New Hope Network is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Sitemap


Articles from 2011 In June


New Hope 360 Blog

From Boulder to Cleveland: A core consumer hits the Midwest

 

I’ve lived in some pretty foodie places—Los Angeles, San Francisco, Paris, Chamonix and Boulder. The last 12 years were in Boulder where what you eat, and refuse to eat based on principle, is a daily discussion among coworkers, family and friends. And now I am living in Cleveland—the town where everyone offers condolences when you tell them where you’re moving.

There is a lot of obesity and fast food outlets. But, I’m quickly seeing that there’s more than meets the eye here, as well. I landed in Cleveland a whole two days ago and already I’m learning there’s more than a dozen farmers’ markets, a co-op, Trader Joe’s, Nature’s Bin, a very alive local foods movement and a slew of ethnic groceries. I’m intrigued.

Our industry tends to highlight the coasts and select green pockets (Santa Fe, Austin, Boulder, Madison) assuming that the Midwest and South remain in the dark ages—or at least under the reign of food that’s fast, fried and processed. My next series of blog posts will explore Cleveland and Ohio’s food scene through the eyes of a dark green, core natural consumer. I hope to shed some light on:

 

  • What are mass grocery stores doing in the Midwest?
  • Why can Cleveland support a co-op when a town like Boulder can’t?
  • Is healthy on the minds of the ethnic stores in Cleveland?
  • How do the independents survive, or even thrive, here?
  • Who has access to healthy food options?
     

Did I mention that I have a 9-year old vegetarian daughter who is trained to read labels like a hawk? Grocery shopping is about to get interesting. 

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Green your store's refrigeration to cut emissions and costs

How can you put the freeze on store pollution? Two words: greener refrigerators. The ozone-depleting emissions from standard grocery store refrigerator cases and freezers contribute anywhere from one-quarter to one-third of a store’s carbon footprint, according to a 2006 study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But new technologies and steps to limit leaks can help reduce the environmental impact as well as grocers’ costs.

The average grocery store’s refrigeration system uses about 3,500 pounds of refrigerant—called a “charge”—and leaks about one-quarter of it, or 1,000 pounds a year, according to the EPA. “That 1,000 pounds of greenhouse gas is 1,800 to almost 4,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide,” says Keilly Witman, manager of the EPA’s GreenChill Partnership, which works with food retailers to cut their refrigerant emissions and reduce their impact on the ozone layer and climate change.

US EPA GreenChillThe EPA is requiring that R22, the most common refrigerant in standard refrigeration systems, be completely phased out by 2020, so change is on the way. Stores are primarily replacing R22 with hydrofluorocarbons such as R404A and R507, which do not harm the ozone layer, Witman says. New refrigeration technologies and practices can offer another benefit beyond environmental protection: They save money. Leaking refrigerant costs about $7 to $10 a pound.

 “Cutting refrigerant emissions is the right thing for retailers and it’s the right thing for the environment,” says Jerry Stutler, vice president of construction and facility engineering at the Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market chain. Sprouts is a GreenChill partner and has received certification for seven of its 54 stores.

GreenChill aims to cut emissions

Established in 2007, the free GreenChill Partnership program is a voluntary alliance of more than 7,000 grocery retailers, refrigeration systems manufacturers and non-ozone-depleting refrigerant companies committed to switching to more environmentally-friendly refrigerants, cutting or eliminating refrigerant leaks and adopting greener strategies and practices. Corporate grocery chains that track refrigerant emissions and set goals for reducing emissions can participate in the Corporate Emissions Reduction Program. Manufacturers of advanced refrigeration systems and non-ozone-depleting commercial refrigerant manufacturers also can participate.

In addition, GreenChill offers a certification program that recognizes individual stores for using greener commercial refrigeration systems. Stores can achieve silver, gold or platinum certification based on a set of requirements for charge size and leak reduction. To achieve GreenChill Store Certification, a store must emit at least 65 percent less refrigerant than the average supermarket. Witman says GreenChill partners average a 12 percent annual leak rate compared to the approximate 25 percent leak rate at average U.S. stores.

“If every store in the nation reduced its leak rate to the GreenChill average of 12 percent, the country would save more than $100 million every year just in the cost to refill refrigerant because it’s leaking,” she adds. GreenChill also has an Advanced Refrigeration Program that promotes guidelines for best practices. And partners in the program share information and strategies and have access to industry resources. 

Stutler says Sprouts joined GreenChill in 2009 to take advantage of the technology and resources offered and find ways to cut emissions. “Everybody was a little suspicious of the program at first,” he recalls. “We suspected that the EPA was using GreenChill as an easy way to keep track of refrigerant loss,” as part of the agency’s requirements. “But it’s a great way to share ideas, technology and engineering. Now there’s a bit of competition among the retailers. Everybody wants to be the best.”

Cool new systems

Sprouts’ new stores are equipped with a distributed refrigeration system, which is one of a handful of technologies that improve upon the standard centralized direct expansion system used in most grocery stores. Witman says it’s difficult to estimate average costs for the systems because each system is individually designed and then manufactured according to the store’s specific specifications. But generally, the more technologically advanced the system, the greater the cost. The distributed refrigeration systems in the 25 new Sprouts stores, which are each about 25,000 square feet, cost about $180,000, not including labor, Stutler says.

Stutler points out that the savings are built in because many of the new systems rely on less copper piping, which is costly, all use less refrigerant and, of course, all are designed to leak less. He says the new systems cost about $5,000 to $7,000 more than older systems. In addition, Sprouts’ company-wide leak rate last year was 6.9 percent, one of the lowest among all GreenChill participants.

Refrigeration system manufacturers such as Hill Phoenix, Kysor Warren, Zero Zon and Hussman Corp. participate in the GreenChill program and were instrumental in helping develop the Store Certification Program. Stutler says these manufacturers are reliable experts in new refrigeration technology and can help retailers choose the best options for their stores.

Sprouts will continue to install advanced refrigeration systems in all of its new stores, and “as we get into remodeling stores that are in the 10- to 15-year-old range, we will change systems,” Stutler says. “But it will be another five to seven years before we start that. It’s not realistic [financially] to do it before then.”

Other ways to chill costs

Installing new, advanced systems is just one way grocers can cut refrigerant emissions. Down to Earth All Vegetarian Organic & Natural markets in Hawaii, which became, fittingly, the 50th GreenChill partner in fall 2010, has traditional refrigeration systems in its five stores and installed a traditional system in its sixth store, which opened this summer. Down to Earth CEO Mark Fergusson, known as the company’s chief vegetarian officer, says some of the newer advanced systems “aren’t very well tested yet and would cost $60,000 to $80,000 more than a traditional system.” Currently, no government subsidies or rebates help with costs for installing new systems.

Instead, Down to Earth has instituted a number of measures to track and cut leaks. Fergusson says his stores work with contractors that follow a “rigid installation system,” which includes using soldered joints instead of fittings. Although fittings  can be cheaper and easier to use, they aren’t necessarily 100 percent leak free like soldered joints. In addition, Fergusson says Down to Earth’s refrigeration systems are installed with leak detectors equipped with an Internet alarm system that automatically notifies management if refrigerant levels drop, indicating a possible leak.

Although it’s too soon to measure exactly the environmental impact of Down to Earth’s efforts, Fergusson’s goal is to cut the stores’refrigerant loss by 10 percent this year. “We are actively working toward protecting the environment and reducing operating costs while we do it,” he says.

Refrigeration system options

1. Centralized direct expansion system.
Known as centralized DX, the equipment for this traditional refrigeration system is located in a store’s machine room. Refrigerant is circulated from the refrigeration equipment to the store’s cold cases and freezers by yards of copper piping that snakes throughout the store to refrigerator cases and freezers. Each system holds an average of 3,500 pounds of refrigerant, and all the pipes, joints and valves provide ample opportunity to leak, according to Keilly Witman, manager of the Environmental Protection Agency’s GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership. Although centralized DX systems have an average leak rate of about 25 percent, stores can monitor leaks and provide regular maintenance to reduce that number to about 10 percent to 15 percent, Witman says.

2. Distributed system.
Rather than one main system, smaller systems are located throughout the store near coolers and freezers, requiring less piping and refrigerant. Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market uses this system in its new stores, and Vice President of Construction and Facility Engineering Jerry Stutler says each system uses about 600 to 800 pounds of refrigerant, and the company’s leak rate is 6.9 percent.

3. Secondary loop system.
Although the equipment is in a store’s machine room, two refrigerants are used. The primary refrigerant, usually an HFC, chills a secondary refrigerant that is then piped to coolers throughout the store. Because the HFC refrigerant stays in the machine room, there is less potential for leaks, and the leaks that do happen can be located faster and repaired easily. The secondary refrigerant is often glycol or carbon dioxide, which is less harmful than a primary refrigerant like the chemical R-404A, Witman says.The system uses about 1,000 pounds of HFC refrigerant, depending on the size of the store, and the leak rate averages about 5 percent, according to Witman.

4. Cascading CO2system.
Two independent refrigeration systems use different refrigerants depending on the temperature range needed. One part of the system brings the unit to medium cool. The other uses naturally occurring carbon dioxide to bring the unit to freezing. A new Sprouts store in Westlake, Calif., is the first in the chain to install a CO2system. Stutler says the system uses about 235 pounds of refrigerant. Leak rates range from zero to 5 percent, according to Witman. The system has a significantly lower global warming impact than conventional systems, according to GreenChill.

Green refrigeration tips

If you can’t afford new refrigeration equipment, you can still reduce the ill effects of refrigerants. Here’s how.

  • Use refrigerants that don’t damage the ozone layer. Replace R22 refrigerant, which must be phased out by 2020, sooner rather than later. Visit the EPA's GreenChill website for recommendations and guidelines.
     
  • Make sure equipment installation ensures against leaks. Use soldered joints rather than fittings, for example. Consult GreenChill’s Installation Leak Tightness Guidelines.
     
  • Institute mandatory monthly leak checks. Don’t just replace refrigerant when the system is low. Buy a handheld leak detector—most devices cost about $200—and use it around all pipes and display cases. You can find a leak and replace it before you notice a drop in the refrigerant level.
     
  • Join the free GreenChill Partnership. Becoming a partner allows you to take advantage of information, resources, discussions and webinars, and learn from other partners. “There’s a wealth of information and resources available for all retailers,” says Jerry Stutler, vice president of construction and facility engineering for Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market.  

FDA's just-released NDI guidance ushers in 'brave new world'

FDA released a pre-publication version of its long-awaited New Dietary Ingredients guidance today, and early industry reactions have pinpointed four particular areas of concern: sections of the document dealing with the use of solvents in extracts (especially supercritical CO2 fluid extraction), nanotechnology, the status of synthetic botanicals and a provision that could result in multiple NDI filings were cited.

"Welcome to the brave new world of real dietary supplement ingredients," said Michael McGuffin, president of the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA). "I'm not going to pretend I've read every word, but it's an interesting combination of what we've thought all along. It provides true guidance."

The United Natural Products Alliance noted a few examples of the "big issues arising out of this watershed document":

  • Many common manufacturing changes to existing NDIs or ODIs trigger a new NDI status.
  • Changing solvents will usually trigger NDI status.
  • Synthetic dietary ingredients are not dietary supplements at all. They have been kicked out of the dietary supplement category.
  • You must describe how the combination of all the ingredients in your formula relate to the history of safe use of the dietary supplement.
  • You should address bioavailability of the ingredients as formulated.

The issues with supercritical extraction

 

One of industry's greatest concerns leading up to the publication of this document was whether new technologies, in particular the modern use of supercritical CO2 fluid extraction in the creation of botanical extracts, would mean that old, presumably grandfathered botanicals would be subject to an NDI filing.

The document reads that use of water or aqueous ethanol as a solvent does not constitute chemical alteration, but does call into question other solvents commonly used in the market today such as hexane or supercritical CO2.

"We've kind of known this for a while, that using CO2 would constitute chemical alteration from FDA's point of view. From our standpoint, it's just a cleaner technology," said Shaheen Majeed, marketing director for Sabinsa Corp., which runs a supercritical fluid extraction facility in India.

Supercritical fluid extraction combines the feedstock to be extracted with carbon dioxide in a vessel under very high pressure and temperature. The gas enters a phase that is somewhere between a fluid and a gas.

"The first result is an oil," Majeed said. "That first phase of oil is really pure. From there you can take your extract into a gooey, gummy stage." Both of these work well in softgel products, Majeed said.

"But if you want to get to a powder [from the gooey stage]," he said, "most likely you would have to take it back through an alcohol extraction."

So does starting with CO2 in a supercritical facility amount to chemical alteration? In Majeed's view, it merely results in a cleaner, purer feedstock for subsequent manufacturing or extraction. "It's going to be something that has to be discussed (with FDA)," Majeed said.

"We'll push back on this," McGuffin said. "We'll need to show that the use of that technology doesn't chemically alter it. "

Nanotech is new, according to guidance


Under the same section of the document dealing with what constitutes chemical alteration of an ingredient (IV-B-4), FDA says that "application of nanotechnology that results in new or altered chemical properties of the ingredient" is cause for an NDI filing. The document subscribes to the industry standard for nanotech as being anything reduced in size to between 1 and 100 nanometers.

"They mention nanotechnology a couple of times," McGuffin said. "Because there is little safety data on nano, we recommend manufacturers call FDA first."

Synthetic and "nature identical" ingredients

According to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), classes of ingredients that qualify as dietary supplements include vitamins, minerals, botanicals, amino acids and any constituents or metabolites thereof. However, the NDI guidance document seems to separate synthesized versions of botanicals from the rest. 

"It seems to be accepting synthesis for some ingredients but not for others," McGuffin said. "It specifically mentions taurine as a metabolite of an amino acid. What FDA is saying is that cysteine is an amino acid, taurine is a metabolite of cysteine, and we don't care how you get it.

"But constituents of botanicals can only be from the natural product, not synthesis," he said. A synthesized botanical, in other words, likely would be subject to an NDI filing. Examples that come to mind are synthetic versions of polyphenols such as pterostilbene and resveratrol.

 

Possible multiple NDI filings

Another area of concern revolves around a provision that could result in burdensome, multiple NDI filings, in McGuffin's view. He laid out a hypothetical case in which a company was marketing a garcinia extract alone and in combination with vitamin C and with chamomile, both grandfathered ingredients. "There's nothing in DSHEA that says that's three NDIs," he said. "The NDI is for an ingredient, and should only be for garcinia.  You don't need one for vitamin C or for chamomile. FDA is point blank saying that there should be three separate NDI notifications. I think they're wrong."

The industry has 90 days in which to comment on the draft filing.  Go to www.regulations.gov to submit comments online. Written comments can be submitted to the Division of Dockets Management  (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administraion, 5630 Fishers Lane, RM. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852.

Industry associations quick to react

Industry associations have been quick to react with services for members (and nonmembers) to help them deal with this change to the regulatory landscape.  The Amercian Herbal Products Association, which has the industry's most complete, up-to-date database of NDI filings available on a subsciption basis, is planning a webinar on the issue to be scheduled soon. 

The Natural Products Association is conducting a webinar, "NDI Guidance: What You Need to Know" on Monday, July 11 at 3:30pm Eastern time.

The United Natural Products Alliance is holding a two-day conference on the ramifications of the NDI guidance document, July 26-27 in Salt Lake City.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

8 tips from PR pros on how to market your store

You’re too busy to do public relations (aren’t we all?). But funds are too tight to hire a PR star. Reaching out to the press and public doesn’t have to be time intensive or expensive, says Kelli Matthews, managing director at Verve Northwest Communications in Eugene, Ore., and PR instructor at the University of Oregon. She and other experts offer these eight simple PR tactics that natural foods retailers of any size can implement.

1. Position yourself as a resource.

“You’re not just a storefront,” Matthews says. “You have a great deal of expertise and personal passion.” Through press releases on timely topics, you’re letting natural-minded journalists and bloggers know you’re willing and able to be interviewed about natural foods, healthy-lifestyle trends and nutritional supplements. You can also send off a quick email when you hear about an interesting health idea, but be selective—if you inundate writers’ inboxes, your emails may be caught by their spam filters.

Another option: Offer recipes featuring top-selling items from your store. “Comfort foods that replace no-nos with yes-yes ingredients like tempeh bacon are a good idea,” says Kezia Jauron, co-owner of Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Evolotus PR.

And don’t forget events calendars in local publications: If you have something newsworthy going on at your store, like a speaker or a class, shoot a quick email with the date, time, location and a short description of the event, along with contact info.

2. Be a good sound bite.

Sending out a press release or email tip is only part of an effective PR campaign. You also need to make sure you’re a good interviewee. Reporters are looking for experts who respond quickly to their phone calls or emails; who can explain complex issues like food safety clearly, concisely and accurately; and who provide colorful, quotable statements.  

3. Target specific writers and bloggers

Local publications are more likely to use you as a source than national ones, which have a wider pool of experts to choose from. You can usually find newspaper writers’ contact information at the end of their stories; magazine writers’ email addresses are sometimes listed in the opening pages of the magazine, or you can call the information number and ask. A quick way to find local bloggers is to do an Internet search on your city + the subject you’re interested in (food, for example) + bloggers. Experts recommend you then target the blogs that get several well-considered reader responses a day.

4. Pitch yourself.

Try the free pitchengine.com to host press releases and media announcements about your store or new products, or to post videos, images and social media links. The “customized newsroom” service keeps links live for more than 30 days for $50 a month, according to Nathan Rome, PR director at M/C/C, a Dallas-based PR and advertising agency. “The only catch is that it won’t actually send out the release; however it does make a far more attractive option for reporters and journalists on your media lists,” he says.

5. Get brand-name assistance.

Contact the PR or marketing departments of a favorite nutrition bar, ice cream or other try-it item. Many brands are more than willing to use stores as venues for product promotions. “The brand handles the invites and media outreach, and then has a free space to do mini facials with skin care products, cooking demos or tastings to introduce their products,” says Michael Rogers of New York- and Los Angeles-based Michael Rogers Public Relations.

6. Taste test.

“Invite local press and bloggers in for monthly or quarterly tastings of new or trendy products,” suggests Hilary Allard of The Castle Group, a Boston-based PR firm. “Have your employees or company reps on hand to explain why these products are good or popular, and the benefits.” Foodie bloggers are a particularly prolific and opinionated bunch. Ask bloggers to be transparent about the free samples if they choose to write about the products; this gives them—and consequently you—more credibility with their readers. Check blogwithintegrity.com for details.

7. Improve your reputation

A PR person’s job duties include monitoring your reputation on Yelp, Google and other user sites. “I’d recommend setting aside 15 to 30 minutes each week and just going through and checking for new updates on your Yelp pages,” Rome says. Set up Google alerts for your store’s name, so you’ll be the first to know about new reviews and Internet gossip.

8. Be a do gooder

Choose a local charity to highlight for a month, donate a percentage of sales toward the cause and make sure the media knows about it. “The [fundraising] goal is presented at the first of the month with a big event highlighting the cause, including a tasting of selected items, live music and speakers from the cause,” says Jacqueline Wolven, owner of moxieworks.net, a small-business marketing studio in Fayetteville, Ark. “The opening and closing events are great PR opportunities.” A cool twist on this: Sponsor an athlete in a charity running race.

Top trends from the NPA MarketPlace show floor

Where can you find stevia extracts, seaweed shampoo, contract manufacturers and probiotic supplements under the same roof? Last week 5,000 people gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the NPA MarketPlace, the Natural Products Association's 74th show that featured 250 exhibitors (including those mentioned above), cooking demos and education events.

Incoming president Jeff Wright noted that the NPA is the only association in industry to include all aspects of the supply chain—from suppliers to consumers. About 1,900 companies belong to the NPA. Wright said that retailers compose the largest segment of the association, and that he'd like to see more raw material companies join in the coming year.

Among the retailers scouting new and old products were members of media looking for the latest trends. Here are four trends spotted on the NPA MarketPlace show floor.

1. Portable packaging

Lindsey Emery, contributing health and fitness writer for Self, Fitness and Women's Health, liked Kur Organic Superfoods Delights, raw and organic snacks that are like all-natural brownie bites in a variety of flavors. "Since they've got a good mix of healthy protein and carbs, I think they'd be a great post-run snack, too," said Emery. "The packaging is very portable, so you can toss them in your purse, backpack or suitcase, no matter where you're headed. Good for moms, kids and active people everywhere."

With her consumer reader in mind, Emery also found Miles Outside's dehydrated baby food to be an innovative and practical product. Miles Outside was created by active parents who wanted a better solution to baby food while hiking and camping. "All you have to do is toss a few pouches into your pack, and then add hot water or milk when feeding time arrives," said Emery.

Ayren Jackson-Cannady, contributing health and beauty writer for Real Simple, WebMD and Glamour, also found portability to be paramount with the new beauty products at the show. "Consumers don't only want to live naturally at home, but they also want to live naturally at work, on vacation, or running errands," she said. "Choosing natural beauty products is a lifestyle switch that men and women are consciously making."

2. Products born from a personal need

Entrepreneurialism is alive and well in the natural products industry. The founder of exhibiting company The Seaweed Bath Co. is a longtime psoriasis sufferer who hunted for a natural treatment, eventually finding it in Ireland seaweed. "I think that this story not only resonates with many other consumers (psoriasis is a popular condition in the U.S.), but it is sure to ring an alarm for readers, especially if the personal story is mentioned within copy," said Jackon-Cannady.

3. Consumer-friendly labels

Baby body care company Dolphin Organics, and first-time exhibitor, made an impression with their inexpensive (less than $13) shampoo, conditioner and bubble bath. "The innovative, transparent labeling system breaks down exactly what consumers and moms are putting on their young children's skin," said Jessica Rubino, senior associate editor of Delicious Living. Jackson-Cannady also liked the honest, transparent label which is easy to understand for consumers, "not to mention editors on deadline who need to quickly know what is in the products they are writing about."

MelanSol, another first-time exhibitor, also employs a transparent labeling system. The natural sun care products are tested and verified for UVA and UVB radiation and display those ratings such as "PA+++" and "SPF-30 Filters 97% of UVB Radiation" right on the front label.

4. Alternative sweeteners married with sugar

Both SweetLeaf and Imperial Sugar debuted crystallized sucrose and alternative sweetener blends at this year's show. Functional Ingredients magazine is following the stevia-sucrose trend which is driven by a need for sugar and calorie reduction (think diabetes and obesity) rather than complete sugar replacement. Nordzucker, Pure Circle and Tereos have all formed joint ventures to bring these blends to Europe.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Become a hiring expert

What is it about an applicant that acts as a red flag, or stoplight, giving you pause to pursue him or her? What acts as a green light, indicating that an applicant deserves further consideration?

In the Rising Stars natural foods leadership development seminars that I lead with Allen Seidner, prepared foods expert, and Mark Mulcahy, produce consultant, we instruct participants to weigh applicants by specific criteria. To the right are some of the most frequently cited green lights and stoplights from our seminars.

To make use of these hiring cues, plan your interviews so that you have the opportunity to observe applicants’ behavior and hear their responses.

  • Prepare your questions in advance, including questions about apparent gaps in employment and reasons for leaving jobs.
  • Ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with just a yes or no.
  • Listen more than you talk. As a rule of thumb, do 80 percent of the listening and 20 percent of the talking.
  • Allow silences. When the applicant finishes answering a question, wait five to 10 seconds before asking the next one. A silence will frequently lead the applicant to say more—often, something revealing.
  • Be diligent about checking references. At the very least, verify that the facts stated in the application or résumé are true.

 

Green lights

Stoplights

Application form is fully filled out.

Application form is illegible or incomplete.

Has worked for several years at a time for each employer.

Has a history of frequent job hopping, with less than a year at any job.

Gives several verifiable references with complete contact information.

References are not verifiable or impossible to reach by phone or email.

Arrives on time for the interview.

Arrives late for the interview.

Comes appropriately dressed and groomed for the interview.

Comes to the interview in overly casual dress or has poor hygiene.

Has erect posture and makes eye contact.

Has slumped posture and lack of eye contact.

Radiates enthusiasm through body language and tone of voice.

Speaks in a monotone, with little or no facial expression.

Answers questions comprehensively and to the point.

Gives long, rambling answers or short, vague answers lacking detail.

Has researched your store and asks relevant questions.

Has no questions; shows little curiosity.

Wants to work at your store because she’s interested in natural foods and enjoys serving people.

Wants to work at your store because she thinks it’s “laid back.“

Asks questions about the company’s and the supervisor’s expectations.

Asks only about the pay.

Takes personal responsibility for relationships with former employers.

Talks in an angry, victimized way about former employers.

Can admit mistakes and what he has learned from them.

Won’t admit to any mistakes.

Has a history of scheduling flexibility in previous jobs.

Indicates extremely limited availability or unbending rigidity in her scheduling needs.

Is confident without overselling herself; appears to reflect on whether the job would be a good fit for her.

Relentlessly oversells herself without seeming to care whether the job would be a good fit for her.

Asks “what can I do for your company?”

Asks “what can your company do for me?”

Insists on giving adequate notice to his current employer.

Is willing to quit his present job without notice.

Follows up after the interview with a thank you note or email.

Makes no further contact with you following the interview.

Accepts the job with a clear understanding of the pay rate and opportunity for future increases.

Accepts the job and then tries to get you to increase the pay rate.

 

Natural Color Market sees green as demand grows

Make some room on the shelves. The array of foods, beverages and dietary supplements free
of artificial colors is poised to explode.

“More and more companies are moving away from synthetic colors and toward natural ones,” says Leslie Lynch, sales manager at Teterboro, N.J.-based Food Ingredient Solutions, which manufactures and distributes both kinds of coloring. “There is a huge demand out there right now for natural coloring.”

Consumer groups have warned since the 1960s that there may be a link between petroleum-based colorants and allergies, behavioral problems or even cancer. But the issue has garnered new attention recently for two reasons. In 2010—following the release of several sentinel studies linking artificial food dyes to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder—the European Commission began requiring warning labels on food products containing the dyes. Then in March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration convened an expert panel to determine whether such a warning was warranted here. The panel called for more studies and voted eight to six against considering a warning label.

But the genie is already out of the bottle, with a flurry of news reports about artificial dyes prompting many shoppers to take a closer look at labels, retailers such as Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s reaffirming their vows never to carry them, and conventional food giants rolling out artificial color–free products.

In August 2010, Pepperidge Farm announced it had reformulated its Goldfish Colors crackers, replacing FD&C red and blue artificial colors with beet, paprika, turmeric and watermelon extracts. The world’s largest snack maker, Frito-Lay, followed suit in January, announcing it had revamped its offerings to include SunChips colored with paprika and Cheetos Natural White Cheddar Puffs void of neon orange stain. Yoplait’s new Simply GoGurt is now free of Technicolor dyes, and even the confectionary industry has jumped in, with Necco Wafers rolling out candies colored with red beets, purple cabbage and cocoa powder.

“Just the fact that the FDA [held] a meeting sends a message to the food industry that this is a topic worthy of discussion,” says Michael Jacobson, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Companies see the writing on the wall.”

The trouble with artificial dyes

According to the FDA, consumers ingest five times more synthetic dye (roughly 60 mg daily) than in 1955, with 15 million pounds used in 2009 alone. Vivid hues lure picky consumers—particularly kids—in a competitive food market, and often impersonate “real food” (General Mills Total Blueberry Pomegranate Cereal actually contains no blueberries or pomegranates, and instead uses Red 40 and Blue 2 dyes). But color also plays a more practical role, restoring shades muted in the manufacturing process, or turning naturally gray concoctions into something more appealing.

 “Without added color, some of these foods would look unappetizing,” Lynch says.

In the 1800s, an array of lethal compounds, including copper sulfate, lead chromate and arsenic, were used as food colorants. Coal tar, which is also used to dye clothing and was once used in hair color, became the norm by the 1900s. But throughout the years, following reports of children being poisoned and rodents developing tumors, hundreds of artificial dyes were banned. Today, nine petroleum-based dyes are approved for use in food, and each batch must be prescreened by the FDA—a fact that many see as a testament to their safety.

“There are a lot of things out there that people consume that the FDA doesn’t oversee at all,” notes Bonnie Jortberg, RD, with the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “I haven’t seen anything in the literature that would lead me to believe there should be great concern about food dyes.”

But while the body of evidence may not be large, a few well-designed studies have swayed entire governments to reconsider.

In 2004, David Schab, MD, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, published a groundbreaking meta-analysis looking at three decades worth of research. “Artificial food colorings appeared, in the highest quality of studies, to promote behavioral disturbances in hyperactive children,” he says, speculating that the dyes may interfere with transmission of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps control attention.

In a 2007 study published in the journal Lancet, researchers from the University of Southhampton in the U.K. administered either an artificially colored drink or a dye-free alternative to 153 3-year-olds and 144 8-year-olds. Assessments from parents and teachers showed “significantly higher hyperactivity scores” in kids within hours after consuming the colored drinks, according to the researchers. “The adverse effects are not just seen in children with extreme hyperactivity, but can also be seen in the general population,” the researchers concluded.

Nevertheless, representatives from the Grocery Manufacturers Association maintain that “the safety of both artificial and natural colors has been affirmed through extensive review.” But Jacobson argues that those reviews were conducted by the industry and are potentially biased. A 2010 CSPI report points out that the three most commonly used food dyes—Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6—are often contaminated with known carcinogens. Meanwhile, Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 have been shown to cause allergic reactions in humans. 

But there’s an even more insidious problem, notes Danville, Calif.-based pediatrician Alan Greene, MD: “We are designed to be attracted to colorful foods so that we are led to ripe fruits and vegetables and other things that are good for us,” he says. “Food companies have learned that they can draw our attention away from those healthy foods by making unhealthy foods look colorful.”

Matt Incles, market intelligence manager for U.K.-based Leatherhead Food Research, says the Southhampton study had a “severe” impact on food companies operating in Great Britain. “The pressure came down from consumers and retailers to change their ingredients almost overnight.”

In response, the European Parliament asked manufacturers to voluntarily remove synthetic dyes from food by Dec. 31, 2009. And it now requires foods containing the dyes to sport a damning label: May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children. Australia and Canada are now considering similar moves, and at least one U.S. state, Maryland, has proposed a ban on artificial food dyes in school lunches.

And many believe a similar scenario is in store across the rest of the United States.

The pros and cons of natural colors

According to Leatherhead, natural food colorings now represent 36.2 percent of the $1.45 billion global food colorings market, and are expected to outpace synthetic varieties within a few years.

The most common natural options include anthocyanins (purple cabbage, purple sweet potato, black carrots, red radishes or elderberry), which are used in place of the ubiquitous Red 40; carotenoids (from annatto, beta-carotene and paprika) and turmeric, which replace Yellow 5 and Yellow 6; and a somewhat gruesome-sounding concoction called carmine, which is made of ground-up beetle-like bugs and is used in place of reds.

In addition, the Dutch ingredients company DSM recently introduced a natural beta-carotene coloring called CaroCare Nat B-Carotene 10% CWS Star to replace Yellow 5 and Yellow 6; and PL Thomas, based in Morristown, N.J., launched a lycopene-based red-dye substitute called Tomat-O-Red.

The upside to natural colorants? They lack the stigma of their synthetic cousins and may even contain nutritional benefits, although they are used in such minute amounts that health claims would be hard to make in most cases.

The downside: They cost 10 to 20 times more, are seldom as bright, can vary in hue according to a product’s pH levels and can change the taste of foods.

“Working with natural colors is a real art form,” says food technologist Pete Maletto, a consultant with Long Branch, N.J.-based PTM Food Consulting.

Incles warns that switching from artificial to natural coloring is “incredibly difficult and quite costly,” and that consumers and retailers could be in for some changes. “Not only are companies expected to reformulate their products, but they must produce them at the same standards of quality and cost as they did before,” he says. “In some cases, that’s just not possible with natural colors. Consumers might look at a new ice cream that just doesn’t look as bright as it used to. That can put people off.”

In the case of carmine and turmeric, increased demand has also led to dramatic price bumps in recent months—which could jack up wholesale costs of natural products. And there still isn’t a viable natural alternative for green, so if that bright-green beverage claims to be “all-natural,” you might want to take a closer look.

Color companies assure customers they are working to overcome such glitches. In the meantime, food technologists like Maletto are urging clients with new products in the works to either steer clear of color completely (he recently helped formulate a clear children’s drink) or at least dyes made from synthetics. “I think eventually the government is going to say, ‘We need to get [artificial colors] out of food altogether and you have a year or two to reformulate,’” he says. “Manufacturers don’t want to have to go back and do it all over again.” 

 

Natural Foods Merchandiser

7 ways to attract parents and their children to your store

A mom enters your store for the first time, toddler in her arms. Are you ready to serve her? “Families with new children and young children are at what marketers call an inflection point,” says Jay Jacobowitz, owner of Retail Insights, a Brattleboro, Vt.-based consulting service for natural products retailers. “A new child will cause parents to reevaluate their food-buying habits, with an eye toward a clean slate and a good start in life.”

Parents of children under age 3 are more likely to incorporate organic products into their kids’ lives, often for health-related reasons, according to the “2009 U.S. Families’ Organic Attitudes & Beliefs Study.” This  joint project of the Organic Trade Association and Kiwi magazine, which surveyed 763 families, also shows that despite the sagging economy, 41 percent of U.S. families report they buy more organic foods compared to a year ago, even cutting spending in other areas before reducing organic produce purchases.

The family market is clearly a natural fit for your store, but how do you satisfy new parents and their children, turning them into lifelong customers? Here are seven ideas.

Reach out to “organic influencer” mom bloggers
“Organic influencer” parents, according to the OTA report, promote buying organic products, seek information about organic foods and are sought out by friends and family on organic product questions. And these recommendations aren’t necessarily made in person. The Internet (48 percent) outranks magazines and newspapers (42 percent) for family meal ideas and menu advice, according to the September 2010 Supervalu “Back-to-Routine Survey,” a study of 3,074 parents of school-age children.

You can make the most of these findings by becoming partners with eco- and organic-focused mom bloggers, who can help you get the word out on healthful products, menu items and great deals. Ask the bloggers if you can add them to your media list, and invite them to participate in store events, such as new product samplings or cooking classes. “You’re identifying your store as a resource for new moms and families,” Jacobowitz says, when you collaborate with influencers.

Introduce your store
The OTA report found that “newly organic” parents (32 percent of all respondents) have shopped for organic products for less than two years and tend to choose conventional grocers over natural retailers. To entice these parents to your store, offer a “family day,” suggests Debby Swoboda, a Stuart, Fla.-based natural products consultant who has orchestrated similar events for her retail clients. Set up hands-on craft and activity stations (such as planting organic radish seeds inside soil-filled recyclable paper cups) next to food-tasting booths, so parents and kids alike will spend time in your store and get to know your merchandise and staff. “The child is having a blast while you’re teaching parents about the culture of the store,” Swoboda says.

Another idea: In 2010, Honest Weight Food Co-Op in Albany, N.Y., threw a Halloween trick-or-treating party with pumpkin painting, cookies and face painting. “It was very successful, in that it was good to get in people who’d never been here before,” says Jennifer Grainer, the store’s marketing and merchandising coordinator.

Promote inexpensive convenience foods
The shaky economy has hit families hard, with 63 percent of the OTA report respondents choosing to skip restaurant meals and cook at home. The report also indicates that among the 25 percent of families decreasing purchases of organic products over the past 12 months, nine in 10 did so because they felt organic foods are “too expensive.”

To draw in these types of customers, Swoboda suggests you ask employees to take turns creating a weekly endcap with favorite frugal meals. Cash-strapped families appreciate displays featuring organic chili mix ingredients, pizza fixings and prepared organic soups. Promoting bulk-ingredient recipes in store flyers, advertisements and social media sites also boosts cost-conscious buys, Swoboda says.

Give fruit to kids
According to the OTA report, families who purchase organic products tend to eat more produce than non-organic families, so offering free fruit to kids can hit a sweet spot with both parents and their children.

Sell parents on store values

Mom Teresa Youngblood appreciates how New Leaf Market’s quarterly newsletter discloses purchasing standards for the Tallahassee, Fla.-based co-op. “I could research all the brands myself before going in,” she says, “but it’s nice to know that I can expect a reasonable level of quality based on values that I know and support.” Overall, parents’ primary motivation to choose organic products is health related, according to the OTA report; 38 percent say they believe organics are “healthier for me and/or my children,” while 39 percent buy organics to “avoid highly processed foods and/or artificial ingredients.”

Even beyond organic, you can promote health benefits and natural qualities of all the products you stock. For example, Supervalu uses shelf tags to note one or two nutritional benefits of items across price points.

Help with meal planning
Supervalu’s survey found that 74 percent of children have some or a lot of influence on the meals their parents make. You can help mom or dad turn junior on to healthier menus by offering cooking classes for the family. PCC Natural Markets in Seattle holds frequently sold-out “PCC Kids Cook” courses for every age group.Two-year-olds, accompanied by an adult guest, learn to count ways to have fun with food in “Counting in the Kitchen,” or discover how to make breakfast in “Good Morning, Great Day!” Four- to 6-year-olds are offered hands-on classes in preparing seasonal produce (“Celebrate Summer Produce”) and making healthy desserts (“Just Desserts”).

Parents also seek assistance “making mealtime preparation easier” (48 percent), “being better prepared for meals” (44 percent) and “figuring out how to pack healthy lunches” (30 percent), according to Supervalu’s study. To make shopping a no-fuss experience for parents, Supervalu puts recipe cards next to ingredient-list items. Youngblood says her co-op anticipates parents’ needs and tailors promotions accordingly. “Two winters ago, a store endcap featured real cocoa powder along with honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon sticks and gelatin-free marshmallows for homemade hot chocolate,” she says. “I know it’s savvy marketing, but I love to share hot chocolate with my kids, and it’s not going to be made from a bottle of Hershey’s syrup.”

Provide a play area
In Laramie, Wyo., mom Cass Kvenild likes to shop at Big Hollow Food Co-op and Whole Earth Grainery because the stores put large plastic dinosaurs and other toys near their bulk bins. Not only do the toys distract little hands that might otherwise reach into the bins, but they also help keep kids occupied while parents fill and label bulk bags.

If you want to go all out, Jacobowitz recommends creating a staffed Saturday-morning playtime that leaves parents free to shop. But staffing isn’t always necessary. Honest Weight Food Co-op has an unstaffed play area with toys and books to help stave off kids’ tantrums, offer a chill-out spot for fussy kids and encourage a family atmosphere. The toys can also be carried around while a family’s shopping the aisles. “The area makes mom’s trip a little easier,” Grainer says.

Before you create a play area, establish rules about who watches the kids (store, staff or parents) and check with your insurance company to make sure you’re not taking on too much liability. The effort is worth it. “You’re removing barriers and showing an understanding and sensitivity to family needs,” Jacobowitz says. 

Retailers hold the key to kicking GMOs out of our food

Manufacturers such as Nestle and Kraft don't use genetically engineered ingredients in products destined for European stores. Strict laws on GMOs and myriad protests when the technology was first introduced sent a pretty clear message to companies early on—"no crap in our food, please." The billions of pounds of GE corn, soy and canola produced yearly are instead reserved for shoppers everywhere else—including the U.S. While European consumers won't stand for this junk in their food, (so far) we will, and since GE ingredients are often cheaper (thanks, subsidies) there's no reason for food companies to bother with EU formulations in all products.

Because most countries haven't mobilized against GMOs, the bioengineered foods business continues to boom. Monsanto, the St. Louis, Missouri-based agricultural giant that owns most genetically modified seeds, grew its net income by 77 percent to $680 million in the third quarter according to an earnings report released by the company this week.

What would it take to slow Monsanto's roll and kick GMOs out of the U.S. food system? We certainly can't count on the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration to take a stand against genetic modification since biotech supporters are embedded in these government organizations. Even seemingly philanthropic Bill Gates has been duped by Monsanto's claim that GE crops can solve world hunger.  It's up to us, and in many ways, up to retailers to clear up confusion and incite change.

If five percent of U.S. shoppers stop purchasing products with suspect GE ingredients, it would be enough to create a tipping point that would draw the attention of major food manufactures, estimates Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology. Approximately 40 percent of all shoppers said they frequented a natural foods store within the last three months, according to a survey from Natural Marketing Institutes' 2010 Health & Wellness Trends Database.  When you also consider natural products shoppers are typically trend setters when it comes to addressing issues of health and wellness, natural products retailers are in a particularly valuable position.  

"Those who make purchasing decisions based on what they understand to be healthy for them is the demographic we need to reach," Smith says. "These people go to natural products stores and are ready to listen to the wisdom of the staff; they're also more likely to read retailers' newsletters and visit their websites."

Luckily, the work has already begun. The introduction of the Non-GMO Project's Non-GMO Verified Label in 2008 is already gaining traction with manufacturers and consumers. Sales in the combined natural and conventional retail channels rose 25.3 percent for Non-GMO Project Verified products in 2010 according to Schaumburg, Ill.-based market research firm SPINS. Here are a few ways some retailers are carrying that momentum forward in their stores. 

Make your store a non-GMO oasis. Jimbo's Naturally, a four-store natural foods chain based in San Diego, Calif. refuses to carry any new product that contains GM-suspect ingredients such as corn, soy, canola or beet sugar unless the item is certified by the Non-GMO Project. Store owner Jimbo Someck also encourages all manufacturers to consider enrolling with the non-profit organization. "Not only do these actions support the non-GMO movement, but if a store can go 100 percent GMO free, you can imagine the considerable marketing opportunity for retailers," Smith advocates. 

Educate everyone. In addition to a well-educated staff and a non-GMO education center that includes free shopping guides and health risk brochures for customers, Kansas City, Mo.-based Nature's Pantry wrote an advertorial on the risks associated with GMOs in the Kansas City Star—a newspaper  with a circulation of more than 170,000.  The store also frequently screens, "The World According to Monsanto," hosts non-GMO speakers and includes educational articles in their newsletter that highlight the health and environmental issues associated with GMOs.  

Partner with non-GMO activist groups. Denver-based Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage partnered with Smith's Institute for Responsible Technology to create "Colorado says No to GMOs" day. The event included a rally on the steps of the capitol that was covered by local media. The week leading up to the rally, shoppers at participating stores received the day's itinerary in their shopping bags and were invited to attend. In collaboration with IRT, the store also organized speaker training sessions (open to shoppers) to teach staffers how to address GMOs with customers.  

What can your store do to take a stand? 

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Excite customers about non-soy powdered supplement alternatives

Of course, a diet of whole, organic foods is optimal—but optimal isn’t always possible in our busy world. Quick and easy protein shakes with natural ingredients can be the next best thing, especially when trying to maintain weight, recover from a workout or keep a balanced diet. Thankfully, today’s shakes are healthier—and tastier—than their chalky, choke-’em-down predecessors. And while soy remains ubiquitous in this category, manufacturers are increasingly introducing appetizing soy-protein alternatives.

More consumers are seeing protein powders’ benefits. According to Schaumburg, Ill.-based market research firm SPINS, sales of powdered meal replacements and supplements with protein as a primary ingredient rose 16.8 percent in natural foods stores and 16.4 percent in natural and conventional stores between April 2010 and April 2011.

Here, three experts share their favorite non-soy protein powders for weight management, sports performance and vegetarian and vegan diets.

For weight management

The expert: Cynthia Stadd, holistic nutrition practitioner, certified eating psychology counselor and senior educator at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in Boulder, Colo.

I recommend: Whole food–, vegetable- or rice-based protein.

Why: Even supplemental nourishment should be as close to real food as possible. Rice and vegetable proteins are best. I’m not a fan of dairy and soy proteins because of allergies and digestive issues. There is no perfect balance of protein, fat and carbs, because there are all different types of metabolic burners. But a whole-food, plant-based protein powder is the type of product you can use in a long-term diet, because it’s so clean. For weight loss, you can replace lunch or dinner (but not breakfast) with a shake. Most people find it sustains them, and it provides complete nutrition. For weight gain, a shake makes for an easy extra meal that supplies quality rather than just quantity calories. It’s much healthier than nutrition bars for on-the-go, and free of the irritants that most commonly cause digestive troubles.

My favorite: Vega Whole Food Health Optimizer (Chocolate or Berry). I’ve never seen a better mix of synergistic whole foods in a meal replacement than Vega products offer. There’s nothing artificial—no additives, preservatives, extraneous binders or extra sugar. Vega isn’t the cheapest on the market, and it can be gritty in smoothies when not mixed with yogurt or fruit.

For peak performance

The expert: Tavis Piattoly, RD, LDN, team nutritionist for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets, and director of health and fitness programs at Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans.

I recommend: Whey protein.

Why: Research shows whey and casein are superior for muscle recovery. In sports recovery, it’s all about timing. Data shows whey is fast acting and casein is slow acting, so the balance delivers the amino acids to tissues effectively and expediently. Sugar plays a key role in getting the protein to the muscle more quickly because insulin shuttles protein to the muscles. Therefore, I suggest shaking the protein powder in a hydration drink with electrolytes. Diabetics or athletes looking to drop fat would want to opt for less sugar. For lactose-intolerant athletes, I recommend dairy-free whey. For serious athletes looking to replenish energy as well as recovery, it’s hard to get that many good, clean calories. Adding nut butters to protein shakes helps athletes get enough high-quality, well-balanced calories. Older adults can use protein powders to help hold muscle tissue as they age, even as appetite declines.

My favorite: Champion Nutrition UltraMet (chocolate).

For vegans and vegetarians

The expert: Myan Sorensen, ND, who practices in Crestone, Colo.

I recommend: Plant-based proteins such as hemp, rice or pea.

Why: One of the biggest challenges for vegetarians and vegans is getting adequate protein, so if food combining isn’t supplying enough, a scoop of pea protein can cover the bases. Hemp has less protein but is high in fiber. Rotating sources offers the advantage of trace elements unique to each grain, legume or seed, and keeps taste buds entertained. A body with a balanced pH is less susceptible to illness, joint pains and aging, and will have more vital energy. A balance of 80 percent alkaline foods to 20 percent acidic foods will keep most bodies in check. The greener the food, the more alkaline it is, so add parsley, kale, chard or romaine to protein drinks or choose products with greens in them to enhance the alkaline balance.

My favorite: I don’t have a favorite brand or flavor because I vary my sources, but I often add Food Science of Vermont’s Superior Greens for alkaline balancing if there aren’t greens in the mix.