How do I connect with financial partners who will invest in my long-term mission?

Getty Images/blackred compass investing pointing north

While traditional business investors focus mainly—even solely—on generating financial returns, impact investors want more for their money. They seek out companies that strive to make social and environmental impacts along with monetary profits, the cornerstones of many businesses in the natural products space.

If sustainability, social responsibility and creating a better world are baked into your mission, you want to work with impact investors who share your values and believe in your specific goals. How do you find them? Three Fixers give you the lowdown.

Family office

Investors and capital owners are waking up to the reality that not only is it important to support mission-driven businesses from an ethical perspective; it is also imperative to do so from a market perspective. Consumers, employees, vendors and other stakeholders are all looking for values alignment at the checkout counter, in the office and in the board room. Because of this emerging market imperative, connecting with financial partners willing to invest in mission-driven companies is becoming easier and easier.  

Finding an investor interested in “impact” is simple—but finding an investor whose vision of impact aligns with yours can be a complex process. It is never too early to start networking and being on the lookout for the right people. Use your board and peers as resources to explore investor track records, and be sure to dedicate the time during the term-sheet negotiation to also build alignment on expectations around returns, time frame and mission. 

Finally, finding values alignment isn’t over once a deal is signed. Rather, it must be cultivated intentionally over time. Maintaining alignment requires clear, continual communication along with transparency and commitment to partnership. With the right partnerships in place and the right energy put into cultivating them, you can focus your energy on achieving your business and mission goals.

 —Caroline MacGill, managing director of Armonia, an investor in companies, projects and funds that champion regenerative practices in agriculture, finance and business

Private equity

First and foremost, I recommend that early-stage entrepreneurs really get to know potential investors and partners far ahead of any fundraising event. Sometimes entrepreneurs are reluctant to do this because either they feel unready to have those conversations or they sense that by taking a meeting, they are somehow committing to an investment or information exchange, when in reality, they are not.

Many investment groups are good at taking the time to get to know founders and entrepreneurs, which is important because no one wants to get into a shotgun-wedding-type situation. These can be some of the most important partnerships you’ll have in your life outside of your marriage or other very close personal ties.

I also think founders and entrepreneurs should network with other founders and entrepreneurs. That’s why Esca Bona–type events are so great. Also, at Expo East or West, take the time to talk to other founders who’ve already been through or are currently going through the same thing. Get a sense of what people are hearing about this or that investment group. Ultimately, it’s about taking time to vet investors.

If you are at the stage of being in active dialogue with potential investors, ask them to share how they worked with a particular prior investment and describe what went right and wrong. Learn how they demonstrated their commitment to that company’s mission and provided value beyond just financial support. Then ask for multiple references. Be proactive about saying, “you haven’t really talked about this particular investment yet, but I’d like to chat with that company founder to understand how it went.” If they say they are not willing to share that information, ask why. There may be good reasons why—personal sensitivities, a legal issue—but you always want to ask.

  —Bill Shen, managing partner at Encore Consumer Capital, a private equity firm focused on natural, organic and sustainable consumer brands

Private venture

All money is not equal, and the benefits that come with investors’ money can vary widely. So when picking investors, first and foremost understand what expertise they bring to the table. If you are entering the food space, you shouldn’t take the first dollar from someone who makes apps for iPhones.

A lot of young entrepreneurs think all they need is money and once they get it, they’ll know what to do with it. But money is secondary to expertise, which is the real catalyst for your business.

When looking for impact investors, make sure you understand their mandate so you know you are looking at the right universe. For instance, don’t come to New Crop Capital with a vertical farm when vertical farms are clearly not what we do. Our mandate is replacing animal proteins. Also, most impact investors don’t need to be educated on the space they operate within. I don’t want to look at a deck explaining at why animal agriculture is bad for the world—I’m already sold, so you don’t need to spend more than one second on that. You’ve gotten the meeting with me already—that’s the gatekeeper—now tell how you’ll run a great company.

Also make sure you’re a good fit by size. Some investors won’t write checks for less than $5 million while others won’t write checks for more than $500,000.

Another thing to consider is, if this is a firm with five people, who will be your actual point of contact? That’s who you are “dating” and will be building trust and a personal relationship with. It is literally easier to get a divorce than get rid of an investor. Look at what the next 10 years with this person would be like, not just the next funding round, because there is a good chance that investor will still be there.

Finally, know investors’ expectations of you. Maybe when you’re raising for a $30 million round, someone will be willing to just write a check for $4 million. But in the $2 million round, every single investor will have expectations, and they all need to be taken care of.

—Chris Kerr, partner at New Crop Capital, a private venture fund that invests in companies developing meat, dairy, eggs and seafood with plant-based ingredients or through cellular agriculture


Join the Funding Forum at Natural Products Expo East 2018 to learn about new funding vehicles, unpack the benefits of impact investment and celebrate innovative ideas for funding the future. Expert panels and standout inspiring stories will fill a two-and-a-half-hour, not-to-miss funding masterclass.

When: Sept. 14, 2018

Where: Hilton, Key Ballroom 11/12

*requires a Super Pass

Natural Products Expo

Natural Products Expo East 2018 trend preview: New convenience-focused products

Convenience Promo

Americans are a busy bunch. And when it comes time to eating, increasingly more consumers are seeking products that shave minutes (dare we say hours?) off of meal prep. This sentiment also extends to products across categories, including personal care, lifestyle and supplements. Take a look at these new, time-saving products exhibiting at Natural Products Expo East 2018.

Supernatural Kitchen Soy-Free Girl Pow! Sprinkles
Edible decorations that contain artificial colors don’t help an organic cake. That’s why we’re thrilled about Supernatural’s plant-based sprinkles made with a blend of potato starch, sugar and coconut fat (not soy!). The tints come from spirulina, beets and turmeric. The boxing glove and star shapes are adorable, and 5 percent of profits go to the organization Girls Who Code. Just shake to add guiltfree fun. SRP: $7.99; Booth 4500

Swapples Everything
Swapples serves as a savory morning godsend for gluten-free and grain-free eaters. Made not with wheat but with starchy yuca root, this chewy, vegan frozen waffle swap is perfect to enjoy with a smear of cream cheese or vegan butter. Also inside, you’ll find coconut oil and a sprinkle of everything-flavored ingredients including sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion, sea salt and garlic. Pop it in the toaster to prepare! SRP: $6.99; Booth 8175

Wildscape Peri Peri Portobellos
Say goodbye to frozen meals that look like a pile of indiscernible mush when reheated. Wildscape’s whole-food meals feature nourishing ingredients made with globally inspired flavors. This beautiful blend highlights the spicy pepper sauce peri peri by pairing it with farro, black beans, roasted mushrooms, mango, sweet potatoes and more. Sure, kitchen cooks could replicate this dish at home, but you can’t beat Wildscape’s convenience. At 350 calories per serving, it’s a meal or hefty side. SRP: $6.99; Booth 8114

SeedSheet Mini Complete Gardening Kit Herbs
Convenience enters the gardening category! This innovative gardening kit from SeedSheet takes the guesswork out of gardening by strategically arranging seed pods in a weed-blocking fabric. Simply lay the sheet on top of soil, mist to reveal the seeds inside and water regularly to grow a medley of fresh herbs. This version includes dill, basil, parsley, sorrel and chives—keep it in the kitchen for hyper-local eating. SRP: $14.99; Booth 4311

Sam’s Natural Hard Workin’ Walnut Husk Hand Scrub
Woodworkers, ranchers, mechanics, construction workers and outdoorsy people know hands get pretty grimy while working with materials like oil, grout, paint and more—and often, soap specifically designed to degrease hands contains nasty chemicals. Sam’s provides a natural hand-cleaning solution with this walnut husk-infused scrub that also contains coconut oil, sustainably sourced palm oil, oatmeal, cocoa butter, bentonite clay and more. SRP: $14.95; Booth 2859

Ora Organics Wish You Well
These single-serve packets fit the bill for card-carrying members of Smoothie Nation and flavored-water fans alike. Created in either mango or pineapple by the company’s in-house chef, each serving contains organic acerola berry extract as a vitamin C source (200 mg), plus 5 billion CFUs of three probiotic strains: the well-known LGG, L. acidophilus and L. paracasei. SRP: $18.99; Booth 223

5@5: Vegan Starbucks and GF cookies | Coca-Cola, Kobe take on Gatorade

Starbucks offers new vegan options with plant-based cold brew drinks

Starbucks stores across the United States are going to offer—“while supplies last” —vegan cold-brew beverages. Made from pea and brown-rice proteins, the beverage will be available in almond and cacao flavors. Customers also could customize their drinks with extra protein or a shot of espresso. Read more at Fortune


The Girl Scouts are adding another new, gluten-free flavor to the massively popular cookie lineup

A new cookie flavor will be offered outside grocery stores and via parents at your workplace next year: Caramel Chocolate Chip. And for those who can’t or don’t consume gluten, this addition will be gluten-free, joining the Toffee-tastic and Trios cookies. Read more at Fortune


Coca-Cola invests in BodyArmor as it chases Gatorade

Former Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had a reputation as a ball hog, but he’s accepted some backup in his battle against Gatorade. Coca-Cola has taken a stake in Bryant’s BodyArmor in its latest attempt to knock PepsiCo’s Gatorade off the sports beverage throne. Read more at The Wall Street Journal


The next five years will be ‘anomalously warm,’ scientists predict

The last four years have been ridiculously hot. Hold on to your fan: It might get worse than already predicted. Scientists say the risk of a major heat event over an ocean has increased, putting more coral reefs in danger. The expected anomaly is due to the climate’s own “internal variability,” not human-cased greenhouse gasses. Read more at The Washington Post


Talk about meat makes me hungry

Adults have the right to eat what they choose. They can eat meat, or not eat it. Same with seafood, pork, dairy and eggs. Sometimes, they choose not to eat a type of food; other times, they avoid a food because of their religious beliefs; and occasionally, a medical condition forces them to eat or not eat particular foods. Meanwhile, food service providers, chefs and even private companies seem to be promoting vegetarian or vegan choices over meaty meals. Read more at AgriNews

New Twinlab CEO sets big goals for the company and supplement industry

Twinlab logo

Newly named Twinlab CEO Anthony Zolezzi says his mission at the legacy supplement brand isn’t too different from the mission he sees for the entire supplement industry.

That mission, he says, is to step it up on all fronts.

Both the brand and the industry need to embrace digital sales and digital experience while they also work with retailers to improve consumer engagement in brick-and-mortar stores.

Twinlab and other supplement companies need to better communicate the benefits of supplementation to create a health-focused value proposition for their products.

And they need to leapfrog mainstream medicine to interface with health insurance companies to insert supplements into emerging value-based health systems that make money off keeping people well instead of treating them when they are sick.

But first, he says, he needs to look under the hood and all the way through the system at Twinlab to see what he has to work with. “I’m early into a total analysis,” Zolezzi says.

Working with retail is an immediate concern, Zolezzi says, explaining that the industry cannot afford to lose partners like GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe.  

“The retailer’s challenge is our challenge,” he says. Creating an engaging experience, one that might blur the lines between digital content and in-the-aisles experience, is extremely important, says the serial entrepreneur whose resume includes launching a natural pet food company, creating a private-label supplement brand for Wild Oats, co-founding the Bubba Gump restaurant chain, introducing organic food to Wal-mart, and evaluating supplement and other healthy brands as a managing partner at Pegasus Capital Advisors. “Today’s world is so different,” he says. “You’ve got to follow the customer everywhere and be available everywhere.”

The right digital and in-store experience could help the mission of better explaining the advantage of supplements he says. Admitting he is “allergic to regulation,” Zolezzi says he thinks companies could do a better job of explaining the science and presenting the benefits. “I’m a big believer in nutrigenomics and I know nutrigenomics works. And I know these supplements will impact people in positive ways,” Zolezzi says. “But does the industry do a good job with that? I don’t think so.”

Establishing where the science of supplements is and where it needs to go will help the industry create relationships with health insurance companies that are moving past fee-for-service models into value-based health plans, Zolezzi says. The values-based system is based on the economics of keeping people healthy and supplements are a perfect fit when the science is strong, he explains.

“You have to have that to be part of the value-based health system.” That move into establishment health care is a necessity to achieve the goal of helping people get healthier. “We have to be part of the industry. We can’t be sitting outside and pointing fingers. We have to engage.”

Zolezzi admits his goals are ambitious for whole industries, much less a single brand, but he speaks confidently. 

“I don’t know how yet, but I know I’m determined,” he says, adding that his new position is the right spot from which to take the initiative. “Twinlab is a company that is 50 years old in the supplement space. You don’t find many of those,” he says. “Now we just have to get the products and the people pointed in the right direction.”

Natural brands fill CircleUp25's 2018 list

CircleUp logo

The CircleUp25 winners are out for the sixth year in a row and, as usual, plenty of already-promising natural brands are in the mix. The winners are chosen by the crowdfunding group's judges and its machine learning platform Helio, which identifies and categorizes more than a million brands.

Ancient Nutrition
With bone broth protein a show stopper in the supplement section, Ancient Nutrition set the stage for major growth, including $103 million in funding from more than 100 investors.

Beyond Meat
In the thriving plant-based category, Beyond Meat has stood out because its products “look, cook & taste like meat, without sacrificing on taste or juicy satisfaction.” Helio identified Beyond Meat as having the strongest brand score in the meat and seafood alternatives category. With Tyson Foods and Humane Society of the United States both among investors, it seems like a strong sign of the plant-based future.

This is California’s first high-alcohol kombucha, which at 7 percent ABV claims to provide “the happiest buzz on Earth.” It’s organic, handcrafted, non-GMO, locally sourced and gluten-free—with all the health benefits that regular kombucha offers.

Brew Dr. Kombucha
On the flip side, this brand removes the alcohol from its kombucha without using heat—so it can preserve the beverage’s active cultures and other health benefits. It’s these innovative approaches that will be crucial to penetrating a pretty crowded space: kombucha accounts for up to a third of Whole Foods’ refrigerated functional-beverage shelf space and is projected to reach $1.8 billion by 2020.  

This site only launched last July and already offers 300 own brand goods—just basic supplies for the home that everyone needs—with a clean beauty collection among its most recent additions. Brandless got CircleUp recognition for cutting out “hidden middleman markups” for home supplies.

This should have been predictable, given the sustained gluten-free trend and cauliflower craze. Caulipower’s cauliflower-based pizzas only launched last year and is the top gluten-free pizza and fastest growing frozen pizza brand in the country. The company recently added veggie-based baking mixes. 

Cece’s Veggie Noodle Co.
People have been home-spiralizing vegetables for a while now, but these guys were the first to bring organic spiralized vegetables to store shelves in convenient packaging. Available in Zucchini, Sweet Potato, Butternut and Beet. Another one hitting the mark by taking a category consumers love to eat—noodles or gluten or both—but have been trying to avoid, and offering a healthy alternative in its place.  

Credo Beauty
San Francisco-based Credo Beauty avoids the toxic ingredients standard in many cosmetics that natural consumers try to stay away from—and has mastered the clean label, which is king right now.

Four Sigmatic
With the global mushroom market expected to hit $50 billion in the next five years, companies that can innovate in this category are getting ahead of the game. Four Sigmatic enables people to drink their mushrooms in a range of functional beverages.

Health Warrior
Health Warrior is all about seeds—snack bars made with chia seeds or pumpkin seeds as the main ingredient, and a superfood protein bar that includes chia and quinoa. The fast-growing non-GMO snack company aims to make it convenient to snack on nutrient-dense foods.

Herbivore Botanicals
These guys have grown from selling at farmer’s markets and on Etsy to now having a strong direct-to-consumer base while also being available at Sephora and other key retailers.

Daily Harvest
Daily Harvest may have pioneered a smoothie-meets-meal-kit-service hybrid: The New York-based company delivers farm-frozen ingredients in preportioned servings that can be turned into smoothies. Boosting fruit and vegetable intake one smoothie at a time.

Farmhouse Culture
Farmhouse Culture is a leader in the probiotic category. It started out with its Krauts, but now includes four different fermented vegetables, a probiotic drink line, and the kraut-based snacks Kraut Krisps.

Once Upon a Farm
This pouch company has a superstar lineup behind it, including John Foraker of Annie’s fame and Jennifer Garner of Hollywood fame—but it’s the product that has won people over, delivering the first cold-pressed baby food on the market. Once Upon a Farm is also working to recycle its pouches, and exclusively sells organic products.

Vital Proteins
Vital Proteins’ collagen peptides are sourced from pasture-raised cows in Brazil and New Zealand and wild-caught fish in Hawaii. The company is now found in Whole Foods and in Anthropologie’s wellness shop.  

Vive Organic
Vive Organic offers up Wellness Shots to deliver some of the most on-trend health ingredients around, like turmeric, coconut and elderberry. The shots, which are cold-pressed, organic, and made with no artificial colors or sweeteners, come in four varieties: immunity, digestive health, overall wellness and detoxification.

Albertsons, VC firm team up to develop grocery tech

Supermarket News Albertsons store exterior

With e-commerce rapidly becoming a pillar of the supermarket business, Albertsons Cos. has partnered with venture capital firm Greycroft to help grow emerging companies and technology in the grocery sector.

To that end, Albertsons and Greycroft have created a fund—expected to reach up to $50 million over time—to invest in and develop grocery-related tech innovators, the Boise, Idaho-based retailer said earlier this month.

The fund will leverage Greycroft’s investment expertise and connections with the early-stage tech industry and Albertsons’ grocery know-how and coast-to-coast footprint, the companies said. They noted that Albertsons already has a leading online grocery delivery presence in eight of the top 10 U.S. metropolitan statistical areas.

For Albertsons, the fund is expected to further a wider tech strategy that will identify potential partners and opportunities to help the company capitalize on innovation in retail grocery. The goal is to serve customers “wherever and however they like to shop,” according to Shane Sampson, chief marketing and merchandising officer.

“Part of that is being at the forefront of the tremendous innovation our industry has seen over the last five years,” Sampson said. “As we saw with our recent acquisition of Plated, Albertsons Cos. has the capital, scale and expertise to power future growth of the most promising, emerging businesses and technologies across the food and grocery space. We are thrilled to be partnering with Greycroft, whose investment acumen and relationships are positioned to be key drivers of our success.”

Albertsons operates about 2,300 supermarkets and 1,760 pharmacies across 38 states and the District of Columbia under 20 retail banners, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs, Sav-On, Jewel-Osco and more.

Citing findings from Coresight Research, Albertsons and Greycroft said investment in the food and beverage sector has more than tripled since 2013 amid ongoing industry disruption from startups and incubators. Coresight projects U.S. online retail sales of food and beverages to top $20 billion in 2018.

A physical presence has become increasingly important to a retail e-commerce strategy, according to Ian Sigalow, co-founder and partner of New York-based Greycroft. The 150-plus investments by the VC firm, which manages more than $1 billion in funding, include such companies as meal kit provider Plated (acquired by Albertsons in September), online bulk-goods retailer Boxed, e-delivery service Shipt (bought by Target Corp. in December) and online shopping club Thrive Market.

“As our e-commerce companies scale, they often incorporate a brick-and-mortar strategy to reach the entire U.S. market. This partnership with Albertsons Cos. will enable our companies to tap into their 34 million weekly customers across a wide range of industries, including consumer products, health care, wellness, pharmaceuticals and grocery,” Sigalow said. “We believe that consumers should be able to get access to these high-quality products and services whenever they want, wherever they want, and that requires a coast-to-coast footprint.”

Online grocery purchases account for 5.5 percent of total U.S. grocery spending, according to a study by Brick Meets Click. The most active online shoppers raised their weekly online spending to 46 percent of their total weekly grocery spending in 2018 from 28 percent in 2017, said the strategic advisory firm. The findings are based on a survey of nearly 5,000 online consumers.

“If supermarkets make the right decisions and investments to compete well in this space, they are in the leadership position to meet shoppers needs relative to food purchasing and consumption patterns,” said Bill Bishop, chief architect at Brick Meets Click.

Near-term spending growth likely will be fueled by the roughly 30 percent of U.S. households who already shop for groceries online, the study reported. Their average order size rose to $69 dollars this year from $62 in 2017.

Going forward, supermarkets will increasingly tangle with Amazon, as the e-commerce giant aggressively leverages its Prime program with Whole Foods to boost its share of spending with those shoppers, Brick Meets Click noted.

“Overall, Amazon has 77 percent household penetration, but it sold groceries to just 11 percent of households in the last month,” said Steve Bishop, managing partner of Brick Meets Click. “That’s a lot of headroom for Amazon to grow in grocery. Amazon’s smaller average transaction size compared to supermarket retailers underscores why online grocery is basically supermarket’s business to lose as online shoppers increasingly shift to full basket trips.” 

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

The Fresh Market names new chief financial officer

The Fresh Market The Fresh Market storefront

The Fresh Market Inc., a leading specialty grocer, has appointed Oded Shein as chief financial officer. As a key member of the senior leadership team, Shein will provide direction to profitably execute on the corporate growth strategy.

“Oded will be an essential contributor to the strategic direction of the company and ensure that the organization is aligned with our business objectives,” says Larry Appel, chief executive officer. “The combination of Oded's broad business experience and deep finance expertise will enable The Fresh Market to solidify our position in the marketplace as a unique, specialty retailer.”

The Fresh Market was founded in 1982 in Greensboro, North Carolina, to offer the freshest foods possible and support local growers. The company now operates more than 170 locations in 24 states throughout the southern, eastern and midwestern United States. 

Shein brings more than 25 years of financial experience from a variety of retail stores, including serving as executive vice president and chief financial officer at Stage Stores Inc., a Houston, Texas-based retailer that operates in 42 states through 764 specialty department stores and 59 off-price stores. In addition, he has held senior financial leadership positions at Belk Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Charming Shoppes Inc. in Bensalem, Pennsylvania.

The new CFO holds a BBA in Information Systems from Baruch College in New York, New York, and an MBA in finance from Columbia Business School, also New York City. As well as providing financial expertise as an active board member for Conn's Inc., a specialty retailer with more than 100 stores in 12 states, Shein has been nominated for and has received an array of industry awards.

Source: The Fresh Market Inc.

NSF International appoints former USDA undersecretary of food safety to board of directors

NSF International NSF International logo

NSF International, a global public health and safety organization, has appointed Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, food safety advisor and former federal policy maker and regulator, to its Board of Directors. 

Hagen is a physician with a long career in clinical medicine, public health and food-safety consulting. As principal of Elisabeth Hagen, PLLC, she consults with a range of clients, including food companies and investors on food trends, regulatory issues and crisis management.

As the undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2010-2013, Hagen oversaw food safety policy for the U.S. meat and poultry industries, and advanced major reforms and consumer protections. She also served as a principal in the White House Food Safety Working Group. Prior to her appointment as undersecretary, Hagen led epidemiology and science programs in the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.

“NSF International is a leader in standard setting, accreditation, and testing. As a former federal regulator, I know how crucial NSF International and its people have been to the advancement of public health and safety worldwide,” Hagen said. “I am delighted to join the talented group of men and women on the NSF International Board of Directors in support of this organization and its important mission.”

Since leaving the USDA, Hagen served as a senior advisor to Deloitte, where she advised Fortune 500 companies on food and product safety, supply chain risk and brand enhancement. In her role at Deloitte, she counseled on growth and market differentiation of key consumer product offerings with a focus on emerging consumer preferences and trends.

In addition to NSF International, Hagen holds board of director positions with TriStrata Group and Pure Bioscience. She earned her M.D. from Harvard Medical School and is trained in internal medicine and infectious disease.

“Dr. Hagen has vast knowledge and expertise of food safety issues and policies,” said Kevan Lawlor, CEO and president of NSF International. “She understands the important role an independent organization like NSF International can play in protecting and improving human health and the environment. Dr. Hagen is an exceptional addition to our board of directors and provides trusted counsel and oversight.”

Source: NSF International

5@5: ‘Milk With Dignity’ benefits dairy workers | USDA to clarify what food labels mean

Ben & Jerry's 'Milk With Dignity' pact with farmworkers seems to be paying off

Milk prices have declined for four consecutive years, and dairy workers have suffered as a result. But some Vermont workers are doing a little better because their employers agreed to follow labor and housing standards in exchange for contracting with Ben & Jerry’s, which is owned by Unilever. Read more at NPR


FDA Commissioner Gottlieb tweets about plans to review some of those labeling claims

Via Twitter, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announce he plans to release detailed descriptions about various terms found on food labels. The information is in response to Henry Miller’s Wall Street Journal column, “The Organic Industry is Lying to You.” (New Hope’s Jenna Blumenfeld also penned a reply to Miller’s opinion piece.) Read more at Food Safety News


When the menu says ‘organic,’ but all the food isn’t

Restaurants that claim their meals are organic may not be. The USDA doesn’t inspect the offerings or the ingredients unless the restaurant actually seeks organic certification. Otherwise, it’s OK for a restaurant to describe their food as organic as long as the management made “a reasonable effort” to include organic ingredients. For 51-year-old Gil Rosenberg of Queens, New York, however, that wasn’t enough. Read more at The New York Times ….


You could buy WSDA-certified organic pot next year

Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, but Washington apparently will be first to certify the herb “to organic-like standards” beginning in 2019. The state agency can’t say the product is organic because the federal government controls the use of that word and the federal government still considers marijuana illegal. Tentative rules for the program have yet to be released. Read more at The Stranger


How engineering the climate could mess with our food

Could humans control or even manage the sun’s radiation? After Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991 and reduced by 21 percent direct sunlight reaching the Earth, scientists started thinking about the idea. If they could control the process, we could fight global warming by bouncing light off particulates in the atmosphere and cool down our planet. The journal Nature recently looked back at the theory and realized it’s not what those scientist had hoped. Read more at Wired

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Competition drives No Evil Foods to keep innovating

No Evil founders Sadrah Schadel and Mike Woliansky

Sadrah Schadel and Mike Woliansky have a clear mission for their plant-based proteins company: Do no evil. For the innovative, driven Asheville, North Carolina-based duo, this means using food as a force for good. “‘Do no evil’ steers us in every way and informs our decision-making, from where our ingredients are sourced to how we treat our team as an extension of family, to how we advocate for the community—it’s all related,” Schadel said. “When we think about sustainability, we’re thinking about the whole system.”

But environmental sustainability, in particular, is huge for these entrepreneurs. “Decreasing global meat consumption is the No. 1 thing we can do for the environment,” said Schadel, a lifelong vegetarian. To help consumers consume less meat, she and Woliansky developed five distinct plant-based options that actually taste and eat like meat. Whether it’s Comrade Cluck No Chicken or The Stallion Italian Sausage, these products deliver the flavors meat-lovers crave using vegan, non-GMO and organic ingredients.

We caught up with No Evil Foods’ founders to discuss how their company came to be and how they’re powering a plant-based revolution.

What was the genesis of No Evil Foods?

Sadrah Schadel: Mike and I grew up in the punk rock and hardcore scene, and the spirit of that music really impacted us. It’s about rebellion and bucking the system, but it’s also about community and helping one another. Ten years ago, after we’d become more educated about where our food was sourced, we moved from Philadelphia to upstate New York to grow our own food. We had a big garden and did maple sugaring, but we were still buying our plant-based proteins from the grocery store. When we examined those items more closely, we found they were filled with junk ingredients we didn’t understand or feel good about, and they were underperforming to my expectations as a passionate home cook. So we took our same rebellious approach and began making plant-based meats in our own kitchen.

Around that time, we moved to Asheville and were looking to get more out of our work. We wanted what we did to earn money to be important to us personally—to promote health, manifest our values and help the community. So four years ago, we took our plant-based meats to the farmers’ market and our company was born.

What are the key ingredients in your plant-based meats?

SS: Each recipe is unique—we do not have just one basic recipe with different seasonings, which is the approach many companies take. That said, the protein for all of our products comes from chickpeas, wheat and nutritional yeast, which adds B vitamins and amino acids. We have a clear bar for whether an ingredient gets included. If I can’t create an ingredient in my home kitchen without scientific lab equipment, you probably won’t find it in our products.

Does meat have any nutritional benefits that your products don’t deliver?

SS: The most common nutrients you get from meat are iron and vitamins B6 and B12. Our products have impressive levels of each, but no cholesterol or saturated fat, so they outperform meat nutritionally.

Why is it important for you to emulate the taste and mouthfeel of actual meat?

Mike Woliansky: It is really important that people don’t feel like they are missing out. Our mission is to make a significant public health and environmental change through diet, so our products need to appeal to those who love the experience of meat. We want it to feel compromise free—you don’t have to give up your favorite recipes or ways of cooking. As a company, we are realistic and know that a full transition into veganism is not going to happen overnight or for everyone. But we want to spread the message that the little changes people make have a positive impact.

SS: And we don’t just aim to emulate the texture and flavor of meat—we nail it. We are really old-school in our approach. We studied traditional meat-making methods and explored time-tested seasoning blends found in old cookbooks and family recipes. We do grassroots taste-testings with unsympathetic audiences who are not likely to respond favorably. If we can’t get the flavor and texture right, we start over.

Is the plant-based proteins market getting crowded?

SS: We’re definitely seeing a lot of growth in the category, but I wouldn’t say it’s crowded. There is still a lot of room and many options for people looking for different types of plant-based proteins. All of this growth shows that consumer demand is there and that retailers and buyers are hearing it and responding. Having competition is also positive, as it pushes all of us to be more innovative.

How do your products stand out from competitors’?

SS: There are no other products on the market that hit the textural mark with as clean of labels as ours. Those two points are unique to us. We are not relying on protein isolates, and our products have very little to no oil, which consumers are drawn to. Many have been waiting for products like ours.

Our new packaging, which came out before Natural Products Expo East 2017, also sets us apart on the shelf. You don’t see anything else quite like it in the meat alternatives case, either in its design or the way that it’s interactive with the peekaboo high-fives. You can motivate through fear or positivity, and we’ve chosen to motivate through positivity. Our packaging does this by showing what a powerful impact purchasing plant-based meat can have. Getting the NEXTY Award for our packaging was amazing. 

Plus, it’s actually, truly compostable, which is rare!

SS: Yes, the outer carton is completely compostable in home-compositing systems. The interior, because of safety regulations, is vacuum sealed, but we are seeking alternatives.  

Are you sold in the natural channel exclusively or in conventional too?

MW: At the moment, we are mostly in natural, but we have some exciting conventional partners coming online this year. Soon we are launching into 150 Ingles stores, a really great conventional chain in western North Carolina. It’s important for us to focus on both channels as we grow. We try to reach out to as many people as we can to share our message and affect change, and the best way to do that is to connect with partners in both the natural and conventional channels.

How do you work with independent natural retailers to market your products?

MW: Our relationship with independents is really powerful. A big part of our “do no evil” mission is building community around our brand, and that goes back to building strong connections with store buyers and the people stocking the shelves. We have a great field marketing manager who just did a demo road trip to the Midwest. We are hiring regional brand ambassadors to be steeped in with consumers. I like the idea that No Evil Foods has a real home in other communities and isn’t just a brand on the shelf.

Any advice for independents on how best to sell your products and uplift the category?

MW: It’s important that we work to be on equal footing as a protein option and think about plant-based meat as just part of a healthy, diverse diet. We need to get away from the idea that it’s an alternative or “other.” That is an important mindset. The most effective way to attract sales is for people to taste our products because there is is still a stigma around plant-based meat, and many people have had bad experiences with products in our category. So it’s exciting when stores want to do demos and tastings. We’ve shown that when they do those things, customers will buy our products and keep coming back to buy them.  

No Evil Foods, which was established in 2014, will be at Booth 8810 during Natural Products Expo East on Sept. 12-15.