Kombucha Brewers International introduces Code of Practice to unify industry standards

Getty Images kombucha pouring

Kombucha Brewers International (KBI), the trade association committed to promoting and protecting commercial kombucha brewers around the world, has released the industry's first Code of Practice, a food safety and quality standard for kombucha producers that creates transparency for consumers to make informed choices. The new guidelines aim to protect the integrity of the kombucha category while allowing for continued evolution and innovation. 

The Code of Practice has been in development for five years, with the last three years devoted to incorporating feedback from stakeholders and KBI members. It was designed to not only unite the kombucha industry, but also to build consumer trust and understanding of the fermented brew—how it's brewed, the ingredients and unique characteristics and the different styles. The definitions and requirements defined in the Code of Practice will serve as guardrails for the industry and serves as the global unified standard. 

"We are thrilled to officially launch the Code of Practice for the kombucha industry," said Hannah Crum, co-founder and president of KBI. "This has been a longtime in the making, so to see it finally come to fruition is a key milestone in the life of our young industry. We continue to grow at a rapid pace with more new brands and products entering the category than ever before. The aim of the Code is to celebrate the diversity of the category, honoring the spirit of Kombucha's ancient origins while also acknowledging that consumers have varied criteria in selecting brands."

The Code is specifically structured as a flexible framework that will be updated on a regular basis to reflect innovations and additional research. For producers and consumers alike, the Code provides a credible source of clarity and increases confidence that "what's on the label is what's in the bottle." 

The Code of Practice standardizes manufacturing practices across the industry by establishing key descriptors and differentiators of the brewing and fermentation process, as well as the finished product. Traditional kombucha tea, as stated within the Code of Practice, is defined as a beverage obtained from fermenting tea leaves, sugar and a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY); additional variations of kombucha can be produced from other acceptable plant materials, sweeteners such as raw honey and the like. In addition, the Code of Practice establishes standards for communicating key elements of the fermented beverage including sugar and alcohol content, added sweeteners, pasteurization, shelf-stable kombucha and more. 

As part of the Code of Practice, KBI is developing a seal program, which will allow brewers to certify their kombucha as authentic. Built on the framework outlined in the Code of Practice, kombucha brewers will be able to apply for the seal to authenticate the style of kombucha they produce. The seal will provide transparency for consumers and instill trust in the products they are consuming. 

Source: Kombucha Brewers International

5@5: USDA fights organic fraud | Is indoor farming the future?

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USDA unveils new rules to combat organic fraud

The United States Department of Agriculture revealed a new draft proposed rule last week that updates organic regulations to include mandatory unannounced inspections, new traceability requirements for imported products and new oversight for the certification process. It remains to be seen whether this new rule will translate to higher costs for small-scale farmers or shoppers. Read more at The Counter


Is the future of farming indoors?

The ripple effects of COVID-19 have limited many peoples' access to food, especially in countries that were already food insecure or those that were hit especially hard by the virus. As a result, indoor farming technology is becoming increasingly popular for its cost effectiveness, lack of chemicals and scalability anywhere in the world. Read more at Forbes


New Amazon grocery units to feature proprietary dash carts

Amazon's forthcoming grocery stores will implement the Amazon Dash Cart, which scans barcoded items as they enter the basket in place of a traditional checkout model. There is also a screen on the cart's handle which gives shoppers a way to view what is in their cart and check items off as well as the subtotal. Read more at Winsight Grocery Business


How COVID-19 derailed the fight against plastic waste

When COVID-19 first emerged, single-use plastic was deemed safer than reusable options. However, a study published in April found that the virus actually lasts longer on plastic than it does on paper or cardboard. Activists fear that encouragement on the part of the plastic industry will make it hard to get consumers back on track as an environmental crisis looms. Read more at The Guardian


The world drinks less coffee while office workers stay home

Global coffee consumption is expected to fall this year for the first time since 2011, largely because of mandatory shutdowns for cafes and restaurants. And those consumers who are partaking are drinking cheaper, instant coffee at home and avoiding cafes, meaning it could be another few months before the coffee business regains its momentum. Read more at Bloomberg

Influencers launch collective to reshape food and wellness—for the better

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Content matters. Especially in the current climate, creating impactful content for your natural products brand is an opportunity to be part of meaningful, lasting change throughout the industry. That's where the Food + Wellness Equity Collective comes in.

Influencers and co-founders Yoli Ouiya of Yoli's Green Living and Sonja Overhiser of A Couple Cooks created the collective to bring together a diverse group of content creators and entrepreneurs to be change agents of equity, diversity and anti-racism in the food and wellness industry. It connects and supports content creators and entrepreneurs, compels brands to be part of this work and advances food justice and wellness equity at the national and local level.

The Food + Wellness Equity Collective's work is changing the face of food and wellness so it’s accessible to and reflective of all people. Interested in joining this mission? Ouiya and Overhiser reveal more below.

Why is it important for food and wellness content creators to be change agents of equity, diversity and anti-racism?

Yoli Ouiya HeadshotYoli Ouiya: Everyone needs food and wellness in their lives, especially during this health crisis and racial injustice pandemic. Content creators have been easily accessible for their communities to find the latest information on trends and first-hand feedback of new products. Being that we have become a reliable and integral source for various facets of everyday life, we get to be the change we wish to see in the world.

Sonja Overhiser: If we truly care about food and wellness, we have to care about access to that for everyone. Food is communal and so is wellness. If systemic racism causes the table to be unequal, we all suffer.

Holding brands accountable to diversity and equity is part of the Collective. Why is this important?

YO: It is imperative that brands/companies represent a microcosm of the world market. If you have singular types of voices on your team, you miss an opportunity to hear paradigms of ideas, thoughts and creativity that readily exist in other communities.

Sonja Overhiser HeadshotSO: We’re all in this together. The anti-racism fight is for all industries, and there are many inequities in the food and wellness world. We’ve got to hold our industry accountable.

What does this look like?

YO: Honestly, like everyone else, we are still figuring this out. We are exploring various options such as enrolling brands to invest in racial bias training with potential partners to really tackle the systemic disparities that exist at the core.

We have also discussed the possibility of partnering with brands for some more on-the-ground and tangible programs to give back to local communities around the country. One of our bigger goals is to be change-makers in local and federal policies around food and wellness.

SO: We’re excited about working with brands on more creative initiatives to promote equity in our spheres of influence. We hope brands are willing to invest in this work, because the time is now.

How does the Food + Wellness Equity Collective help brands diversify their influencer partnerships?

YO: The first step is acknowledging there is a lack of diversity and examining why that is. The second is not trying to throw a bunch of new pictures of diverse people on your social media feeds to be performative.

We are curating a group of content creators who have always done the work and have not been celebrated, highlighted, paid or acknowledged as much as their counterparts. We seek to be part of distinctive campaigns that are rooted in equity, awareness, product knowledge and longevity versus one-off opportunities that read like a sales ad. Yes, you are selling a product, but are you building a loyal community of diverse folks who feel seen and authentically included? If not, come talk to us.

To contact the Food + Wellness Equity Collective, email: info@foodwellnessequity.com and follow on Instagram at @foodwellnessequity.

SKU accelerator: Who they want and more

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In this series, New Hope Network covers the ins and outs of accelerators and incubators across the United States that provide mentorship, funds and resources to help grow natural businesses. Here, Michelle Breyer, COO for SKU, provides insight into the original SKU accelerator program, which has helped over 60 startups and counting, as well as the new SKU DFW program.

What: SKU, a 12-week accelerator in Austin, Texas, founded in 2011 with an alumni base of more than 50 companies; an eight-week program tailored toward later stage brands launched into the Dallas-Fort Worth market in 2020.
When: SKU in Austin runs from January through May; SKU DFW runs each fall.
Notable alumni: EPIC Provisions, Siete Foods, Good Seed Burger, The Seaweed Bath Co.

When are SKU accelerator applications open, and when is the application deadline? 

 Applications for SKU Austin and SKU DFW are currently closed. Track 9 will kick off in January 2021.

What types of companies does SKU assist? 

SKU DFW is tailored toward later stage CPG startups with revenues of over $500,000.  

SKU in Austin is focused on CPG startups with revenues of $100,000 to $1 million. It is product agnostic, and alumni include food and beverage, apparel, health and beauty and other types of consumer products.

What’s your mission in doing this work? 

SKU accelerates emerging CPG brands with a world-class program driven by a thriving community of serial entrepreneurs and industry experts. Through education, support and networking, SKU provides the resources that founders need to take their businesses to the next level.

SKU DFW is supported by DFW CPG, an organization co-founded by Richard Riccardi and Rick Jordan in 2019 to help connect and build food and beverage companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

What top attributes is SKU looking for in applicants? 

SKU looks for companies with proven traction, an innovative product that’s scalable and motivated and coachable founders with a compelling story. We want founders who understand the “why” of their business.

What is one game-changing piece of advice you have for entrepreneurs? 

Be honest with yourself about what you know and what you don’t know. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. That’s why mentorship is so invaluable. When CPG founders are coached by successful entrepreneurs their likelihood of success grows exponentially.

It’s been said so many times it’s become cliché. But remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Make sure the fundamentals of your business are strong to support growth.

What is your favorite project to have come out of your accelerator? 

Since SKU was founded in 2011, close to 60 companies have completed the program. Of those, 84% are still in business.

One of the biggest success stories—an example of the power of SKU’s model—is Siete Foods. Veronica Garza created am almond flour-based tortilla recipe in her home kitchen after she was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. With the help of her little brother, Miguel, they began bringing samples to the local natural food co-op, which gave them a shot. When Siete was selected to join SKU’s fourth cohort in 2015, the brand was called Must B Nutty. With the help of their SKU mentors, the Garzas rebranded their business as Siete Family Foods to enable them to scale beyond products made with almond flour.

Siete’s products are now sold in more than 13,000 stores throughout the U.S., including Whole Foods Market, Target, Walmart and Kroger. In 2019, Siete Family Foods received $90 million from Stripes Group LLC.

High levels of glyphosate found in hummus, chickpeas

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Independent laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group found glyphosate, the notorious weedkiller linked to cancer, in more than 80% of non-organic hummus and chickpeas samples, and detected at far lower levels in several organic versions.

Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world. It was sold for decades by Monsanto, now Bayer AG, under the brand name Roundup. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified glyphosate a probable human carcinogen, and the state of California lists it as chemical known to cause cancer.  

One-third of the 27 conventional hummus samples exceeded EWG’s health-based benchmark of 160 parts per billion, or ppb, for daily consumption, based on a 60-gram serving of hummus (about four tablespoons). The Environmental Protection Agency’s woefully inadequate legal limit for glyphosate in chickpeas, known as a tolerance level, is 5,000 ppb, or more than 30 times EWG’s benchmark.

The conventional hummus product with the highest level of glyphosate–more than 2,000 ppb in Whole Foods Market Original Hummus–was nearly 15 times the EWG benchmark. Overall, 10 hummus samples exceeded EWG’s benchmark for glyphosate: three samples of Sabra Classic Hummus; Sabra Roasted Pine Nut Hummus; two samples of Whole Foods Market Original Hummus; Whole Foods Market organic-label Original Hummus; Cava Traditional Hummus; and two samples of Harris Teeter Fresh Foods Market Traditional Artisan Hummus.

EWG also tested 12 samples of organic hummus and six samples of organic chickpeas. All but two contained detectable concentrations of glyphosate. Although glyphosate levels in organic samples were much lower than those of their conventional counterparts, one dry chickpea sample had the highest glyphosate concentration of all samples tested in the study.

“Beans, peas and lentils are a nutritious, affordable source of protein and an important part of the American diet,” said Olga V. Naidenko, Ph.D., EWG’s vice president for science investigations. “These excellent foods would be much better without glyphosate. Toxic weedkiller should never be allowed to contaminate these products, or any other foods, that millions of American families eat every day.”

The beans and bean-based products such as hummus tested in the study were purchased online or at major food retailers in the Washington, D.C., New York City and San Francisco metropolitan areas, including Aldi, Costco, Giant, Harris Teeter, Safeway, ShopRite, Target, Trader Joes, Walmart and Whole Foods grocery stores.

Glyphosate was first brought to market in 1974, but its use exploded after 1996 when Monsanto introduced genetically modified “Roundup Ready” crops that were resistant to the herbicide. For consumers, most worrisome is the use of the chemical on beans and grains as a drying agent just before harvest. This spraying can lead to high levels of glyphosate in beans, hummus, oat cereals and other foods.

By law, organic farmers are not allowed to spray Roundup or other toxic pesticides to grow and harvest crops. The detections of glyphosate on the organic samples may be due to pesticide drift from conventional crop fields or contamination at processing and packaging facilities.

“Organic foods, including organic hummus and chickpeas, remain a better choice for consumers,” said EWG Toxicologist Alexis M. Temkin, Ph.D. “EWG testing of both conventional and organic bean products for glyphosate helps increase the transparency in the marketplace and protect the integrity of the Department of Agriculture’s organic certification.”

Hummus and chickpeas, as well as other beans, offer multiple nutritional benefits, and are an important part of a healthy diet. EWG’s findings show the need for a ban on pre-harvest uses of glyphosate, a much stricter EPA standard and increased testing by the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration for this cancer-causing chemical in the American diet.

EWG’s research on beans and hummus builds on EWG’s tests of oats and oat-based products for glyphosate, which found the weedkiller in nearly every sample of cereal and breakfast bars tested. 

Source: EWG

Herbal specialist, Ridge Runner co-founder dies unexpectedly

Tony Hayes, founder of Ridge Runner Trading Company in North Carolina, died on July 2, his family has announced.

Tony Hayes, co-founder of Ridge Runner Trading Company in North Carolina, died unexpectedly on July 2, his family has announced.

Hayes, 65, was born in Wilkes County, North Carolina. He died in Boone, North Carolina. He and his wife, Sandy, opened Ridge Runner Trading Company in 2000.

Tony Hayes, founder of Ridge Runner Trading Company in North Carolina, died on July 2, his family has announced. Long before that, however, he was involved in the herbal products industry. He started as an herb buyer in 1973 for Lowe Fur and Herb in North Wilkesboro and, in 1981, began working for Wilcox Natural Products, according to his obituary in the Wilkes Journal-Patriot. The death was unexpected.

"He was a country gentleman, and a digger—someone as comfortable with going into his woods with a burlap bag and a shovel as he was selling locally harvested herbs to the largest companies in the country and meeting with federal regulators to represent his segment of the herb trade," the American Herbal Products Association writes in a tribute on its website. Hayes recorded the quantity and quality of herbs produced each year, then shared that data with others in the industry.

"He was the person about whom people would say, 'Call Tony, he'll know,'" the tribute says.   

The Smithsonian Institute's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, D.C., recently interviewed Hayes about his knowledge and experience with ginseng. The interview will be available at noon EDT Thursday at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival's website.

Hayes loved the outdoors and geography; he was known as a "walking, talking map of Southern Appalachia," according to his obituary. Besides being an expert cook and grill master, he played the drums, fished and enjoyed boating. He served others as part of the "12-step recovery community," the obituary states.

He is survived by his wife of 39 years; two sons, Christopher and Joshua; a daughter, Cassandra Hayes Vincent and her husband, Matthew; and five grandchildren with another due soon. Sandra Hayes, Joshua Hayes and Cassandra Vincent will continue to run Ridge Runner, according to a post on the company's Facebook page.

A celebration of life will be planned later.

The Hayes family requests memorial donations be directed to the Daniel Boone Native Gardens of Boone, North Carolina.

Advocates ask FTC to investigate Tyson Foods' claims

Tyson Foods Advocates ask FTC to investigate Tyson Foods' claims

Three organizations that advocate for safe food, a healthy environment and animal welfare have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tyson Foods' advertisements for misleading claims regarding its chicken products.

The Organic Consumers Association, Animal Equality and Food & Water Watch submitted a joint complaint earlier this month. Last year, the three sued Tyson for misleading claims on its chicken labels. That case is in the preliminary stages.

Tyson's claims of its chickens being raised in a natural, environmentally responsible and humane way take advantage of consumers' desire for meat products that are "free of unnatural substances and produced sustainably and humanely," Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association, said in a released statement. "We look to the FTC for oversight and enforcement to protect consumers against deceptive product claims."

Contrary to its claims, Tyson's standards for animal care and sustainability are lower than a reasonable consumer would expect and are, therefore, deceptive, the complaint alleges.

The complaint cites numerous examples of Tyson's advertising mischaracterizing its actual practices.

Caroline Ahn, Tyson Foods' senior manager of corporate communications, declined via email to comment on the complaint.

Advocates ask FTC to investigate Tyson Foods' claims Photo from Tyson.com

Where's the disclaimer?

On its labels, its websites, its social media pages and in its television commercials, Tyson's represents its chicken products as all natural—often without providing a required disclaimer, according to the complaint.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines natural as "a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed" and requires food producers to include that information on labels and in media.

Many Tyson products do not include this disclaimer, and the company's advertisements and other media "include disclaimers that are hard to read and/or otherwise unclear," the complaint alleges. Among the links to commercials and screenshots from Tyson's website, the top of the fresh chicken category page says, "All Natural* Fresh Chicken Boneless and Bone-in" but does not explain the asterisk or include the disclaimer.

Advocates ask FTC to investigate Tyson Foods' claims Photo from Tyson.com

However, a screen shot of Tyson's frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts—cited for not having the disclaimer—clearly shows the product's description, which includes "100% all natural, minimally processed with no artificial ingredients."

The screen shots in the complaint were taken Nov. 12; New Hope visited the pages on July 10.

Advocates ask FTC to investigate Tyson Foods' claims Screenshot from Tyson's YouTube page

Animal welfare and environmental sustainability

In the complaint, the Organic Consumers Association, Animal Equality and Food & Water Watch argue that Tyson Foods' advertising and marketing include false statements about its commitment to animal welfare and a clean environment.

The website for Nature Raised Farms, a Tyson Foods brand, stated on July 10, "Our goal is simple: to provide a great living environment and care for our animals. The chickens are raised in modern barns, not cages. They receive adequate lighting, and fresh air. Temperatures are computer-controlled for comfort year-round. The chickens are provided barn enrichments and other natural elements for them to perch on and climb." The complaint includes partial quotes from this FAQ page, cited on June 25. (The above photo was grabbed July 13 from the video, "Raising Healthy Chickens [Extended]," on the Tyson Brand YouTube page.)

Tyson "relies almost exclusively on industrialized factory-style operations for the production of its chicken products," the complaint states, including raising and slaughtering birds in facilities that are contaminated with drug-resistant pathogens; using toxic chemicals; and crowding tens of thousands of birds into massive barns without outdoor access.

The "inhumane and unsanitary industrial production practices" force Tyson's farmers to use antimicrobial drugs and chemicals to prevent infections, according to the complaint. "Chickens raised in healthy conditions with plenty of room to roam and dustbathe according to their natural instincts do not require the routing administration of antimicrobial drugs," the complaint states.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Service has repeatedly found drug-resistant pathogens on Tyson chicken meat samples, according to the complaint. Tyson advertises that it doesn't use antibiotics on chickens used for certain products; according to the claimants, a chicken that needs antibiotics is removed from the "no antibiotics ever" product lines. "But use of antibiotics … means that resistant pathogens can spread throughout its supply chain, into the environment and to consumers of the products," the complaint asserts.

Tyson Foods also represents itself as a steward of the land and water, but the complaint states that the company is the second-largest polluter in the U.S., and the largest polluter in the agribusiness industry: Between 2010 and 2014, Tyson's facilities released 104 million pounds of pollutant directly into waterways. The complaint cites reports from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency previously published by advocacy groups Mighty Earth and Environment America.

State and federal governments have taken Tyson Foods to court for environmental violations.

In 2005, the state of Oklahoma sued Tyson Foods and other poultry processors, claiming their wastewater raised phosphorus and nitrate levels in the Illinois River, a once-popular recreation area. The case was heard in 2009 and 2010, but federal judge who heard the case has not yet ruled on it.

In September 2017, Tyson Poultry Inc. pleaded guilty in federal court to violating the Clean Water Act at its Monett, Missouri, chicken processing plant. The company agreed to pay a $2 million fine and serve two years' probation.   

The complaint also notes an ingredients plant in Cullman, Alabama, in June spilled 800,000 gallons of wastewater contaminated with E. coli, contaminating two rivers and killing fish. The following week, five employees at a plant in Springdale, Arkansas, were injured and burned in a chemical spill. The chemical was an acid that removes pathogens from poultry during processing.

What to think about when choosing a brand spokesperson

Amy Summers IdeaXchange column image

No one can tell your story better than you, but can someone else expedite the process? Absolutely. The best time to consider finding a spokesperson for your supplement is when you are ready to expand your audience and add credibility to your brand.

Who is the ideal influencer for your brand?
Without a spokesperson, it’s difficult to expand on the value of your product with only the written word. You may think the owner of the company, or perhaps the marketing or public relations director, is the obvious choice to speak on behalf of your brand, but from a news perspective that’s only sufficient enough for a business story. An in-house scientist or nutritionist at your company may seem appropriate, but the public perception is that, of course, this person thinks the supplement is great because they are being paid by the company. When you use a spokesperson to speak on behalf of your product, the credibility factor goes up. Even when that spokesperson declares his or her relationship with the company, consumers are still walking away with the message that this expert, whom they trust, vetted the product before they got involved. That’s much different than someone with a CEO or sales and marketing title promoting the product, where they’re clearly biased.

How many influencers/spokespersons should represent your brand?
Does it make sense for brands to have more than one spokesperson or does that dilute the message? It’s actually smart to use more than one spokesperson or influencer. Every influencer has his or her own fan base so you’ll reach more audience segments this way, plus one spokesperson might appeal more to women or men, while another spokesperson may have more influence on younger people or professionals. Your message will go further into diverse circles if you do not limit yourself to one influencer. I also like using a variety of spokespersons on a publicity campaign, because they each have their own approach for delivering the message, which is unique to them, giving your product more depth and interest. Committing to one spokesperson can be risky, as the identity of your product could be too closely connected to one individual. What happens if that person is not available at some point in the future, or does something scandalous that you don’t want your brand to be associated with? If you have more than one spokesperson it shows that many experts are advocates of your supplement and if one of those experts tank, you don’t tank with them.

What’s the best channel for your influencer?
The first thing to consider is who is your audience and where are they consuming their information? The other factor you need to consider is what channel does the influencer excel on? Both are important, and you can make general assumptions based on this information as far as where you should target. But if you are not sure, then it’s always a good strategy to take your message to multiple channels, because media tends to feed off media and you never know where your message might really take off. Plus, many channels are using multiple platforms to cross-promote content. For example a local TV studio in Chicago may air a segment online and on Instagram TV (IGTV) too. A podcast can be heard on the Internet, but also on smart speakers or through individual apps that people use on a daily basis. By taking a multichannel approach you’ll be covering all of your bases for exposure and maximizing the use of your spokesperson.

How do you select an influencer?
When I’m looking for a good spokesperson for a supplement brand, I’m obviously looking for someone who has the proper credentials to discuss health issues related to the specific supplement. Having a cardiologist talk about heart health, a pharmacist talking about cold and flu season or a nutritionist talking about weight loss, for example. However, it’s not enough for the spokesperson to have the right title and resume, I’m also looking for someone who is entertaining. By entertaining I mean they need to be charismatic, energetic and be able to explain complicated subject matters in easy-to-understand soundbites. This is why I never choose someone on resume alone. It’s not enough to be smart, you also have to engage an audience quickly and be flexible with the media. Your spokesperson should have a lot of confidence. If someone is camera shy or doesn’t like talking about him or herself then being an influencer is going to be excruciating. You also have to look the part. If you are an expert on health, then the public and the media will expect you to look healthy. And you have to be readily available. Media interviews can be at odd times and on short notice. If your spokesperson has a busy schedule and can’t set aside time for media opportunities or the amount of time it will take to create quality and timely social media posts, you may be wasting your money. Especially if you have spokespersons on retainer and they are not available when you need them, it can be a disaster. I once lost a “TODAY” show booking for a client because the doctor they had on board as their spokesperson could not accommodate the interview in his schedule. A national media outlet like the “TODAY” show is not going to wait on an expert. If a story is planned they are doing it with or without you because there’s always another expert lined up waiting for this type of opportunity.

After you hire an spokesperson, then what?
Once the spokesperson passes this initial assessment test of being available, presentable, entertaining, confident and has the right credentials, sign him or her up, but know that in order to maximize your investment, the work does not stop here. No matter how seasoned or media savvy your influencer may be, positive and constructive feedback is essential to getting the most out of your spokesperson relationship. During the publicity campaign, I evaluate every media interview the influencer conducts or social posts that are made, to make sure the brand message stays on point. This requires a lot of time, but is important to monitor. If you don’t take time to do it, you could be wasting your money by not directing your spokesperson to become better on messaging for your supplement. You also want to provide positive feedback to your spokesperson. I see a lot of companies making this mistake, in which they hire a spokesperson and never give any feedback, good or bad. Perhaps some executives feel that if they hire a professional to do a job then that person should just do the job and payment is enough. However, if you positively reinforce to your spokesperson the things you like about his or her delivery of your brand message, this encouragement is only going to charge up an influencer more to do an even better job of being an advocate for your brand. If the influencer enjoys working for you, most likely you will get additional promotion from him or her that you aren’t even paying then for, simply because it’s fulfilling to work for you.

Think outside the box when it comes to influencers.
Hiring a spokesperson for your brand does not mean you have to hire a celebrity. There are many non-obvious options that can be explored before selecting an influencer, that might save you money and give you a better and more targeted return on investment. A good example of this is when I worked with the branded ingredient called Celadrin, used in many supplements to reduce joint pain and increase mobility. My client, who owned the ingredient at that time, decided to sponsor a senior women’s basketball team called the Tigerettes. The Celadrin Tigerettes were the only sponsored team in the National Senior Games and became the team with the most wins and gold medals in the Senior Olympics. These six Southern women ages 67-77 would share with the media that Celadrin was their secret weapon for winning games! We were able to secure tons of press for the Celadrin Tigerettes including ABC’s “World News with Diane Sawyer” and the “TODAY” show where they challenged and beat the show anchors in a full-court press match on Rockefeller Plaza. The Celadrin Tigerettes were a unique and original influencer choice that spoke directly to the target audience of Celadrin, by showing how Celadrin worked to improve their performance and quality of life in every media opportunity.

Anyone can potentially be a great influencer for your brand, but being strategic with your spokesperson can be critical to the success of your campaign.

Listen to the interview Amy Summers did with Natural Products Insider's Sandy Almendarez for SupplySide East. Then join her "Syncing public relations and marketing through a pandemic" webinar from 2 to 2:30 p.m. Eastern Tuesday, July 14.

5@5: Food companies fund organic research | Chipotle tests cauliflower rice

Getty Images organic farmers

Food companies step up funding for organic farming research

Companies like Clif Bar, Organic Valley and King Arthur are increasingly financing open-source, university research into organic seeds and plant varieties with the end goal of scaling up organic agriculture. Conventional agribusiness currently has an outsize impact on what is studied at agricultural universities, which has stifled the expansion of organic production historically in the U.S. Read more at Civil Eats


Chipotle tests cauliflower rice to lure health-conscious consumers

Chipotle plans to begin testing cauliflower rice in 55 of its restaurants across Denver and Wisconsin this week. While Chipotle has historically been opposed to meat substitutes from the likes of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, it is exploring a variety of plant-based menu options that meet its standards and aims to debut one or two new menu items each year. Read more at Bloomberg


The hunger crisis linked to coronavirus could kill more people than the disease itself, Oxfam warns

Emerging research from Oxfam warns that the hunger crisis, which has been significantly worsened by the pandemic, could potentially end up killing more people each day than COVID-19. Widespread loss of incomes, lack of social support and disruptions to the supply chain top the list in terms of affecting factors. And to top it all off, food and beverage industry giants such as Coca-Cola and General Mills are continuing to make large profits. Read more at CNN


Grocers urgently need to fix broken online business model, as pandemic shifts more to web, report says

The rise in online grocery shopping due to COVID-19 is squeezing profits from grocers, and many are rethinking the online grocery model to make it more sustainable in the long term. A new report from Bain & Co. details how the pandemic essentially pressed "the fast-forward button on the industry by several years" and recommends that grocers embrace automation and retire their fear of fees. Read more at CNBC


Vermont just banned food waste in trash. Here's how it works

Residents of Vermont are now required to compost any unfinished food that they would otherwise have thrown into their trash cans. However, even before the new Food Scrap Ban went into effect, 72% of the state's residents were either composting at home or feeding leftover food to livestock. The state has invested in composting infrastructure to make it easier for residents to comply. Read more at Fast Company

Amazon leads in online grocery shopper satisfaction

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Amazon scored highest in online grocery customer satisfaction and led in virtually all e-grocery areas examined in RFG's 2020 study.

Amazon leads in customer satisfaction among online grocery shoppers, while traditional supermarkets have seen the biggest gain in online shopping use versus a year ago, according to the 2020 U.S. Online and In-Store Grocery Shopping Study from Retail Feedback Group (RFG).

On a scale of 1 to 5, Amazon scored 4.47 in online grocery customer satisfaction, putting the e-tail giant just ahead of Walmart at 4.38, reported RFG, which polled 2,000 grocery shoppers (split evenly between online and in-store visitors) in late April to early May. Supermarkets and food stores rated at 4.33 for their online shopping experience, below the overall satisfaction score of 4.38. Instacart-fulfilled service earned a score of 4.35.

Though still high, this year’s online grocery satisfaction ratings are down from RFG’s 2019 study, when the overall customer rating was 4.48, with scores of 4.60 for Amazon, 4.45 for Walmart, 4.43 for supermarkets/food stores and 4.48 for Instacart.

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In-stock conditions and order turnaround were chief concerns of online grocery shoppers, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, RFG’s research showed. Just over half (51%) of those surveyed said their online retailer/service had everything in stock that they wanted to buy, while 49% said that wasn’t the case. For those encountering out-of-stocks, only 17% were able to purchase acceptable substitutions for all unavailable items. Fifty percent were able to procure acceptable substitutions for some not-in-stock items, and 33% found no such substitutions.

Meanwhile, 45% of respondents reported not receiving all items ordered online. Supermarkets saw the highest percentage of customers not getting everything they ordered (52%), followed by Walmart (45%) and Amazon (31%). RFG’s 2020 study noted that these figures are “massively higher” versus a year ago because of the pandemic’s supply chain disruptions. In the 2019 study, just 5% of online grocery shoppers didn’t receive all items ordered, with those percentages at 8% for supermarkets, 5% for Walmart and 3% for Amazon.

On the 1-to-5 scale, consumers rated online grocery providers at 3.68 overall for having the items they wanted in stock, led by Amazon at 4.02 and followed by Walmart (3.73), Instacart (3.70) and supermarkets (3.51).

Online grocery shoppers expressed more satisfaction with pickup and delivery, with 92% saying they received their order on time once they were able to obtain a delivery window. Respondents rated the availability of convenient pickup/delivery times at 4.22, with scores of 4.32 for Amazon, 4.21 for both Walmart and Instacart, and 4.15 for supermarkets. In terms of prompt and efficient pickup/delivery, consumers surveyed rated their experience at 4.33, led by Amazon at 4.44 and followed by Walmart (4.32), supermarkets (4.27) and Instacart (4.21). Online customers gave overall scores of 4.38 for items packaged well and 4.33 for items meeting their quality standards, with all online grocery providers earning good ratings in those areas.

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In RFG’s study, Amazon achieved the highest score in virtually areas of online grocery customer satisfaction, which also included easy navigation to desired products, smooth website/app performance and checkout process, and easy-to-find and -apply discounts. Walmart led in its online grocery service being a good value for the money, with a score of 4.34 versus 4.20 for Amazon, 4.09 for Instacart and 4.05 for supermarkets. Overall, survey respondents rated their online grocery experience at 4.20 in terms of being a good value for the money.

“Considering the sudden, sizable pressure on online grocery shopping during the pandemic, it is noteworthy overall satisfaction registered as high as it did,” noted Brian Numainville, principal at Lake Success, New York-based consumer research firm RFG.

When asked which online grocery retailer or service they used in the past 30 days, 40% of respondents in RFG’s 2020 study cited Walmart, which was up slightly from 37% in 2019. However, supermarkets saw the biggest gain in online shopping usage at 34%, up from 22% in 2019. That percentage fell to 14% from 29% last year for Amazon, while all other providers saw their share hold steady at 12%.

Overall, 36% of consumers surveyed by RFG this year said they were first-time online shoppers. That percentage was highest for supermarkets/food stores (17%), compared with 13% apiece for Walmart and Amazon. The latter two providers led in terms of frequency, with 55% of Amazon and 51% of Walmart online grocery shoppers saying they’ve used the service more than five times in the past 30 days, versus 43% for supermarkets/food stores.

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Within the last three months, 19% of respondents said tried or shopped three online grocery providers, while 34% used two providers. Another 5% tried or shopped four online grocery providers, and 4% used five or more.

Of respondents’ online grocery orders, 51% were fulfilled via pickup (47% in 2019), and 49% were fulfilled by delivery (53% in 2019). The percentage of orders/deliveries handled by Instacart rose to 36% in the 2020 study from 27% a year earlier.

Forty-six percent of consumers said they to buy groceries online more often in the next 12 months, up 41% in the 2019 study, RFG said. Meanwhile, 37% reported that their online grocery purchases will be about the same (54% in 2019), and 17% said they’ll shop for groceries online less often — up from 4% in 2019.

Amazon stands to see the largest increase in online grocery purchases in the next 12 months, with 52% of shoppers saying they’ll do more food shopping with Amazon, compared with 46% for Walmart and 44% for supermarkets. The percentage of customers reporting they’ll buy groceries online less often rose for all providers, led by supermarkets at 20% (5% in 2019), Walmart at 16% (3% in 2019) and 13% for Amazon (5% in 2019).

“Although supermarkets surged in online shopping use, and many customers may stick, the results show some supermarket shoppers don’t expect to continue online shopping,” Numainville added. “With that in mind, it will be important that supermarkets and online service providers maximize their investment by continually strengthening their offerings in order to retain existing customers, while attracting new ones, along with preparing for any future situations.”

supermarket news logoThis piece originally appeared on Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.