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Natural Products Expo

Natural Products Expo East 2018 trend preview: New ways with hydration

Hydration products at Expo East

From vitamin-infused beverages to hyaluronic acid-containing face toners, pioneering companies are focusing on hydration across natural products categories. Here are a few standout brands and the   forward-thinking products you'll find on the Natural Products Expo East 2018 show floor.


Loco Coffee Co. Original Cold Brew Coffee + Coconut Water
Like a gentle whisper, coconut water concentrate lightly sweetens cold brew coffee for a delicious, refreshing beverage that would delight any energy drink consumer. With 275 mg caffeine and 570 mg of potassium (that’s more than a banana!), this 12-ounce can contains just 45 calories and 7 grams sugar. SRP: $3.99; Booth 558


Herbal Dynamics Beauty Rose Water Calming Face Toner
Dry climates, long airplane rides and spending a teensy bit too much time in the sun are no matches for this rose-tinted facial toner, which contains a cooling blend of aloe vera gel, green tea extract, chamomile, witch hazel and rose oil. Also inside: hyaluronic acid, a key molecule involved in skin moisture. We also love how Herbal Dynamics never, never tests its products on animals. SRP: $20; Booth 8221

Thirty Strawberry Watermelon Natural Rehydration Drink
Say goodbye to ultra-sugary sports drinks that leave the consumer squirming with a stomachache and embrace instead this 30-calorie clean rehydration drink that’s designed to deliver electrolytes and other recovery nutrients such as vitamin B12, B6 and B3. Notably, Thirty is sweetened with a blend of non-GMO cane sugar, monk fruit and stevia, which helps this beverage have 66 percent less sugar than average sports drinks. SRP: $1.99; Booth 4802

Caskai Sparkling Cascara Infusion
Coffee fruit—the bright-red cherry surrounding the coffee bean—is quickly growing more popular with natural consumers thanks to its tart, bright taste, high antioxidant content and inspiring food waste mitigation story (coffee fruit is usually discarded in the field). Caskai steeps sun-dried coffee fruit in water, adds a touch of organic cane sugar and carbonates it into a fizzy, healthy beverage. SRP: $2.79; Booth 6443

HyVida Hydrogen Sparkling Water Raspberry
There are a whole host of benefits associated with drinking water infused with added hydrogen. But we love HyVida because what’s not in this fizzy drink: there’s no sugar, sweetener of any kind, caffeine or calories. Only carbonated water, natural flavoring and 30 mg magnesium are inside. SRP: $2.30; Booth 4407

AHPA supports inclusion of the Hemp Production amendment in the 2018 Farm Bill

Getty/AndrisTkachenko hemp field

The American Herbal Products Association strongly supports legalization of hemp in the Farm Bill.

The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill, passed on June 28, included provisions of the Hemp Farming Act that would allow the cultivation, processing and selling of industrial hemp across the nation, according to Forbes.

Similar language regarding hemp is not included in the House version of this legislation, however. Forbes reported that the GOP members of the House Rules Committee prevented the hemp amendments from getting to the House Floor for a vote.

Because of this and other differences, such as disagreement on work requirements for food-stamp recipients, representatives from each body will meet to create a compromise bill.

AHPA encourages the House and Senate conferees to maintain in the final Farm Bill the provisions initially included in the Hemp Farming Act of 2018.

On the other hand, AHPA urges the conferees to remove a provision added by the Senate Agricultural Committee that is included in the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill. This provision would prohibit everyone convicted of a controlled-substance-related felony from participating in any program related to producing hemp and from producing hemp themselves.

AHPA encourages Senate and House conferees to remove this unnecessary restriction. The individual American citizens who would potentially be impacted by this felony provision have already paid their debt to society and should not be restricted from involvement in a promising and completely legal new industry that will be unrelated to controlled substances.

AHPA greatly appreciates the leadership that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has shown in advancing the proposed legalization of hemp production in the United States.

McConnell introduced the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 (S. 2667) as stand-alone legislation, and then included its provisions in the Senate Farm Bill.

Source: American Herbal Products Association with additions from the New Hope Network staff

Natural Products Expo

8 brands selected to pitch at Natural Products Expo East 2018 Pitch-Slam competition

Every year at Natural Products Expo, attendees are on the hunt for the newest natural product innovation. The Natural Products Expo East Pitch-Slam is proud to highlight eight exciting emerging brands who will take the stage at the Expo East Pitch-Slam Semi-Finalist Competition.

The Pitch

Semi-Finals Competition Sept. 12, 2018
5-6 p.m. Hilton, Key Ballroom 7/8
Sponsored by: 301 Inc., Moss Adams

• 3-minute pitch

• 3-minute Q&A

Finals Competition Sept. 13, 2018
4:30-6:30 p.m. Hilton, Key Ballroom 7/8
Sponsored by: 301 Inc., Moss Adams

• 3-minute pitch

• 5-minute Q&A

Judges select one grand prize winner. Both competitions are open to all badgeholders.

The Selection

The eight Selection Committee Mentors below will be partnered up with the eight brands leading into the show to help them perfect their pitch.

Expo East 2018 Pitch-Slam Selection Committee and Mentors

Blake Mitchell, Interact on Shelf
Bob Burke, Natural Products Consulting
Daniel Karsavar, Solutiontopia
Debbie Wildrick, MetaBrand
Elizabeth Moskow, Sterling-Rice Group
Mitchell Stevko, Growth CEO Advisors
Orion Brown, The Black Travel Box
Sarah Nathan, Chobani

These five industry all-stars will select the four finalists who will compete in Thursday's Finals Competition.

Expo East 2018 Pitch-Slam Judges

Cheryl Clements, PieShell
Gigi Lee Chang, BFY Capital
Kellam Mattie, VEB (Venturing & Emerging Brands), The Coca-Cola Company
Luke Vernon, Ridgeline Ventures
Perteet Spencer, SPINS

The Eight

 We hope you'll join us in September! Want to submit your brand to pitch? Natural Products Expo West 2019 Pitch-Slam applications open in January 2019. 



Retailers bring popular meal kits inside brick-and-mortar stores

PCC Community Markets meal kits

Appealing to consumers’ ever-growing need for convenience, meal kits have exploded, with the industry valued at more than $1.5 billion, says Packaged FactsResearch and Markets estimates the market will continue to grow, reaching a CAGR of 20.51 percent in 2022. But the costs and logistics of selling meal kits via subscription are proving difficult. As a result, many meal kit companies are working with retailers to  offer all the convenience of a meal kit without the commitment of a subscription.

HelloFresh hits Giant Food and Stop & Shop

HelloFresh is bringing its meal kits to Giant Food and Stop & Shop stores, reaching a total of 581 retail outlets, it announced in June. Kits include recipes such as Chickpea Couscous, Paprika Chicken, Peppercorn Steak, Mediterranean Style Chicken and Homestyle Meatloaf. Each meal kit contains pre-cut, pre-measured and pre-washed ingredients, and serves two people. Available in the deli section, prices range from $14.99 to $19.99.

Albertsons moves on Plated acquisition

Albertsons acquired Plated during the summer of 2017 but plans to roll out the meal kits to hundreds of stores this year. They already are available in some Northern California Safeway stores and Jewel-Osco stores in the Chicago, Illinois area. The kits also will be offered at Vons, another Albertsons store brand, according to CNBC. Kits will include recipes like crunchy Chicken Milanese With Honey Mustard And Arugula, and Roasted Chicken Au Jus With Orzo And Peas.

Blue Apron arrives at Costco

In May, Blue Apron began its foray into retail with a Costco partnership that brought meal kits to San Francisco stores, as well as outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest. The program has since expanded to about 80 stores in a variety of regions, according to The Wall Street Journal. The kits cost about $24.99 for four servings, and they reportedly are easier to prepare than the kits offered through Blue Apron’s subscription service.

PCC launches organic and non-GMO kits

Seattle, Washington-based PCC Community Markets announced in April that it is offering new subscription-free meal kits called Scratch-made Meals at Home. Recipes include Sesame-Gochujang Steak with Kimchi Fried Rice & Shirred Egg, and Simple Cassoulet with Chicken and Sausage, made from almost entirely organic produce and non-GMO, locally raised meats. Hand-packed in PCC kitchens, the kits are sold in packaging that’s almost entirely compostable or recyclable. Kits cost $19.99 each and serve two.

Walmart makes its own

Walmart recently created its own meal kits, to be available in more than 2,000 of its stores over the course of 2018. Mimicking the pre-chopped and pre-measured kits popularized by online purveyors, Walmart’s offerings will serve two for the cost of $8 to $15 per kit. Varieties include Steak Dijon, Basil Garlic Chicken, Sweet Chili Chicken Stir Fry and Pork Florentine, and its Thai Curry Chicken and Chicken Fried Rice recipes will customize the retailer’s ready-made rotisseries.

Kroger buys Home Chef

In May, Kroger Co. reached an agreement to acquire Home Chef, which would bring the meal kits to Kroger stores across the country and online. It’s not clear when the deal will close.

Vitamin Packs rebrands as Persona Nutrition

Three months after receiving funding from a major venture capital firm, Vitamin Packs is rebranding as Persona Nutrition and celebrating the rebranding by donating 100 percent of Aug. 8 net revenue to Vitamin Angels, a nonprofit that distributes supplements to nutritionally challenged populations.

Founder Jason Brown says the name change was a natural evolution of the company’s personalized nutrition focus. Persona uses an online questionnaire and algorithm to create packets of dietary supplements matched to the consumer's sex, age, diet, health issues, exercise habits and prescription medications. “We’ve zeroed in on the customer's sentiments and zeroed in on the attributes of the company,” Brown said.

Brown said Persona was only just launching at the end of 2017 with a small number of customers, but expects 3,000 percent growth this year. Some 400,000 people have taken the online questionnaire at The company was designed to cater packets to the customer but it is the customers who have driven Persona to adapt the offerings further, based on feedback that included a preference for small pills over larger pills and liquid gel caps over tablets. Timed release formulations have also proven popular. “All of those changes have happened based on feedback,” Brown says. “We work for our customers.”

The company received funding from L Catterton in May.

This is not the first time Brown has launched a vitamin packet company. He started a similar offering in 1998 that was eventually sold to in 2003. Brown says the new processes and technology allow better-customized regimens, but the consumer understanding of concepts around personalized nutrition is just as important. “Back then, people were flirting with nutrition and thinking it was cool and interesting,” Brown said. “Now they’re not just testing it, they’re buying into it. They’re signing on and believing in it.” People are looking for “a program, not a quick fix,” he added.

That shift in consumer interest made the name change to Persona Nutrition an obvious step, Brown said, charging that consumers are not interested in “faux personalization.” "Vitamin Packs” did not communicate the depth of the algorithm. “Every single person would like to get a different recommendation,” Brown said.

The day of donations to Vitamin Angels was another obvious move, Brown said. “I’ve supported them since they started.”


No, the organic industry is not lying to you

Getty Organic Farmers in Kale

According to the Organic Trade Association’s 2018 Organic Industry Survey, sales of organic products reached $49.4 billion in 2017. Despite such impressive sales, confusion about the differences between organic, non-GMO and conventional products still persist in surprising places.

Such is the crux of the issue with an opinion piece, The Organic Industry Is Lying to You, recently published in The Wall Street Journal. Written by Henry I. Miller (more on him later), the article seems to lump the USDA Organic certification and the Non-GMO Project Verified certification together, arguing that both seals are manipulative and mongers of food fear.

Though the headline of this commentary suggests the entire “organic industry” is lying, Miller cites only Whole Foods Market (now owned by Amazon) as the natural business miscreant because the retailer explains on its website that organic foods are grown “without toxic or persistent pesticides.”

“In fact,” Miller seems to sneer, “organic farmers rely on synthetic and natural pesticides to grow their crops, just as conventional farmers do, and organic products can contain numerous synthetic as well as natural chemicals.”

Organic farmers indeed use some synthetic products on their crops. But they are heavily restricted. According to the USDA’s National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the National Organic Program, they can only be used in organic growing if the “use of such substances do not contribute to contamination of crops, soil or water.”

Miller says the use of copper sulfate, a common organic pesticide, is a key smoking gun in how the organic industry is deceptive. He doesn’t mention that organic tenets heavily restrain the application of this compound, in some cases limiting it to one application per field during any 24-month period.

Such rigorous organic regulations make a difference in the food that ends up on your plate. A 2012 study conducted by the USDA found that when examined as a whole, the occurrence of pesticide residues on organic produce was considerably lower than the occurrence of pesticides on conventional produce. More recent studies confirm this finding. Other benefits of organic range from improving farm workers' health to reducing fertilizer runoff into waterways. (If you’re a reader of, you probably already know the benefits of organic.)

Miller fails to mention that USDA Organic is a stringent, government-regulated agricultural certification designed to improve soil health. It’s a seal that must be verified by USDA-accredited certifying agents; it requires organic ingredients be grown in specifically outlined standards. To say the organic industry is lying is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

Curiously, Miller also targets a third-party organization, the Non-GMO Project, to complain that conventional companies like Tropicana and Hunt’s are lying because they’re touting non-GMO claims even though oranges and tomatoes aren’t available genetically engineered—as if Hunt's ketchup doesn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup made from, um … corn, which is a crop that has a 92 percent chance of being genetically modified in the United States.

Ties to Monsanto

Miller’s words are further devalued when you consider his ties with the one business that arguably has the most to gain from slandering the organic and natural industry, Monsanto.

In August 2017, the New York Times revealed that Miller, who had been a vocal proponent of genetic engineering across a variety of media outlets, had “asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbe’s website in 2015,” reports the Times. “Forbes removed the story from its website on Wednesday and said that it ended its relationship with Mr. Miller amid the revelations.”

Monsanto essentially ghostwrote a piece that Miller billed as an opinion piece.

I’m going to play my snarky card here: Who’s lying now?

This is an incendiary article and it’s sure to be widely read. It’s click-worthy to read something previously thought as good to be bad. Or vice versa, as exemplified by “Chocolate/Wine/Insert-Any-Vice is good for you!”-type articles.

What irks me most about Miller’s piece is when he writes, “Giving the organic industry and others a pass to engage in such active deception undermines consumers’ choice, erodes trust in the market and rigs the game.”

I find this comment infuriating. For the past 60-or-so years, conventional food companies have created semi-kinda-food-ish products that contain highly processed ingredients grown in fertilizer-laden soil with little regard to protecting the environment or upholding human health.

So I’d like to say, Mr. Miller, you’re wrong.

Have you even met anyone in the natural industry? Have you attended Natural Products Expo? We’re made of pure, unbridled passion. The natural and organic industry is built upon a foundation of trust, transparency, authenticity and a powerful calling to improve the people, the plants, the animals, the soil and the atmosphere through the business of making food.

Mr. Miller, your opinions could not be further from the truth.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Q&A: Retail Dietitian of the Year Cassandra Umile

Cassandra Umile

The role of a retail dietitian varies according to the needs of the local community, said Cassandra Umile, the manager of nutrition services and food production for Kenny Family ShopRites of Delaware.

Umile, who had a career in biotechnology before becoming a dietitian, was named the Retail Dietitian of the Year by the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance (RDBA) at the RD Retail Exchange in May.

She is among a growing network of retail dietitians who are helping shoppers lead healthier lifestyles, often by assisting them as they select products that meet their dietary preferences and restrictions. Some large retail chains have added full-time retail dietitians in every store, or dietitians that split their time among multiple locations. They often take on additional responsibilities, such as menu research, product development and product labeling.

Umile recently spoke with New Hope Network about her responsibilities at Kenny Family ShopRites, which owns six ShopRite stores in the New Castle County, Delaware, area, and how she works to improve the health and well-being of her customers.

What are some of the accomplishments you are most proud of in your work as a retail dietitian?

Cassandra Umile: I’m extremely proud of our stores’ “Green Bucks Program.” This program provided fresh fruit and vegetable vouchers to food stamp recipients when they made an eligible purchase. This program also incorporated a nutrition education element for consumers. This program increased produce purchases by 80 percent in people that participated in the program.

What do you see as the most important role of a retail dietitian?

CU: One the most important roles of a retail dietitian is finding new and innovative ways to improve the health of your customers. Meeting the needs of your customer base is different for every retail dietitian, as each customer population is unique and you need to find what suits the needs of your community.

What are some of the most common things consumers request of you as a dietitian?

CU: The most common request I’ve been getting lately is for grocery store tours. People want to know what to fill their shopping cart with, and they appreciate having a registered dietitian recommend products. While on tours I try to remind customers that their cart should mimic their plate—half fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter whole grains. I also take this time to review food labels with the customer to educate them on the nutritional content of what they are purchasing.

In what ways have you expanded your responsibilities as a retail dietitian at ShopRite?

CU: ShopRite has more than 100 in-store dietitians servicing more than 140 stores in our trading area, and each RD’s role is different, depending on the needs of their store’s population. I’ve expanded my role as a retail dietitian in multiple ways here at the Kenny Family ShopRites of Delaware. Currently, I am responsible for six stores, where I am leading our company’s menu labeling initiative (which provides calories on all ready-to-eat foods). I’ve also started teaching our company food safety class, and I am now responsible for quality assurance and food safety.

What plans do have for the future as a dietitian at ShopRite?

CU: I’ve recently been promoted to manager of food production and nutrition services. As a company, ShopRite is always looking for ways to introduce meal solution ideas for our customers to make eating healthy easy and convenient. As part of this larger effort, one of my plans in my new role is to increase the amount of healthy foods offered in our prepared foods department.

Tales from the “wellness industrial complex”

More than a few people in the natural products industry might be surprised to learn they are part of the “wellness industrial complex,” but an Aug. 1 column in The New York Times column,  “Worshipping the False Idols of Wellness”, uses that unlikely term to splash supplements and natural products companies with a wide and not-so-nuanced brush.

The granola and gingko cartel that California obstetrician Jen Gunter describes in the piece sounds as sprawling as it is sinister. Indeed, it takes a lot of stretching the lines to throw multivitamins in with cancer patients opting for vitamin IVs over chemotherapy. Such stretched lines are a necessity for coming up with a shadowy enemy like the wellness industrial complex and we have to wonder what circles she’s running in if she can say, “Every doctor I know has more than one story about a patient who died because they chose to try to alkalinize their blood or gambled on intravenous vitamins instead of getting cancer care.” If there are any companies advising such strategies, there are certainly not enough of them to comprise an “industrial complex.”

The advice that every trade association gives every time supplements hit the headlines is, “talk to your doctor,” but Turner charges that the industry seeks a “medical throwback, as if the halcyon days of health were 5,000 years ago.”

Indeed, supplements could be described as an antidote to modern life—the modern diet is widely accepted as a disaster—but that doesn’t mean the many millions of consumers who take supplements or the companies that sell those supplements responsibly are recommending anybody walk away from modern medicine.

Gunter seems equally undeterred and uninformed.

When she writes that “Modern medicine wants you to get your micronutrients from your diet,” she seems oblivious to how difficult that can be and ignores the fact that so few people manage to achieve that perfect diet. If “only a few vitamins have proven medical benefits” does that mean avoiding scurvy and pellagra is not a medical benefit? Vitamin deficiency is not something relegated to the Third World or history textbooks. It’s going on right now, thanks to a diet so far out of whack that, according to reporting also found in The New York Times, lifestyle diseases related to diet could cost the government trillions of dollars in coming years.

Wellness, whether it’s part of an industrial complex or not, is part of the answer to that. That means eating better, and, for many, fortifying the diet with supplements.

Turner goes on to accuse natural products and supplement companies of turning modern medicine into a boogeyman in order to sell more products. That a writer who uses a term like “wellness industrial complex” would make such a charge seems particularly ironic, but if the natural products industry is trying to turn people away from medicine, the conspirators are doing a poor job. Americans spend roughly 10 times more on medicines than supplements.

Of course, conspiracy theories that the medical establishment is out to squash the supplement industry and keep people sick to sell treatment instead of prevention make the rounds at industry events, too. And they’re just as helpful there as Gunter’s ideas are in the NYT piece. 

Whether “wellness industrial complex” is a pejorative or not, it is not good for either side to employ an either-or dynamic.

[email protected]: Florida water monitoring falls, algae blooms | Tariffs endanger apple orchards

Florida gutted water quality monitoring—as killer algae increased

During the past 10 years, Florida has resisted federal assistance in testing and improving the state’s water quality, while reducing the size of its own environmental and water-management agencies. This summer, an algae bloom is covering the Caloosahatchee River with blue-green slime while a red tide kills off fish, sea turtles and other marine life on the Gulf Coast. Read more at Tampa Bay Times


California Today: Warmest waters ever on record in San Diego

Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego last week found a record-high 78.8° Fahrenheit sea surface temperature near the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier. The temperature broke the 78.6° reading that was recorded just two days earlier. The institute began measuring and recording the water’s temperature in 1916. Read more at The New York Times


US apple industry braces for tariffs and price drops on eve of harvest

As Mexico, China and India threaten to impose retaliatory tariffs on American products, U.S. apple farmers are concerned. In New York, Crist Brothers Apple Orchard has recently increased the size of its apple production because overseas buyers wanted more of the fruit. Now, though, the trade war that President Donald Trump initiated could drop apple prices to a point that would put the company out of business. Read more at CNBC …


Why the Midwest’s food system is failing

America’s breadbasket—the Midwest where, legend has it, farmers grew the country’s food—isn’t living up to its reputation anymore. Instead, the area grows mostly corn and soybeans. Most of the corn is used for vehicle fuel and animal feed, with some left over to export and to produce high-fructose corn syrup. The concentration on the two crops degrades the soil, requires high quantities of fertilizer and leads to more insect pests. Read more at Civil Eats


Brazil judge suspends use of agrochemical glyphosate

A federal judge in Brazil has suspended the registration of new products that contain glyphosate, and could suspend existing registrations within 30 days. Read more at Reuters

Happy Family Organics makes organic accessible to more babies with new packaging

Baby food brand Happy Family Organics is offering its Happy Baby Clearly Crafted line in jars, making it available to low-income families who use WIC public assistance to purchase food.

Through federal grants to states, WIC—the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children—supports low-income households who are nutritionally at-risk. These families receive funds for a defined set of foods to help subsidize the cost of feeding their children.

"We pride ourselves on developing products and solutions that center around the evolving needs of today's families with organic nutrition at the core," said Shazi Visram, founder and “chairmom” of Happy Family Organics. "From day one, we've supported under-served communities through donations and partnerships with non-profits, but it has always been a dream of mine to provide all families with more seamless access to organic products they need and want."

Although nearly two million babies a year are born into families eligible to participate in WIC, the program allows the funds to be used to purchase very few organic options. Only 12 states approve organic products for infants at all.

Jars of specific size and price are one of the few organic baby food formats authorized for purchase through WIC. The Happy Baby Clearly Crafted Jars line was created as an option that is accessible for all families.

The initial launch of the Clearly Crafted line in 2016 was a response to parents' interest in more openness and honesty from companies. At, parents can learn more about the exact farms from which ingredients are sourced, as well as access nutritional information and chat with lactation specialists.

Happy Family Organics is working with various state WIC organizations toward state authorization of its Happy Baby Clearly Crafted Jars, which are already WIC-authorized in Florida, Minnesota, Texas, West Virginia and Vermont.

Source: Happy Family Organics