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Articles from 2019 In August

[email protected]: Mexican tomato dispute ends–but at what cost? | Vegan influencers face brutal backlash

The 4-month-long tomato trade dispute with Mexico is ending, but at what cost to eaters?

The Department of Commerce last week announced that U.S. and Mexican growers “have initialed a draft agreement to once again suspend DOC’s investigation into the dumping of Mexican tomatoes on the U.S. market, which was accompanied by a 17.56 percent import duty levied on those tomatoes since May of this year.” A 2018 University of Arizona study found that the imported Mexican tomato business contributes $3 billion in GDP and 33,000 U.S. jobs, and unless a draft agreement is completed by September 19 Mexican growers and U.S. importers could be facing duties of up to 25%. Read more at New Food Economy …


When vegan influencers quit being vegan, the backlash can be brutal

Influencers, especially of the vegan variety, are under an immense amount of pressure to appease their respective fan bases in order to remain relevant. So when a vegan influencer decides to incorporate animal-based products back into their diet, it often leads to a sense of betrayal that translates into online harassment, a loss of followers and vehement criticism from the movement’s more militant members. Read more at Vice …


NYC restaurateur Eddie Huang goes vegan, says inspired to action by Amazon rainforest fires

Food personality Eddie Huang announced that he is giving up both meat and dairy after watching videos of the massive fires currently destroying the Amazon rainforest. He also urged his followers on Instagram to give veganism a try, and to “Take a moment, think about it, and reexamine your relationship with food because it’ll make the Earth and ourselves very very sick if we keep abusing it." Read more at The Washington Times …


Will technology or tradition save the global food supply? Why not both?

There are many complex threats to our food supply, and we’re beginning to see this clearly through what is available for us to eat, how much it costs and the outsize demand versus supply of certain foods. And although there’s no one answer or way forward, innovations in technology to help the regeneration of natural ecosystems coupled with approaches “that value the generational wisdom of women and men who have been part of farming for generations” may result in the most positive outcome. Read more at The Washington Post …


The rise of meatless meat, explained

2019 has seen billions of dollars’ worth of growth in the niche alt meat category, but how did it all happen so fast? And is meatless meat actually healthier than real meat? It would seem that, as of right now, regular meat is still here to stay for a variety of reasons—but it is likely plant-based meat could absorb much of the increase in demand for meat in the future. Read more at Vox …

Natural Products Expo

Financials have you confused? Here's what you need to pay attention to

Person Typing On a Computer

Does even the mention of financials get your fight-or-flight kicking in? You're not alone. Many early-stage founders get that pit-in-the-stomach reaction to money. We get it, though; it’s not your zone of genius! Luckily, there’s Bill Capsalis.

Capsalis is the president of Naturally Boulder and a money whiz extraordinaire who makes it easy (and maybe enjoyable) to understand the most important aspects of managing your financials. He's leading the panel, Getting Cozy with Financials: How I Learned to Love My P&L at Natural Products Business School at Natural Products Expo East. Capsalis, alongside other industry leaders, will dive deeper into financials during that panel, but here, he gives a sneak peek of what’s to come.

Why is it important founders, not just CFOs, understand P&L and balance sheets?

Bill Capsalis: Food company founders are often very passionate about their products and can talk all day [about them]. Creating financial spreadsheets and plans isn't usually in their wheelhouses.

Bill Capsalis.jpgThe important financial view of the business can be found in two easy-to-read financial documents: the P&L and the balance sheet. When founders take the time to understand these two important pieces of information, they can really learn to love them and what's inside of them. It helps them understand that a financial strategy is just as important as a sales, marketing or operating strategy.

The window to understanding your future success can lie in the details of your financials. Financial literacy is required if you are running any business but even more so with food and beverage because it can be a game of pennies. Finding where you can save a few pennies can make a big difference in your ability to make money.

What are some key P&L line items founders should look at?

BC: While all aspects of the P&L are important, I think founders need to focus on cost of goods sold (COGS) to ensure that they are not leaving any money on the table. Picking up a few percentage points through more efficiency can lead to greater profit on the bottom line.

Another area is around the marketing and sales expenses and promotional line items to support top line growth. It is an area that can be kept in line. But if left unchecked, it can really cut into your profit margins. The cost of doing business [sales] is a line item that needs to be managed and flexed when supporting aggressive growth goals and or when needing to preserve cash for other business needs.

What are you going to cover in your Natural Products Business School workshop?

BC: We are going to explore the P&L and the balance sheet with an excellent panel, including a CFO for a growing brand, an entrepreneur who freely admits that the financial side of the business isn't all that fun, a former founder who had a successful exit and myself who has worked with over 200 emerging small brands on a variety of business challenges which always include the financial aspects of their business.

During the session we will highlight specific areas of the financials that every entrepreneur should pay attention to. While doing so, we hope to have a little fun exploring with the attendees what some of their fears and questions are around these documents. Our panel will move quickly and we will be taking questions from the audience. They should be prepared to have a P&L and balance sheet handy so we can help them with their questions. It will be an interactive and very fast hour!

Natural Products Expo East

What: Natural Products Business School (education add-on required)
When: 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019
Where: Hilton, Key Ballroom

How reducing food loss, waste can generate a triple win


It’s no secret that a significant amount of food intended for human consumption is never eaten and wasted across the globe. This issue is being addressed by many companies, municipalities, nonprofits, governments and individuals, but more work must be done to successfully reduce food loss and waste.

In a new report by World Resources Institute, "Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Setting a Global Action Agenda," experts explain how tackling the issue of food loss and waste can ultimately generate a “triple win.” According to the report, implementing reduction efforts can help farmers, companies and households save money; combat hunger; and alleviate pressure on climate, water and land.

The report highlights the food loss and waste challenge, the cause of the issue, what should be done to address it, what progress has been made so far and more.

“There’s more public and private sector activity than ever—with 30 of the world’s largest global food companies setting targets to reduce food loss and waste—but we’re still falling short in major areas,” said Andrew Steer, president and CEO of World Resources Institute, in a statement. “Halving food loss and waste by 2030 is critical if we’re to feed the world without destroying the planet. The three-pronged agenda we’re urging gives the world a blueprint for success, with clear and specific action items everyone from crop farmers to hoteliers must take now to combat this waste.”

It also outlines a Global Action Agenda, encouraging countries and companies to adopt the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as their own, measure their food loss and waste, take action on identified hotspots, identify a shortlist of to-dos for each type of actor in the food supply chain and scale up the impact and pace of these actor-specific interventions.

“The global action agenda we’re proposing rests on big, bold ideas,” said Katie Flanagan, associate at World Resources Institute and lead author of the report, in a statement. “I’m happy to say some are already underway, such as a rise in national public-private partnerships and new financing. Others would break fresh ground. We know this is ambitious, but when we look at the amount of food that is lost and wasted, it’s clear that such a massive challenge demands massive action.”

Below are some key takeaways from the report.

Reduction as a strategy

Many areas across the globe are setting sustainability goals, including food loss and waste reduction goals and greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. While many of these goals are challenging and will take effort from various parties to successfully achieve, experts mention in the report that reduction can be a strategy to achieving these set goals.

Reducing food loss and waste can improve hunger, poverty and health, ultimately helping to create a sustainable food future and to fix an inefficient food system for the sake of people and the planet, the report points out.


Why food loss and waste matters

Reduction of food loss and waste can have a significant impact on the environment, economy, food security, job market and ethics, according to the report. For example, food loss and waste reduction can help slash greenhouse gas emissions, combat hunger across the globe, create jobs across the supply chain and help change behavior and habits for the better.

Additionally, reduction can help meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, contribute to the Paris Agreement on climate change and sustainably feed the planet by 2050, the report points out.

The cause of food loss and waste

In order to successfully reduce food loss and waste, one needs to understand the cause of the issue. The report points to “direct causes” of food loss and waste, such as concerns about a food’s safety or suitability, and “underlying drivers,” which can be technological, managerial, behavioral or structural in nature.

Altogether, there are 15 underlying drivers that need to be addressed if food loss and waste is to be successfully reduced:

  1. Poor infrastructure
  2. Inadequate equipment
  3. Suboptimal packaging
  4. Inadequate food management practices, skills or knowledge
  5. Inflexible procurement practices
  6. Poor supply and demand forecasting and planning
  7. Marketing strategies
  8. Norms and attitudes
  9. Lack of awareness
  10. Concerns about possible risks
  11. Conditions in demographics
  12. Climate
  13. Policies and regulations
  14. Economics
  15. Financing

It’s important to note that some underlying drivers are more prominent in certain regions and that food loss and waste is often driven by more than one driver.

What action needs to be taken

The report states that governments and companies should pursue a simple but effective “Target-Measure-Act approach” when it comes to reducing food loss and waste. Here’s a breakdown of what that means:

1. Set targets. Targets set ambition, and ambition motivates action.

2. Measure food loss and waste. Measuring food loss and waste can help decision-makers better understand how much, where and why food is being lost or wasted. Understanding the problem can help you overcome it and keep you on track to meet your goals.

3. Take action. Create a priority to-do list for each type of actor to get started with reducing food loss and waste. Then, take action to put that list into motion.

10 scaling interventions

To help accelerate and broaden the deployment of the Target-Measure-Act approach and the actor-specific interventions, the report highlights 10 scaling interventions:

  1. Develop national strategies for reducing food loss and waste.
  2. Create national public-private partnerships.
  3. Launch a “10x20x30” supply chain initiative, where at least 10 corporate “power players” commit to Target-Measure-Act and then engage their own 20 largest suppliers to do the same and achieve a 50 percent reduction in food loss and waste by 2030.
  4. Invigorate efforts to strengthen value chains and reduce smallholder losses.
  5. Launch a “decade of storage solutions.”
  6. Shift consumer social norms.
  7. Go after greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
  8. Scale up financing.
  9. Overcome the data deficit.
  10. Advance the research agenda.

To view the full report, click here.

waste360_200.pngThis piece originally appeared on Waste360, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more waste and recycling news.

[email protected]: Cell-cultured meat startups join forces | Monsanto emails reveal efforts to discredit critics


The leading US cell-based meat startups just forged an alliance

Five companies leading the cell-cultured meat and fish movement in the U.S. today announced that they are banding together to form a group called the Alliance for Meat, Poultry and Seafood Innovation in order to better represent themselves as an industry with a unified voice. JUST, Memphis Meats, Finsless Foods, BlueNaly and Fork and Goode hope to work toward overcoming the remaining regulatory, technological and educational barriers preventing cell-cultured meat products from being brought to market and widely accepted. Read more at Quartz …


Newly released emails reveal how Monsanto conspired to discredit its critics

Cargill, one of North America’s largest beef processors, has invested $75 million in Beyond Meat’s pea protein supplier. This funding will allow the supplier, Puris, to “own and operate three facilities in North America that focus solely on pea protein production.” Beyond Meat, in turn, will be able to increase production of its popular meat substitute to fulfill the booming consumer demand. Read more at New Food Economy …


Duped in the deli aisle? ‘No nitrates added’ labels are often misleading

A new report reveals that terms such as “no nitrates added” mean little to nothing when it comes to processed meat labels—in spite of the fact that consumers tend to view these products as healthier. Processed meats with the “no nitrates added” label were found to contain the same nitrate and nitrite levels as traditionally cured meats, so even though their curing agents were derived from natural sources rather than synthetic sodium nitrate, the health risks are equal. Read more at NPR …


Is titanium dioxide in sunscreen safe for skin?

Titanium dioxide was recently cleared for UV protection in a February report from USDA, although the ingredient has been under scrutiny in scientific literature since 2011. But scientists recently confirmed that titanium dioxide is nontoxic to skin cells in small amounts, and that even in nanoparticle form the substance can protect cells against UV damage. Read more at Inverse …


Amazon has ceded control of its site. The result: Thousands of banned, unsafe or mislabeled products

Amazon is struggling to police its site as third-party sellers continue to offer subpar, and often dangerous, products; recent lawsuits resulting from this lack of authority underscore the fact that America’s tech giants “have lost control of their massive platforms—or decline to control them.” And yet: These sellers are crucial to Amazon’s business because they comprise 60% of physical merchandise sales from the site. Read more at The Wall Street Journal …

Hain Celestial reports lower sales, higher adjusted gross margin

Hain Celestial logo

Hain Celestial’s President and CEO Mark Schiller said Thursday morning that the company is on track to achieve its operational and financial objectives in fiscal 2020.

During the conference call in which he reported Q4 and year-end 2019 earnings, Schiller focused on the changes he’s made since becoming CEO in November, such as eliminating 350 low-performing SKUs; implementing a new trade management system; and restructuring operations in North America.

“While we have more work to do, we’re making good progress,” he said. Gross margin has increased for three consecutive quarters, he noted.

However, the results aren’t as positive as Schiller is. In Q4—which ended June 30—the company saw a net loss of $7.7 million, compared with a $4.6 million loss in the same period a year ago.

Comparing Q4 2019 with the same period in fiscal 2018, the company reported:

  • Net sales decreased a total of 10% to $557.7 million, with sales down 11.1% in the United States; 10.3% in the United Kingdom; and 6.5% in the rest of the world, which included Canada.
  • On a constant currency basis, total sales decreased 7.2%.
  • Gross profit was $106 million, down 15.3%.
  • Gross margin increased 120 basis points or 1.2% to 19%.
  • Adjusted gross margin was 23%, up 190 basis points or 1.9%.
  • Adjusted net income was $22.4 million, down 19%.

For fiscal 2019, Hain Celestial reported a net loss of $49.9 million, down $132.4 million or 160.6% from fiscal 2018’s income of $82.4 million. Other year-end results showed negative results as well:

  • Net sales were $2.3 billion, down 6.5% from fiscal 2018’s net sales of $2.46 billion.
  • On a constant currency basis, net sales decreased 4.2%.
  • Gross profit was $445.2 million, down 13.6% from $515.4 million.
  • Gross margin was 19.3%, down 170 basis points or 1.7%.
  • Adjusted gross margin was 21%, a 110 basis point decrease (-1.1%).
  • Adjusted net income of $68.7 million, down 43.4% from $121.3 in 2018.

A year ago, Hain Celestial Chief Financial Officer James Langrock announced that the company expected net sales in fiscal 2019 to total between $2.5 billion and $2.56 billion, an increase of 2%-4%.

For fiscal 2019, the company lost $53 million due to the volatility of the British pound, Schiller said. Business in the United Kingdom is growing, but income generated there is down 25% because of the uncertainty regarding Brexit.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Got private-label supplements? Tips for a successful store brand

Getty Images private-label supplements differentiate natural products retailers sales increasing

Natural products retailers face competition from all directions, but carrying private-label supplements is an excellent way to differentiate, attract customers and build store loyalty.

Private-label supplements really gained traction during the recession that started in 2008. With tighter purse strings, many consumers gave less-expensive store-brand products a shot—and realized they were on par with, or even better than, big-name brands. “People who turned away from national brands and came to private label have stuck with private label,” says Elliott Lalasz, vice president of marketing at Vitamer Laboratories, a leading private-label supplements manufacturer that serves the majority of independent natural products retailers.

Survey results from market research firms such as Nielsen and IRI confirm this shift in consumer perception. Approximately 80% of consumers trust private-label supplements to be as good as or better than national brands, Lalasz notes.

This deeper level of trust is evident in the sales growth. In the natural channel, private-label supplements totaled $26.9 million for the 52 weeks ending March 24, according to market research firm SPINS. That’s a 1.8% increase from a year ago and represents 3.5% growth from the 52 weeks ending March 26, 2016.

Emblematic of this sales jump, Vitamer has hundreds of accounts with independents, says Mark Elliott, director of sales, and that number has increased 16% in just the last three years. “Most retailers nowadays are seeing that private label isn’t an option anymore—it’s really kind of a requirement,” Lalasz adds.

Jon Fiume, chief operations officer at Mustard Seed Market and Café, which has three locations in Ohio, agrees that private label is only going to continue to grow. “The trend toward more of a pure, clean lifestyle and wellness is stronger than ever—it’s hitting all sectors,” he says. Essentially, with more and more consumers seeking out supplements, there is greater opportunity than ever for retailers to market their own brands.

Doing so comes with many perks. For one, you, the retailer, can control the price. And as Fiume points out, you can ensure a higher profit margin, create brand loyalty and generate repeat sales.

One former customer of MOM’s Organic Market embodies that loyalty. According to Steve Geest, vice president of wellness for the Mid-Atlantic organic grocery chain, when the customer moved and no longer lived near a MOM’s location, they wanted to purchase the store’s brand via mail order. Geest acknowledges that this person probably could’ve found a similar formulation locally, but the anecdote shows how much trust customers put in private-label products.

SPINS data private-label supplement sales growing

Getting started with private label

Even though private-label supplement sales are growing, this endeavor might be too much for a new natural retailer to take on immediately. While Lalasz and Elliott won’t specify the annual store sales volume required to start an account with Vitamer, they say that new accounts must order minimum quantities of five different SKUs.

When you are ready to launch a private-label line—or if you’re adding onto an existing set—“We try to make it as painless as possible,” Elliott says. Vitamer stocks more than 400 SKUs for retailers to choose from and has a team of graphic illustrators to help design store-specific labels that include all Food and Drug Administration requirements.

Of course, Vitamer isn’t the only manufacturer of private-label supplements, but it’s a popular one for a reason. Fiume appreciates the ongoing relationship he has with the company’s sales representative and the fact that Vitamer is a Natural Products Association member.

Whichever manufacturer you opt to work with, Fiume suggests considering how the company will help grow your line of supplements, and always check its packaging, certification processes and how it handles recalls.

Building customer trust

Remember, customers who visit natural products stores instead of sitting on their couches and ordering supplements online do so for a reason: “They go to the store because they trust the store, they trust that brand and they like the experience of being in the store,” Elliott says.

Because of the trust factor, Mustard Seed’s 38 years in business is an advantage for its private label. “To have our name on it, people believe in our quality; that helps differentiate us,” Fiume says. “It’s a good extension of who we are. It’s a relationship builder.”

Offering supplements that carry your store’s name deepens shoppers’ trust because it adds a level of seriousness, says Geest. But before starting or expanding your private-label line, he suggests looking at your customer base and building on the strength of your store. MOM’s began with protein supplements to build customers’ trust, he says.

And because your name is on the bottle, your private-label line should be a premium product, not a value product, Fiume says. After all, not including artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners is already a huge differentiator between the supplements sold at natural retailers and the generic brands found at conventional drugstore chains, he says.

Driving sales

“Private label is as much a brand as any national brand,” Lalasz says. “As a retailer, it’s the brand you own and control completely, so you get to determine how exactly you’re merchandising that in the store. You get to define everything about it.”

Private-label supplements also give retailers a better return on their merchandising investment, Lalasz adds. “Why, if you’re spending money on marketing, should that be going to a national brand when it can go to your own brand that’s going to bring customers back only to your store?” he asks.

Therefore, it’s crucial to make efforts to drive sales to your line. Creating a block of your store brand’s supplements will attract customers’ attention, Lalasz says, and placing that block next to your best-selling national brand will help increase sales. Your supplements should also be featured on endcaps and cross-merchandised with other products in your store. For example, Elliott says one retailer offered customers who purchased private-label fish oil supplements a discount on salmon.

Mustard Seed promotes its supplement line within the store and on Facebook through giveaways such as gift baskets. “We make sure it’s very attractive to customers,” Fiume says.

All that aside, as with any other products you carry, private-label supplements won’t sell if your employees don’t know what they are and can’t answer shoppers’ questions about them. At Mustard Seed, owner Abraham Nabors teaches employees about the products, packaging and labels. Then, armed with product sheets and additional hands-on training from a Vitamer sales rep, employees are prepared to answer customers’ questions, Fiume says. Store managers also train employees to try to sell the private-label line over others. “Employees know that’s the line to go to,” he adds.

But when discussing private-label supplements with shoppers, Lalasz advises avoiding the term private label.

Rather, refer to these products as “our brand” or “our store brand.” All products under this brand name should carry the same message and present the same mission, he adds.

With quality products, well-trained and educated employees, and attractive merchandising and product labels, your own line of supplements can be one more reason customers value and stay loyal to your store.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

40 fundamentals of natural retailing

40 fundamentals of natural retailing Natural Foods Merchandiser 40th anniversary

What comes to mind when you think of a natural retailing fundamental? Maybe you think of general defining attributes such as community engagement and high product standards. Or perhaps you think of essential “rules” to follow such as business and supply chain best practices.

The truth is that, together, all of these fundamentals keep natural retailers at the top of their games and regarded as pillars of their communities. Here, in honor of Natural Foods Merchandiser’s 40th anniversary, natural products pros share, in their own words, the concepts that define our industry, how they practice these principles and tips to guide your business.


Natural retail means a strong community connection

Independents can be a part of their communities in ways that chain stores often can’t. From hosting neighborhood events to sponsoring local organizations, community engagement is a main mission for most natural products retailers.

1. Help those in need. “Along with directly supporting schools and charity organizations with cash and in-kind donations, we offer our customers the opportunity to sign up for the Oliver’s Community Card, which enables us to donate 3% of every purchase to their selected beneficiary.”—Sara Cummings, marketing and communications at Oliver’s Market in Sonoma County, California

Debra Stark, founder and CEO of Debra’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, Massachusetts2. Rally customers to the cause. “We create community around all the causes that we believe in: organic, environmental—oh, so many. Recently, I wrote an article about synthetic fragrances in Tide for our newsletter. Hundreds of people made a point of coming in to thank us. More wrote [to Tide]. Many took action.”—Debra Stark, founder and CEO of Debra’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, Massachusetts

3. Educate, enlighten, attract new shoppers. “Chequamegon Food Co-op’s outreach programming consistently helps attract new customers through cooking, nutrition and wellness classes, along with community events.” —Meagan Van Beest, co-general manager at Chequamegon Food Co-op in Ashland, Wisconsin

4. Nurture local food chains. “Choosing local means supporting the ranchers, farmers and food producers right here in our state and surrounding areas. There’s something amazing about knowing the rancher who is sustainably raising lamb less than 20 miles from our store. Through that community and local spirit, Alfalfa’s continues to carry more than 4,000 local products, which truly sets us apart from other retailers in Boulder and along the Front Range.”—Heather L. Collins, director of communications at Alfalfa’s Market in Boulder and Louisville, Colorado

Louie Castriota, founder of Leg Up Farmers Market in York, Pennsylvania5. Keep more dollars in the community. “I’m a big believer in supporting local producers and artisans because we want to be good stewards in our community. Supporting local whenever we can is important for keeping our local economy moving and creating tax revenue and jobs. It is also better from an environmental perspective because the impact is lessened by goods being produced and sold in our community.”—Louie Castriota, founder of Leg Up Farmers Market in York, Pennsylvania

6. Pay it forward. “We send items we can no longer sell to a food pantry in the neighborhood. We also have a cookbook library so people can exchange cookbooks. And we have a tote loan—people bring in their extra tote bags and others take them as they need.”—Erin Wright, owner of Little House Green Grocery in Richmond, Virginia


Natural retail means a friendly face

Independents offer more than just healthy natural and organic products—they also provide a personal connection that keeps shoppers coming back.

7. Treat shoppers like friends. “We always tell our staff to treat customers as if they are best friends who have come to visit us in our home. Work on mutual respect and liking.”—Debra Stark

Angie O’Pry Blades, president of Fiesta Nutrition Center8. Share your story. “Make your story known. Promote the fact that you are an independent local retailer, what brought you to the natural foods industry, the contributions you make to the community and what keeps your passion alive to provide stellar products and customer service.”—Angie O’Pry Blades, president of Fiesta Nutrition Center in Monroe, Louisiana

9. Get personal. “We do Staff Picks shelf talkers, with a picture and short answer for why it’s a favorite.” —Bart Yablonsky, owner of Dawson’s Market in Rockville, Maryland

10. Start conversations. “We create a new Food Fact at our register every week. It provides a good point of conversation that goes beyond small talk.”—Erin Wright

Jeff Hilton, co-founder and chief marketing officer at BrandHive11. Foster real connections. “There is both a rational and an emotional component to every purchasing decision. Natural retailers are in a very unique position to connect on a more personal level and give individual attention and advice. That human connection is powerful.”—Jeff Hilton, co-founder and chief marketing officer at BrandHive

12. Be inclusive. “Our ability to authentically welcome everyone to our stores is what sets us apart. Doing the hard work of improving diversity, equity and inclusion is driving big changes to our product mix, prices, messaging and service.”—Rita York Hennecke, general manager of The Merc Co+op in Lawrence, Kansas

Dean Nelson, owner of Dean’s Natural Food Market in New Jersey 13. Create a strong culture. “Finding ways to differentiate independents from mass-market and super-naturals is becoming more difficult. The cultures we create are what we have to give our customers—the experience they need, and deserve, to keep them coming back.”—Dean Nelson, owner of Dean’s Natural Food Market in New Jersey

14. Have fun! “The ‘fun-da-mentality’ of Westerly Natural Market has rendered it a perpetual leader in the fresh, organic and natural products community. Positive and friendly energy, a well-trained staff, a pristine environment, competitive prices and state-of-the-art, speedy checkout systems epitomize this fun and smart market.”—Michael Toback, owner of Westerly Natural Market in New York, New York


Natural retail means education

Beyond seeking out quality products, many shoppers visit independent natural food stores to learn more about wellness and how to support whole-body health.

15. Meet customers where they are. “Take and create every opportunity you can find to become an educator. I know of few better ways to build lasting appreciation than to educate. I’m sure, even now, you can still remember some of your best teachers—those who took the time to meet you where you were and helped you grow your knowledge at your own pace. Become that for your customers, and they will always remember and appreciate you.”  —Dan Stump, marketing and communications manager at Leg Up Farmers Market in York, Pennsylvania

Jonathan Lawrence, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market16. Train within. “Educate both the internal team and customer base. That’s important because customers come to us as a leader, to seek guidance on natural products and learn how they can better take control of their health journey.”—Jonathan Lawrence, senior director of grocery and natural living at Fresh Thyme Farmers Market

17. Create credibility. “Well-trained, enthusiastic, passionate employees capable of passing their knowledge on to shoppers is essential to success, as they give your store a level of credibility that surpasses others. When shoppers know that trained staffers can answer questions about new products, emerging ingredients, nutrition, certifications and more, they buy more and become repeat customers.”—Joan Boykin, owner and president of Boykin Consulting

18. Teach smart shopping. “We do a lot of education to better serve our communities, including free monthly ‘Shopping the Co-op on a Budget’ classes, which help people understand how to shop our deals, how to buy bulk and so on.”—Gail Graham, general manager of Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-op in St. Paul, Minnesota

Joe Fulco, Fruitful Yield Health Foods 19. Never stop learning. “Just when you think you have a good handle on nutrition or your supplement regimen, there is always something new to learn and for us to consider whether to support in our stores. And I appreciate our customers’ vast wealth of knowledge. They’ve done their homework, and when they ask us a question and receive an answer because we’ve also done homework, that builds trust and loyalty.”—Joe Fulco, president of Fruitful Yield Health Foods in Greater Chicago


Natural retail means smart supply chains

Today’s shoppers care where their food and supplements come from, and they trust independent natural retailers to curate products that align with their values.

20. Be a gatekeeper. “It’s a concept that started in the early 1990s, before the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act: the retailer as gatekeeper. Retailers are the direct point of contact and influencer for consumers. Reputable retailers sell only reputable products. Education, trust and transparency are your greatest assets.”—Frank Lampe, vice president of communications and industry relations at the United Natural Products Alliance

Joyce de Brevannes, Erewhon Organic Grocer and Café 21. Find passionate partners. “Erewhon’s unique market position is due to a community of passionate people: farmers, founders, healers, friends and neighbors. This shared passion flows through all our retail practices—from curation to training to service—and the attention to detail we bring to all that we do.”—Joyce de Brevannes, marketing director at Erewhon Organic Grocer and Café in Southern California

22. Support small and local. “Nearly everything on our shelves is sourced from sustainable makers within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. In the six years we’ve been open, we’ve launched 88 local and small food brands, giving nearly 90 sustainability-minded entrepreneurs their first chance to sell their products on shelf. Collectively, we are displacing demand for industrially produced food—and having a whole lot of fun in the process.”—Danielle Vogel, founder of Glen’s Garden Market in Washington, D.C.

Susie Farbin, MaMa Jean’s Natural Market23. Stock trusted brands. “We look for [the number of] years they have been established, their commitment to purity and their support with education.”—Susie Farbin, owner of MaMa Jean’s Natural Market in Springfield, Missouri


Natural retail means high product standards

Independent naturals are known for their strict ingredient standards, which takes the guesswork out of shopping for products that align with conscious consumers’ values.

24. Do your homework. “Because we offer a selection of animal products—meat, dairy, eggs, fish—we make certain we can track our sources and know exactly how these producers treat the animals and what they feed them. We ensure products are free of hormones, chemicals, preservatives and fillers.” —Katie Smallwood, marketing manager at Roots Market in Clarksville and Olney, Maryland

Jason Bander, LifeThyme All-Natural Market 25. Stick to your guns. “Our bakery has always been 100 percent vegan, by the fortune of hiring a baker in the early days who said, ‘I only bake vegan.’ Done. This has survived as it has been handed down through several teams of bakers. Our bakery also uses only unrefined flours and sugars, is mostly organic and is still uniquely exceptional.”—Jason Bander, general manager of LifeThyme All-Natural Market in Greenwich Village, New York

Allison Buckingham, Perelandra Natural Food Center 26. Keep it clear. “Our standards for the food we sell are very strict: no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners; no high fructose corn syrup; no carrageenan; palm oil needs to be RSPO certified/sustainable; and all corn-, soy-, canola- and beet-related ingredients need to be certified organic or non-GMO. These standards change as our knowledge about food and the industry changes. We adhere to them without exception, and they’re part of the reason our customers trust us and shop with us.”—Allison Buckingham, co-owner of Perelandra Natural Food Center in Brooklyn, New York


Natural retail means learning from each other

Even though natural retailers compete with each other, they share advice so that all natural retailers can grow and succeed.

Lisa de Lima, MOM’s Organic Market 27. “The natural channel is the tip of the spear for natural product brands. Keep it sharp with new innovation and ideas.”—Steve Young, executive vice president and managing director of Sunrise Strategic Partners

28. “Be authentic!”Lisa de Lima, vice president of grocery at MOM’s Organic Market in the Washington, D.C., metro

Jimbo Someck, Jimbo’s Naturally29. “Decide who you are and commit to it.”Jimbo Someck, owner of Jimbo’s Naturally in San Diego County, California

30. Listen. “Be willing to hear and critically reflect on shoppers’ compliments and criticisms, and be flexible enough to change in response to them.”—Allison Buckingham


Natural retail means smart business

Passion for natural products alone won’t create a profitable business. Smart retailers know what customers want and charge prices that are fair to both sides.

Summer Auerbach, Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Markets and Wellness Center 31. Carve a niche. “We found that over 80 percent of our customers shop with us because of a unique product selection they can’t find anywhere else. For us, that means we work hard to find new and innovative products that set us apart from the competition.”—Summer Auerbach, second-generation owner of Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Markets and Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky

32. Crunch numbers. “Know your numbers and know your margins. I meet so many business owners who don’t have a grasp on this, but knowing your numbers and reacting to changes can literally make or break a business.”—Summer Auerbach

33. Compete on price. “It’s a must, as natural products are available everywhere now.”—Barb Hoffmann, founder and CEO of GreenAcres Market in Kansas and Oklahoma

Paul Hoffman, Healthy Living Market & Café34. Go the extra mile. “‘Getting to yes’ is a big thing with us. It’s all about doing everything in our power to meet guests’ needs, something that is becoming very rare, so our guests are always surprised by it. This is a big piece of our loyalty.”—Paul Hoffman, director of sales and purchasing at Healthy Living Market & Café in South Burlington, Vermont, and Saratoga Springs, New York.


Corinne Shindelar, president and CEO of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association

Corinne Shindelar, president and CEO of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association, has more than 35 years’ experience in natural retail. Her words of wisdom might just be priceless.

35. Be an open book. “The more your team knows and understands your business, the more they understand how their day-to-day impacts the overall results of the company. Partner with your staff and give them the opportunity to lean in all the way. They will be more engaged in helping you define your differentiation in a very competitive market, and this will lead to retention—and who doesn’t want that in this tight labor environment?”

36. Pass on the discount. “Forty percent of your center store should be on promotion every month. It also helps price sensitivity. Pass on those discounts; don’t pocket them.”

37. Clean it up! “Keep your store crisp, clean, fresh and uncluttered. You can do this and have a great warm, welcoming feel at the same time. Open up those aisles through consistent category management and moving out the dust collectors.”

38. Be clear. “Find signage that stands out without cluttering.”


Natural retail means stocking interesting brands

Retailers are only one component of the shopping experience—the products they stock on their shelves are just as important. And for brands hoping to get onto those shelves, these following retail fundamentals are critical.

Steve Hughes, founder of Sunrise Strategic Partners39. Make packaging sing. “For entrepreneurs, 95 percent of your marketing budget is in your package. You have three seconds for a distracted consumer walking by to see it, get it, buy it. Spend the time and money to create a ‘shelf self-evident’ package.”—Steve Hughes, founder of Sunrise Strategic Partners

40. Get into distribution. “For emerging natural product brands, distribution is marketing! Where you are sold and merchandised says as much about your brand as any old-school advertising campaign will ever say. It’s critical for entrepreneurs to get the channel strategy on their brands right.”—Steve Young, executive vice president and managing director at Sunrise Strategic Partners

[email protected]: KFC sells out of 'Beyond Fried Chicken' in 5 hours | Cargill invests $75M in pea protein supplier


KFC sold out of its meatless chicken nuggets and wings in 5 hours

KFC tested out its meat-free “Beyond Fried Chicken” in a single store in Atlanta on August 27th and sold out of the product within a mere five hours. The company will likely wait to see whether the novelty of the meat-free chicken alternative wears off for consumers or not before opting to roll it out on a nationwide scale. Read more at AdWeek …


Beyond Meat’s pea protein supplier receives additional $75M investment from Cargill

Cargill, one of North America’s largest beef processors, has invested $75 million in Beyond Meat’s pea protein supplier. This funding will allow the supplier, Puris, to “own and operate three facilities in North America that focus solely on pea protein production.” Beyond Meat, in turn, will be able to increase production of its popular meat substitute to fulfill the booming consumer demand. Read more at CNBC …


Could a California grocery worker strike spur a nationwide movement?

Grocery store workers in Southern California are fighting for fair wages, and paying them more could end up benefiting retailers by cutting down on turnover rates and allowing employees to achieve higher education and certification. If a strike occurs, however, it could prompt workers in other regions of the U.S. to make similar moves, which would be extremely costly for big-box retailers. Read more at Civil Eats …


White Claw is what happens when being cool becomes exhausting

Sales of White Claw’s assorted multi-flavor packs alone grew a whopping 320% more through May than the same time period in 2018. But why? One could argue it is in large part because the product “neatly satisfies young consumers’ desires for affordable, convenient, portable, low-calorie, healthy-seeming alcoholic options." Read more at The Atlantic …


Study: Healthy foods are more important than type of diet to reduce heart disease risk

Three diverse healthy diets—a carb-rich diet, a protein-rich diet and an unsaturated fat-rich diet—were all shown to reduce the risk of heart injury and inflammation within a six-week period. These findings are notable because, firstly, they prove that diet is a crucial and fast-acting factor in regards to heart-related disease prevention and recovery and, secondly, they indicate that overall healthfulness is what matters in a given person’s diet. Read more at Science Daily …

Natural Products Expo

How to network like a pro at Natural Products Expo East

Erin Conger Health Warrior Hidden Rhythm Activation Wall

Time to put your networking shoes on; Natural Products Expo East 2019 is right around the corner! It's one of two times annually (at Natural Products Expo West, too) the industry powwows in one city for a week of true connection. You really never know whose path you'll cross.

Take Cynthia Samanian, for example—the founder and CEO of Hidden Rhythm, a boutique experiential marketing firm. She walked away from Expo East 2018 with a fruitful Health Warrior partnership.

Here, Samanian dishes about how that connection went down and why it's important to network your heart out at Expo East and other natural product industry events.

You partnered up with Health Warrior through Expo East 2018. Tell us more about this relationship.

Cynthia SamanianCynthia Samanian: Last year, I was invited to speak at Expo East’s Digital Marketing Summit. Specifically, I was on a panel covering how to work with influencers. Representing the experiential marketing world, I shared my strategies on teaming up with influencers for offline activations, whether it be intimate product launch dinners or large consumer-facing pop-ups.

A few days after the summit, Health Warrior reached out and shared their interest in having us design and produce an influencer event in San Francisco. Their marketing team had been in the audience during my panel and was intrigued by our approach to experiential, especially since we’re focused on serving natural food brands and have trusted influencer relationships in the space. We created a proposal for a New Years’ wellness-themed influencer event, and the rest is history!

Have you experienced any other fruitful connections as a result of Expo East?

CS: Absolutely! During Expo East, I connected not only with potential brand clients but also with influencers interested in our experiential activations. Through the Influencer Summit at last year’s Expo East, I met several talented and successful influencers. Just a few short months later, we partnered with two of them on a Thanksgiving activation we produced for Bob’s Red Mill in San Francisco.

Even more impressive, one of the influencers who lived in Boston happened to be in town during the activation. She had such a fun time meeting San Francisco-based influencers, many of whom she knew from Instagram. She was also able to learn more about Bob’s Red Mill. This all-around win was made possible by Expo East. There’s definitely no way I would have thought to invite her had we not met at the conference!

What do you find to be the most valuable about natural product industry events?

CS: It all comes back to connecting with people in-person. Frankly, this is the same reason I believe experiential marketing is so powerful! An interaction as short as a five-minute face-to-face conversation can leave a lasting imprint in our memory and ultimately translate into new sales, partnerships and more.

At natural product industry events, I make it a point to visit all of our clients—old and new. In a crowded place like Expo East, it’s always special to see a familiar face, whether it’s reconnecting with a past client or cultivating relationships with new clients.

I also find value in walking the tradeshow floor to discover up-and-coming brands and key trends. As our space continues to grow quickly with new players entering the market, it’s challenging to stay on top of everything. However, after just a few days at a conference like Expo East, I leave with my finger on the pulse of the industry and several valuable contacts. Conferences allow for serendipitous connections. You really never know who you’re going to meet next!

What advice can you give Expo East attendees around the power of connecting at Expo East and beyond?

CS: Look beyond the tradeshow halls! While walking the floor and visiting booths is an important part of the Expo East experience, don’t miss out on the educational workshops. From diving deep into CBD to stepping up your digital marketing strategy, there are so many opportunities to learn and get inspired.

I’ve also found that these smaller sessions are a great way to connect with your industry peers, many of whom are trying to solve similar problems. Why not introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you? You never know what you can learn from each other in just a quick conversation!

Join us at Natural Products Business School at Expo East 2019 for a full day of networking and education purpose-built for emerging brands.

Natural Products Expo EastWhat: Natural Products Business School (education add-on required)
When: 7:30 a.m. - 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019
Where: Hilton, Key Ballroom

One analogue meat patty is taking the lead

Carl's Jr. beyond-meat-carls-junior-burger.jpg

The rise of the next-generation vegan burger has been impossible to ignore, with the two biggest names—Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger—taking the lion’s share of the plant-based trend so far.

But which big brand name has come out on top? According to consumer intelligence firm Gravy Analytics, although the meat-alternative market did not appear to make a discernible dent in overall restaurant performance, restaurants serving Impossible Burger (including Burger King and Applebee’s) appeared to outperform restaurants that serve Beyond Burger (including Carl’s Jr. and TGI Friday’s) in total foot traffic.

Specifically, foot traffic to restaurants serving Impossible Burger was down 3% from 2018 to 2019, while foot traffic to restaurants serving Beyond Burger was down 16% from 2018 to 2019. 

“Impossible Burger's restaurant-first approach may have also helped make their burger an especially hot commodity,” Gravy Analytics CEO Jeff White said. “Folks have been able to buy Beyond Meat products in stores for some time, but the Impossible Burger is available only in restaurants and won't reach the grocery aisle until later this year.”  

restaurant-hospitality-225.pngThis piece originally appeared as part of a larger article on Restaurant Hospitality, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for resources for independent restaurant operators.


What brands are changing the face of animal-based products, take a look at the leaders and how they are made: