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Articles from 2012 In August

Natural Foods Merchandiser

It's possible to go green in Baltimore, here's how

It's possible to go green in Baltimore, here's how

Charm City. Smalltimore. There’s a reason these nicknames have stuck with this old harbor town. With a long industrial history stretching back to the Colonial days, Baltimore is a hotbed of cultural change and influence. From Francis Scott Key’s beautiful tribute to our flag to Billie Holiday’s transformation of American music, from H.L. Mencken’s acerbic pen to Edgar Allan Poe’s mysterious death, even the city’s famous residents embody its quirky, sometimes-gritty personality.

These days, Baltimore’s unique character is demonstrated through a new movement toward whole, organic and locally distributed foods. The joint is now hopping with nationally renowned restaurants whose missions include using locally sourced, seasonal and organic ingredients. Local agriculture is a big deal—from small, informal gardens cropping up on abandoned lots to dozens of farmers’ markets selling products produced on family farms throughout the state. The Royal Sonesta Harbor Court hotel hosts a beehive in its seventh-floor courtyard, and Baltimore’s school system runs the Great Kids Farm, a field-to-table initiative that teaches city kids lessons once relegated to rural areas.

Green spaces also shine, with a newly invigorated trail system and well-maintained parks. In fact, there are parts of Baltimore that don’t feel like an urban center, where you can hear birds calling their mates and even find patches of wild raspberries.

Yes, green living has come back to this former factory town, highlighting the role that cities play in our fragile, ecological system. Through a combination of government- and business-driven efforts, Baltimore has emerged as a hotspot of sustainability—if you know where to go.

Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods. Hampden, Fells Point, Mount Vernon, Roland Park, the Inner Harbor (or downtown)—each of these regions offers a unique experience and distinct personality. Still, as anyone in Charm City can attest, you can’t go anywhere within the city limits without running into someone you know or experiencing something truly unique.

See the sights

Across the water from the Inner Harbor, the American Visionary Arts Museum literally glitters in the sunlight—thanks to thousands of tiny glass pieces artistically arranged in thought-provoking mosaics along most of the outside walls. Inside, founder Rebecca Hoffberger has amassed a collection of unexpected pieces created by self-taught “visionary” artists from around the world. Many are made from reused materials, and even the museum buildings are reclaimed copper-factory offices and a whiskey warehouse. Several entries of the annual kinetic sculpture race reside in the museum’s tall sculpture barn, including FiFi, a hot-pink, fluffy poodle, and Bumpo, a 15-foot-tall Indian elephant. The on-site restaurant, Mr. Rain’s Fun House, is “seasonal sensitive” and serves local produce and meats.

Each Sunday, locals gather under the Jones Falls Parkway (Interstate 83) for the Baltimore Farmers’ Market and Bazaar. While it can be a bit tricky to get to—it’s located at Holliday and Saratoga streets—the trek is worth the effort. Farmers, musicians and artists eagerly discuss their wares with hungry patrons, and an eclectic variety of food stands sell ready-to-eat goods made from local produce, dairy and meats.

The crown jewel of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is the National Aquarium, an educational showcase of sustainability and ecology. The newly built Upland Tropical Rain Forest exhibit has an authentic feel, with humid air quality, screeching tropical birds and brightly colored tree frogs. Sharks encircle you as you stroll down into the depths of the museum in the sometimes-terrifying Open Ocean Shark Walk, and local wildlife is highlighted in Maryland: Mountains to the Sea. The Harbor Market eateries inside the aquarium are committed to eco-friendly and humane food production, featuring sustainable seafood and produce from regional farms. Dishes are served in reusable, compostable or recyclable containers.

Get back to nature

Baltimore also offers more up-close-and-personal looks at nature. The city’s trail system includes Gwynns Falls Trail. Rent a bike at Light Street Cycles and head over to Carroll Park to enjoy an 8-mile ride through scenic city parks.

Or head up to Cylburn Arboretum in northwest Baltimore for some outdoor yoga or a guided nature tour. This 207-acre urban park showcases ancient trees, rolling meadows and shaded woodlands. Bring a picnic lunch to enjoy under the arboretum’s giant magnolias or paw-paw trees.

North of the city is Irvine Nature Center, an educational facility that plays host to camps and special events. The 116 acres of woodlands, wetlands and meadows are also open to the public each day. Visitors are encouraged to hike trails, watch wildlife from secluded blinds along the path and get to know the 65 captive animals on-site.

Staying put and getting around

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott is the city’s first green hotel and the official green hotel of the National Aquarium. A 30-foot-tall grain silo in the courtyard now captures rainwater that irrigates the landscaping, and a green roof insulates the building and prevents storm-water runoff. Appliances and fixtures are designed to reduce energy, waste and water usage. The hotel has a zero-carbon footprint, made possible through the purchase of wind-sourced, renewable energy credits.

If you need more than your two feet to get around, Baltimore offers a variety of environmentally friendly transportation options. The light-rail system is an affordable way to move north and south, from the Baltimore Washington International Airport to Hunt Valley in Baltimore County. And the free Charm City Circulator is comprised of 21 hybrid buses that run four routes in downtown, Fells Point, Westside and Federal Hill. Get your own set of wheels from the city’s Zipcar service, with hundreds of available cars in a variety of options.

Laura Laing is a freelance writer based in Baltimore. 

New Hope 360 Blog

Easy ways to modify a favorite recipe

Easy ways to modify a favorite recipe

I’m constantly trying to encourage people that recipes—any recipes—should really be considered more like guidelines. If you have different ingredients on hand, or if you’re hankering for a different taste, give yourself permission to tweak as necessary! 

This definitely goes for Delicious Living recipes as well. Just last weekend, our beauty and digital editor, Jessica Rubino, made our favorite recipe for Chocolate Mousse Parfaits (with its secret superhealthy ingredient: avocado).

But because she was hosting a Mexican-themed party, she had the bright idea to add cinnamon and cayenne pepper to the mix, thus lending the mixture a south-of-the-border kick. She also topped it with mango instead of raspberries. Love it!


  • If you want to make tabblouleh but can’t eat wheat or gluten, make the same recipe with quinoa or millet.
  • If you don’t have pine nuts for classic basil pesto, use almonds, pistachios, or cashews.
  • If you don’t have spinach for a salad, substitute any finely chopped leafy green, such as kale, chard, or even beet greens. 
  • No olives? Try capers or sliced sun-dried tomatoes.

A caveat: The one exception to this "substitute at will" approach is baking, where measurements actually matter. (That's why I'm not very fond of baking.)

How have you modified your favorite Delicious Living recipes? Let us know in the comments below.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

4 new food products to taste at Expo East 2012

Who has time to comb the whole show floor for the hottest products? Here are four foods you need to check out at Expo East 2012.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Move beyond sustainability and begin regenerating Q&A with Tieraona Low Dog

Move beyond sustainability and begin regenerating Q&A with Tieraona Low Dog

Tieraona Low Dog, MD, has blended her background in midwifery, massage and herbalism with her subsequent medical degree to become an integrative medicine leader serving on national committees and as director of the fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine founded by Andrew Weil, MD.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: How do you describe your work to the uninitiated?

Tieraona Low Dog, MD: I am a physician and teacher, though I see myself primarily as a teacher—whether that’s conveying information to patients in my office, to people at a conference, or to medical students, residents or our fellows. I see myself as a conduit for the sharing of knowledge of conventional, complementary and integrative medicine in way that is easily understood.

I believe that my background has better enabled me to do this. I studied midwifery and attended massage school in the late 1970s; ran an herbal company, school and clinic; served as the president of the American Herbalist Guild; and earned the rank of third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do—all before going to medical school. It gave me a different perspective than many of the 22-year-olds who’d gone straight from high school to college and then medical school. For all my scientific and medical training, my roots are deep within the green, organic, local and bio-regional movement. 

NFM: Your book Life Is Your Best Medicine comes out in September. Who should read your book and why?

TLD: National Geographic asked me to write a book for the consumer audience after I worked with the company on The Guide to Medicinal Herbs. I reflected on that for a while: What do I have to say? What do I know? How would I say it? I thought if I was going to share anything, I’d want to share a little bit about my own life and then I’d want to take the three areas that I think are important to living a rich and meaningful life. The first part of the book is called “The Medicine of My Life,” which is really about what has happened in my life that led me to where I am today; the wonderful, joyful, hard and painful things. Then the book is divided into three sections: “Honoring the Body;” “Awakening the Senses;” and “Listening to Spirit.”  These are the doorways that allow us to step fully into our lives, taking responsibility for ourselves, our health and our well-being.  

NFM: What do you hope natural foods retailers will take away from your presentation?

TLD: I want to give them information they can use; but more than that, I want them to leave feeling as if they were personally touched. Allowing ourselves to be open, to lean in and listen, to be willing to shift ever so slightly—that’s when the magic happens. That’s when we can go back into our personal, professional and business lives and see things from a slightly different angle. It is my hope that people will leave feeling informed and inspired. 

NFM: What do consumers need from the natural products industry?

TLD: Consumers need to continue to have access to high-quality foods. They have the right to know where that food has come from, what is in it and how it was grown. While it’s important that it be sustainable, I would say that it is time to move beyond sustainable; it implies on some level the status quo. I am far more interested in supporting companies and businesses that are moving beyond sustainable to be life giving, life enhancing, regenerative. I would like to think that this is where our field, our industry, our community is going. For many decades, the natural products community has promoted a way of living and doing business that is softer to the Earth. We all leave footprints, but we must be thoughtful where our footprints are taking us.

NFM: What trends do you see that retailers should be aware of right now?

TLD: I definitely believe that there will continue to be a growing interest in organic and natural products. As baby boomers age, they are looking for ways to maintain their fitness as they get older. Many are concerned about the numbers of medications being offered to them and are interested in a more holistic approach. But it’s also the young people [fueling this trend]. Many are doing yoga, going vegetarian, taking supplements, meditating ... it’s great. There is a tremendous interest in work-life balance—a recognition that there is more to life than climbing the corporate ladder.

Even with the Internet, people will continue to seek out places where they can feel part of a community. This is a great way for retailers to expand their role as promoters of well-being. Their stores could act as a wellness hub, a place where health and lifestyle coaches, nutritionists, dietitians, and other clinicians can come together to hold cooking classes, conduct shopping tours, offer integrative health fairs and many other strategies to enhance the health of their communities. We all need to be engaged, whether at the local, regional, state or national level. And natural products retailers could expand their role as promoters of well-being. I don’t think real change will happen without a broader way of thinking about health. Access is important, yes; but access to more of the same isn’t going to stem the tide of chronic disease in this country. We’ve spent billions of dollars unraveling the human genome, and we still can’t figure out a way to get people moving or eating a nutritious diet. 

Market Quickstart Japan a smashing success

Market Quickstart Japan a smashing success

To an audience of more than 70 industry executives from leading nutritional companies, Engredea’s Market Quickstart (MQS) IV, Japan, comes to a close. Engredea Executive Director Len Monheit states: “The interest and engagement with which we’ve been received and sent off from every venue has been amazing. This market looks eagerly to U.S. trends and to reach much more aggressively into U.S. export opportunities.”

With scheduled 2012 programs in India, Japan and China, MQS is a teaching program, offered exclusively by New Hope's Engredea. MQS helps companies in the healthy and natural products industry prepare for international business, especially in the United States.

Focused mostly on companies providing healthy ingredients for supplements, food, beverage and personal care, this one- or one-and-a-half-day workshop brings international experts to discuss regulations, markets, opportunities, how to communicate, best practices, quality and supply issues and other critical topics with leading international organizations wanting to learn how to improve their international business. This workshop is intended to help non-U.S.-based companies increase their success in international trade.

For dates and details, visit Engredea MQS Program.

For further information, please contact Kendal Norris at 303.998.9321 or [email protected]

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Safeguarding product quality with The Green Grocer

Safeguarding product quality with The Green Grocer

When The Green Grocer’s owner John Wood pulled Kashi and other cereals containing genetically modified organisms from his store shelves in January, little did the Portsmouth, R.I.-based retailer know that within three months he would receive nationwide attention. How can you vet the safety and quality of the products you carry so your consumers don’t have to? Wood offers this advice.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: A photo of your shelf talker went viral on Facebook, prompting Kashi to pledge to ditch GMOs in its main product lines. How did this start?

John Wood: We made the decision to pull products in January, based on The Cornucopia Institute’s Cereal Crimes report, which called out several natural brands for containing known levels of pesticide residues that were either recognized hormone disruptors or carcinogens and showed the amount of GMOs in natural cereals.

We knew we couldn’t keep [the offending cereals] on the shelves, but we also realized our customers are passionate about certain products and that name-brand following can have a strong impact on purchasing behavior. We decided we had to tell people why we no longer carried these products so they wouldn’t go somewhere else to buy them and we wouldn’t lose long-term customers.

So the signs went up in January, and then on April 20 we posted the picture to GrandyOats’ Facebook wall, because I had seen the company’s representatives at a trade show and they’d asked about it. That Sunday it exploded.

NFM: When you first posted the signs, what was consumer response like in your store?

JW: It was overall very positive. People told us that this was why they trust and shop with us—because of our integrity and because we are passionate about scrutinizing what goes on our shelves. We haven’t clearly communicated our standards to our consumers, yet they’ve picked up on them just from looking at our product mix.

NFM: Did you notice any change in business after pulling the GM-containing products (Kashi, Barbara’s Bakery, Peace Cereal and Bear Naked)?

JW: We had only a handful of GrandyOats [which is certified organic] available when we made the transition and we increased it to the entire line. We haven’t seen a negative impact on sales since pulling the products. Our cereal sales remain as strong as they had been, despite the fact that we eliminated a bulk of three brands comprising one-quarter to one-third of our cereal section.

NFM: Would you bring Kashi back?

JW: We carry three of Kashi’s organic SKUs. That was a misunderstanding somewhere along the line, that we got rid of all Kashi products. That was never true. We believe when a company makes a commitment to doing something right, like doing organic SKUs, the more those SKUs are supported by a store like ours or a consumer, the more likely [the company] is to pursue those standards and create more products along those lines. I would personally be more than happy to carry anything that Kashi produces that’s USDA Certified Organic. And I would also be willing to carefully evaluate any of the Non-GMO Verified products as well.

NFM: Have you heard from the other brands you pulled from your shelves?

JW: I have not. Unfortunately Kashi seems to be the sacrificial lamb in this particular process. I tried so hard to make it clear that this is not about one brand. This is about our food system as a whole. Even Bear Naked has barely gotten any sort of negative feedback on its Facebook page. But, Kashi is huge.

It’s not just about any one company. This is a conversation that needs to continue. Organic agriculture is really the only sustainable way to repair our planet and feed ourselves.

Regularily vetting product quality

NFM: How do you vet for product quality on a regular basis?

JW: We evaluate the ingredients lists of every product we bring into the building, even if it comes from a company we know and trust. As manufacturers change, ingredients and nutritional profiles also can change—and that can make a difference in whether a product is something we want to sell.

Organic is always our first choice—a good organic, wholesome product and not just a knockoff of a conventional item. We also source for quality organic and locally grown goods so we can support the communities in which we live. If there is no organic version available or the price point makes it unobtainable for the consumer, we’ll vet using our “natural” definition—meaning there can’t be any artificial colors or sweeteners or hydrogenated fats and it’s something we’d eat and feed to our kids.

We also do our best to vet products to be non-GMO. We like to see if a manufacturer has a non-GMO stance and then weigh that with the overall company profile. If it has one product that looks questionable but the rest are fantastic and 100 percent organic, then we usually allow some leeway.

NFM: Beyond GMOs and artificial colors and sweeteners, what do you avoid stocking in your store?

JW: Here are a few ingredients we watch for: maltitol and carboxymethyl cellulose, often found in gluten-free foods; autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed vegetable proteins, disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate (all have been shown to contain MSG or form it in the body); synthetic vitamin E as a preservative; sulfites/sulfates; nitrite/nitrates; potassium bromate; and caramel coloring.

NFM: You’re knowledgeable about harmful substances in our food system. How do you educate your employees about these issues?

JW: Most of our staff comes to us having no experience in this industry whatsoever. But within months, there’s a noticeable change in what they eat. There are two levels of education taking place here: peer education, which can have a stronger impact; and employer education, which is equally important—especially being consistent with it.

We do twice-a-month, in-store trainings with brokers and manufacturers who talk about an aspect of a product line we carry. The focus usually surrounds buzz topics such as Dr. Oz’s latest health craze, fish oil or herbal extracts. We also talk about new products as they arrive, answering the question: “Why did we choose this?”

NFM: What advice can you give other retailers who wish to enact healthy change in our food system?

JW: Never underestimate customers—they are hungrier for knowledge than most retailers believe. Secondly, don’t be afraid to separate yourself from the crowd. Anything we sell can be found somewhere else, whether at Whole Foods, online or at Walmart, and anything we do can be done somewhere else. It’s how we do things that makes a huge difference. When we separate ourselves from our competition, big or small, by committing to certain values, quality, ingredients lists, whatever it may be—that’s what’s going to keep customers coming back. We as retailers and the organic food movement can then become a greater value than anybody else can offer.

Store statistics

Square feet: 3,000

SKUs: 9,000 to 10,000

Employees: 8

Gross margin: 34 percent


Natural Foods Merchandiser

Focusing on friendliness with Wheatsville Food Co-op

Focusing on friendliness with Wheatsville Food Co-op

Wheatsville Food Co-op in Austin knows Texas-sized competition. The natural foods cooperative operates in supernatural Whole Food Market’s hometown, where the chain has four locations including one of its flagship stores. Recent years have brought Sprouts, Sunflower and Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage. And HEB’s Central Market, a natural/gourmet superstore, has two locations in the city. Still, Wheatsville’s general manager hasn’t wilted. Instead he’s smiled and made the co-op the friendliest store in town.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: How did you decide to focus on friendliness?

Dan Gillotte: I had been reading Jim Collins’ book Good to Great a number of years ago and he talked about the idea of owning something you can be best at. I looked around, and that was even before we had as much competition as we do today, and I thought, we can’t be the biggest and don’t necessarily want to be the biggest anyway, and because we aren’t the biggest, we can’t have the greatest selection, and we can’t necessarily have the lowest prices, although we are OK with our prices. So I kept coming around to the idea that we could be the friendliest store in town.

Any size store can conceivably own friendliness. And although Whole Foods and Central Market have good customer service, we still thought we could win in that category. At the time that I said this, we were not the friendliest store in town. We had a history of surliness and a somewhat bad reputation to improve.

NFM: So what came next?

DG: We started to lay out a course for how we were going to become friendliest. We created trainings and changed our hiring to focus on people who were going to give excellent customer service. We worked with people who were here. We reviewed operations so that we focused on the user, the customer, instead of making it easier for us or just a system to have a system. We looked at all of our policies and processes and asked: Is it easiest for the customer?

And we initiated a program called Make It Right, which we largely borrowed from Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service. The book was really important for us to read and think about as we were doing this. The idea is to go the extra mile. We call it Make It Right because we know we are going to make mistakes, but we want to fix them if we can, which really makes the difference in whether people will give you another chance. In our case, we empower staff to do whatever is required to fix a customer’s problem. We teach staff to ask people “What can I do to make it right for you?” because sometimes what people want is different from what we would think to offer.

NFM: Has it grown in other ways?

GM: We realized being the friendliest couldn’t just be about being friendliest to customers. Managers needed to be friendly to our staff, and staff needed to be friendly to each other. We needed to be friendly to our neighbors, and we needed to be friendly to our vendors. Over the years, in increments, we expanded the circle of friendliness.

NFM: How do you train friendliness?

GM: It starts with hiring. We ask a lot of motivational fit questions that can raise red flags for review. Our team heads spend about half a day with each new staff person, setting expectations and telling them about customer service and how we’re the friendliest store in town. Then we have a three-hour class called More Happy People 101 that new hires take in their first couple of months. They learn why we do what we do; the Fish! training system from ChartHouse and its principles—play, make their day, choose your attitude and be there—as foundational shorthand for how we treat each other and customers. And then we use pieces of Zingerman’s five steps to handling customer complaints. We’ve put a bunch of trainings together to make one we think really makes a difference. We say most places hire people and expect them to become better employees; we hire employees and expect them to become better people.

NFM: And how do you keep it up?

GM: It’s in the culture. We have a program called Caught in the Act, which is just a little form that people can fill out recognizing others, such as when someone helps a coworker clean up a spill. We hang the appreciation up on a bulletin board and post it in our bi-weekly check notes. Building this culture of appreciation didn’t start magically. The first Caught in the Act was on the wall for almost a year. But we kept promoting it. Now, every two weeks, we fill up a bulletin board. Everything we do is sort of magical in a way, but it wasn’t magic to create. We worked hard at it.

NFM: How long has it taken?

GM: We started five or six years ago. To get real results took a couple of years. Now it is truly ingrained. Residents love us in a way that makes people want to work here.

Promoting Friendliness

NFM: How do you promote the “friendliest store in town” concept to your customers?

GM: We don’t tell people that we’re the friendliest store in town very often. We’re actually working on a branding project right now and are trying to figure out if  that is important. For the most part, people experience it. We have a secret shopper program, and the shoppers are frequently impressed with how much service we have on the floor, how many times they were greeted in the aisles and the ways they were addressed.

NFM: What has been your most successful promotion?

GM: Our owner appreciation days are really important, really driving sales. Four times a year we have a week when owners can get a 10 percent discount. I debate whether it’s worth it as far as a margin hit goes, but from a sales, excitement and enthusiasm perspective, it’s killer. We have Sundays that have $20,000 to $30,000 more sales, for example, and it’s because people come to our store that week instead of going to Whole Foods or Sprouts or other stores. I also think we get them to buy their body care, vitamins, staple items; and even though they’re buying them with a discount from us, they’re not buying them anywhere else. Any kind of system where you can get people to choose you over someone else, even a couple of times a year, will have an impact. Beyond that, our word of mouth is just amazing.

NFM: What other competitive strategies have you employed?

GM: After our renovation, I realized we needed to get in alignment for the future so that we all weren’t thinking we wanted to go in a million different directions and do different things. I reduced goals from the board of directors to more local, organic sustainable food, more cooperative economy and more happy people. Those three things became the foundation for Wheatsville’s BIG Direction [Business Is—now and in the future—Good], which is the idea that we would need to have more stores to achieve our ends.

NFM: Strategic planning often gets overlooked. What drove you to do one and find the time to complete it?

GM: I knew it was important because I was starting to get frustrated that people couldn’t read my mind. I had this whole idea where we ought to go and I didn’t understand why people didn’t know it. Once I said it that way sort of stupidly, I realized they didn’t know it because I hadn’t told them. It’s really important to me that it’s easily understandable. I’m definitely not a 500-page strategic plan guy. I set aside a few hours every month for a while and then spent some dedicated time putting it in a form that I could present to people. It was definitely worth the time.

Store statistics

Square feet: 8,400
SKUs: About 11,000
Employees: 145
Gross margin: 38 percent

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Cultivating community with Bi-Rite Market

Cultivating community with Bi-Rite Market

Bi-Rite Market was once a San Francisco neighborhood convenience store with bars on the windows. When Sam Mogannam took over (it had been in his family for years), he transformed it into a neighborhood community hub with food as its drawing card. Completely unassuming from the outside (the flowers give you just a hint of what’s inside), walking into the 2,700-square-foot Bi-Rite store feels like home, which is exactly what Mogannam wants customers to experience.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: What is your elevator pitch for Bi-Rite Market?

Sam Mogannam: It’s a neighborhood market feeding our community with great food and great service.

NFM: Who is your target shopper?

SM: It’s so vast and varied, it’s crazy … old people, young people, every ethnicity that there is. It’s fairly balanced between men and women, people who work across many industries. I mean it’s a cross section of San Francisco and that’s what I love about it.

NFM: Prior to taking over Bi-Rite Market, you trained and worked as a chef. What has your restaurant perspective brought to the grocery world?

SM: It brought a much higher level of service. Anybody who has worked in a full-service restaurant understands that when somebody walks through the door, they’re your guest for the next hour or two. So it’s the perception of treating people who walk through the doors as guests, not customers. We’re there to feed them and serve them and that might mean we’re going to have a dialogue with them to understand what they need. My personal background as a chef and a cook taught me that you can’t have a great meal unless you start with great ingredients. We take the same philosophy and apply it to everything we put on our shelves. A product has to deliver on flavor, it has to fill a need, and it has to serve a purpose. We’re not going to carry 300 SKUs of cereal; we’ll carry a few.

NFM: Can you talk about your role and your staff’s role as product curators?

SM: It’s a dialogue. We’re not making the choices for them; we’re telling them what we love and what we’re excited about and why. In that process we’re oftentimes tasting the product with them, so they get excited. When guests walk out the door, they feel empowered and they won’t be disappointed when they get home. We have a relationship with them through this dialogue and moments of sharing and communication that build trust, and ultimately that’s how we build community. You build something that has a solid foundation. A community needs a solid foundation. 

NFM: Your store has many community circles. How do you define community?

SM: Our mission is “creating community through food.” We draw this as an equilateral triangle. The points are our guests, our staff and our producers. It doesn’t matter which way you turn the triangle, no one point is more important or weighted, each is interdependent on the other for success. We can’t have a strong relationship with guests unless we have good relationships with our vendors and are able to secure really good food to sell. And if we don’t have this food to sell, then we don’t make money to pay our staff to provide them with meals and benefits. It’s all linked and it all has to be treated equally. The fourth component is that we draw a circle around the triangle and that’s our environment, the earth.

Through this process, we have to make sure we’re operating responsibly. We have to try to do everything we can to mitigate our environmental impact and use producers who do the same. Food is the blood that runs through that triangle. It goes from vendors to our staff to our guests and then at the heart of the center is service, which pumps the blood through it. Our service needs to be genuine; it needs to be caring, seamless and inspiring. Ultimately, what we want to feel and what we want our staff to feel is that not only are they feeding our guests, but in this process they’re being fed. It’s exciting and it’s fueling them. It’s more than putting a tomato in someone’s basket; it’s about building a community and a strong local economy.

NFM: What role does education play in creating a community?

SM: It’s critical. We couldn’t do it without it. It starts with me and the managers educating ourselves as much as we can and creating a culture of learning and really seeking staff members that thrive on being barraged with information. It’s so we can educate the public about why food is so important, how vital their role is in preserving good food and helping a good food system grow. Every time they eat they can impact the system three times a day.

NFM: What role does staff play in creating a community?

SM: We love people who have restaurant experience, but we look for people who are passionate. We love hiring people who like to cook and cook regularly. Part of our mission is that we want people to cook more. We want to make it easy. And as you’re picking up that rutabaga, if the staff on the floor can’t tell you what to do with it and a guest doesn’t know what rutabaga is, then it’s useless. 

NFM: Can you tell us about the community food space 18 Reasons ( you opened and why, as a store owner, you would take on such an endeavor?

SM: For me personally, I missed a part of the restaurant business where I actually was able to engage with guests for an hour and a half. I love that. We get lots of 5- to 10-minute transactions with our guests, and over time they build, which is great, but you can only go into so much depth in 5 minutes or 2 minutes. You don’t get to touch everyone in that period of time.

18 Reasons gives us the chance to touch people and go deeper with the info. Our tagline there is to “Learn, think and do.” We wanted to create a space where people can learn and think about what they’re learning and then take action on it. Once they leave, we want them to share it and do something about it, do something with that information. I feel education is vital for any business. A lot of grocery stores have classrooms now. It’s the same principal. It doesn’t have to be a separate space.

Creating return customers

NFM: What is it about your store that keeps customers coming back?

SM: We have amazing food and amazing service. It’s that simple. It’s not complicated. They trust us. We’re feeding them good food, and doing all this vetting for them, so when they come in, they don’t have to think as hard. It’s a Bi-Rite seal of approval.

NFM: Do you have a loyalty program?

SM: No. It takes away the whole point of it—it makes it mechanical and it monetizes and quantifies the relationship, as opposed to it being a relationship, which is about two people. Sooner or later, people are figuring it out. Stockbox Grocers in Seattle—she gets it. Soon there will be a whole other generation of stores opening up that understand that food is a lot more than a means of creating a transaction. They’re vital for sustaining a community.

NFM: How do you overcome threats from big grocery stores?

SM: They’re always a threat. They’re changing and adapting their models. Stores like ours can never compete on price; and no matter how good and how much it supports an eco-system, we’re still dealing with a challenging time when money isn’t as fluid. So we try to win on everything else. We try to get produce from farms that are so small that the supermarket can’t deal with them and we’re going to get meat ranchers who raise it to our specs.  So we have items no one else has. We try to make sure we keep inspired and excited. We know they won’t do all their shopping with us and that’s cool as long as they’re sharing part of it with us. 

NFM: What about your business keeps you up at night?

SM: My staff. It’s a big family. There are a lot of us and there is always someone who needs more attention. I care so much about them. I want to make sure everyone is OK. It’s the most important topic with the management team, making sure everyone is being checked in with and it’s more than just a task.

NFM: What keeps you excited about the business?

SM: Future generations. I meet so many young folks, kids, high school and college students, who are so fired up about the food movement and to do something that is meaningful. I love being an inspiration to them and that gets me excited.

Store statistics

Square feet: 27,00 square feet

SKUs: About 6,000

Employees: 120

Gross margin: 45 percent

FrieslandCampina revenue up 7.6 percent in H1

FrieslandCampina revenue up 7.6 percent in H1

  • Revenue up by 7.6 percent to 5,089 million euro
  • Operating profit up by 3.3 percent to 217 million euro
  • Profit up by 8.7 percent to 138 million euro
  • Pro forma performance premium (1.42 euro) and pro forma distribution of member bonds (0.95 euro) in total up to 2.37 euro per 100 kilos of milk

In the first half of 2012 the net revenue of Royal FrieslandCampina N.V. rose by 7.6 percent to 5,089 million euro. Profit rose by 8.7 percent to 138 million euro. Volume growth and higher sales prices, to offset the increased costs, contributed towards the revenue growth and improved result. In the first half of 2012 the overall volume rose by 2.4 percent but the strategic value drivers achieved a volume growth of 4.5  percent. Most of the volume growth was achieved in the consumer and business to business markets for infant & toddler nutrition. The dairy-based beverage category also achieved growth, most of it in Asia.

The results from operating activities were 9.4 percent higher than for the first half of 2011. After the reservation of 15 million euro (2011: 2 million euro) for the payment of the meadow milk premium (amounts to 0.32 euro per 100 kilos of milk calculated over all member milk) operating profit rose by 3.3 percent to 217 million euro.

The Consumer Products International and Ingredients business groups once again increased both their revenue and their result. Consumer Products Europe improved its result despite the difficult market conditions in Europe. Its revenue dropped due to pressure on volume. The Cheese, Butter & Milkpowder business group’s revenue and result both fell primarily due to low sales prices for butter and milk powder.

Cees ’t Hart CEO Royal FrieslandCampina:
“FrieslandCampina can look back on a good first half of 2012. Both revenue and result rose despite the difficult market conditions in Europe and the steep drop in the market prices for butter and milk powder. In part due to this the guaranteed price of milk from the member dairy farmers was less than in the first half of 2011. Asia, where FrieslandCampina achieved a quarter of its total revenue, made a major contribution towards the revenue growth and improved result. The volume of infant & toddler nutrition has increased in both the Ingredients and Consumer Products International business groups.”


Symrise becomes largest Probi shareholder

Symrise becomes largest Probi shareholder

The Probi probiotic company, which is listed on the Nasdaq OMX Nordic Exchange Stockholm, has gained a new industrial shareholder in the German company Symrise. Symrise has acquired a total of 1,102,301 shares, corresponding to 11.8 percent of the capital and 12.1 percent of the voting rights in the company, making it Probi’s largest shareholder. This information has been published in a notice disclosing a significant change in ownership.

Symrise is a leading global supplier of fragrances, flavourings, raw materials and functional ingredients. The company’s customers include leading manufacturers in the beauty, food and pharmaceutical industries and its products are used in a number of everyday items, including perfumes, bodycare products, textiles, healthcare products, consumer healthcare products, beverages, ready-made food, sweets and dairy products.

The company has two business areas: Flavor and Nutrition, which includes an extensive consumer healthcare division, and Scent and Care. The value chain of both business areas includes research, purchasing, product development, marketing, sales and customised solutions. The company’s focus is on developing innovative solutions and products for global customers in new markets. With a market share of approximately 10 percent, Symrise is the world’s fourth largest supplier of fragrances and flavourings.

Symrise has nearly 5,500 employees and is active in 35 countries, with sales operations in 160 countries. The company’s sales in 2011 totalled approximately EUR 1.6 billion. Symrise has been listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange since 2006 under the ticker SY1.

“We are pleased to welcome Symrise as a new shareholder in Probi. Symrise has significant industrial expertise and a global network. There is currently no industrial collaboration between Probi and Symrise, but we intend to investigate the benefits of such a partnership,” says Michael Oredsson, CEO of Probi.