Penford’s and with our efforts to build our specialty ingredients businesses,” said Tom Malkoski, Penford Corp. CEO. “Both teams are enthusiastic about opportunities to create value for customers through technology, product innovation and technical service. With our expanded product line, we can offer customers a choice of innovative new products and a broad range of applications.”

As a business unit of Penford Food Ingredients, Gum Technology will continue to offer a range of gums and other hydrocolloids throughout North America and Asia. Gum Technology’s products are found in a wide variety of food products including beverages, sauces, bakery, frozen foods, jams and fruit fillings, spice blends, dairy applications and nutraceuticals. They will be marketed under the current brand names, which have strong name recognition and an outstanding reputation throughout the industry.

Penford Corp.’s non-GMO portfolio is the foundation for new specialty ingredient systems using Gum Technology’s Coyote Brand® gums and GumPlete™ stabilizer systems. Penford’s product portfolio includes clean label and modified starches from potato, corn, rice and tapioca, PenFibe® dietary fibers and PenDure™ vegetable-based proteins.

Penford also plans to explore new opportunities to expand its industrial bio-products business through innovative starch-gum composite products.


InterHealth acquires Chick Cart

InterHealth acquires Chick Cart

InterHealth Nutraceuticals Inc., a leading researcher, developer and marketer of branded nutraceutical ingredients, announced that it has acquired the assets of Chick Cart Inc., a Fort Smith, Ark.-based manufacturer of nutritional ingredients. Chick Cart is the holder of the primary patents related to the manufacture of undenatured type II collagen, which had previously been exclusively licensed to InterHealth for use in its UC-II® joint health product.

“The acquisition of Chick Cart provides InterHealth with increased control over the supply chain and intellectual property for our UC-II® product line. Chick Cart has built a best in class manufacturing platform and operating team, which are a welcome addition to the InterHealth team,” according to Paul Dijkstra, president and CEO of InterHealth.

The transaction marks the first acquisition completed by InterHealth since its acquisition by Kainos Capital in November 2013. 

“InterHealth has a portfolio of branded functional ingredients supported by strong clinical data,” stated Andrew Rosen, managing partner of Kainos Capital. “UC-II is sold to a global customer base and continues to generate strong growth in the marketplace. This acquisition will better enable InterHealth to invest in additional production capacity to support the growth of UC-II going forward,” continued Rosen.

Food Labeling Compliance Seminar announced

Food Labeling Compliance Seminar announced

Food labels have come under increased FDA scrutiny. How well do you know current food labeling regulations? Are your labels in compliance with requirements?

Learn food labeling from former FDA labeling officials who helped shape current labeling regulations and experienced food labeling consultants. This hands-on seminar covers how foods need to be labeled to comply with the complex set of labeling rules, discusses food labeling issues that have gotten FDA's attention, and provides answers to your most challenging questions.

"With FDA's proposal for revamping the nutrition label requirements, there will be a need to change an estimated 700,000 food labels. Now is a great time to learn what this means for your company," said EAS Consulting Group Chairman and CEO Ed Steele.

Learn the specifics of food labeling with an eye toward FDA compliance from former FDA officials who helped shape current labeling regulations and who understand compliance issues. EAS Consulting Group offers an opportunity to gain insight directly from recognized leaders in the field. Course instructors include:

  • James E. Hoadley, Ph.D., Senior Consultant: During Dr. Hoadley's 20-year FDA career, he participated in the development of NLEA-implementing nutrition labeling and health claim regulations. As a senior regulatory scientist in the Office of Nutritional Products, Labeling and Dietary Supplements (ONPLDS), Dr. Hoadley's primary responsibilities were in food label claim regulations. In this role, he conducted scientific and regulatory reviews of petitions for new health claims and nutrient content claims.
  • Gisela Leon, Senior Consultant: Gisela Leon brings over 21 years of experience in international labeling of food and over eight years' experience in U.S. labeling. As a regulatory consultant, she has focused on a concise review process for food, dietary supplements and cosmetics. As a long-term EAS consultant, she has reviewed hundreds of labels for U.S. compliance and helped international products to come into compliance with U.S. regulations. Her international labeling background allows her to point out differences or similarities with other countries.

More information, including registration information and discounts can be found on the EAS website, or by contacting Cathryn Sacra at 571-447-5505. 



Why vitamin E can't be generalized

Why vitamin E can't be generalized

We have recently seen news circulating on the Internet and mainstream media that reported how consuming “vitamin E" and selenium increases the risk of prostate cancer (based on a recent paper published on the Journal of the National Cancer Institute). The headlines of these news reports alone are enough to misleadingly cast doubt in consumers' mind and unjustifiably resulting in them dropping their daily supplement routine—just because “experts” say so.

Using the term “vitamin E” in the subject title gives an absolutely wrong impression to readers that all forms of vitamin E increase prostate cancer risk, which is not what SELECT study actually shows, by any stretch of the imagination.

SELECT again?
Those who have scrutinized the study would know that these results were derived from the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT) which used synthetic vitamin E alpha-tocopherol and purified selenium.

In nature, there are eight natural forms of vitamin E: d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma, d-delta-tocopherol,  and d-alpha-, d-beta-, d-gamma- and d-delta-tocotrienol.

Beneficial effects of other natural forms of vitamin E on prostate cancer cells
Numerous research studies have shown that gamma-tocotrienol, gamma-tocopherol or combination of these vitamin E forms, to be effective in inhibiting prostate cancer cell growth. 

By using one single type of vitamin E and in a synthetic form, to arrive at a conclusion that vitamin E increases the risk of prostate cancer is misleading and seriously undermining the potential of other vitamin E forms that genuinely offer protection against prostate cancer. 

Findings not applicable to other natural forms of vitamin E
Since tocotrienols and other tocopherol forms were not used in the SELECT study, it is Carotech's opinion that:

  • The result of elevated prostate cancer risk in this study may not be relevant to those who take natural d-alpha-tocopherol or natural vitamin E (d-mixed tocopherols) or tocotrienols (d-mixed tocotrienols). SELECT used synthetic vitamin E (all rac-α-tocopheryl acetate) where only one out of the eight vitamin E forms is biologically active/bioavailable. Hence, significantly less active biologically. Citing from the Linus Pauling Institute, Bryan See (Regional Product Manager, Carotech Inc.) said that “Alpha-tocopherol present in nature in only one form, RRR-alpha-tocopherol or d-alpha-tocopherol. The chemical synthesis of alpha-tocopherol or dl-alpha-tocopherol results in eight different forms, only one of which is RRR-alpha-tocopherol or d-alpha-tocopherol. As such - if we were to take the chemically synthesized form of alpha-tocopherol, only 12.5% is of the natural and the remaining 87.5% is synthetic. This is significant in term of what the study participants absorbed and whether the results as seen in the study is actually attributed to natural d-alpha-tocopherol! In addition, the study did not look into other natural forms of vitamin E such as gamma-tocopherol and tocotrienols.”
  • Newspaper or magazine headlines erroneously used the term “vitamin E” in the title such as “Vitamin E Increases Prostate Cancer Risk.” Using the term vitamin E without qualifying the exact form of vitamin E used, is a disservice to the dietary supplement market. The title should have made a distinction of the form of vitamin E used in SELECT. It would have been a more appropriate and accurate representation of the SELECT study if the title had been – “Synthetic Vitamin E (dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate) Increases Prostate Cancer Risk.”  Or for this particular JNCI paper: “Baseline selenium status and effects of L-Selenomethionine and Synthetic Vitamin E supplementation on prostate cancer risk”.

Take-home messages

  • Synthetic vitamin E is less biologically active. It is different from natural mixed tocopherols or natural mixed tocotrienols
  • Do not take high dose of synthetic vitamin E
  • Taking the full spectrum natural vitamin E (d-mixed tocopherols + d-mixed tocotrienols) or E Complete, will likely be protective
  • In addition, high concentration of full spectrum vitamin E in older adults is protective against risk of cognitive impairment, as reported by several European studies (led by researchers from the University of Perugia, Karolinska Institutet, and others)

CircleUp closes $14 million Series B funding

CircleUp, a leading equity-based crowdfunding platform, announced today it has closed a $14 million Series B round of funding, the largest raise for an equity crowdfunding platform. The Series B round, led by Canaan Partners with additional investment from Google Ventures, Union Square Ventures, Maveron and Rose Park Advisors will be used to invest in product and data analytics—making it easier for investors to identify, diligence and invest in companies they understand. This announcement comes just before CircleUp’s second anniversary.

Since CircleUp’s equity crowdfunding platform launched in April 2012, the company has helped more than 30 companies raise over $30 million in growth capital, making it the largest equity crowdfunding site in the U.S. The amount invested through the platform grew 5X in 2013. The team expects this rapid growth to continue. It took 134 days for the first $1 million raised through the platform—the most recent million took just 7 days.

With Canaan, CircleUp adds another investor with deep experience in online markets. Dan Ciporin, currently on the Board of Lending Club, will also join CircleUp’s Board.

“Canaan looks for breakout leaders in huge markets where technology can add significant value,” explained Dan Ciporin, general partner at Canaan Partners. “We saw that with Lending Club in the credit marketplace space in 2007, and we see that with CircleUp in the equity marketplace sector in 2014.  In similar fashion to how Lending Club is beginning to completely transform the consumer and small business credit industry, we think the equity fundraising space is poised for similar and equally massive disruption, and that CircleUp is the demonstrable leader in the space.”

“We’re proud of the momentum from our first two years of operation and happy to welcome Dan Ciporin of Canaan Partners to our Board,” said Ryan Caldbeck, CEO and co-founder of CircleUp. “With this new financing, we will build out our platform to help more exceptional consumer and retail brands raise funds on CircleUp and to help additional investors identify and invest in companies they understand and respect.”

CircleUp’s featured companies in Q4 of 2013 averaged 185% growth rate with 37% gross margin and 2.9X sales multiple. CircleUp continues to see a strong market opportunity for investing in brands as businesses that are understandable and accessible for both experts and main street investors. CircleUp was also recognized by Forbes as one of America’s 100 Most Promising Companies earlier this year, and has raised a total of $23M since the company was founded in 2011.



Crowdfunding platform CircleUp raises another $14 million

Crowdfunding platform CircleUp raises another $14 million

CircleUp has now raised $23 million in three rounds that bring Canaan Partners, Maveron, Rose Park Advisors, Union Square Ventures and Google Ventures into its close circle of advisors. The Series B round announced today stands at $14 million and was led by Canaan Partners, with general partner Dan Ciporin joining the board. Ciporin is the former CEO of and also sits on the board of Lending Club, a social marketplace disrupting the credit markets for consumers and small businesses.

“Canaan looks for breakout leaders in huge markets where technology can add significant value,” says Ciporin in a statement. “We saw that with Lending Club in the credit marketplace space in 2007, and we see that with CircleUp in the equity marketplace sector in 2014.”

Proceeds of the round will go toward further development of the platform and data analytics. In just under two years, CircleUp has raised more than $30 million for over 30 companies in the consumer space, many well-grounded in natural products. For more metrics on the platform's performance, see the full press release.

Says CircleUp CEO Ryan Caldbeck: "What's most exciting to me is not just the year-over-year increases in companies on our site—3X—or dollars moving through the platform—up 4X—but the quality we attract. The average company we list today is larger than a year ago, it has higher revenues, higher gross margins, and a lower valuation."

Why the lower valuations? Transparency. "We can provide data on what 'market' really is, which keeps entrepreneurs from chasing unfair valuations for 18 months." Score one more for the power of technology to open up markets.

New Hope and CircleUp launched a content partnership in February 2013.