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Articles from 2016 In June

Natural product movers & shakers - June 2016

Robert Berber Jr., the late president of Mi Rancho, was inducted into the Tortilla Industry Association's Hall of Fame. He built Mi Rancho into a Bay Area tortilla brand noted for the superior quality and consistency of its food products, and the purity of its ingredients.

Conscious products branding agency BeyondBrands has added a slew of advisors and partners to its collective, including: Autumn Bree-Fata, Renée Loux, Céleste Lilore and April Karr.

Marc Bohan was re-elected as chairman of the board of directors for NattoPharma ASA for two more years. The board also grew from three to five members, with Stefan Hallden and Annette Emlqvist joining.

Gerry Nash, one of the original pioneers of raw pet food manufacturing in the United States, has passed away. Gerry was instrumental in developing the raw pet food category within the pet food industry. Throughout his career, he owned and operated raw pet food manufacturing facilities in Texas, Florida, Wyoming and Wisconsin. Nash’s final career stop landed him in Green Bay, where he founded Green Bay Pet Food Company in 1998. In 2009 he teamed up with Lanny Viegut, who joined him as a shareholder and CEO of the company. Later that year, Vital Essentials was launched and introduced to the market. Nash retired in 2011.

Patti Milligan is the new vice president of nutritional education for the Nature's Answer family of brands. Milligan, who is a registered dietitian and certified nutrition specialist, has been in the nutrition field for 33 years. Having worked in the clinical therapeutic nutrition, integrative medicine and natural foods fields, she has a unique blend of clinical, educational, holistic, consumer products, and media relations experience.

Botanic Innovations announced the appointment of Al Hogen as president and chief operating officer. In his role he is responsible for leading day-to-day operations, in addition to guiding and implementing strategic planning for continued scientific development, advancing operational excellence, and driving sales growth. Richard (Dick) Blackader has been promoted to CEO and now sits on the board of directors. Dick joined Botanic Innovations in 2010 as president and COO. 

Lora N. Spizzirri, a research and development executive with significant experience in the food and beverage industry, has joined 915 Labs as vice president for packaging solutions. In her role at the natural food processing and packaging company, Spizzirri will manage the Packaging Solutions Program from design to production, translating packaging visions, strategies and customer requests into projects and programs.

The American Herbal Products Association Executive Committee has appointed Wilson Lau as chair of the AHPA board of trustees until March 2017. Lau is the vice president of sales at nuherbs Company and has served on the AHPA board since 2008. He is also chair of AHPA's Tea and Infusion Products Committee.

Dan Cooke joins R&D LifeSciences as director of technical sales and research, bringing more than 10 years of experience in dairy nutrition, sales, marketing and management in the agriculture industry.

United Natural Foods, Inc. announced that Halie O’Shea has joined the company as director of investor relations and corporate strategy, effective immediately. She will be responsible for all aspects of investor relations and corporate strategy, working closely with the executive management team.

Greg Steltenpohl, cofounder and CEO of Califia Farms, was inducted into the 2016 Specialty Food Hall of Fame at the Summer Fancy Foods Show in New York City. Earlier this year, Steltenpohl was awarded a Specialty Foods’ 2016 Business Leadership Award for his social, economic and environmental impact through innovation and named a Top 50 Disruptor by Beverage World for giving the almond milk category a “jolt of innovation."

Longtime food attorney Bruce Silverglade joined EAS Consulting Group's network for 150 FDA regulatory consultants. He is a nationally recognized expert in the field of nutrition labeling and related regulations pertaining to health and nutrition. He is currently a principal at Olsson, Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC (OFW Law) and will serve as an expert consultant under contract to EAS by arrangement with the firm.

From 'Dark Act' to 'Disappearing Act,' compromise a sellout

From 'Dark Act' to 'Disappearing Act,' compromise a sellout

For 30-plus years I’ve staffed conference committee negotiations on Capitol Hill, advocated for nonprofit programs and represented the financial interests of major corporations. True legislative compromise is an art and one that should benefit all stakeholders, especially taxpayers.   

The DARK Act, the new GMO compromise bill introduced by Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., was created with the help of Big Food interests who have infiltrated the Organic Trade Association. It occurs to me that this legislation needs a catchier name.

The bill should be named the Disappearing Act because it’s a bill bioengineered to make GMO disclosures disappear into oblivion. The GMO Disappearing Act is an act against transparency, which is a cornerstone of the Organic and Natural Health Association. Collectively we work to advance and grow the organic and natural health marketplace, for the sake of building a safe and sustainable future. Every decision we make is predicated on its impact for the consumer.

Abracadabra … now you see GMO, now you don’t

A conglomerate of industry insiders and Big Food trade groups, united in agreement with the OTA, to a compromise that exempts most GMO foods from labeling. The FDA’s technical comments were quite critical of the bill, noting that it “may be difficult” for any GMO to qualify for labeling.

So get ready for a sleight of hand when shopping, Congress is about to make transparency disappear when it comes to the labeling of genetically engineered foods.

The Smucker Effect

Are we all just suckers for Big Food players like Smucker’s who sit on the boards of the Grocery Manufacturers Association as well as the OTA who are largely responsible for this treacherous compromise? 

This GMO Disappearing Act leads consumers to believe that GMO labeling will be mandatory, and that most foods will be labeled. On the contrary, there is no mandatory GMO labeling required. The primary goal of this bill remains nullification of Vermont’s existing labeling statute and superseding each state’s right to enact GMO labeling laws.  

Passage of the Disappearing Act would only exchange Vermont’s four-word requirement of “produced with genetic engineering” language for an antiquated QR code option and accompanying vague language, “scan here for more food information.” What’s next? Will Congress endorse the use of QR codes as the best and most nondiscriminatory way to share nutrition label information on calories, fat and sugar content? And how, pray tell, does the bill’s use of the QR code eliminate the No. 1 objection to Vermont’s mandatory labeling law: Increased cost of food from new packaging? The horrifying cost of new label runs has conveniently vanished into thin air.

Congress is saying, in effect, let’s shield consumers from knowledge that is critical to their decision-making.

The result? If you are a company doing the right thing to reduce or eliminate GMO ingredients in your products, you can’t explain that to your customers. If you currently disclose your products contain GMO ingredients, you are no longer required to. If you have a smartphone, internet access, the right QR reading app and two quiet children in the grocery store, then you have the special key to unlock the bioengineered door, otherwise you are just another sucker.

Congress stacked the deck against consumers

Make no mistake; this is poorly written, bad legislation. Far from compromise, it reflects the wishes of Big Food without the careful checks and balances or thoughtful crafting and transparent goals associated with modern food policy.

  • The restaurant and foodservice industry is exempt from this proposed legislation, keeping both proprietors and customers in the dark.
  • There is no set limit on how much of any GMO ingredient a food can contain and still be considered non-GMO.
  • There are no enforcement provisions to ensure compliance.
  • There is no definition of small package, very small package or small manufacturer (clearly just a “small” oversight).
  • The Pacific and EU trade deals will override the GMO Disappearing Act, since it must be interpreted “consistent with” our current and future trade agreements. Since our trade negotiators intend to ban GMO labeling globally, here is another trap door for Big Food to disappear into.

The Disappearing Act is a sellout

The OTA is declaring a victory in defending this legislation as a big win for the organic industry, but it’s a colossal loss for the consumer. Creating one definition of genetic engineering for food and another for use on labels will continue to erode consumer confidence in the supply chain, and the organic standard itself, over time. The OTA can try to distract us with false claims of mandatory labeling, but we know the trick they are playing—QR codes are not disclosure. Why does a label need decoding? 

When faced with the challenge of defining natural and issuing a certification, Organic and Natural Health took the position that there could be no natural product that first did not meet the organic standard. Our data, combined with market sales, demonstrate the public wants the organic standard. No smoke. No mirrors. No magic tricks or misdirection. We also know the average consumer mistakenly believes natural and organic are equivalent. For that reason, we are proponents of organic plus in the marketplace. Our position is this: Continual quality improvement in testing, adoption of regenerative agricultural practices, as well as traceability in manufacturing and processing is required for the sake of the integrity of our food supply. These principles will enable widespread access to quality foods and health products, and ensure the transparency consumers demand.  

Corporations and groups including Nature Valley, Natural Grocers, Lassen's Natural Foods and Vitamins and American Grassfed Association are moving the organic dial forward at every step, upping the ante every day for quality, production and sales of non-GMO foods. As an industry we need to do more of this and less pandering to Big Food executives who pad our trade association wallets.

Our goal is to work with companies of integrity that are committed to improving today’s diminishing organic standards. The GMO Disappearing Act degrades the advancements made by the pioneers of the organic industry for the past 25 years, and insults the intelligence of its consumers. As a trade association rooted in the interests of consumers, we plan to strengthen the organic standard, not sell it out.

Will organic supplements boom like organic foods?

Takes one to know one. Andrew Pittz, from Sawmill Hollow Family Farms and an organic professional, weighs in on the future of the emerging organic supplements category.

How to get noticed by retailers at trade shows

As you prepare your booth and staff for Natural Products Expo East, these experts have some advice: Set goals for the show, work on creating a booth with an open and friendly environment, and relax.

In this panel from Natural Products Business School at Expo East 2015, Bob Burke of Natural Products Consulting; Jeremiah McElwee, VP of purchasing and merchandising for Thrive Market; and Mathis Martines, who leads natural foods strategy and innovation at Kroger, share how to make the most of your experience as a trade show exhibitor.

[email protected]: FDA expresses concern with proposed GMO labeling bill | Hormel targeted in latest 'natural' lawsuit

5@5: FDA expresses concern with proposed GMO labeling bill | Hormel targeted in latest 'natural' lawsuit

FDA concerned with GMO labeling 'compromise'

The measures in the recently proposed GMO labeling bill could conflict with FDA labeling requirements, the agency warned in technical comments to the Senate Agriculture Committee. And, the definition of bioengineering explained in the bill excludes some GE foods. Read more at The Hill...


What 's 'all natural' meat? Hormel is about to find out

Hormel Foods Corp. is the latest company to be named in a 'natural' lawsuit as it faces allegations from the Animal Legal Defense Fund that its new advertising campaign misleads consumers. The groups alleges that animals used for Hormel's Natural Choice products are raised indoors with hormones and antibiotics, despite the fact that the words "100% natural" appear on the packages. Read more at Bloomberg...

How Silicon Valley, land of free grub, is fighting food waste

An organization called Food Runners is working with Google, Twitter and Airbnb to deliver their leftover food to local people in need. Read more at CNBC...


Coming soon: Gut bacteria that actually cure your disease

The next generation of probiotics could address actual medical conditions if biopharmaceutical companies like Seres Therapeutics are successful. Read more at Bloomberg...


Buying organic groceries in Brooklyn can be a serious trial

The 17,000-member Park Slope Food Co-op in New York has developed an interesting internal judicial system of its own, and recently put members "on trial" for "extremely uncooperative behavior" related to a discussion of whether the co-op should boycott SodaStream International Ltd. Read more at The Wall Street Journal...

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Localize hits the shelf to bring more business and integrity to 'local' foods

Localize labels

As interest in local food has remained steady and strong. It’s also allowed for some confusion and even misleading claims about what is truly local. A young company in Canada may have figured out how to both help retailers better capitalize on the interest in local food, as well as help to maintain some integrity in this unregulated market. Called Localize, it's a platform that includes a product evaluation process and a shelf-labeling system.

Localize first evaluates individual food items to come up with a score showing just how local that product is, accounting for factors such as where ingredients were grown or processed, where the item was produced, how sustainability it was done, and who owns the product—meaning, do the profits stay within the local economy or do they benefit a distant parent company?

Localize then takes that score and integrates it into a shelf labeling system, so that consumers have the information in front of them while they shop—with a QR code they can scan with their phones if they want more details than what the shelf label provides.

So that’s what Localize does; how it works is just as simple. The company sells memberships to retailers, who then get access to the shelf labeling system for their stores. CEO Meghan Dear said it turns out there’s real incentive for participating, beyond the idealism of supporting local. One local retailer chain saw a quick jump in profits—with nearly a 10 percent increase in dollar sales—for the products it had labels for. “What we surmise is that when people have good access to information they trust, they buy more of those products,” she said.

Participating grocers have even been able to increase their prices—incrementally and by small amounts, say 1 or 2 percent—once the program is established, according to Dear, because people really come to value these local offerings. So far, Localize has seen the greatest impact in the grocery category. “The biggest jumps we see are in the center of the store—the packaged items,” she said.

Dear said that Localize is currently in more than 300 stores in Canada and expects a growth spurt soon with the sign-on of a large retailer, which will take that to over 1,000. The team is now actively exploring ways to expand to the U.S. They are focused on a few key areas around the country and are on the hunt for grocery partners. Dear said, “The big push is to find those organizations and companies that see value in what we’re doing and want to embrace it.”

Eat fiber, breathe better

Yet another reason to eat a fiber-rich diet: recent research suggests it may be a powerful tool for keeping lungs healthy.

Researchers analyzed data from nearly 2,000 adults taken from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that among people who consumed the most fiber, 68 percent had normal lung function, compared to people who ate the least fiber. Only 50 percent of those subjects had lungs that functioned normally. Only 14 percent of fiber lovers had airway restriction, compared to nearly 30 percent of the fiber-averse.

People who ate more fiber also rocked two important breathing tests. They performed significantly better than those with the lowest fiber intake. Those in the top quartile had a greater lung capacity (FVC) and could exhale more air in one second (FEV1) than those in the lowest quartile. The research appeared in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society and was noted on

"Lung disease is an important public health problem, so it's important to identify modifiable risk factors for prevention," lead author Corrine Hanson PhD, RD, an associate professor of medical nutrition at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said in a university release. "However, beyond smoking, very few preventive strategies have been identified. Increasing fiber intake may be a practical and effective way for people to have an impact on their risk of lung disease."

If further studies confirm the findings of this report, Hanson believes that public health campaigns may one day "target diet and fiber as safe and inexpensive ways of preventing lung disease."

It may also help prevent complications from diabetes, according to recent research.

[email protected]: Industry divided over GMO labeling 'compromise' | Amazon rolls out its own organic coffee, baby food

At 'crucial moment' for GMO labeling, organic industry finds itself divided

The proposed GMO labeling bill that would nullify Vermont's on-package labeling law set to go into effect July 1 has not only caused a rift between the organic and conventional food industries, but it's divided the organic industry as well. The Organic Trade Association signed off on the deal, which contains some provisions favorable to the organic label. In an explanation to members, the organization said the bill "isn't nearly perfect" but covers more products than Vermont's law and recognizes USDA organic as the "gold standard for transparency and non-GMO status." Read more at Huffington Post...


Amazon starts selling its own branded coffee, baby food

Amazon Prime members in the U.S. can now buy Amazon's private label fair trade, organic coffee and organic baby food under the brand names Happy Belly and Mama Bear, respectively. Read more at CNet...

107 Nobel laureates sign letter blasting Greenpeace over GMOs

Dozens of scientists have written a letter to Greenpeace urging the organization to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms--specifically its opposition to Golden Rice, which supporters say could help address vitamin A deficiencies in poor countries. Read more at The Washington Post...


Meet the moringa tree, an overqualified, underachieving superfood

Fast-growing moringa thrives in hot and dry conditions, and produces delicate leaves high in protein, iron, calcium, and Vitamins A, B, and C. While it's becoming trendy in the U.S., some see its potential as a staple in less-wealthy regions. Read more at The New Yorker...


Mamma Chia sowing seeds for continued success

With a new line of green juices and reduced-sugar snack bars, this 7-year-old company is still experiencing big growth. Read more at Food Business News...

3 ways supplement brands and retailers can communicate trust [infographic]

Communicate Trust in Supplements promo image

Nutrition Business Journal and NEXT set out earlier this year to identify how much consumers trust the supplement industry.

The resulting research measured characteristics that impact the trustworthiness of the supplement industry and should inspire brands and retailers to think differently about building consumer trust. This infographic reviews three consumer beliefs and how supplement brands and retailers can address them. Dig in deeper in the May/June issue of Nutrition Business Journal.