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Articles from 2011 In July

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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Webinar: Women's True Wellness

In this empowering webinar, we will take a careful look at the entire spectrum of a Women's True Wellness, from pre-conception through pregnancy, from infancy to menarche, from the Tween years to the Wisdom decades.

This webinar is about updating today's view that the topic of women's wellness is just a matter of which supplements she should take once a month. We will explore many of the allies, from herbs and phytoestrogens to yoga and lifestyle elements, that can be integrated into a woman's life to ensure a lifetime of wellness, and with it, the probability that she will attain her highest potential and happiness.

Register now to view Women's True Wellness on demand.

Petaluma Poultry uses HarvestMark to tell its story

Recently, HarvestMark and Coleman Natural Foods, a leading producer of organic and free range poultry, announced the launch of HarvestMark traceability on Petaluma Poultry brands, making Coleman Natural the first national poultry company to use the technology.

Petaluma Poultry was the first USDA Organic approved chicken producer, with chicken that's 100 percent vegetarian fed, humanely raised and free of antibiotics, added hormones, preservatives, artificial flavorings or colors. Now, consumers can trace their chicken back to which farm it grew up on and learn about the farmers who raised it. NewHope360 interviewed Mike Leventini, president of Petaluma Poultry, to see why the company integrated HarvestMark with its products' packaging.

NewHope360: Why is traceability important to Coleman Natural Foods? 

Mike Leventini: Traceability is woven into every process at Petaluma Poultry. As the first USDA approved organic chicken producer, we have been tracing our products from egg to store shelf for over 40 years. Beyond any food safety issues, we think it is important for consumers to understand who we are and what we do to provide them with great tasting premium quality chicken, including where it comes from and who produces it. We think HarvestMark gives us another vehicle to tell our story.

NewHope360: How did you first learn about HarvestMark and what excited you to integrate the service into your products?

ML: We were contacted by HarvestMark about their unique service and we felt it was another effective way to get our message out to our customers and the consumers we both serve.

NewHope360: When a consumer traces one of your chicken products, what information do they see?

ML: They can learn about our company; the independent farm families that provide us with great products; farmers who are committed to doing things the right, natural way with respect for our planet and the chickens in their care; and our commitment to sustainability. They can also link to our website for more information.

NewHope360: How are you telling consumers about this new traceability feature?

ML: We are using in-store signage and on-pack messaging to reach consumers as well as our website.

NewHope360: How will you use the consumer information that HarvestMark gives you to improve your business?

ML: We are looking at this as a consumer outreach tool.  That is our priority, talking to our customers and consumers about our commitment to them.

HarvestMark traces organic chickens from farm to fork

It's been done with herbs, tomatoes, watermelon and lettuce. Now, add chicken to the list. Coleman Natural Foods is the first national poultry company to offer consumers insights about their chicken products using HarvestMark, a food traceability solution from YottaMark. To date, HarvestMark is found on 3 billion packages of fresh food.

Launching this week, consumers who buy Coleman Natural brands—Rocky the Range, Rocky Jr., and Rosie Organic Chicken from Petaluma Poultry—will be able to trace where each chicken was raised and check the food safety status of the poultry. In addition, Coleman Natural is sharing images of the farm, farmer profiles, the brand's story and history. The company is a leading producer of organic and free range poultry, working with small farms to provide chicken that's humanely raised, sustainably farmed and free of antibiotics, added hormones or preservatives.

"We know when a shopper traces a product, part of what they want to do is reconnect with the people who grow and sell their food," said J. Scott Carr, president and CEO of YottaMark. This differs from QR codes, which are static and may take a consumer only to a homepage for the purchased product. "But with a HarvestMark code, that experience is about the item I have in my hand, as opposed to the item generally," said Carr.

How HarvestMark works exampleWhen produce is picked or food is packaged, it's given a 16 character code and a barcode. Consumers can use the HarvestMark iPhone or Android app to scan the barcode or enter the HarvestMark code online at What follows is instant information about where the food product was grown or raised, if it's subject to a recall, where it was packed and more.

"We do something that's really never been done before and that's connecting the first mile of the supply chain with the last mile of the supply chain, where we find out, 'What did the consumer think about that product? What was their taste experience? What was the appearance and condition and quality experience?'" said Carr. "We deliver back insights to the retailer and the producer about supply chain velocity, about quality and freshness and about shopper preference that they've never had before."

HarvestMark is able to do this because every time someone traces a product they can choose to fill out a survey about the product they just traced. "Now, suddenly mom at home is saying what her experience was," said Carr, something you can't get that with a QR code.

The technology is simple for suppliers to integrate and can launch in as little as three weeks or up to several months for larger programs.

Traceability programs benefit retailers and producers

Food recalls are frequent occurrences, with 15 food recalls documented in July alone according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Recalls cause consumers to second guess the validity and safety of their food purchases. It's no surprise that the traceability trend is gaining steam, joining the larger health and wellness trend. And for retailers, knowing where ingredients come from is important to empower shoppers to make healthy food choices.

As consumers become increasingly curious about the origin of their food, nutrition companies are responding with transparency initiatives, such as Gaia Herb's Meet Your Herbs. And when it comes to the fresh food industry, HarvestMark is making its mark as the go-to transparency solution for fresh food.

This provides a huge opportunity for traceability and mobile marketing. Instead of just a QR code, HarvestMark tracks consumer preference. "You're giving up real estate on your labels to do something that I could have done by typing in a URL," said Carr, speaking of QR codes. "So it's convenient, but is it really delivering value?"

Beyond delivering valuable consumer insights to retailers and suppliers, YottaMark found in a 2010 study that having HarvestMark on a package increases purchase preference by 12 percent and increases a shopper's loyalty to the retailer by 10 percent. "We hear things from shoppers like, 'The retailer has my back. They know where my food comes from and now so do I,'" said Carr.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Natural color market seeing green as demand grows

Thanks to the Brits, U.S. grocery aisles are poised to become a little less colorful.

Eight months after the European Commission began requiring warning labels on food products containing certain food dyes and essentially forcing reformulation, food manufacturers are eyeing the brewing food-dye controversy in the America with concern and rolling out new products void of color or made with more subdued natural alternatives.

In August 2010, Pepperidge Farm announced it had reformulated its Goldfish Colors and Goldfish Colors Neon, replacing the FD & C reds and blues that had colored the products with beet, paprika, turmeric and watermelon extracts. The world’s largest snack maker, Frito-lay, followed suit in January of this year by announcing it had revamped its offerings to make 50 percent “all natural”—which means no artificial colors. The company now offers Sun Chips colored with Paprika and White Cheddar Cheetoes free of neon orange stain. Yoplait’s new “Simply Go-gurt” is notably free of the Technicolor dyes in its conventional tubes. Even the confectionary industry has jumped on board, with New England-based Necco Wafers rolling out candies colored with red beets, purple cabbage and cocoa powder.

Matt Incles, market intelligence manager for U.K.-based Leatherhead Food Research, says the Southhampton studies (which drew a link between six commonly used dyes and ADHD) had a “severe” impact on food companies operating in Europe. “The pressure came down from consumers and retailers to change their ingredients almost overnight,” Incles says. He believes a similar scenario is in store in the United States, as consumers, then retailers and ultimately government puts the screws to companies using petroleum-based dyes such as Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6 and Blue 1. (Whole Foods and Trader Joes already refuse to carry them).

But Incles and others warn that switching from artificial to natural coloring is “incredibly difficult and quite costly,” and that both manufacturers and consumers are in for a change.

 “Not only are companies expected to reformulate their products, but they are expected to produce them at the same standards of quality and the same cost as they did before,” Incles says.  “In some cases, that’s just not possible with natural colors. Consumers might look at a new ice cream and it just doesn’t look as bright as it used to. That puts people off.”

Pros and cons of natural options

According to Leatherhead, the global food colors market was worth $1.45 billion in 2009, up 16 percent from 2005. The vast majority of growth has been in natural food colorings, which now constitute 36.2 percent of all food colorings sold, and are expected to outpace synthetic varieties within a few years.

Color giants such as St. Louis-based Sensient Technologies Corp. and Denmark-based Chr. Hansen (which posted 46 percent growth in its colors and blends division in 2010) stand to gain the most from growth in natural color demand. But the anti-dye trend has also opened the doors to ingredient companies such as DSM, which recently introduced a natural beto-carotene coloring called CaroCare Nat 10 percent CWS Star; PL Thomas, which launched a lycopene-based red-substitute called Tomat-O-Red; and Louisville, Kentucky-based DD Williamson, which recently expanded its caramel coloring business to include an entire line of natural food dyes and a guide to help companies make the switch.

“In the past two years, we have had more and more customers come to us and say, ‘We are using synthetic and would like to replace it with natural coloring or introduce a parallel line,’” says Leslie Lynch sales manager for Food Ingredient Solution LLC, a distributor of natural coloring for food.

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

The upside? Natural colors lack stigma and some 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 change over time, vary in hue according to a product’s PH levels, and can change the taste of products.

“Working with natural colors is a real art form,” says food technologist Pete Maletto, a consultant with PTM Food Consulting.

In the case of carmine and turmeric, increased demand has also led to dramatic price increases in recent months.  And there is still not a viable natural alternative for green—a problem that beverage companies are painfully aware of.

“All of our products are in Whole Foods, but they won’t take our Apple Martini products,” says Larry Freedman, vice president of operations for gourmet mixer company Stirrings, which has successfully reformulated all but two of its products (its apple martini mixer and rimmer) with natural colorants in response to consumer and retailer demand.

Then, there is the gross factor.

“Squashed bugs? Tell me that’s good for you,” says dietician Bonnie Jortberg, who believes concerns about synthetic food dyes have been overblown and that natural alternatives have issues of their own (including being potential allergens).

Eyeing the future

Well aware that such problems exist color companies are racing to overcome them and assure that within a few years natural colors will be on par with their synthetic counterparts.

Sensient Technologies recently invested $16 million to expand its natural color facilities and DD Williamsons is also investing heavily in research and development.

“We don’t have the whole paint chip yet but we are working to fill the gaps,” says Jason Armao, applications project manager for DD Williams.

In the meantime, consultants like Maletto are urging clients with new products in the works to steer clear of color altogether (he recently helped formulate a clear children’s drink) or at least those made from synthetics:

 “I think eventually the government is going to say we need to get them out of the food and you will have a year or two to reformulate,” Maletto says. “You don’t want to have to go back and do it all over again.”

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Promo ideas for July 2011

This month, it’s hot, and people crave cool desserts. Display nectarines, blueberries and cherries for fruit salads and sorbets, and promote bulk goodies like pistachios, pecans and chocolate-covered raisins as tasty toppings for ice cream. For Family Reunion Month and National Grilling Month, push eco-friendly paper products and value sizes of condiments, chips and other big-group staples. 

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Promo ideas for August 2011

This month, make “more herbs, less salt” an August-long initiative and get customers cooking with fresh basil, sage, thyme and marjoram. Challenge shoppers to shelve their saltshakers and dig into your stock of bountiful culinary greens and herb-seed packets. Also promote low-sodium, herb-flavored packaged pastas and crackers and herb-infused healthy cooking oils. And for National Panini Month, fire up the electric press and sample fresh-made sandwiches that shoppers can easily re-create at home. 

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Promo ideas for September 2011

This month, breakfast takes center stage, with a hodgepodge of holidays to promote healthy a.m. eats. Sample waffles made from whole grains and drizzled in raw honey. Stage a breakfast bar with cholesterol-lowering oat bran, oatmeal and almonds, and organic fall fruits like apples and pears. Perk up your prepared-foods offerings with organic-veggie quiches and mushroom-egg-cheese casserole, and be sure to showcase fair trade coffee. 

Sen. Orrin Hatch's video remarks at NDI seminar

"Good morning everyone. I am pleased to offer a few comments at the beginning of this important seminar on the recently published FDA draft NDI Guidance. Special thanks goes out to the United Natural Products Alliance for their work in gathering the industry and experts to analyze this guidance, and educate you about the serious impact this could have on your ability to provide consumers with safe products at affordable prices.

"I am particularly concerned about the economic impact that this policy will have on your industry. You have an ambitious agenda and you have a lot to go over. It is an unfortunate fact of congressional life that I have to be in Washington today. I would prefer to be there in person, but I am stuck here dealing with a little issue you all might have heard of -- the debt ceiling.

"I have always stressed to your industry that you must remain vigilant and proactive in what goes on in Washington. If our analysis of the FDA proposal ends up where I fear it might, your involvement will be more important now than any time in the last 17 years.

"I encourage you all to take a very active role as the FDA moves this guidance forward. Inaction from your industry could result in federal bureaucrats dictating every last detail of how your businesses should be run. That is not what I want, and it is not what you or your consumers need.

"I am conscious that FDA has devoted significant resources to this guidance, but a policy needs to be more than manageable for the FDA. It also must enjoy the support of the industry.

"All of us share the common goal of consumer safety, and the present task is to do so as efficiently, and in as market-friendly a way, as possible. I worry that this guidance misses the mark. You are starting the serious work of analyzing the print — large and small — of this 85-page beast. I urge you to keep me and my staff advised about your discussions and conclusions, so we may work together to make sure that the right balance of safety and a light government hand are found.

"I also want you to know that to complement this seminar and the work that UNPA is doing, I am holding a dietary supplement town hall meeting next month on the afternoon of August 17th down at Utah Valley University. I am inviting all the major trade associations to participate, as well as industry leaders in Utah and any of your employees who can attend. I plan to focus on this NDI Guidance as well as pressing legislative issues.

"I strongly encourage those of you from Utah to attend and to pass this invitation along to others in the industry – Loren can give you the details. We promise to have a great dialog.

"So, let me end my remarks here and send along my wishes for a great and productive two days. Thank you for attending, for your interest, and for your help. Your friends on Capitol Hill cherish the support and guidance that your industry provides."