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Articles from 2018 In August

The key to kombucha’s continued growth? Accessibility

Brew Dr. Kombucha Brew Dr. Promo Image

Longtime kombucha enthusiasts likely know that explaining what the beverage is to nondrinkers has always been challenging. A fizzy tea that’s fermented with a slimy, mushroom-like SCOBY—a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast—that’s sometimes called “The Mother”? Oh, and it’s sour and vinegary?

Yeah … doesn't sound too appetizing.

But sales data show that both natural and conventional consumers are embracing this probiotic-packed drink at surprisingly high rates. In early 2018, SPINS found that U.S. retail sales of kombucha grew a whopping 37.4 percent in 2017 to $556 million—a figure that doesn’t include sales data from Whole Foods Market or Costco—meaning actual sales are likely much higher. Plus, Euromonitor International predicts that by 2019, U.S. kombucha sales will reach a crazy-high $656.7 million.

According to Matt Thomas, founder and CEO of Brew Dr. Kombucha, a USDA Organic brand distributed across the United States and Canada, sales aren’t going to fizzle anytime soon. Rather, there’s ample room for kombucha to continue its bubbly, tangential growth.

“The fact remains that still just a small percent of the population even has an idea of what kombucha is,” Thomas says. “There is a huge opportunity to continue educating and innovating on kombucha in the United States. ‘Kombucha’ is a funny word. Fermented tea with bacteria and yeast is a funny idea. And for a long time, it was seen as a yoga-hippie drink.”

Improving kombucha’s accessibility is a key way to foster more kombucha consumers across the United States. Brew Dr.’s recently launched kombucha packaged in aluminum cans is a promising way to attract more mainstream shoppers.

Sold in four packs not unlike craft beer, Brew Dr. effectively transforms kombucha—which has historically been sold in as a premium beverage in glass bottles—into an everyday product suitable for sharing at barbecues.

“Kombucha is coming out of its infancy," Thomas says. "And all the brands have grown up in the single-serve glass bottle that indicates craft and quality. The can gives us an opportunity to be stocked and consumed everywhere—where glass can’t be.” The cans are also easily crushable, making them well-suited to tote along on a hike. 

Aluminum cans earn environmental bonus points over glass, too—an important factor to Thomas, as he’s spent the last year readying Brew Dr. to be a Certified B Corporation, which requires companies to pay attention to their environmental impact, among other mission-based business practices. Aluminum is lighter than glass, which mitigates carbon emissions associated with heavy freight. Aluminum cans also have a better recycling track record than glass—compare aluminum’s 67 percent recycling rate to the abysmal 26.4 percent for glass.

Ultimately, Thomas views kombucha’s meteoric rise as an indication that value-added functional drinks—perhaps even more so than flavored sparkling water—have the most promising growth opportunity in beverage. Kombucha is capturing market share from the majority of RTD drinks in the grab-and-go cold case, including coconut water, sugary cold-pressed juices and, of course, traditional sodas.

But there’s still a long way to go. Thomas would love to see kombucha stocked in more conventional c-stores and even in gas stations. More on-shelf visibility can help all kombucha companies grow, and help more mainstream consumers transition away from less healthy beverages. The challenge is getting such shoppers to try it. Placing the beverage in a recognizable aluminum can could encourage shoppers to take the first step to enjoying kombucha every day.

[email protected]: Bolthouse Farms part of Campbell sale plan | New Go store smaller than first

Campbell Soup to sell international business and fresh unit

Campbell Soup Co. is planning to sell its international and refrigerated foods divisions, including Bolthouse Farms, Garden Fresh, Arnott’s and Kelen. Combined, the sale would cut the company’s estimated revenue for this year 20 percent. The move leaves open the possibility that the entire company could be sold. Read more at The Wall Street Journal


New Amazon Go store shrinks in size, a sign of hope for competitors

The new Go store—Amazon’s cashier-less convenience store—that opened this week in Seattle is 20 percent smaller than the first one, the Seattle Times reported. The changes might be evidence that the small store’s technology has limitations that the public won’t like. Read more at Forbes


USDA confirms sixth case of Mad Cow disease in past 15 years

A 6-year-old mixed breed beef cow in Florida is the sixth case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy found in the United States in the past 15 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The last previous case of Mad Cow Disease was in 2012. The Florida cow was not slaughtered for human consumption, and it was sent to Colorado State University for testing. The investigation is continuing. Read more at Food Safety News


Eating cheese and red meat is actually good for you

Eating more red meat and cheese might help you live longer, according to researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Study subjects who ate the most red meat and dairy had a 25 percent lower risk or early death and a 22 percent lower risk of a fatal heart attack, they reported. Up to three servings of dairy and one portion of red or white meat can be beneficial to heart health and longevity, one of the researchers said. Read more at the New York Post


Global warming could spur more and hungrier crop-eating bugs

Besides drought and floods, global warming could tighten our food supply in another way: Making bugs hungrier. If climate change doesn’t slow down, insects could eat 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food by the end of the century, researchers found. The study’s results are based on computer simulations. Read more at The Washington Post

Why brands should never change their UPC codes

Hand scanning a UPC code

One of the biggest no-nos for any brand is changing the UPC code on a product. Why? If you ask Dan Richard, vice president of sales and marketing at NOW Foods, changing a product’s UPC code essentially erases its entire history. “Let’s say you sell online,” he explains. “If you achieved a certain rank or starred review, those will not transfer to the new SKU.” All that work and time? Lost.

Another practical reason not to change UPCs is that it costs time and money. First, many retailers will charge new placement fees for a change like that, even if they carried the product under the old UPC. Plus, internally, “it’s a huge process to change UPC codes,” Richard says, especially for a brand like NOW, which has over 1,500 SKUs and a thorough review process that starts with R&D and requires a number of sign-offs even for a minor change. “For us, a new UPC is basically like creating a whole new product,” he says.

That’s why NOW won’t change the UPC of a product if it goes from gelatin to vegetarian capsules, or if a product attains a certification like Kosher or USDA Organic. The only time NOW makes a change is when they’re changing sizes—going from 60 caps to 90, for example—or potency. Sometimes, the brand may offer separate natural and organic versions of the same product, in which case two unique UPCs are required to appeal to different price points. But, other than that, Richard emphatically believes that keeping the UPC code is essential to building the history of a product. “The bottom line is that we’d rather make changes within the same SKU,” he says.

The only time you may want to erase that history? “If you’ve had a recall and don’t want the reputation of having a tainted product,” he says. “In that case, you may keep the product essentially the same, but hit the restart button by changing the UPC.”

Vitamin D media bias clouds the issue

jarun011/iStock/Getty Images Plus vitamin D blood test

The New York Times is called The Gray Lady, and perhaps it’s this correlation to cloud color that makes her shun the sunshine vitamin.

To be clear, the Times has never been a particular fan of dietary supplements, but in the Aug. 18 edition it called into question the motivations of Boston University professor Michael Holick, Ph.D., M.D., author of “The Vitamin D Solution” (Plume, 2010) and chief evangelist of vitamin D because Holick consults companies involved in vitamin D testing.

“Vitamin D, the sunshine supplement, has shadowy money behind it,” wrote Times reporter Liz Szabo. “The doctor most responsible for creating a billion-dollar juggernaut has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the vitamin D industry.”

The article discussed how Holick published a paper that countered the 2011 recommendation from the Institute of Medicine that basically concluded there was no vitamin D problem in America, and blood levels of 20 ng/ml were considered appropriate. Holick’s paper noted that “vitamin D deficiency is very common in all age groups” and recommended a minimum blood level of 30 ng/ml.

At this higher level, roughly 80 percent of Americans have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D.

This led to a surge in people getting blood tests for vitamin D, and one company that conducts vitamin D tests is Quest Diagnostics, which pays Holick $1,000 a month.

“I don’t get any additional money whether they sell one test or one billion,” said Holick.

Is vitamin D necessary?

Besides claiming that vitamin D tests themselves are a scam perpetrated by an academic in order to feather his nest, the Times piece also claimed that “there’s no evidence that people with the higher level are any healthier than those with the lower level.”

This is a dangerous assertion. Vitamin D tests are inexpensive, vitamin D itself is a very inexpensive ingredient, and there is much evidence that vitamin D levels correlate with a range of health benefits.

And that is part of the problem. When the vitamin D recommendations were set by the Institute of Medicine, there were three significant concerns raised by vitamin D researchers and holistic health practitioners.

One, the IOM recommendations focused only on bone health, as if that were the only thing vitamin D was good for.

Two, vitamin D researchers were advocating a minimum 2,000 IU/day would be necessary, though renowned vitamin D researcher Robert Heaney thought in advance that the IOM might settle at a far less 1,000 IU (they came in at 600, though 800 for those older than 71).

“The principal casualty of this is the credibility of the IOM,” said Heaney. “There were no day-to-day vitamin D scientists on the panel, and the working vitamin D community says they're off base."

And three, the report was also used in conjunction with health authorities in Canada—and does anyone actually think vitamin D intake levels are the same for a person in Florida as in Manitoba?

The non-profit Vitamin D Council recommends 5,000 IU/day for a 150-pound adult, which it says will get most people to a “healthy” blood level of 50 ng/ml.

Non-bone benefits

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found a trend that vitamin D and calcium intake decreased the incidence of cancer. Researchers in the placebo-controlled trial found increasing anti-cancer effects with higher blood levels, up to 60 ng/ml, and then it leveled off. This suggests that the healthiest blood level of hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) is 60 ng/ml and not 20 as the IOM recommends—and that’s because this is focused on cancer incidence and not just bone health.

Another study found 2,000 IU/day vitamin D led to increased birth weight and lower blood pressure among pregnant women.

Another study found that 4,400 IU/day vitamin D among pregnant women led to a 6.1 percent decreased incidence of asthma among children up to age 3.

A 2016 study in Iran found pregnant women who received two doses of 50,000 IU vitamin D three weeks apart during pregnancy had nearly three times fewer C-sections than the placebo group.

Industry takeaways

For retailers talking with customers about the real deal on D, the officially government-sanctioned recommendation about vitamin D—that 20 ng/ml is sufficient—is too low and based only on bone health. For a real bone-health solution, stock supplements that are more than just elemental calcium. A medley of ingredients that comprise the bone matrix might include calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, phosphorus, boron, and vitamin K2.

For manufacturers and marketers, foods can be easily and inexpensively fortified with vitamin D. To have 1,000 IU in your product—and thus rate an “excellent source” claim—would cost about 0.045 cents, according to supplier Dan Murray of Xsto Solutions.

"I think we should fortify at 1,000 IUs per serving if we want to have an 'impact'-type dose," said Murray. "More is possible if we are talking a supplement, but for food we should stay a little low. It would not be unreasonable for a food to have 400 IUs and hold itself out as being 'high' in vitamin D with 100 percent of the RDA."

For researchers designing studies into vitamin D, the most important starting point is to make sure you measure baseline hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) levels of study subjects. This holds true for any nutrient study. That’s because nutrients are different than drugs and thus require a different study design. With drug studies, the body starts with no presence of the drug, and researchers can then easily measure effects. But with dietary ingredients, subjects already have some levels of the nutrient in their body, which can confound study results.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

17 natural products that feed mission

Promo image for mission-based products

Stocking the right products are a reflection of your store's values. These sterling brands all have inspiring business practices that improve the world one bar, bite and sip at a time.

Products that support people

Brad Bartholomew

Dagoba Chocolate 84% Cacao Gems Extra Dark
Dagoba has been owned by Hershey’s since 2006 and is an example of how big doesn’t necessarily mean bad when it comes to mission. In fact, Dagoba’s scale has made it possible for the brand to have even more positive impact. In 2016 Dagoba founded the One for All Cacao Project, which strengthens communities by advancing the role of women in cacao production and entrepreneurship. Currently, One for All is working with farmers in the Selva Central region of Peru. SRP: $4.99-$5.29

Tanka Bar Buffalo Meat with Cranberries, Apple & Orange Peel
This protein-dense Certified B Corporation meat bar is made with sustainably sourced buffalo meat and fruity add-ins such as cranberries, apples and orange peel (trust us, the flavors work). Tanka Bar was founded on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota, to create a market for a heritage protein source that improves health of people and the prairie ecosystem. Tanka also established an organization in 2014 called TankaFund, which provides grants to native buffalo ranchers. SRP $2.99; Booth 9103

Mayorga Organics Costa Rica Perla Negra Whole
Bean Coffee
Sourced from a small farm in Costa Rica called Las Lajas, this delicate USDA Organic coffee features raspberry and cocoa notes. Mayorga is a purpose-led business whose mission is to eliminate systemic poverty in rural Latin America through responsible trade of artisanal organic foods. The company achieves this by regarding farmers as partners rather than just producers, paying certified Fair Trade premiums and helping cooperatives diversify products for greater economic stability. SRP: $15.99; Booth 408

Dave’s Killer Bread Good Seed
This fluffy, filling USDA Organic sliced bread contains a medley of seeds such as whole flax seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds, which add fiber and texture to your sandwich or toast. But we love this company most for its commitment to hire formerly incarcerated people who often have trouble finding steady employment. Co-founder Dave Dahl spent 15 years in prison before starting Dave’s Killer Bread with his brother, and knows first-hand the power of getting and giving a second chance. SRP: $5.79; Booth 425

Nudo Adopt Olio D’Oliva Extra Vergine
Nudo offers first-harvest, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, which features a fruity, spicy taste—a function of being picked and pressed the same day to protect the flavor. It’s perfect to drizzle over pizza, salads or vegetables as a finishing oil. Notably, Nudo pioneered a unique purchasing model that allows consumers to “adopt” an olive tree, and receive oil directly from it (kind of like a CSA for one tree). The idea, says Nudo, affords small farmers economic security and keeps traditional farming practices such as hand harvesting alive. SRP: $8.98

NuttZo Bold Bitez Peanut Pro Cacao Nibs + Probiotics
These 200-calorie bites contain an impressive nutrient punch. Living up to its namesake, NuttZo is made primarily with peanuts, cashews, almonds, brazil nuts and hazelnuts. Pea protein elevates the macronutrient content. When launching her company, founder Danielle Dietz-LiVolsi also started Project Left Behind, a nonprofit supported by NuttZo sales that helps fund small orphanages around the world that lack backing from state donors.
SRP: $2.59-$2.99; Booth 8502

Products that champion the planet

Brad Bartholomew

Bos Rooibos + Iced Tea Lime & Ginger Flavored
Hailing from the beautiful expanse of Cape Town, South Africa, comes this delightful rooibos-based tea. This caffeine-free beverage contains organic rooibos, cane sugar, lime and ginger for a sweet tea with a kick. Notably, Bos partners with the nonprofit Greenpop to plant and maintain one tree for every 2,000 units of BOS sold. To date, the company has planted 17,000 trees in underprivileged schools and public spaces. The company hopes to plant 50,000 trees by 2020. SRP $1.99

Nature’s Path Organic Golden Turmeric Cereal
This legacy brand has been a steward of environmentally sound agriculture since day one. The company operates on achieving six sustainability goals including growing organic, becoming carbon neutral, operating zero-waste manufacturing facilities and more. Plus, through the 1% For The Planet program, Nature’s Path has donated more than $3 million to groups working to conserve endangered animals and their habitats. This tasty bright yellow cereal is an addictive embodiment of the brand’s work. SRP $4.89

EPIC Performance Bar Peanut Butter Chocolate
EPIC played an integral role in teaching the natural industry what the possibilities of regenerative agriculture are. The biggest takeaway? It ain’t just for plants. Holistically managed cattle, bison, pork and salmon play an integral role in improving soil, and specifically prairie, health. EPIC’s new vegetarian nutrition bars feature dates, nuts and cage-free egg whites, a move that EPIC says is the first step to improving the egg supply chain. SRP $2.29; Booth 828

Patagonia Provisions Mussels
Patagonia, the uber-popular outdoor clothing company, is lauded for being a bastion of sustainable business practices. The company’s food arm, Patagonia Provisions, upholds the same environmental values. A great example is this new line of canned mussels—one of the most sustainable types of seafood available—that are sourced from family farms in Galicia, Spain. Currently, a USDA Organic certification for seafood doesn’t exist, so Patagonia made sure this product is EU certified organic. SRP: $23 per three-pack

Nutiva Blissful Grapefruit Organic Coconut Body Oil
Nutiva is expanding its regeneratively sourced ingredients across categories. Made with just two food-grade ingredients (organic coconut oil and organic grapefruit oil), these simple sprays add shine and hydration to the skin and ‘do. This brand earns bonus points for operating a zero-waste headquarters and warehouse, and purchases carbon offsets to mitigate climate change caused by atmospheric CO2. SRP $9.99; Booth 600

Just Water Infused Organic Lemon
Sure, Just Water is packaged in a paper bottle with a sugarcane-based cap to reduce plastic packaging in the industry. But what’s particularly cool about this Certified B Corporation is how Water partners with the city of Glens Falls, New York, to strategically source spring water sustainably. The company uses less than 3 percent of Glens Falls’ excess water, and pays 6 times the water rate, which the city uses to fund repairs for its aging water pipes and infrastructure. SRP $1.69-$1.79

Products that do good with profits

Brad Bartholomew

Clif Bar Energy Granola White Chocolate Macadamia Nut
Clif Bar is well-known for its conscious business practices that protect the planet and uphold people, which includes incentivizing employees to bike to work, providing paid sabbaticals and even selling 20 percent of the company to employees. But we’re most impressed with the company’s Clif Bar Family Foundation for providing grants to nonprofits that expand organic acreage, investigate environmental toxins and improve food access. SRP: $5.49

Kize Raw Energy Bar Almond Butter
Made with a nourishing blend of five wholesome ingredients, this protein-dense bar features almond butter, gluten-free rolled oats, raw honey, unsweetened coconut and grass-fed whey protein isolate for long-lasting satiety. Named after the Japanese concept “kaizen,” which encourages people and organizations to continuously improve. Kize does this partly by donating 10 percent of every bar sold to global missions that include mitigating hunger and improving community infrastructure in Haiti. SRP: $3-$3.49; Booth 6446

Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Caramel & Sea Salt
This scrumptious dark chocolate bar is filled with creamy, sweet caramel and spiked with flakes of sea salt—a worthy after-dinner treat. In addition to being made with Fair Trade ingredients, Endangered Species donates 10 percent of profits to organizations fighting to protect wildlife. To date, Endangered Species has given more than $5 million to conservation nonprofits such as Xerces Society, SeeTurtles, Chimp Haven, Rainforest Trust and more. SRP: $2.99

Growing Roots Organic Coconut and Seed Bites
Launched by Unilever, this USDA Organic line of fun and tasty snacks is dedicated to supporting urban farming initiatives that allow people who live in the city to experience the magic of eating local, sustainable food. Growing Roots partners with Green City Force, Whole Kids Foundation and Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture by donating an impressive 50 percent of profits. The goal is to create urban farms in six underserved neighborhoods in New York. SRP: $3.99 per 4-pack

Larabar Kid Chocolate Mint Brownie
Designed in a kid-friendly serving size, nine whole-food ingredients such as buckwheat flour, Fair Trade chocolate, coconut oil, chia seeds, honey and peppermint oil make a craveable better-for-you brownie. This Colorado-based brand is passionate about supporting urban farms. For example, Larabar sponsors Denver Urban Garden’s Grow A Garden program, which provides seeds, seedlings and gardening workshops to in-need individuals, families, seniors and groups to improve local food access. SRP $4.49 per
6-bar multipack

Esca Bona ingredient trend series: Adaptogens


Takeaways for Your Business

• Maca, matcha and astragalus are up-and-coming adaptogens, particularly in the beverage sector.
• Regulations and consumer education are among the top challenges for marketing products with adaptogens.
• Supply chain integrity is a key consideration when sourcing adaptogenic herbs and ensuring quality.

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