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Articles from 2014 In April

FitLife Brands reports record Q1

FitLife Brands reports record Q1

FitLife Brands Inc. (OTCBB: FTLF), an international provider of innovative and proprietary nutritional supplements for health conscious consumers marketed under the brand names NDS Nutrition Products™, PMD®, SirenLabs® and CoreActive® announced financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2014.

Highlights for the first quarter of 2014 include:

  • Record revenue of $6.3 million, a 4.5 percent increase in comparison with the prior year
  • Operating income increased 53.6 percent to $0.9 million versus the prior year quarter
  • Operating margin increased by more than 450 basis points to 14.6 percent as compared to Q1 2013
  • Record quarterly net income of $1.0 million versus $0.6 million during the same period last year
  • Diluted earnings per share of $0.12 for the quarter versus $0.07 for the comparable quarter

Revenue for the three months ended March 31, 2014 was $6.3 million as compared to $6.1 million for the comparable period in 2013, an increase of 4.5 percent. For the three month period ended March 31, 2014, the Company reported net income of $1.0 million, or $0.12 per share, versus net income of $0.6 million, or $0.07 per share, in the comparable period in 2013.

“We saw strong domestic demand particularly in the last month of the quarter, a portion of which was attributable to the inventory build-up by some of our customers in advance of our planned transition to GNC’s centralized distribution platform. The move to this distribution platform is consistent with GNC’s established vendor policies, reflecting our strong growth trend established over the last several years. We look forward to the continued expansion of this relationship,” stated John Wilson, FitLife’s chief executive officer.

“Our international sales in the first quarter were approximately $500,000 less than the first quarter of 2013. This lower number was a result of the timing of our initial launch of our international sales in the first quarter of 2013 as well as different purchasing patterns in our international markets. We continue to anticipate year over year growth in our international markets for 2014. I am particularly happy about the increase in our operating margins and corresponding impact on profitability. We remain very excited about our business opportunities for 2014 and beyond and look to continue the expansion of our domestic and international distribution networks, including the recent introduction of our SirenLabs brand into Australia,” concluded Mr. Wilson.

The Company’s reviewed financial statements will be included in its Form 10-Q for the first quarter ended March 31, 2014, which the company intends to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission on or before May 15, 2014.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

5 natural meat selections to serve meat-eating customers

Natural-channel sales of fish and packaged meat grew 11.8 percent to $3.6 billion in 2012, according to Nutrition Business Journal. You can entice carnivorous consumers with these responsibly produced, clean meat products.

ADM names Foods & Wellness sales director

ADM names Foods & Wellness sales director

Archer Daniels Midland Co. (NYSE: ADM) announced that Michael Loud has been named North American sales director, ADM Foods & Wellness, in the company’s Oilseeds business unit. In his new position, Loud will lead a consolidated sales force in the United States and Canada covering ingredients across the Foods & Wellness portfolio.

“Michael’s deep industry knowledge and strong customer relationships will continue to be great assets for ADM’s Foods & Wellness business as we work to expand our portfolio and deliver high-quality products to our customers,” said Bruce Bennett, vice president, ADM Foods & Wellness.

Loud joined ADM in 2000, and has served in a variety of positions within the company’s corn processing, technical services and protein groups. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Science-Business from the University of Notre Dame.


Natural Foods Merchandiser

Conscious meat producers meet growing natural-consumer demand

Conscious meat producers meet growing natural-consumer demand

Paleo eating is buzzing. Google reports that paleo was the most searched diet term of 2013. Meanwhile, there are a growing number of services fueling the caveman lifestyle, ranging from paleo-themed print magazines and blogs to online retailers to conferences and conventions. New products specifically marketed to paleo eaters—who eschew dairy, grains, added sugars and some legumes—continue to stoke this booming trend. Indeed, products like jerky, meat bars and nut-based cheeses are coming on strong in natural stores.

But stocking paleo snacks is only one aspect of catering to caveman customers. No matter how many innovative packaged foods suit this diet, paleo shoppers still beeline to the meat counter. Therefore, building up your meat department is equally if not more important. You can differentiate your meat offerings from conventional grocers’ by stocking clean products that value back-to-basics trends. These include Old World curing techniques, conscious sourcing and ultra-simple ingredients (ahem, no cancer-promoting additives like sodium nitrates).

Olli Salumeria in Mechanicsville, Va., for example, makes artisan and organic salami and cured meats. “When we first opened in 2012, it was harder to find the responsibly raised meats we needed,” says Jennifer Johnson, director of marketing. “So we partnered with several small producers, such as Becker Lane Organic Farms, which raises pasture-kept pigs in Iowa.”

But it isn’t just artisans producing natural, sustainable meats. Conscientious larger meat companies are also wooing natural shoppers by sourcing humanely raised animals fed organic and vegetarian diets and committing to less, if not zero, antibiotic use. For instance, Stephen McDonnell, CEO of Applegate, a $200 million-plus meat company, is a vocal opponent of antibiotic overuse. “Antibiotics definitely have a place in animal farming—to care for and treat animals that are sick,” McDonnell told Nutrition Business Journal in January. “At Applegate, we work with more than 1,000 partner farmers and they don’t use any antibiotics unless an animal is sick.” Through common-sense animal husbandry practices like a clean environment and enough space, Applegate has less than 1 percent of its producers’ animals fall ill, McDonnell says.

Another perk of ramping up your meat offerings is it will likely attract more than just paleo diehards. Consumers of all stripes are flocking to the butcher, as research touting the benefits of high-protein diets keeps piling up. A 2013 study published in Obesity found that, in addition to supporting total weight loss, higher protein helped participants maintain more lean muscle. Sales already reflect consumers’ renewed interest in meat: In the natural channel alone, NBJ estimates that sales of packaged meat and fish grew 11.8 percent to $3.6 billion in 2012, while deli service sales experienced 6.9 percent growth to hit $2.4 billion.


Up on the roof: Is Brooklyn leading a rooftop farming revolution?

Up on the roof: Is Brooklyn leading a rooftop farming revolution?

Brooklyn has become an agricultural mecca. Or at least a rooftop agricultural mecca.

We have been seeing headlines about Gotham Greens, a hydroponic rooftop farm atop a Whole Foods Market in Brooklyn. It’s exciting. Gotham Greens leases the space on the roof and shoppers purchase the produce in the store. To eat more local, you’d have to grow it yourself. The project's first harvest made the trip down the elevator in March.

But they’re not the only farm in town.

Brooklyn Grange runs what it calls the world’s largest rooftop farm, with 65,000 square feet in the Brooklyn Naval Yard. They turned a profit in their first year and now have a second rooftop farm in Queens with 43,000 square feet in production, selling organic kale, carrots, peppers, bok choy and other crops. They have egg-laying hens and bee hives, too.

This trailer for the documentary “BROOKLYN FARMER” introduces the effort and the ethic behind the farm..

So if it can happen in Brooklyn, why isn’t it happening everywhere? There are arguments that efficient industrial agriculture has less carbon impact per calorie than your backyard tomato plant but rooftop farms, or green roofs of any kind, offer insulation and cooling properties as well. Where does that fit in the calculation? The honey production presents a counter-intuitive benefit as recent research has shown city bees are healthier than their country cousins and urban hives may represent an hedge against the troubling bee die-off.

There are countless acres of empty rooftop in this country and a "Who knows" number of empty parking spaces on that top level of the parking garage where you park only as a last resort. Gotham Greens and Brooklyn Grange have shown us what’s possible.

Right there in that agricultural mecca along the East River.

DHA/EPA Omega-3 for Health Symposium 2014

DHA/EPA Omega-3 for Health Symposium 2014

DHA/EPA Omega-3 for Health Symposium: Update 2014
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Mississauga Convention Center, Toronto, Ontario
Symposium website:

Co-supported by the University of Guelph, the Dietitians of Canada (DC), the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute, and designated as a Satellite Symposium of ISSFAL (International Society for the Study of Fatty Acids and Lipids) 

The last five years have seen a flurry of exciting new developments in the area of omega-3 fatty acids for optimal health and complementary care. Highlights include:

  • Importance of higher DHA omega-3 intakes including supplementation during pregnancy, lactation, infancy and childhood
  • Benefits of  EPA/DHA omega-3 supplementation for complementary care in inflammatory conditions
  • Clinical use of EPA/DHA supplementation for cardio care and risk factor management
  • EPA/DHA supplementation for age-related health conditions (dry eye syndrome, dementia, others)
  • EPA/DHA for various mental disorders including depression and anxiety disorders
  • EPA/DHA omega-3 treatment for the complementary management of sports-related concussions 

The symposium will also cover recommended intakes of EPA/DHA omega-3 from national and international organizations for various health targets and strategies for closing the “nutrition gap.” Supplemental/nutraceutical and functional food sources of EPA/DHA will be explored in order to meet these targets. Controversial topics will also be objectively clarified.


Natural Foods Merchandiser

How can I start a successful loyalty program?

These days, it seems like every store has a loyalty program. Swiping a plastic card, punching your phone number into a keypad, asking the barista for a hole-punch—these have all become de rigueur checkout routines. Natural products retailers are lucky in that so many shoppers are already loyal. But even in naturals, there’s always room to strengthen the relationship. We asked three experts to share their best advice for implementing and maintaining a top-notch program that’ll benefit both you and your customers.

Customer Loyalty Expert

Know your customers. Loyalty programs can drive minimal results if you don’t know your customers well enough. It’s imperative to dig deep into their lifestyles and patterns to figure out who they are and how they interact with your store. Know who your shoppers are and what keeps them coming back, so that your initiative won’t be based solely on chance and opinion.

Set goals. A big mistake a lot of companies make is working backward from goals. They get caught up in increasing loyalty because it sounds good. Before implementing an initiative, figure out exactly what you want from it. To attract new shoppers? Increase loyalty among current customers? Both? If you dive in blindly, you’ll get into trouble; you’ll spend money without getting results.

Don’t throw shoppers for a loop. The best loyalty programs incentivize actions customers are already taking. Customers respond well to programs that follow the same patterns they are used to when engaging with a brand. If your program doesn’t follow the look and feel of your existing store experience, shoppers might be leery of it. Make them feel as at home as possible with the new program.

–Ashley Tate, content manager at Seattle-based loyalty and rewards software provider BigDoor



Do your homework. Once you launch a loyalty program, there’s no turning back. You’ll be chastised by shoppers if you take it away. Research all the options to be sure you pick the right program. Some you buy up front, others offer a subscription; some are unique to certain POS systems. Always pick a program that you can easily use for marketing.

Offer everlasting rewards. Many retailers are romanced by the idea of coupons that expire because they’re a short-term liability and few are redeemed. But I consider that a pitfall. Look at it like credit cards: My favorite card has no expiration on points and offers quality products when I redeem them, so I use it all the time. Customers always tell me they shop with us because they get consistent rewards that won’t disappear.

Love the ones you’re with. A loyalty program won’t automatically bring new people in. It’s always the most tangible for current shoppers, so really focus on increasing their basket sizes. Look at their purchasing patterns to figure out what they’re likely buying elsewhere, and offer targeted promotions on those categories. Upping their loyalty will wind up netting you new customers because satisfied shoppers will tell their friends about your program.

–Joel Patterson, owner of Nature’s Green Grocer in Peterborough, N.H.


Marketing Maven

Have a personalized touch. Depending on what personal data you collect from customers when they sign up for your program, you can use that to your—and their—advantage. For instance, if you know enrollees’ dates of birth, you can acknowledge their birthdays. Send out a “happy birthday” card or email that lets them know a coupon has been loaded onto their account.

Offer nontangible perks. Besides just awarding coupons or discounts, encourage participants in your loyalty program to talk about your store on social media. For example, Dunkin’ Donuts asks customers to tweet about their experiences. Whenever they do, the company shares those comments and photos with its entire network. Hitting them back with a little gratitude and a moment of fame is very impactful in building loyalty.

Partner with other businesses. Teaming up with like-minded companies can be a great way to grow your brand’s reach. If you share a common audience or market with another local business or even a brand that you carry, partnering up on purchasing opportunities and promotions through your loyalty program can benefit you both.

–Rebecca Corliss, head of customer marketing at HubSpot in Cambridge, Mass.

New report backs supplements for eye health

New report backs supplements for eye health

Age-related eye disease (ARED), such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, is currently threatening the vision of our elderly population and with limited treatments available for reversing the damage caused by ARED, taking preventive measures is key.

A new economic report, “Smart Prevention – Health Care Cost Savings Resulting from the Targeted Use of Dietary Supplements,” points to lutein and zeaxanthin dietary supplements as one of these potentially preventive measures. In addition to reducing the risk of an ARED-related medical event (as found most recently in the AREDS2 study which demonstrated that for those not getting enough lutein and zeaxanthin in their diet, supplementing with those nutrients led to a decrease in advanced AMD progression, a reduction in risk for severe cataracts, and reduction for progression to cataract surgery), the supplement regimen can also save individuals and society money.

“Smart prevention is protecting your health and also protecting your wallet. Age-related eye disease poses risks that are debilitating and expensive, so supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin can help reduce those risks,” said Duffy MacKay, N.D., senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition. It was the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s Foundation that provided a grant to the economic firm Frost & Sullivan to conduct the report.

The report is packed with estimates for the number of medical events that could be avoided and estimates on societal healthcare cost savings-including this impressive statistic: an average of $3.87 billion per year in avoidable health care utilization costs is potentially realizable if all U.S. adults over the age of 55 diagnosed with ARED were to use lutein and zeaxanthin dietary supplements at preventive intake levels.

To achieve the results, Frost & Sullivan conducted a systematic review of scientific studies that focused on studies that looked at the relationship between lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation and the risk of an ARED-attributed event. The firm then projected the rates of ARED-attributed medical events across U.S. adults over the age of 55 with ARED and applied a cost benefit analysis to determine the cost savings if people in this targeted population took lutein and zeaxanthin supplements at preventive intake levels.


Natural Foods Merchandiser

Meet foodservice demands large and small in your health food store

Dawon39s Market hot bar
<p>Dawon&#39;s Market hot bar</p>

When concerns about food allergies, genetically modified ingredients and artificial preservatives first gained attention years ago, consumers headed back into their kitchens to make the meals they couldn’t find in restaurants. They looked to natural products stores to carry what were, at the time, specialty ingredients. But as healthy and allergen-free eating has moved to the forefront in recent years, availability of cooking ingredients isn’t enough anymore—shoppers crave ready-made convenience in the form of premade foods.

In fact, research from Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta Sales and Marketing shows that nearly 30 percent of shoppers step into a market solely to pick up prepared food.

Lots of stores are answering this call with comprehensive grab-and-go solutions. The Natural Grocery Company, which has served California’s Bay Area with two locations for more than 30 years, recently opened the doors of its latest venture: a 7,000-square-foot Prepared Food Annex, transformed sustainably from a paint store next door and connected to the company’s El Cerrito location with an array of solar panels. Inside, shoppers find coffee, tea, juices, an organic deli, artisan cheeses, sandwiches, salads, hot soups, pizza and even catering services. Bob Gerner, company founder and general manager, expanded his staff by roughly 40 percent to accommodate this effort; new employees include a wine buyer, café manager, pastry chef and even a cheesemonger. “You need to have a reason for people to come to your store,” Gerner says. “Our reason is thoughtfully prepared food that is organic, fresh and non-GMO.”

Although most natural products retailers unite successfully under the goal of providing fresh, high-quality foods, opening a café is a huge step for most. But don’t worry: Ready-made success can be found at any size. Every store can take a page from the Natural Grocery Company’s playbook and find a niche all their own.

Start small
Opening a foodservice section can be a daunting prospect, but there are practical ways for beginners to break in without breaking the bank. “To start, offer air pots of coffee and a hot soup station during lunchtime,” suggests Jay Jacobowitz, president and founder of Retail Insights, a Brattleboro, Vt.-based natural products industry consulting firm. “Then offer that soup prepackaged in pint and quart containers in a cold case for grab-and-go.” The trick, Jacobowitz says, is eliminating the need for dedicated service staff at the outset. Instead, prep can be done before the store opens and customers can serve themselves. And with the exception of refilling the soup or coffee, there is very little maintenance throughout the day.

Another entry-level option is to craft fresh sandwiches every morning, package them and sell them out of a cold case. “I wouldn’t consider making custom sandwiches to order until you have more than 400 transactions per day storewide,” Jacobowitz advises. To minimize in-store prep stations, consider outsourcing the soup or sandwich program to a local restaurant or caterer that can meet your ingredients standards. Growth from that point can include adding a dinner meal period, integrating a chef’s case or salad bar, and then hiring dedicated staff to provide service. “Retailers can address the growing call for fresh foods by starting with simple premade, self-serve options that are prepared daily in-store—not made to order, which requires on-demand labor,” he says. “This way, you minimize your investment and space requirements but begin to answer consumer demand for quick and fresh.”

Focus on your strengths

Dawson's Market

Another key to successful foodservice, however small or large, is to keep it in line with the values that attract shoppers to your store in the first place. Stores of any size can thrive in this area. In fact, a store’s modest size can even work in its favor, as it does for Old Town Natural Market and Deli in Pagosa Springs, Colo. “You can get organic food at other stores, but at the size that we are, we have such a connection with our customers,” says manager Celeste Caywood. “Customers can read the labels of grocery items and decide for themselves whether to buy, but that’s not the case with prepared foods.” Old Town Natural Market’s strength is its commitment to vetting and stocking organic foods, and shoppers visit its deli because they trust that these offerings also meet the store’s rigorous standards.

Rick Hood, owner of Ellwood Thompson’s Market in Richmond, Va., and Dawson’s Market in Rockville, Md., caters to health-oriented and vegetarian shoppers with a special interest in local eating, so his foodservice sections reflect that. “Our customers are intentional eaters, and they prefer plant-based foods,” he says. “So we have a lot of variety in our foodservice and a lot of vegetables.” Indeed, the stores’ offerings are extensive: custom-made sandwiches, full bakery, hot bar, cold bar, vegan bar, raw bar and more. Shoppers find comfort foods, allergen-free foods and low-sodium options among other quality offerings. But Hood always brings the focus back to his intentional eater. “We’re constantly reminding customers that we use local produce in our prepared foods,” he says. This is a tactic that retailers can use at any level of service, from a simple coffee bar to a full-service café.

Drive sales with educated staff

Prepared Food Annex

When it comes to prepared food sales, employees on the front lines with shoppers are perhaps a market’s best asset. And because natural products stores often set themselves apart by having educated staffs, they are well-equipped to continue that emphasis with foodservice. Native Sun Natural Foods Market in Jacksonville, Fla., supplements its social media and in-store café ads with a staff rollout plan. “We let our employees try our new additions for free one week before they roll out to the public,” says owner Aaron Gottlieb. “If your staff loves a new item and they market it to your current customers, it has a better chance of catching on.”

Employees are also an invaluable resource for Hood, who finds that relaying the stories behind ingredients is key to many café sales at Ellwood Thompson’s and Dawson’s Market. It’s a priority that his employees learn about the local farmers supplying the café’s ingredients so they can pass this knowledge on to shoppers—a tactic many natural products stores already employ to promote other items on their shelves. “If someone walks up to the counter and they’re not sure what to order, that’s a great opportunity for the employee to suggest what is fresh from a farm that’s only 10 miles away,” Hood says.

The Natural Grocery Company also finds success with this tactic. Shawn Adair, the company’s cheesemonger, visits farms to personally select which wheels of cheese his store will sell, and he has a stock of stories to tell shoppers as a result. “With thoughtfully prepared food you are providing nourishment but also inspiration,” says Martin McGrath, Natural Grocery’s deli manager. “Preparing a vegetable or meat in a way customers haven’t seen before can change how they view that food.” And it might even translate to additional rings at the register when they see similar items in the grocery section.

Keep it fresh

Native Sun

Getting shoppers to purchase prepared foods is one challenge; keeping them coming back for more is another. And while retail shops might find that consistency is the key to customer loyalty, the opposite is true in foodservice. “The reason customers come back day after day is that we change up our offerings,” says Hood, who travels to other markets and restaurants hunting for the latest trends. “I think what kills some stores’ bars is that they are always the same. People get bored easily and want change. So that’s what we focus on. It’s a little harder, but it works.”

Menu changes, which can be based on subjective tastes, are a science all their own, says David Clemens, store director at Des Moines, Iowa-based Gateway Market. “It is an ongoing process,” he says. “What our customers wanted when we opened seven years ago is not necessarily what they want now. Trends change, so you have to change with them.” Gateway uses comment cards, email feedback and day-to-day interactions with shoppers to collect this information. The reward is that the store’s foodservice accounts for nearly 40 percent of its overall sales.

So whether it’s installing a small coffee bar for the morning rush, adding sandwiches to the cold case or even opening a large-scale café, retailers would be wise to start thinking of how they can incorporate convenient grab-and-go options into their business plans. “Even with a simple self-serve menu, you can leverage your program into different platforms like the grab-and-go case to extend your fresh-foods identity,” Jacobowitz says. “If you can do something that is unique to your store, such as signature sandwiches or homemade soup recipes, you can inspire customers to think of you differently—and to return more often.”

New insight into vitamin D and autism

Thinkstock Vitamin D capsules

Vitamin D may be the key ingredient our brains need to control the production of serotonin that may be a critical factor in determining the social behavior association with Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to new research.

Rhonda Patrick, PhD and Bruce Ames, PhD, of Childen's Hospital Oakland Research Institute conducted research with results that suggest vitamin D activates serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin, three brain hormones that affect social behavior. Previous research has linked low levels of serotonin and low levels of vitamin D to autism, but no mechanism explaining the link had been identified prior to this study. The discovery was noted on

The study suggested that vitamin D activates the gene that makes the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase 2 (TPH2), that converts the essential amino acid tryptophan to serotonin in the brain, according to a release from Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland. They also discovered that vitamin D inhibits the gene that makes the enzyme tryptophan hydoxylase 1 (TPH1), which halts the production of serotonin in the gut and other tissues. When there's too much trytophan there and in other tissues, it can cause inflammation.

The mechanism Patrick and Ames found may help further autism prevention and treatment research. The study suggests “dietary intervention with vitamin D, tryptophan and omega 3 fatty acids would boost brain serotonin concentrations and help prevent and possibly ameliorate some of the symptoms associated with ASD without side effects,” according to the release. “Vitamin D supplements are inexpensive and offer a simple solution to raise vitamin D levels to an adequate status. In addition, vitamin D levels should be routinely measured in everyone and should become a standard procedure in prenatal care.”