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Articles from 2021 In April


Thrive Market is going climate positive. Here's how

Thrive Market thrive market sustainable better packaging zero waste plan

Thrive Market has always been an eco-conscious enterprise, offering foods made of real ingredients that are safe for the environment, delicious and fairly priced. Already, the e-retailer has committed to a no-air-shipping policy and utilizing all-recyclable shipping materials; it also recently earned B Corp certification. But Thrive Market isn't stopping there: The company recently announced a number of new initiatives that will further shrink its environmental footprint.

According to CMO Jeremiah McElwee, Thrive Market has set a goal to be zero waste certified in 2022, plastic neutral by 2023 and completely carbon negative by 2025.

“We’re on a mission to make healthy products affordable for all Americans, and break down the geographic limitations for people who are underserved and can’t always get healthy products in their home communities,” says McElwee. “At the same time, we don’t want to solve one problem and make other problems, so our mission has always also been about environmental responsibility.”

sustainable thrive market packagingHow does an e-commerce brand that relies on packaging go plastic neutral? For Thrive Market, it’s all about education. That includes information about what to do with every single product’s packaging at the end of its life, either on the label or on the product’s webpage. “It’s about driving a culture of reductionism, so the first step is with our own private brand and including how to reduce and use the minimal amount of packaging while providing a high quality and stable experience for every product we sell,” McElwee explains. “We lean into reusability and recyclability and, if possible, use a compostable form of packaging.”

Thrive Market is also piloting a program with some consumers who don’t have access to recycling resources. In this model Thrive Market works with a partner to provide consumers with a prepaid shipping box with which they can send the materials back to a facility for upcycling. The good news is that Thrive Market members are enthusiastic about the environment and willing to take the extra step to ensure they’re doing their part.

For retailers who want to get started in minimizing their footprint but don’t know where to begin, McElwee had a few tips to share on how to get started.

1. Start with an assessment.

McElwee recommends that the starting point should always be assessing one’s own process. How do you impact the planet now? It could be waste, plastics or carbon footprint, but regardless the next step is to calculate where you can cut back. McElwee warns not to let perfect be the enemy of the good—the goal doesn’t have to be "zero." Taking any step in the right direction is progress.

2. Think outside the box.

Although Thrive Market starts by using the least possible amount of packaging while maintaining food safety and freshness protocols, McElwee points out that it’s critical not to remain boxed in by convention. Thrive Market has often been told that the reason for a certain plastic packaging or undesirable ingredient is just that it’s always been that way. “It’s amazing how often we do what has always been done before,” he says. “Listen to the crazy ideas. We’ve had ideas about offering products in nonplastic packaging and brands often tell us that they never even thought about it before.”

3. Don’t discount offsets.

McElwee initially didn’t buy into the concept, and wondered why companies couldn’t just eliminate or decrease their energy (or other commodity) usage. But he’s come full circle, and today Thrive Market partners with a carbon fund to protect 500,000 acres of tropical rainforest in Brazil. Indeed, when all else fails and elimination or reduction onsite is impossible, finding organizations that participate in reduction efforts around the world can make a difference. “It might feel abstract in the moment, but you’re making a massive impact,” McElwee says. “It’s empowering communities around the world to take sustainability seriously and have a collective impact.”

[email protected]: Climate solution fail | Plant-based poultry | Nestlé's $5.75B supplement deal

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The climate solution actually adding millions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere

Emerging research from CarbonPlan reveals that California’s climate policy has generated between 20 million and 39 million carbon credits that aren’t achieving tangible carbon savings, and yet companies can still buy these forest offsets to justify their polluting actions. These so-called "ghost credits" don't preserve additional carbon in forests, but they are allowing polluters to emit far more toxic pollutants and emissions. ProPublica argues that further studies are needed regarding the detriments of carbon offset programs, especially now that President Biden is pressing forward with his climate change mitigation agenda. 

Nestlé expands in vitamins with $5.75B Nature’s Bounty deal

After whispers of the deal hit the internet over the past week, news that Nestlé will purchase the main brands of vitamin maker The Bountiful Company have been officially confirmed. The largest CPG company in the world said on April 30, 2021, that the deal would add brands including Nature’s Bounty, Solgar, Osteo Bi-Flex and Puritan’s Pride to its portfolio. These brands generated sales of $1.87 billion in the year ended March 3. The Wall Street Journal reports.

Why plant-based chicken is about to take off

Here's a fun chicken fact: Net beef production in the U.S. has remained steady over the past few decades, but chicken production has increased more than five-fold in that same time period. Why? Experts at The Good Food Institute believe consumers perceive chicken to be healthier than beef and pork, but  consumers remain troubled by practices inherent in mass animal agriculture. This is why several alternative protein brands are boosting their lineups with plant-based chicken substitutes (KFC and Beyond Meat are both getting in on the game), and for the most part they're seeing success among younger generations.

Will Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods have a 'New Coke' moment?

Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have been reformulating their alternative meat to perfectly match conventional meat since launching, and they've delivered on all these iterations of their products so far. But The Spoon argues that because these two companies could be viewed as the new Pepsi and Coke of the CPG world, there is now immense pressure to not take reformulations too far to the point where consumers opt to switch teams. Remember Coke's "New Coke" product that massively flopped in the 1990s? That's the kind of situation the two companies should be avoiding.

How companies should deal with social issues

It's clear that today's brands must take a stand when it comes to social issues, even if they risk losing consumers along the way. However, there's a right and wrong way to go about doing this. For instance, The Food Institute interviewed PR maven Altimese Nichole on the subject, and he offers this piece of guidance: "Taking a stand requires a position, but it can be done with heart. Remember to treat everyone as human beings. Put yourself in their position, not as a brand but as a led, managed, and operated brand by other human beings. Lead the conversation with heart and be open and willing to allow others to share their hearts on your platform as well."

Where are they now? Catch up with 2016 NEXTY Award Winner Karma Nuts

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Back in 2016, when Karma Nuts won the “Best New Snack” NEXTY Award for its Wrapped cashew (a crunchy cashew presented with the skin on to boost flavor and nutrition), the brand had three SKUs and was sold in fewer than 150 independent and natural stores. It didn’t have representation with brokers in most areas of the U.S.

Fast-forward five years, and the story is quite different. Karma Nuts is found in thousands of retail stores across the country as well as major e-commerce outlets, and has even graced two official GRAMMY gift bags. Below, New Hope Network chats with founder Ganesh Nair about the brand’s astronomical growth since its NEXTY win and where it plans to go from here.

What are some major milestones Karma Nuts has reached since its NEXTY Award win?

Ganesh Nair: Karma Nuts has seen consistent year-over-year growth over the past five years and is now available in around 2,000 brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. We are also a brand partner at major e-commerce retailers like Thrive Market and Bloomingdale's, and have participated in numerous community events around the country.

Our variety packs and jars have been featured in two official GRAMMY gift bags, the 2021 “Everybody Wins” Oscar Nominees swag bag and picked up by E! News. We have seen fantastic press coverage in publications from Men's Health to Shape to Forbes and received the Good Housekeeping Award for best savory snack in 2020. We also added three new delicious flavors to our lineup—Cocoa Dusted, Sweet Matcha and Golden Turmeric—to help further our flavor-forward promise.

What do you think helped Karma Nuts reach these milestones?

GN: Karma Nuts has an amazing community—whether that be team members, fans, customers or retail partners—that trusts the brand. The NEXTY Award for our original Wrapped cashews was a critical part of building the credibility for our brand to enable this journey. We have been able to work with amazing partners to build the brand alongside us, including Green Spoon brokers, Springdale Ventures, the SKU accelerator network out of Austin and many other individuals and groups. 

ganesh nexty award best new snack 2016 karma nutsWe are on a mission to put goodness out into the world, and people have really responded to that in a very positive way.

What has Karma Nuts been focused on most recently?

GN: Like most brands in 2020, we've been very focused on optimizing our direct-to-consumer business. The tumult of 2020 pushed a lot of brands online, and we were fortunate in that we already had great direct-to-consumer partners in place and were able to invest in the channel. We also doubled down on our efforts for our branded site, as we saw this as a great opportunity to bring new customers in the door and really learn from them. There is no better focus group than your own customers, and those folks who were trying new brands in the past year really wanted to be helpful. 

Retailers also got a little more creative with their digital-to-IRL programs, and we were able to participate in some of their unique offerings, such as sampling programs for online pickup customers. As the world starts to open up once again, we are shifting some of our attention back to brick and mortar and finding better ways to serve our existing accounts, as well as discovering solid data to bring to the table to open up new ones.

What does the next five years hold for Karma Nuts?

GN: We continue to be guided by our founding goal of bringing healthier, less processed and more flavorful versions of nut-based products to the market. Our product pipeline is steadfastly vegan, eschewing GMO products, and we continue to invest in a more sustainable, ethical supply chain.

Taco Bell is testing out a new vegetarian protein

Taco Bell taco bell new vegetarian protein option

Taco Bell is testing out a proprietary plant-based protein made from a “boldly seasoned” blend of peas and chickpeas as the star of their Cravetarian Taco, available for now at one Taco Bell location only in Tustin, California, the Yum Brands company confirmed on Thursday.

Similar to Taco Bell’s “Original Crunchy Taco Supreme,” this new LTO item is topped with shredded cheddar cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes, and reduced-fat sour cream inside a crunchy tortilla shell and is American Vegetarian Association-certified vegetarian, while the meat itself is certified vegan.

“The term ‘Cravetarian’ is inspired by all of Taco Bell’s craveable options, and it emphasizes how no one should have to sacrifice bold flavors for their lifestyle,” a Taco Bell spokesperson told Nation’s Restaurant News. “The Cravetarian Taco is just one output of Taco Bell’s innovation team as they have been busy making good on the brand’s continued commitment to provide more vegetarian options in 2021.”

This is not Taco Bell’s first foray into meatless proteins and in fact, the fast-food chain is known for its variety of vegan and vegetarian options. In September 2019, Taco Bell debuted its vegetarian menu featuring items like that (at the time) new Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme and Black Bean Quesarito. In December 2019, it introduced a meatless protein that was supposed to act and taste like ground beef available as part of the Oatrageous Taco. The protein was made of pulled oats and legumes and was tested in Taco Bell’s overseas European markets.

Taco Bell also caused a stir during the pandemic when the company temporarily got rid of multiple vegetarian menu items, including popular potato-based items. But the Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and Spicy Potato Soft Tacos returned in March due to popular demand.

Later this year, Taco Bell will be partnering with Beyond Meat to create more pant-based protein options, as part of Yum Brands’ partnership with the meat alternative company, first announced in February.

The Cravetarian Taco is available at the Tustin Taco Bell location until April 29 for $2.19 and the option to substitute the new protein in other menu items will also be available at no extra cost.

nations-restaurant-news-225.pngThis piece originally appeared on Nation’s Restaurant News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more foodservice industry business intelligence.

[email protected]: Meat culture war | Pegan diet trend | Pollinator strategy success

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Biden’s fake burger ban and the rising culture war over meat

Contrary to the media frenzy that erupted over the weekend, President Biden's climate plan will not banish meat from consumers' plates. As this Vox article notes, one could read into this latest flashpoint in the ongoing U.S. cultural wars and argue that the polarization between Democrats and Republicans (the latter of which took issue with perceived attacks on the meat supply) is making it nearly impossible to tackle a threat that will affect everyone: climate change. 

The pegan diet is trending again. Here's why

The so-called "Pegan" diet combines principles from veganism and the Paleo diet, and celebrities can't seem to stop singing it praises. But what do experts contend? According to Cooking Light, most dietitians applaud the diet's ample amount of whole plants and healthy fats, but they do take issue with its omission of gluten-containing grains such as wheat, barley and farro.

Bee population steady in Dutch cities thanks to pollinator strategy

Bee hotels, bee stops and a "honey highway" are just a handful of ways the Dutch are preserving their urban bee population steady after a period of troubling decline. Incorporating bee-friendly spaces in urban areas, including on top of bus stops and beside highways, seems to be working. Pressure on the country's farmlands had previously decimated the natural, wildflower-ridden lands that sustained health bee populations previously. The Guardian.

Target CEO Brian Cornell says George Floyd’s murder pushed him to do more about racial equity, diversity

In this CNBC recap of an interview with Target's CEO Brian Cornell, Cornell said that George Floyd’s murder prompted him to re-engage with the company's diversity and equity efforts. In the days following the horrific event, Minneapolis-based Target put together a special committee to examine steps the company could take to make its workforce, C-suite and business practices better reflect the country’s diversity, as well as consider how best to support and provide advancement opportunities for Black employees, play a positive role in communities nationwide and “use our voice on a national level, as we impact civic discussions and policy.”

The Senate appears poised to pass a bipartisan bill to help farmers sell carbon credits. Not everyone is happy

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee unanimously approved a bill that would establish a Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to make it easier for farmers to participate in carbon credit markets. Sounds good, right? And yet opposition remains; critics of the Growing Climate Solutions Act are worried about exactly how much power third-party intermediaries will have in establishing, quantifying, validating, and reporting carbon offsets. Learn more at The Counter.

PCC Community Markets sales up more than 25% in fiscal 2020

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Seattle-based PCC Community Markets (PCC), the largest community-owned food market in the U.S., on Monday reported 2020 grocery sales totaling $383.2 million, up 26.1% from the prior year, with net income—including one-time impacts from historical tax refunds—of $2.7 million, up 26.4% from the previous year. 

PCC also said it gave back more than 60% of its profit to its community, including its first-ever member dividend totaling $3.9 million.

In addition to providing its community with more than $700,000 in financial and in-kind support, these results include the impact of the co-op investing more than $4 million during the year in unanticipated COVID-19-related costs and safety measures across its 15 locations, and in staff appreciation pay.

The co-op’s sales growth was driven by the opening of two new stores in Bellevue and Seattle’s Central District, as well as increased pandemic-related spending driven primarily by its members. In January 2020 PCC introduced a new member benefit program with the opportunity for members, inclusive of staff, to receive an annual dividend.

The PCC dividend is a sum of money paid to active co-op members out of the profit the co-op makes specifically from member sales. The PCC Board of Trustees determines if a dividend will be issued for each fiscal year based on the co-op’s financial results and the needs of the business. In 2020 members accounted for a little more than 60% of total sales and as a result of this new program, and the Board’s approval, the average 2020 member dividend paid was $46.93.

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“PCC was born from a group of 15 families in Seattle and almost 70 years later we are still owned by our community of families across the Puget Sound area, including our amazing staff,” said PCC CEO and president Suzy Monford (left). “When the co-op does well financially, our members benefit, and this year’s dividend is a testament to this. But equally important is that we balance our economic success with our social and environmental impact. Our community giving allows us to achieve our social bottom line, and our ongoing focus on delivering products of the highest standards and building green stores heightens our environmental responsibility.”

The updated member program was designed to engage more members and provide a more equitable experience for all who opt-in. In addition to the opportunity for the dividend, members gain access to exclusive deals, events and partner offers from a selection of local, like-minded businesses. Last year, members received more than 30 unique offers with a total of almost $300 in savings on a range of quality products including olive oil, wild-caught Alaska salmon and PCC Organic Grass-Fed Yogurt. The program drew more members in the past year than in the decade prior, with the co-op seeing a 35% increase in membership. The co-op currently has an active membership of nearly 90,000 households including more than 1,600 PCC associates.

Founded in Seattle in 1953, PCC is a certified organic retailer and the nation’s largest community-owned food market chain, operating 15 stores in the Puget Sound area, including the cities of Bellevue, Bothell, Burien, Edmonds, Issaquah, Kirkland, Redmond and Seattle. The co-op also plans to open new stores in downtown Seattle and Madison Valley and relocate its Kirkland location.

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

[email protected]: Indoor agriculture standard | California blocks Nestlé | Salmon are shrinking

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The CEA Food Safety Coalition launches safety standard for indoor agriculture

The CEA Food Safety Coalition has unveiled the first-ever food safety certification program designed for leafy greens grown in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) settings. Growers who pass inspection can include a “CEA food-safe” seal on their packaging. “Current food safety standards were written for the field, and many do not address the unique attributes of controlled, indoor environments,” Executive Director Marni Karlin noted in the announcement. “This new certification process and the accompanying on-pack seal helps to unify CEA growers while also differentiating them from traditional field agriculture.” The Spoon reports. 

Drought-hit California moves to halt Nestlé from taking millions of gallons of water

California water officials are preventing Nestlé from bottling and selling millions of gallons of water out of California’s San Bernardino forest to preserve the precious resource as droughts appear across the state. A 2017 investigation found that Nestlé used about 58 million gallons of this water in its operations, far surpassing the 2.3 million gallons per year that it could legally claim. The draft order comes two months after the company sold its U.S.- and Canada-based water brands to equity firms One Rock Capital Partners and Metropoulos for $4.3 billion. Learn more at The Guardian.

Salmon have shrunk so much that Whole Foods redid its guidelines

Scientists say that climate change and increased competition for food are the two main drivers behind shrinking salmon sizes; this conundrum has led to new standards for retailers such as Whole Foods when purchasing the fish from wholesalers. While more of a nuisance than a serious problem right now, the global salmon population plays a crucial role across ecosystems and makes up a $2 billion industry. The Seattle Times has the details.

Beyond Meat adding faux chicken as alternative protein trend gathers steam

The buzziest news in the very active, very trendy alternative meat space is that Beyond Meat will launch a plant-based chicken product this summer; the company also announced a reformulation of its signature Beyond Burger to debut in early May that aims to offer improved taste and better nutritional value. In other corners of the plant-based world, Nathan’s Famous revealed it will launch plant-based Meatless Farm hot dogs and Buona Beef unveiled a plant-based Italian Beefless sandwich in partnership with Upton’s Naturals. Head to The Food Institute for the rundown.

Reviving breadfruit could nourish people and fight climate change

A single breadfruit tree can produce over 300 pounds of fruit annually, while most staple carbohydrates come from crops that need to be replanted every year ( such as corn, wheat and potatoes). Patagonia Provisions is one company looking at the using flour made from the ingredient in its product line. Another plus: Because it depends on a biodiversified environment, breadfruit isn't as likely to experience the shift that modern tropical monocrops such as palm oil encountered. Civil Eats delves into the story.