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Articles from 2017 In June

Q&A: How Nature’s Plus addresses consumer confusion

In the supplement industry, certifications like USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified can act as differentiating marks of quality. But is there such thing as too many certifications on the label? Will a crowded label confuse consumers? Some say yes. But at Nature’s Plus, Director of Research and Development Rafael Avila has a different take: Consumers are hungry for information, and certifications—all of them—deserve a place on the label. All it takes is a little education. Here’s how (and why) Nature’s Plus is addressing consumer interest with a “more is more” philosophy.

Nature’s Plus products carry a number of certifications and even feature a glossary on the label that explains each symbol. Can you tell us about this glossary and why you decided to do it?

Rafael Avila: We have not been able to find any supporting research or consumer surveys that support the notion that too many certifications on a product is confusing to customers. However, there are a number of studies that clearly show that consumers are not confused by too many symbols or identifiers of important product characteristics. While most such studies investigated the use of symbols that describe nutrient quantities and overall healthfulness, the researchers in several studies intentionally settled the issue of whether too many informative symbols on product packaging was too confusing to consumers.

According to Marianne Smith Edge, et. al. in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, they found that when it comes to informative symbols, more is better. They also found that more information improves the understanding of the characteristics of a product across all education levels. But this is only true if the symbols are clear, factual and understandable. This is why Nature’s Plus not only includes meaningful symbols but also provides clear descriptions of each, which you’ve called a glossary. These symbols, which appear on all of our certified organic Source of Life Garden and Nature’s Plus Pure Protein products, inform consumers when a product is free from FALCPA major allergens, gluten-free, GMO-free, vegan and/or manufactured in an independently certified GMP facility. They have proven so popular that we have initiated plans to use many of the symbols on other products in the coming months.

The Source of Life Garden certified organic whole food line inherently stands out among supplements. Why did you decide to include the glossary on this line, specifically?

RA: We felt that the available research clearly shows that consumers want more information on their packaging. Moreover, we refute the argument that too much information is confusing. The reason is that the consumer who needs to know that a product is vegan and non-GMO will tune out the symbols that are not of interest to him or her. Likewise, the consumer who is focused on whether products are made in an independently GMP-Certified facility (NSF Certified, for Nature’s Plus products), will be pleased to see our symbol and definition, while possibly tuning out the other symbols.

But, the representation of such a comprehensive listing of symbols also appeals to the most discerning of natural products consumers, because the wide array of symbols and the characteristics they represent indicate a degree of quality that simply cannot be achieved by lesser brands. Simply knowing that so many characteristics are verified by other organizations or laboratory test results inspires confidence in consumers who are interested in overall quality, even if they are not non-GMO devotees or organic certification enthusiasts.

How can independent supplement retailers up their game? They are definitely a knowledgeable bunch, but how would you like to see them communicate that knowledge to consumers?

RA: The independent retailer has been our biggest ally. They know that our product family brochures include much more information about the certifications and accreditations that back our products. Our Source of Life Garden line of products, as well as our Organic Pure Protein line, come with informative brochures that retailers have been placing in the hands of their consumers. They know that a better educated consumer is a more loyal consumer.

What’s next?

RA: As you can see, Source of Life Garden and Nature’s Plus Organic Pure Proteins are revolutionarily innovative lines of products that are taking the industry by storm. We plan on continuing to develop and launch equally innovative products for many years to come.

This week: New products from Nutpods, Oatmega, Tessemae's and more

Oatmega Whey Protein Cookies

Nature’s Bakery, an on-the-go snack and food brand, announced the launch of a new partnership with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. Nature’s Bakery will donate funds to help provide 1.65 million meals for families struggling with hunger. The on-the-go snacks and food brand will supplement its financial donation with an additional 135,000 lbs. of Nature’s Bakery food product donated to select food banks in Feeding America’s nationwide network.

Plant-based dairy alternative beverage brand Nutpods announced via press release the introduction of new packaging for its popular non-dairy creamer: a 16 fl. oz. refrigerated format that will be available at retailers starting September 2017. The brand will launch this new packaging with Nutpods’ signature “Original/Unsweetened” flavor with a suggested retail price of $3.99. As with all other Nutpods creamers, the new 16 fl. oz. refrigerated product is certified non-GMO, Whole30 Approved and is also vegan, carrageenan free and gluten free. The packaging is fully recyclable.

Oatmega, part of the Amplify Snack Brands' portfolio of better-for-you snacks, said in a press release it was launching new grass-fed whey protein cookies. Just like the brand's protein bars, Oatmega Cookie is made with grass-fed whey that comes from happy, grazing New Zealand cows that are pasture-raised and antibiotic-free. Each cookie contains 12 to 13 grams of protein, a daily dose (250 mg) of DHA & EPA omega-3s, and is certified gluten-free and non-GMO. Oatmega Cookie are available in three delicious flavors, including Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Macadamia.

To meet growing global demands for all-natural, clean-label sweetening systems, Steviva Ingredients has opened two new facilities: a manufacturing and distribution center in Salinas, Spain, and a new headquarters in Portland, Oregon. Steviva says that in less than a year, it has outgrown its headquarters in Portland and will relocate to a location twice as large as its previous space. 

Steve Henig, former CSO of Herbalife, has joined Biova’s board of directors, according to a news release from the company. Henig has served as the chief technical and scientific officer of four major global companies in the last four decades. He has a proven track record in building high-performance organizations that generated numerous new products and technology platforms enabling innovation and major cost savings. 

Pharmore Ingredients announced that it has been awarded a 2017 NASC MVP Supplier of the Year Award. This award is given by the NASC board of directors during the annual member conference. Performance measurements include delivery of excellence in products and services; continuing education to the industry through webinars and presentations; and support and service to individual companies.

Tessemae's has developed a full line of organic condiments to be merchandised in the produce department alongside its current salad dressing line-up. The portfolio includes buffalo sauces, mayonnaise, mustards, BBQ sauce and ketchup. The organic ketchup and organic BBQ sauce are vegan and contain zero added sugars. Tessemae's said in a press release it will be launching the condiment line in multiple Kroger divisions this month and with other key retail partners throughout the rest of the year.

As more Americans reach for clean ingredients to sustain their appetites, Pure Growth Organic announced a new retail partnership with Target and the creation of three new products: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bites, Cinnamon Brown Sugar Oatmeal Bites and Crispy Rice Squares.

Morini Brands announced in a press release the introduction of Ground Risofu (pronounced rhee-ZOE-foo), a rice-based meat alternative, packaged in a ground format, designed for those who want to eat better but are bored with the less-than-inspired, pre-flavored and pre-formed foods that currently dominate the analogue meat category. Morini says Risofu has similar protein and nutrient content to that of meat without the saturated fats and cholesterol, plus is vegan and free of the top eight allergens. It's currently available in 5 lb. packages for foodservice operators and chefs; later this summer, the company will roll out a one-pound, retail-ready package designed to be merchandised in the traditional retail meat case.

[email protected]: Climate change to have biggest effect on South | Scientists creating heat-resistant cows

Digital Trends geneticists trying to create heat-resistant cows

As climate changes, Southern states will suffer more than others

When it comes to climate change, not every state will be treated equally, according to a study recently published in the journal Science. The midwestern and the southeastern United States will suffer more than the Northeast and the West, with states in warm climates seeing damages valued as much as 20 percent of their gross domestic products. Read more in The New York Times …


Geneticists are developing heat-resistant 'cows of the future' to deal with Earth’s rising climate

As if cows haven’t been genetically altered enough, researchers at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences want to make heat-resistant cows that produce great-tasting beef. Read more in Digital Trends …


The 25 most innovative ag-tech startups

As farming as become more automated, farms have employed fewer people, reducing the opportunities for innovation. Nevertheless, developing technology, such as these 25 projects, just might help our limited number of farmers feed the world’s growing population in the coming decades. Read more at Forbes …


6 steps toward the greenest farm bill ever

Pollution in farm runoff is one of the primary threats to drinking water, even though more than $40 billion has been spent in the past 20 years to correct this. Perhaps the problem isn’t the amount of money spent, but how it is spent, an Environmental Working Group study found. Read more in AgMag …


Why Whole Foods' small suppliers think Amazon will be good for them

Many small suppliers depend on sales at Whole Foods Market to stay viable, so the slumping same-store sales during the past 21 months have been disconcerting. Surprisingly, though, Amazon’s purchase of the national chain is a relief and, to some, even a good thing. Read more at NPR …

Why the Amazon-Whole Foods news enthuses retailers

Getty Images Whole Foods Market

Jon Fiume often quotes his boss, Phillip Nabors, the founder of Ohio-based Mustard Seed Market and Cafe: “Our plot to change the world is working. Now, what the hell do we do?”

Natural and organic products purveyors have watched the market they built tip into the mainstream for the past several years, with 44 percent of natural and organic sales now occurring in the aisles of conventional grocers, big-box retailers and convenience stores.

Now, the biggest of retailers, Amazon, seeks to shift the market further as it purchases Whole Foods Market, the dominant bricks-and-mortar many credit with making natural mainstream.

For independent retailers, it’s the same thing they’ve been facing but at a higher level with a strong technology component, said Fiume, Mustard Seed chief operating officer.

So what are natural products retailers to do? Right now, they are giving gratitude, remaining focused and considering the positive possibilities.

Thrive and Door to Door Organics, two online companies built on technology and delivery logistics, lauded the Amazon announcement.

“To us, it is yet another indicator that natural and organics along with e-commerce are being more broadly accepted, which is an integral part of our mission as a business,” said Jeremiah McElwee, Thrive Market’s senior vice president of merchandising and product development.

Door to Door Organics’ CEO Mike Demko echoed McElwee, saying, “Here are two big brands—Amazon and Whole Foods—making a lot of noise and creating a lot of consumer awareness around the options for organic and the options for online and food and where that trajectory is going. And that does nothing but help elevate our brand in that same vein.”

He doesn’t yet see such a marriage changing his business.

“No doubt Amazon is a big player and Amazon is a competitive threat to our business, but I do feel that we are differentiated enough to continue to grow in the presence of that competition,” Demko said.

Feeding natural retail focus

The natural products industry can celebrate the buzz about the Whole Foods deal, but it also raises many questions about Amazon’s strategy and the future of the 440-some Whole Foods stores.

Disruption is a fact, Cambridge Naturals’ founder Michael Kanter said as he noted, “I don’t know if we know how and I don’t know if they know how.”

Rather than ponder predictions, natural retailers are focusing on what they know best.

“As an independent, we’ve got to continue to find our niche in all of this,” Fiume said. “In every industry, there’s a niche. That niche is our golden opportunity.”

For Fiume and Mustard Seed, the niche includes being embedded in its 35-plus-year home of Akron, Ohio, as a community leader and key part of the cultural arts and music scene. Those neighbors come for an experience, not just to achieve their grocery-shopping chores.

“We will do a lot of the same things we’ve done,” Fiume said. “We are not going to acquiesce ... We have many good ideas in the pipeline.”

The local story is the tale to tell for Cambridge Naturals’ Kanter and a point of pride as the industry moves into larger formats, said Cheryl Hughes, owner of the Whole Wheatery in Lancaster, California.

It has been working in the Massachusetts store that focuses not just on exceptional product selection but also the authentic community experience that accompanies the items on shelf. It’s a marked millennial fascination to tap, Kanter said, and it goes well with the growing “ethics and joy of shopping local and independent businesses.”

Hughes said, “No matter if we like it or not, this acquisition affirms the success of our model; we are who created this. It is we who are left to deal with this and figure it out by maintaining and strengthening our place in the local community.  We are the face, the warm body, the trusted confidant of our place in this amazing industry.  We will continue doing the work necessary to carry on.”

Confronting industry concerns

Part of this work includes addressing pressure points already creating pains for many independent natural products retailers.

In last year’s Natural Foods Merchandiser Market Overview survey, pricing rose to a top concern for natural retailers as they compete not just with the supernatural Whole Foods Market but with Kroger, Target and Walmart as they make splashes in natural and organic and drive prices down.

Growth in both the natural and conventional channels has also led to out-of-stock challenges as distributors work to keep up while managing costs and brands, too, wade the wider waters.

Kanter notes such challenges will likely get worse. To mitigate these trials, Cambridge leans on unique products and focuses on local.

The shifting market provides an impetus to for local community retailers to band together, Hughes said.

“We will have to unite to compete on many levels—best practices, securing access to goods and resources, idea sharing and building sustainable margins,” she said. “We are an industry that has demonstrated  it can come together to solve a common problem, the Non-GMO Project, the organic regulations and DSHEA to name a few.”

Finding the retail runway

Amazon’s multiple personalities perplexes many retail analysts but bodes well for natural and organic retailers, Door to Door’s Demko said.

He noted Amazon’s retail approach from three grocery fronts: Whole Foods Market, Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh. Each has a distinct consumer experience, and that speaks to the complexity of solving the food problem in the digital world, Demko said.

“There’s a lot of opportunity that has to be figured out,” he said. “So it’s certainly not game over by any stretch.”

As things play out, attitude as much as aptitude may drive independents forward.  

“We have no plans of being done for,” Kanter said. “We are never giving up. We think there is an opportunity for local independents to survive and thrive.”ve

Organic Trade Association honors organic pioneer, farmer and entrepreneur


The Organic Trade Association will honor in September three industry leaders with its Growing the Organic Industry, Organic Farmer of the Year and Rising Star awards.

“These are three incredible change-makers who have helped shape the current environment for organic agriculture and trade, and I couldn't be more excited to see their trade association — a place where they have each been actively engaged — recognize them for their vision and commitment to organic,” said Laura Batcha, CEO of the Organic Trade Association.

Growing the Organic Industry

Receiving the Growing the Organic Industry Leadership Award will be Robert (Bob) Anderson of Sustainable Strategies LLC – Advisors in Food and Agriculture. Anderson also serves as senior trade advisor for the Organic Trade Association.

Anderson became active in organic in 1969, when he operated Walnut Acres Organic Farms, America's first organic value-added food processor. He was the first chair of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Standards Board, as well. During his career, he championed organic standards, helped grow organic businesses and served as an organic ambassador.

"We want him in the room, and organic growers — even those who have never met him — are fortunate to have him on their side," Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, wrote in nominating Anderson for the award. "Bob helps his colleagues through Customs on yet another trade mission; he delves into the differences between the rules for exporting to Japan and Germany; he injects a timely bit of common sense into a discussion of certification paperwork — and a thousand other things, day-in and day-out. But most importantly, no matter the outcome, those who have the privilege of working with Bob end the day wanting to work with him again."

Organic Farmer of the Year Award

Philip LaRocca of LaRocca Vineyards will receive the 2017 Organic Farmer of the Year Leadership Award. A tireless organic farming advocate and farmer for more than 40 years, LaRocca has deep organic convictions that he puts into practice on his farm, in his winery and among the wider community, particularly in California.  

LaRocca became the first certified organic apple grower in 1975 and created the first certified non-sulfite wine when most people said it was not possible to do either. Over the years, LaRocca Vineyards has sold more than a million bottles of non-sulfite organic wine and created an industry space for others to follow. He was an early member of CCOF, was active in creating the California Food and Production Act, and participated in formulating the national rule on organic wine.

As an organic wine grape grower and winemaker, LaRocca understands the challenges faced by small and mid-scale growers and processors. What sets him apart is his unwavering commitment to organic advocacy and community. He is chair of the CCOF Board of Directors, has been appointed to the California Organic Products Advisory Committee, and is a valuable longtime member of the Organic Trade Association. He currently serves on OTA's Farmers Advisory Council.

Rising Star Award

Peggy Sutton of To Your Health Sprouted Flour will receive the Rising Star Organic Leadership Award. Sutton was a health-conscious, family-focused home cook before she became and expert in the field of sprouting organic flours and grains — one of the industry’s hottest trends. Today, her business employs 30 people in Bullock County, Alabama, where nearly 40 percent of the estimated 10, 370 residents lived in poverty according to 2016 U.S. Census estimates.   

Sutton has demonstrated personal commitment and vision as an emerging leader in the organic sector through product innovation, community education, economic impact and commitment to growing organic acres. Her company has committed to sourcing the grains from Alabama farmers. In doing so, she has taken on the challenges of helping long-time conventional farmers transition, creating a market for their organic grains, and compressing costs of businesses by helping farmers sell directly to processors.

“Peggy has been instrumental in educating thousands of people (including us at Kashi) about the benefits of organic sprouted grains for both people and the planet,” wrote David Uzzell of Kashi. “She is not only a leader in spreading the word of organic sprouted grains, but is also leader in her hometown. She intentionally keeps her operations local, hires workers and is committed to supporting her community.” 

 The Organic Trade Association's 2017 Leadership Awards Celebration will take place Sept. 13 at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. Tickets are available here for OTA members and non-members. Sponsorship opportunities are available now by contacting Amy Bovaird.

Source: Organic Trade Association

[email protected]: Adverse events from cosmetics on the rise | Kroger CEO responds to Amazon-Whole Foods deal

While the issue of dangerous chemicals appearing in cosmetics has been top of mind for many in the natural products industry this year marked a huge milestone that will take the conversation outside of a niche space A late2015 oped piece in the The New York Times Contaminating Our Bodies with Everyday Products highlighted two recent and extremely significant warnings from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics and the Endocrine Society about chemicals that are used in everything fr

Reports of side effects with cosmetics increasing

A new study published in JAMA suggests that more than double the number of adverse events related to use of personal care products were reported to the FDA in 2016 than in 2015. A big part of that was complaints about WEN by Chaz Dean Cleaning Conditioners, according to researchers who examined data from the years 2004 through 2016. The most commonly reported products were hair care and skin care, but the most serious side effects were related to baby items. The results suggest that better surveillance of cosmetic safety is needed, the researchers say. Read more at Reuters…


Kroger CEO says he’s not afraid of Amazon’s Whole Foods deal

Kroger’s shares have plunged since the Amazon-Whole Foods mashup was announced, but CEO Rodney McMullen says he isn’t intimidated. "What we find is for some events, the customer likes to come into the store, visit with family and friends and our store associates, and learn more about food,” he says. Read more at Fortune…


Target just launched its next-day delivery service

Called Restock, the program is being tested in Minneapolis. REDcard holders can fill up a virtual box with items online, and have it delivered the next day for $4.99. Read more at Money…


Hampton Creek is now growing its own meat in labs—and says it will get to stores first

The plant-based food company says it’s been working on technology for lab-made meat and seafood for the last year and will have a product in the marketplace by the end of the next year—ahead of competitors like Memphis Meats that have publicly been working on “clean meat” for years. Read more at Quartz…


‘Healthy’ ice creams promise indulgence without guilt. Do they deliver?

Diet ice cream has become a bit of a trend, with companies like Halo Top, Arctic Zero and Enlightened jumping into the game. Here’s how they stack up. Read more at The Washington Post…

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Grocery, disrupted: 5 minutes with Future Market's Mike Lee

Mike Lee Future Market

Thrive Market. Blue Apron. Organic Doritos. Turmeric-tinted Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. None of these existed five years ago. With technology rapidly disrupting long-held business practices and natural and organic marching toward mainstream, what will a health food store look like 50 years from now? Inspired by the auto industry designing concept cars, Mike Lee, founder of New York–based food innovation agency Studio Industries, launched the Future Market to give the world a sneak peek.

What exactly is the Future Market?
Mike Lee: It’s a place where we can think 30, 40, 50 years out and concept products and experiences we think might exist in the future. What signals of change are happening today? Will those become the rule, not the exception? How will they play out over time, and what will we see in stores? It’s an aggressive way of thinking about the future that we didn’t see in food, so we created it.

Will brick-and-mortar grocers even exist in 50 years?
ML: Grocery is experiencing a similar pattern of disruption as the movie industry. Everyone thought Netflix would stop people from going to movies, yet theaters are still thriving because we like going out and experiencing movies with others. Online grocery ordering and home delivery may be popular, but consumers still crave physical shopping experiences. Thrive Market may be awesome, but what can you do with your physical footprint that Thrive can’t do?

OK, so what can retailers do to ensure survival?
ML: The three E’s—experience, education, exploration—are the battle cry for physical food stores and what will set them apart. Because everything can be delivered direct to consumers, stores have to up their game. How are you becoming a learning center? Think about an Apple Store, filled with workers to show you how to use Apple products and integrate them into your life. How can you recreate that in your store?

With natural and organic on the rise, will conventional disappear?
ML: Natural and organic will become the norm. Costco and Kroger are already becoming Whole Foods Market, which is why Whole Foods is struggling. When Kraft Macaroni & Cheese switches to natural ingredients without telling anyone, that’s a clear sign natural is no longer fringe. Give this trend another 10 years, and we may still have some conventional, but the ratio will likely flip.

Fresh is all the rage now, so will the center aisle become extinct?
ML: It may shrink a bit, but I think there will always be a center aisle. Today, it’s like an animal shedding its skin. For every single legacy product, you can walk the Natural Products Expo West show floor and see someone trying to disrupt it—and these small companies are getting more money and scale to do it. Will we stop using ketchup? Probably not. Will we stop using so much Heinz and start using more Sir Kensington’s? Likely. We’re just getting better versions of center-aisle products.

What can independents do right now to prepare for the future?
ML: Find new ways to build rapport with customers. Really listen and react to what they say. If you build these connections a little bit today—and then a little bit more the next day—you’re on your way to not becoming a dinosaur smoking a cigarette.

The top 20 solutions to climate change are not what you think

"We didn't make this plan—we found it—it's here, it's you, it's us, this is humanity's collective wisdom." 

—Paul Hawken, Project Drawdown

Part 1: Project Drawdown


  • Why slowing global warming isn't enough. 
  • Who are the core researchers at Project Drawdown and what have they have discovered?


Part 2: The top 20 solutions 


  • Why the idea that we can't eat without big agriculture isn't true.
  • How agriculture plays a huge role in net sequestering carbon. 


Part 3: Future tech 


  • Three possible scenarios and future projections for 2050. 
  • Up-and-coming brilliant technologies that could change everything. 

This session—Climate Day Keynote—was recorded at Natural Products Expo West 2017. Click "download" below to access the presentation slides. 


Saffron for postpartum depression treatment?

Dr. Marita Schauch

Postpartum depression affects roughly 15 percent of all women in North America after giving birth. Its symptoms range from mild to severe, and include mood swings, anxiety, sadness, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, crying, reduced concentration, appetite problems and trouble sleeping.

Beyond the obvious negative implications for the new mother, this condition can affect mother and child’s ability to connect in a meaningful way. This can cause attachment issues in children, leading to serious mental and physical health concerns later in life.

Postpartum depression is commonly treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs—a class of antidepressant drugs. However, remission rates are low and adverse side effects can be problematic with these drugs.

In an effort to research alternate treatments, 68 women with mild to moderate postpartum depression were part of a study recently conducted in Tehran, Iran. The study compared the use of fluoxetine, an SSRI that’s commonly used as a first-line treatment for postpartum depression, to the botanical remedy saffron, which has been associated with reduced depression symptoms in other cases.

The women in the study were divided into two groups: one was given 15 mg of saffron twice daily, while the other was given 20 mg of fluoxetine twice daily, both for six weeks. Other drug and behavior therapies for postpartum depression were not permitted during the study. The women were assessed at the beginning of the study, and again at the end of weeks one, three and six.

The results of the study proved interesting: At the end of the six weeks, 18.8 percent of the saffron group and 21.9 percent of the fluoxetine group were in remission. There were also more frequent headaches, dry mouth, daytime drowsiness, constipation and sweating reported in the fluoxetine group.

While these results weren’t statistically significant, and there was no placebo group in the study, they do point to the potential for saffron flower to be at least as effective as SSRIs in treatment of postpartum depression, without the negative side-effects of those drugs.

Reference: Kashani L, Eslatmanesh S, Saedi N, et al. Comparison of saffron versus fluoxetine in treatment of mild to moderate postpartum depression: a double-blind, randomized clinical trial. Pharmacopsychiatry. March 2017;50(2):64-68.