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Articles from 2012 In June

6 vibrant Puerto Rican recipes

Last spring, while eating and drinking my way through the Saborea Culinary Extravaganza in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I started to wonder: What does saborea mean, anyway? Locals’ answers—“to taste,” “flavors,” “tasty, you know …”—all expressed the experience of something so delicious it couldn’t be pinned down with words. On my last day there, feeling well-fed and content, I think I got it: Saborea means tasting joy, a sentiment that sums up Puerto Rico’s diverse cuisine.

That cuisine is thriving—with new twists. Passionate chefs include Giovanna Huyke, who, inspired by her vegetarian daughter, now fuses traditional dishes like chicken and rice, empanadas, sofrito, and mofongo with lighter techniques and ingredients.

“I’ve been working on developing our recipes and flavors in healthier ways,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of changes, but I refuse to lose any taste in my meals.” Delight in her creations that feature Puerto Rico’s sweet-savory balance of Spanish, African, Caribbean, and American influence.

New Hope Videos

Q&A: Mel Coleman talks natural ranching

5 Mediterranean products to taste

Mediterranean-inspired foods like hummus, olive oil, and pickled vegetables have long held a seat in the sun with American eaters. But these products improve on an already good thing with more healthful ingredients and adventurous flavor combinations. 

Delicious Living

Low-sugar fruits

Summer’s fresh-fruit cornucopia offers a delectable way to up your intake of valuable phytochemicals. But if you’re watching your weight, certain choices may be better than others. Because of a poor fiber-water-sugar ratio, some fruits have similar effects on blood sugar as breads, pastas, and other high-carbohydrate foods.“Both fiber and water drastically reduce the glycemic index of fruits,” say Jade Teta, ND, and Keoni Teta, ND, LAc, coauthors of The Metabolic Effect Diet (William Morrow, 2010). “Not only that, water and fiber help people feel full faster and for longer. In our view, this is how high-fiber foods should be evaluated: How much fiber and water is there compared to starch or sugar?”

The good news is that low-sugar, high-fiber fruits are often the ones with the most antioxidant punch, providing disease-fighting benefits along with weight loss help. Get your fill of these diet-friendly fruit choices.

New Hope 360 Blog

Beyond certifications: How packaging can communicate a brand's mission

Beyond certifications: How packaging can communicate a brand's mission

Beyond delivering a quality product, what sets apart many companies in the natural products industry is their connection to a cause—the overarching one being to bring healthier, safer products to consumers, but also the meaningful stories and missions specific to their brands. The challenge is finding a way to exchange this information in stores. A product’s packaging, as Alaffia proves, can be the ideal vehicle.

Do certifications tell a brand’s story?

At its core, this conversation is about traceability and transparency—and, as I’ve discovered, is closely tied to the power of labels and certifications. They jump out at us on packaging, but how much do they really say about a brand’s mission?

The USDA Organic label, for example, is a quick hit, but does the O word truly reflect a brand’s mission? Fair trade certainly can connect with consumers on an emotional level, but again is this label alone enough to set a brand apart? 

There are a couple of issues with relying on a certification to tell a story. One is that consumers are overwhelmed by and even skeptical of the abundance of labels and claims. Plus, as certifications appear on more and more large brands, to some people they become less meaningful.

In the future, a brand’s story—and how it communicates it beyond a certification—may be even more powerful than a certification. Technology can help to communicate this. But Alaffia shows that it's not always necessary. 

How Alaffia’s packaging gets it rightAlaffia's new packaging

Alaffia’s new packaging—which replaced glass with fully recyclable plastic—got my attention not because it proudly boasts the Fair For Life certification but because it provides insights into what fair trade really means, while communicating the benefits of the products. Kudos to the company for proving the power and potential of packaging—no QR codes required.

It used the transition to a new material (a response to consumer concern about lack of usability) to also change the colors, images and language on the packaging and accomplish two important goals:

1. The packaging tells the brand’s story.
Alaffia has done a great job of building its identity on its work in rural Africa. But its new packaging makes this mission pop without being overwhelming. Muted colors and more white space make the key stats and points of entry accessible. And Alaffia’s signature bright orange is now just an accent rather than a main component of the packaging. 

Plus, the company doesn’t use the front of the box to communicate its mission; rather, it thoughtfully incorporates these elements on each of the other three sides (in addition to listing every ingredient, even those that make up its fragrance—go Alaffia!).

2. The packaging presents Alaffia as a more sophisticated beauty brand. Alaffia's new packaging
Along with its packaging, Alaffia launched four new facial skin care SKUs, including a facial scrub, toner and renewal facial cream that feature ingredients like shea, neem and baobab. The front of the box and the bottle itself focus on these new products' benefits, which appeals to women who want effective beauty products that meet their specific needs.

The company does an excellent job of highlighting the main skin care features women look for: targeted benefit, key ingredients and the type of skin for which that particular product is best. 

This packaging got my attention. What gets yours? Leave a comment.

Delicious Living

6 healthy, frozen popsicle recipes

6 healthy, frozen popsicle recipes

Strawberry Ice Pops

Prep 15 minutes
Freeze 2 1/2 hours

Makes 8 | Nobody will believe that these luscious treats are dairy-free, gluten-free, and sweetened only with dates (though if your berries aren’t quite ripe enough, you can always add a bit of sugar). Layers look nifty, but to save time, you can fill molds with strawberry mixture and swirl in the cashew mixture with a chopstick; freeze until set. If you want straight strawberry (as in the photo), just skip step 2 entirely. Get the recipe

Peachy Basil Pops

Prep 15 minutes
Freeze 3 hours

Makes 8 | A grown-up popsicle (for kids, you might leave out the basil). The sweeter your fruit, the less sweetener you will need, so be sure to taste your mixture before adding any. You can also use nectarines in these yummy pops. Get the recipe.

Melon Mojito Pops

Prep 8 minutes
Freeze 3 hours

Makes 6 | These flavorful pops take advantage of the delightful summery combination of lime, mint, and melon. Green honeydew is wonderful but any melon will work just fine. Get the recipe.

Creamy Cherry Kefir Pops

Prep 10 minutes
Freeze 3 hours

Makes 8 | The beneficial bacteria in kefir survive when frozen, making these delicious creamy pops a treat for your tummy. Also try this with flavored kefir. If you don’t have fresh cherries, substitute frozen. Get the recipe.

Chai Iced Tea Popsicles

Prep 20 minutes        
Freeze 3 hours

Makes 8 | Too hot for tea? These delicious pops are a refreshing way to get your antioxidants. Get the recipe.

Bittersweet Chocolate Fudge Popsicles

Prep 15 minutes
Freeze 3 hours

Makes 8 | Instead of heavy cream, arrowroot thickens this rich mixture. The only sugar is in the chocolate; if you like very sweet treats or are making this for kids, you might want to use chocolate hemp or soy milk or add 2–3 tablespoons of sweetener to the mix before heating (don’t boil soy milk). Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving to soften. Get the recipe.

Southwestern vegetarian grilling recipes

Among summer’s joys, outdoor cooking over a fire surely ranks near the top. Something in our DNA resonates with the smell of charred food, harkening back to our Paleo cooking days.

In a healthy shift from a meat-centric diet to a vegetarian one, the grill shines as a wonderful tool to awaken our primal appetites.

In these Southwestern- and Latino-inspired recipes, fire-roasted squashes and peppers, lightly caramelized corn, meaty grilled mushrooms, and more imbue the dishes with beloved smoky flavor, while a traditional Spanish punch filled with organic fruit rounds out the feast.

Delicious Living

Pistachios promote probiotics in the gut

Pistachios promote probiotics in the gut

In addition to providing ample protein, vitamin B6 and thiamin, new research conducted at the Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md., found that people who ate 3 ounces—a couple handfuls—of pistachios daily for 19 days had elevated levels of probiotics (good bugs) in their digestive tracts.

Specifically, pistachios promoted butyrate-producing flora—microbes believed to maintain colon health and even reduce colon cancer risk. Scientists think pistachios' abundant dietary fiber and phytochemicals may be the reasons behind these benefits.

5 eco-friendly picnic products

These handy kitchenware items are not only stylish but are also kind and friendly to the environment.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Reach online natural shoppers with advice from Abe's Market

Reach online natural shoppers with advice from Abe's Market

Cofounders Jon Polin and Richard Demb launched Abe's Market in 2009 to provide well-established offerings such as Seventh Generation and Burt’s Bees alongside smaller up-and-coming brands.

“We wanted to bring together the very fragmented world of product manufacturing,” Polin says. Because the retailer works directly with manufacturers, Abe’s can carry brands that either don’t have a distributor or have limited distribution channels.

Convenience factors such as the ability to shop anytime, anywhere and free or minimal shipping charges have created a strong following among moms and busy professionals.

We sat down with Polin to see what brick-and-mortar stores can learn from Abe’s virtual success.

Advice from Abe's Market

Natural Foods Merchandiser: Why did you launch a virtual store rather than build a brick-and-mortar location?

Jon Polin: We wanted to have the ability to offer more selection. A typical Whole Foods Market store sells about 6,000 SKUs of nonperishable products. We sell more than 13,000. At any brick-and-mortar store, you have to remove something to put a new product on the shelf. We didn’t want to be limited in that way.

We employ an experienced team of buyers including two who worked for Target, one of the world’s best-known retailers. In addition to attending trade shows and reviewing market research, we make a lot of our product selections based on word of mouth and new companies approaching us. We love being the first retailer to offer up-and-coming brands.Abe's Market

NFM: Are you able to lower prices by working directly with manufacturers?

JP: We do buy some products from distributors, but it’s a relatively small part of our business compared to direct-from-manufacturer purchases. For the most part, manufacturers establish their own pricing for Abe’s Market, so our prices tend to be comparable to what someone would find at a brick-and-mortar store. We tell manufacturers they don’t need to charge less at Abe’s, but we don’t want them charging more.

NFM: How many people shop with you?

JP: At this point, I can’t reveal that number. What I can say is that we’re growing at a very nice clip. We just finished our second year in business. Sales from year one to year two grew by 500 percent.

All of our shoppers are in the U.S., and they’re predominately female by a magnitude of 9-to-1. About 60 percent of our shoppers are between ages 21 and 39. As far as income, it’s pretty diverse. We have a lot of folks who make more than $100,000 per year, but also a broad swath of shoppers with household incomes of $50,000 to $99,000.

NFM: What standards do products have to meet?

JP: With Kashi’s image being shaken recently, genetically modified foods have become a hotly debated topic among our buyer team. As a general rule, we try to be as transparent as possible.

Consumers can decide whether a particular product at Abe’s meets their personal needs—be that GMO free, gluten free, Fair Trade Certified or tailored to a specific dietary requirement. We want to equip consumers to make the right decisions.