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Articles from 2012 In July


Natural Foods Merchandiser

3 issues your natural store should be involved in now

3 issues your natural store should be involved in now

As Congress mulled legislation aimed at protecting access to dietary supplements in 1994, retailers from California to New York took bold steps to show consumers what was at stake.

They draped black netting over their supplements sections, posted signs that read "You cannot buy these products" and told customers they should urge lawmakers to pass the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) to avoid a future that limited product availability.

“It vividly drove home the point to consumers that the stakes were very high and helped drive, I believe, the largest grassroots response at the time to any issue in Congress,” recalls Jay Jacobowitz, president of Brattleboro, Vt.-based consulting firm Retail Insights. “DSHEA passed by unanimous consent as a direct result.”  

Fast forward to 2012 and natural products retailers remain critical shapers of public policy, weighing in on everything from food safety issues to environmental and public health campaigns.

Recent retailer-driven efforts to keep plastic bags out of landfills and to require labeling on foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have sparked a slew of historic initiatives.

Meanwhile, the battle to preserve access to supplements is far from over, with proposed guidelines on New Dietary Ingredients (NDIs) prompting a new wave of activism via social media.

“Retailers are the key to effective grassroots advocacy,” says Dave Reczek, president of Chicago-based Fruitful Yield Health Foods. “If we are not vigilant, our mission to empower people to lead healthier lives can be threatened.”

1. GMO labeling

By far the hottest policy issue of 2012 is the fate of GMOs, with retailers mobilizing behind laws in seven states that would either restrict planting of genetically engineered crops or require labeling of GE foods. At the national level, a record-breaking 1.2 million people signed a petition this spring urging the Food and Drug Administration to require labeling.

And come November, all eyes will be on California, where residents will vote on the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act—the first statewide initiative to require labeling of anything that “is or may have been entirely or partially produced” with genetic engineering. (It also prohibits such food from being labeled natural.)

“This is probably the major showdown in our lifetime,” says Mark Squire, longtime owner and manager of Good Earth Natural Foods in Fairfax, Calif. “If Californians insist that our food be labeled, other states will follow suit.”

Since entering the industry in 1968, Squire has seen activism as a natural extension of “good customer service.” This ethos led him to help found the Non-GMO Project, and in 2004, to personally author Measure B, the Marin County, Calif., initiative that prohibited the outdoor cultivation of GMOs within the county.

Since then, Squire has stopped carrying products suspected of containing GMOs, put up shelf tags promoting those certified by the Non-GMO Project, held lectures and trained staff on how to talk to consumers about the issue. “We have prospered by playing an activist role,” he says. “Our customers realize we are looking out for their health.”

Mo George-Payette, COO of Mother’s Market and Kitchen in Orange County, Calif., says she doesn’t see the retailer as “deep into politics.” Rather, it is “trying to provide the best-quality food for our customers.” That means ensuring customers know what’s in their food.

So when local activists started trying to get the California labeling issue on the ballot, Mother’s jumped in enthusiastically, collecting “thousands of signatures” at its seven stores.

“We are founded on the values of truth, beauty and goodness. That is our mantra, and we feel this fits into that.”

PCC Natural Markets in Seattle uses its monthly newspaper, The Sound Consumer; its email newsletter, PCC Advocates; and its Facebook page to update thousands of customers daily on food policy initiatives.

In recent months, the co-op has sent out email blasts urging recipients to speak out on issues such as a federal bill that would improve the living conditions of hens, a petition asking for the suspension of a pesticide believed to harm honeybees, and a proposed mine that would sit at the headwaters of an important salmon habitat.

When state lawmakers gave just six days notice for a hearing on a GMO labeling initiative in January, PCC went so far as to charter a bus to carry its customers to Olympia, Wash., to show their support. “When something important is happening, we are able to dispatch information pretty quickly,” says spokeswoman Eli Penberthy. “We packed the capitol.”

But the retail community is far from unified on the GMO labeling issue. The Natural Products Association (NPA), as of press time, had yet to come out for or against the California labeling initiative. The American Herbal Products Association supports labeling of products “intentionally produced” using GMOs, but fears that broader laws could place an “undue burden” on manufacturers, which—because of pollen drift and other contamination—have a hard time ensuring their products are GMO free.

“We choose to focus on issues that threaten our mission, and we stay away from ones that have unintended consequences,” says Chicago retailer Reczek. “For example, we support the Non-GMO Project, but mandatory GMO labeling laws are a new opportunity for bounty hunters who will launch litigation against the industry.”

2. Preserving supplement access

Instead, Reczek focuses on preserving access to supplements, which he sees as imminently threatened by “unnecessary government interference.” Walk through his stores and you’ll find shelf talkers that read "Action Alert: Your access to this trusted product may be restricted and refer shoppers to websites for more information about NDIs."

He’s also constantly educating his staff, consumers and lawmakers about proposals he believes could chip away at the historic 1994 legislation that separated regulatory framework for dietary supplements from drugs and food additives. “The fight to defend DSHEA continues to this day,” Reczek says.

The draft NDI guidelines—submitted in July 2011 and now under revision—would significantly boost the level of safety data manufacturers must submit to the FDA before bringing a new ingredient to market. The guidelines may also require some existing products, previously believed to be grandfathered in, to jump through these same hoops.

“Products would be slower to come to market and be a lot more expensive, and many products that are already on the shelves could be pulled while the manufacturer submits a new NDI,” says Cara Welch, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the NPA.

Liz Hurst, NPA’s government relations manager, notes that retailers are keeping their eyes on more than just NDIs. In May, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced an eleventh-hour amendment that would have required manufacturers to register all products and their ingredients with the FDA within 30 days of introduction, reformulation or discontinuation.

Within hours, news of the amendment popped up on retailer Facebook pages and email newsletters. NPA alone counted more than 2,000 messages sent to members’ senators via its website. The amendment was tabled by a 77-to-20 vote. But advocates agree that this piece of legislation—or something like it—will return.

“Issues affecting dietary supplements stay fresh in the minds of legislators, and we have to be constantly ready to respond,” Hurst says. “We reach out to our retailers as a direct conduit to consumers.”

3. Protecting the environment

Retailers are also playing a leading role in the battle against plastic bags, says Andy Keller, president of the Reusable Bag Association and ChicoBag, a Chico, Calif.-based reusable grocery bag, pack and tote manufacturer.

In the mid-2000s, retailers were the first to offer rebates and raffle tickets to customers who brought their own shopping bags. Others gave away reusable bags like loyalty cards. Before long,  some retailers, including Squire at Good Earth Natural Foods, began working with lawmakers to craft local plastic bag bans.

Today, 76 counties and municipalities—including Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; and San Francisco—have passed similar legislation. Honolulu County’s adoption of a ban makes Hawaii the first plastic bag-free state.

“The next big move will be a statewide law,” predicts Keller, noting that an initiative is already underway in California, with the support of many large retailers.

Retailers also can forward the cause by banning plastic bags in their stores, offering reusable bags or boxes instead, dressing up as a “bag monster” (ChicoBag has 100 bag monster costumes that it loans out to retailers for special events) and training their staffs to move away from the “paper or plastic?” question to “Do you need a bag?”

“If anyone is still asking the question ‘paper or plastic’ or, worse yet, not asking and just bagging, it is time to take a hard look at that,” Keller says.

Choosing your battles

So how can a small retailer on a tight budget take a stand without alienating customers? By choosing the right battles.

“It is important to draw a distinction between partisan campaigns and policy issues,” says Doug Walter, membership director of Davis Food Co-op in Davis, Calif. Founded in 1972, the co-op has a long-standing policy not to endorse specific political candidates or frame discussions in left-right terms.

As the GMO debate has unfolded, in a community where many members are employed by the biotech industry, the store has proceeded delicately, taking care to publish letters on both sides of the issue and not frame the debate in terms of whether GMOs are “savior or evil,” but rather in terms of labeling. “We have always been very supportive of legislation supporting the public’s right to know,” Walter says.

Nine-store chain PCC Natural Markets employs two full-time public affairs staff to track policy issues and communicate them to customers, takes guidance from its board of directors on which issues are worth taking a stand on and subjects its stances to “many layers of vetting” before making them public.

Most important, though, the co-op tries to be clear about why it is getting involved. “First and foremost, we think of ourselves as consumer advocates,” says Penberthy. “We are not here to represent the food industry. We are here to make sure our customers’ needs are being looked out for. As long as we are as transparent as possible, it never backfires.” 

 

 

4 red foods to love

Get caught red-handed with these heart-healthy eats, recommended by Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

What retailers should know about small, family-owned farms & ranches

What retailers should know about small, family-owned farms & ranches

Supporting small, family-owned farms and ranches is the best way to build a more sustainable food system in America, says Mel Coleman, vice president of special projects for Niman Ranch, which works with more than 700 independent producers.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: Food prices are higher than ever. Why should shoppers choose Niman products over less expensive natural options?

Mel Coleman: Natural is a meaningless term to describe most products, but at Niman it stands for something. Customers buy from us because they know our producers use humane animal practices. We also never use growth hormones or antibiotics. Because the price of entry for organic is so high right now, we don’t make it a requirement, but both organic and non-genetically modified are issues we’re exploring. We’re invested in doing what’s right for animals, humans and plants.

When consumers are willing to pay more for foods that align with their personal beliefs, we’ll finally be on the right track toward building healthier and more sustainable agricultural systems. We depend on retailers to communicate these values. When the product tastes great, as I believe ours does, that makes the decision even easier.

NFM: Which government regulations would you like to see changed to better support small family farmers?

MC: Agricultural policy should make it easier for one generation to pass a family-operated farm or ranch onto the next without it being a huge financial incumbence. Right now, cities are expanding and agricultural land is growing in value. If farm families don’t plan, when a family member inherits a large ranch, he or she has to pay the inheritance tax based on the ranch’s value. There are families that have lost land or had to sell land just to pay taxes.

NFM: How is Niman involved in educating consumers about these issues?

MC: We’re trying to educate a new generation of consumers about the importance of sustainability and humane animal treatment by working with universities across the country. About 10 schools now contract with us to carry our products in their cafeterias.

At the point of sale, we provide brochures that explain what the product is, what ranch it came from and where it was produced. Instead of financial targets for the future, we have goals of reaching a certain number of schools with our product.

We also provide executive chefs and dining services directors of colleges and universities with the tools to learn about our product. We’re creating new customers, but more importantly, we’re educating young shoppers about which questions they should ask of all food producers.

 

 

EFSA reviews ULs for vitamin D, calcium

EFSA reviews ULs for vitamin D, calcium

EFSA has reviewed the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for calcium and vitamin D. For vitamin D, the UL for adults and adolescents has been raised from 50 micrograms (50µg) a day to 100µg; the UL for children aged 1-10 has been increased from 25µg a day to 50µg a day. For calcium, the Panel concluded that no new data have become available which would require a revision of the UL for adults of 2,500mg a day.

Scientific Opinion on the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of Vitamin D
Following a request from the European Commission, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies was asked to re-evaluate the safety in use of vitamin D and to provide, if necessary, revised Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) of vitamin D for all relevant population groups. The ULs for adults including pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents were revised. For adults, hypercalcaemia was selected as the indicator of toxicity. In two studies in men, intakes between 234 and 275 µg/day were not associated with hypercalcaemia, and a no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) of 250 µg/day was established. Taking into account uncertainties associated with these studies, the UL for adults including pregnant and lactating women was set at 100 µg/day. Despite a continuing paucity of data for high vitamin D intakes in children and adolescents, the UL was adapted to 100 µg/day for ages 11-17 years, considering that owing to phases of rapid bone formation and growth this age group is unlikely to have a lower tolerance for vitamin D compared to adults. The same applies also to children aged 1-10 years, but taking into account their smaller body size, a UL of 50 µg/day is proposed. For infants, the UL of 25 µg/day based on previously available data relating high vitamin D intakes to impaired growth and hypercalcaemia was retained as limited additional evidence has emerged since the previous risk assessment. Data on vitamin D intakes from surveys in 14 European countries indicate that intakes in high consumers are below the revised ULs for vitamin D for all population groups.

Scientific Opinion on the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of Calcium
Following a request from the European Commission, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies was asked to re-evaluate the safety in use of calcium. The Panel was requested to consider if the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for calcium established by the SCF in 2003 (2,500 mg/day for adults, including pregnant and lactating women), which was based on different intervention studies of long duration in which total daily calcium intakes of 2,500 mg from both diet and supplements were tolerated without adverse effects, needed to be changed on the basis of new available evidence. A number of placebo controlled human intervention studies in adults published since then also showed that total daily calcium intakes of 2,500 mg from both diet and supplements are tolerated without adverse effects. The Panel considers that no relationship has been established between long-term calcium intakes from diet and supplements and increased risk of nephrolithiasis, cardiovascular disease or prostate cancer. No new data have become available which would require a revision of the UL for calcium for adults, including pregnant and lactating women, of 2,500 mg. No new data have become available which would allow the setting of a UL for infants, children or adolescents. Data from European populations indicate that intakes of calcium in high consumers among adult males can be close to the UL. Although available data do not allow the setting of a UL for infants, children or adolescents, no risk has been identified with highest current levels of calcium intake in these age groups.

 

New formulation methods can help reduce need for guar gum

New formulation methods can help reduce need for guar gum

The price and availability of guar gum are difficult to predict. Food developers who always relied on inexpensive supplies of guar are challenged to match its functionality in their current and future products. Food scientists from TIC Gums will present “Replacing Guar Gum: An Exercise in Product Development” at the Prepared Foods R&D Applications Seminar Chicago on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012. This event is a two-day applications-oriented occasion dedicated to further educating the food and beverage industry’s formulators on specific application challenges.

Supply, demand and ingenuity
The tight supply and increase in price of guar gum stems from the oil and gas industry use of it in well fracturing or “fracking.” As a result of demand from the energy industry, the supply and demand for guar gum were never more variable than now, with potential shortages in the food industry. The need to reduce or eliminate an ingredient that heretofore was cost effective and useful results in substantial reformulation work for food product developers. A better way to formulate different gums and gum systems with qualities that match those of guar gum is possible.

Using the common language of texture defined in the Texture Lexicon from TIC Gums gives food developers the opportunity to define the desired textural attributes desired in food early in the development process.

The common language of texture
The lexicon of common texture terms was compiled to help articulate the qualities often associated with texture or “mouth feel” but more specifically in the way that textural attributes were described. “While everyone experiences food and beverages uniquely, agreement on how to designate texture is as important in the product development cycle as the actual formulation of the product,” said Gum Guru™ Maureen Akins of TIC Gums. “The Texture Lexicon from TIC Gums allows food developers working in cross functional groups to not only focus on texture as an under-utilized product differentiator but provides them with easily relatable terminology with which to express their opinions.”

Since June, 2011, many companies and developers have used the Texture Attribution process to describe and map textures of existing products that they want to mimic or change. The common vocabulary provides agreement on what is most needed to design products that are accepted by consumers much more quickly than was otherwise possible. The deliberate design of texture early in the development process reduced the amount of time needed to take a new or revised product from the lab bench to the store shelf.

Demonstrating outcomes
Akins and fellow Gum Guru Dan Grazaitis will demonstrate corn bread, tomato soup, and sweetened tea formulated both with and without guar gum. “By starting with the desired textures needed in each, we designed hydrocolloid systems that mimic the qualities of guar by using other available hydrocolloids,” Grazaitis said. “Paying attention to the attributes allows you to formulate with a wide variety of hydrocolloids, not just guar. The outcomes are similar textural qualities to guar, but without using any guar.”

For the tomato soup and corn bread, the Gum Gurus used Ticaloid® GR 5420, a blend of gums that does not include any guar gum. Ticaloid GR 5420 is a 100 percent replacement of guar gum for food and beverages.

 

New Nordic Naturals promotion supports Healthy Child Healthy World

New Nordic Naturals promotion supports Healthy Child Healthy World

Nordic Naturals, leading manufacturer of omega-3 supplements, has announced a Back-to-School promotion that features selected kid-friendly essentials and benefits its 2012 Cause Partner, Healthy Child Healthy World.

Nordic Naturals and Healthy Child Healthy World are teaming up this year to send an important message to families everywhere: It is essential that we protect our children from harmful contaminants by creating healthy environments where they can grow, thrive and flourish.

To raise awareness about this important issue, Nordic Naturals will donate a portion of proceeds from selected Nordic Naturals children’s products to Healthy Child Healthy World during its Back-to-School promotion, which will run from August through October.

One dollar of every bottle sold of the following products will be donated to Healthy Child Healthy World:

  • Nordic Berries™ – chewy, sweet-and-sour multivitamins provide 100% of the daily value of the most essential nutrients
  • Nordic Omega-3 Gummies™ – easy-to-chew, omega-3 tangerine treats for ages 2+
  • Children’s DHA™ – chewable, strawberry-flavored omega-3s support brain and visual function for ages 3+
  • Baby’s DHA – omega-3s for babies 5-35 lbs. with a measured dropper for easy addition to formula or food

About Healthy Child Healthy World
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Healthy Child Healthy World began in 1992 after five-year-old Colette Chuda died of a rare form of non-hereditary cancer linked to environmental factors. Playing a leadership role in one of the most important public health and environmental movements of the 21st century, Healthy Child Healthy World today ignites the movement that empowers parents to protect children from harmful chemicals. Healthy Child Healthy World is a national, nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. More information can be found at healthychild.org.

 

Cyvex Nutrition receives high cGMP rating

Cyvex Nutrition receives high cGMP rating

Cyvex Nutrition received a high cGMP rating following audits conducted by Silliker Inc., an international third-party auditing company. The facility was audited this past May according to the "Silliker Dietary Supplement Good Manufacturing Practices and Food Safety Systems Audit.” This particular audit included standard requirements for dietary supplements which include identity testing for food safety and quality systems, buildings and grounds, pest control, GMP practices and food defense.

According to the FDA, cGMPs are intended to establish a comprehensive system of process controls, including documenting manufacturing stages in order to help minimize or detect contamination problems early in the process. "Cyvex Nutrition works tirelessly to implement best practices, ensure analytical procedure validation, and facilitate a comprehensive quality system," said Vinh Do, technical service manager at Cyvex. "The Silliker audit validates our compliance with cGMP."

Third-party cGMP audits for dietary supplement processors ensures safety and quality of products. Audits ensure that the industry is held to high quality standards when it comes to manufacturing, packing and labeling standards.

 

NP Nutra introduces powdered strawberry ingredient

NP Nutra introduces powdered strawberry ingredient

Nutra introduced a new Freeze Dried Strawberry ingredient, adding to its Nutra Pura range of high quality freeze dried ingredients. Strawberry fruits have a low glycemic index and are a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C and manganese. These fragrant fruits also contain folate, potassium, vitamin K, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium and essential omega-3 fatty acids.

NP Nutra’s new Freeze Dried Strawberry ingredient is a rose-speckled powder ready for use in juices, smoothie mixes, yogurts, ice creams, jellies, baked goods and confectionary. NP Nutra’s Freeze Dried Strawberry powder is a popular ingredient in blends featuring berries and stars in NP Nutra’s “Betta Berries Antioxidant Blend” that was recently launched at the 2012 Engredea trade show.

Delicious and juicy, strawberries are a rich source of phytonutrients, including ellagic acid and a complex range of flavonoids. Some of these flavonoids are in the form of anthocyanins, potent antioxidants which provide the strawberry with its characteristic ruby red color. These antioxidants may help promote cardiovascular health as well as help maintain normal cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Studies have also shown that the strawberry may be beneficial in promoting cognitive health and overall well-being.

NP Nutra’s Freeze Dried Strawberry Powder is made of 100 percent pure and natural strawberries with no carrier, preservatives, coloring or flavoring added. This high-quality product is also GMO free and Kosher certified. NP Nutra uses strawberries that are carefully freeze dried at the peak of ripeness to capture the complete enzyme, nutrition and flavour profile.

NPA: Consumer Reports offers 'just another smear campaign' against supplements

NPA: Consumer Reports offers 'just another smear campaign' against supplements

The Natural Products Association (NPA) is the nation’s largest association representing natural products and the leading representative of the dietary supplement industry. NPA Executive Director and CEO John Shaw and Senior Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Dr. Cara Welch respond to a Consumer Reports story about vitamins and other supplements:

John Shaw: “Consumer Reports distorts the facts with just another smear campaign against dietary supplements. Data from the government shows that supplements have an excellent safety record, especially considering the millions of supplements sold annually. Nothing in Consumer Reports should convince anyone to stop taking their supplements.

“Supplements are foods, not drugs. If a product makes disease claims or includes a drug, then it’s not a supplement. The legitimate supplement industry who we represent wants the criminals selling these illegal drugs out of business.

“Misleading stories like this one are especially unfortunate because they can hurt the mom and pop stores that sell natural products and supplements in communities across America. Tens of thousands of Americans depend on this industry for jobs. They are dedicated to supporting the healthy lifestyles of millions of people.

“Finally, the article offers advice on how to avoid choking. While this is no laughing matter, someone could choke anytime swallowing anything, not just supplements. This is another example of fear-mongering by Consumer Reports and using this issue as an argument against taking supplements is insulting to consumers.”

Cara Welch: “Consumer Reports makes the obvious points that nothing is risk-free and too much of anything is not necessarily a good thing. Furthermore, it relies on disputed and inaccurate studies to draw the wrong conclusions. Consumers deserve better.

“For example, the American Heart Association has recommended a diet high in omega-3s and supplementation for those who cannot get enough from their diet. In addition, the federal government itself has approved health claims for supplements, such as associating vitamin D and calcium intake with a reduced risk of osteoporosis.

“Research shows that supplements can address nutritional deficiencies and improve overall health. Getting an adequate amount of nutrition from the diet is ideal, but unfortunately, many Americans are not getting the nutrients they need from the foods they eat. The Natural Products Association encourages a healthy lifestyle for all Americans with supplementation as needed. As always, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements."

 

Who is really stocking that man cave?

Who is really stocking that man cave?

A grocery store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan is making headlines for creating New York City’s first “man aisle,” which is a section of the store designed solely for male shoppers.

Stocked with condoms, razors, snacks, beer, and barbecue sauce, the aisle is meant to make it easy for men to find everything they might need for that man cave and beyond. I’m sure my husband would have loved this Man Isle, as it’s aptly been named, when he was a bachelor living on the Upper West Side.

The owners of Westside Market created the man aisle after reading an ESPN study that showed 31 percent of men now shop for their families, up from 14 percent in the 1980s, according to a July 26 article in the New York Post.

It’s true more men now do at least some of the food shopping for their families, and more men today are also single than in the 1980s. That said, as the following infographic shows, women continue to be the prime buyers in the United States. They shop for themselves, their children and their husbands (and their husbands’ man caves). Based on the growing spending power of women, I would wager that a many women are also influencing the food and other purchasing habits of their boyfriends and male family members and coworkers.

The takeaway here is that, while it's increasingly important to cater to the growing base of men who are walking the grocery aisles in search of sustenance and such, natural products manufacturers and retailers should never take their eyes off the real prize: women shoppers.

Marketing Zeus: The Purchasing Power of Women
 

Would you ever consider building a man aisle in your store? Share your thoughts in the comments!