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Articles from 2020 In August

TerraCycle Global Foundation tackles plastic pollution crisis in world’s waterways

Terracycle Global Foundation logo

With an estimated 8 million tons of plastic disposed of in oceans every year, plastic waste in the world’s waterways has become a truly global problem. According to the Ocean Conservancy, over half of the plastic that ends up in our oceans come from five countries—China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam—a result of rapidly growing economies and consumer demand, which have not yet been met with sustainable waste-management systems.

In recognition of this growing epidemic, international recycling leader TerraCycle created the TerraCycle Global Foundation. With generous financial support from The PepsiCo Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm, the TerraCycle Global Foundation is a dedicated public charity on a mission to dramatically reduce the volume of marine debris and plastic waste found in the world’s waterways.

“Tackling plastic waste is vital for both environmental protection and economic development in communities across the world,” said Jon Banner, executive vice president, global communications and president, The PepsiCo Foundation. “At PepsiCo, we take very seriously our commitment to building a world where plastic need never become waste. We are proud to be the angel investor to create the TerraCycle Global Foundation, helping to catalyze funding others and enable the recovery of tons of plastic waste from our waters.”

The TerraCycle Global Foundation’s work is actively underway in Thailand, where the TerraCycle Thai Foundation, a locally registered independent nonprofit, is collaborating with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR). The Foundation has installed river plastic capture traps, which are designed to increase the amount of debris and marine plastics that are collected from Thai waterways, thereby intercepting it before it reaches and pollutes the ocean. The devices are part of the DMCR’s project to integrate action and participation into marine debris management.

Through its relationships with regional waste management companies, as well as TerraCycle Inc.’s larger network of research and development, and logistical and processing partners, the Foundation will sustainably recycle not only the waste collected through its own collection devices and efforts, but also the waste collected by all the other organizations participating in the Thai government’s marine debris management program. The end goal is to use recycled waste to create materials that can be incorporated in various applications—from primary packaging for major global brands to applications such as road or construction materials.

“Cleaning the country’s rivers and canals is a critically important priority for the Thai government,” said Suwan Nanthasarut, senior advisor, DMCR. “The Department of Marine and Coastal Resources is pleased to have public-private cooperation from nonprofit organizations like the TerraCycle Thai Foundation to assist in our river cleanup efforts.”

With plans to expand to local communities throughout central and Southeast Asia where local waste management systems are overwhelmed, the TerraCycle Global Foundation is working to implement a multi-collaborator, circular system of solutions designed to clean up waterways, increase waste collection and capture more recyclable material. The Foundation will also be educating local communities on how their behaviors impact their environment and ways to prevent and reduce plastic pollution.

“Through the Foundation, we hope to lead international public awareness about the need to address river and ocean plastics,” said Tom Szaky, chairman of the board, TerraCycle Global Foundation. “By directly collecting, as well as engaging with a wide range of NGOs to collect plastic from waterways, and using our recycling solutions to process it into a high-grade material that manufacturers can integrate it into new products, we want to show there is value in these otherwise discarded plastics.”

By capturing marine plastic waste and finding recycling solutions for the collected materials, the Foundation offers a holistic approach to reducing plastic waste to create meaningful, long-lasting change that can be replicated across around the world. To learn more about the TerraCycle Global Foundation please visit,

Source: TerraCycle Global Foundation

RollinGreens’ secret: Shark Tank is just a small part of its success

RollinGreens RollinGreens Ancient Grain Millet Tots

Plant-based convenience foods brand RollinGreens appeared on ABC's "Shark Tank" in May 2020. We checked in with co-founder Lindsey Cunningham to find out how the pitch went and how it has influenced the brand’s growth in the three months since. Cunningham also shared another surprising source of growth for RollinGreens, and what they have in store for the rest of 2020.

This year has been big for RollinGreens. Tell us why.

Lindsey Cunningham: We’ve been filling the pipeline for 10 years now. Working 100-hour weeks, questioning how can we scale this business—how can we take our top-selling appetizer that people lined up around the corner for [in our food truck days], and bring it into the marketplace?

This year it just all changed for us. QVC was one of the pivotal points. Between us filming the "Shark Tank" episode and the air date—that was about nine months—we aired on QVC. We’ve also launched on e-commerce. We worked tirelessly; frozen fulfillment is hard and costly. Once we found a reliable fulfillment center, we got up and running on Shopify. We have scaled tremendously with being online.

And QVC, as in the home shopping network?

LC: That catapulted us. Where else in the world can you sell hundreds of thousands of dollars of product in eight minutes? It’s the greatest place on earth.

You know the feeling when you walk into Whole Foods, everything just looks amazing and healthy and great and you just want everything. It’s the same with QVC. I’ve been told that food is QVC’s No. 1 category. 

I don’t know why other national food brands are not thinking about this. If they aren’t, it should be a big priority. QVC is such a great place to get your brand out there and build brand loyalty. I was always very retail-focused—and you have to be, but you also need channel diversity. If you can find a channel that supports your brand, it’s an organic relationship and it spirals your brand. RollinGreens was also nominated for a 2020 QVC Customer Choice Food Award in the "Best Plant-Based Food” category.

Tell us about your Shark Tank appearance. What was it like to pitch, and what advice can you share based on that experience?

LC: Being able to do "Shark Tank" was big for us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was nervous, but the moment you get in there, everything melts away.

We were prepared for everything they could possibly ask because we know our business. We’re in it; we’re working it every day. If this was one of our first pitches ever, I don’t know if it would have been as successful. But we were out there every day.

What impact has that appearance had on your brand and growth?

LC: "Shark Tank" really created an uptick in sales. We saw more revenue from the airing than all of Q1 sales in 2020. The day the episode aired, we were at 108,000% YoY increase in users to our site. Between then and now, it’s a 4,536% YoY increase in users to the site-sustained traffic.

Did the experience change anything about how you view your business model or growth strategy?

Lindsey Cunningham, RollinGreensLC: The two biggest points that we got out of that pitch were one, understanding what going into foodservice could do to our brand in a negative way. The way Daniel Lubetzky put it, food service could kill our business. We also needed to increase our growth margin, which we had already been working on. We have made adjustments; we’ve found new manufacturers. We had already put it in motion [before Shark Tank], but it was about a nine-month process to get that margin higher.

We have now increased our gross margin by 25% since we met with the sharks. We've improved our manufacturing costs, efficiencies in our plant and have seen a decrease in costs with the amount of scale we've seen in the last six months.

Will you get a deal out of it?

LC: We are still in negotiations at this point.

What’s your distribution like now?

LC: We’re in six banners of Kroger with the Millet Tots; we’re a top brand in our category there. This summer, RollinGreens expanded nationwide distribution—debuting Teriyaki and Spicy Green Buffalo Wings at 340 Kroger-owned stores in 11 states. In mid-September, Walmart will add Mustard and Teriyaki Cauliflower Wings and Millet Tots in both Onion & Sea Salt and Garlic & Basil flavors to stores in 25 states. We’ll really be able to reach more consumers.

What else can we expect for 2020?

LC: The plan is to foster our e-commerce business, QVC and really continue building out our partnerships with retail. Those are three big initiatives for 2020.

We have more innovation that we’re working on for the end of 2020 that we’re really excited about. We have two shelf-stable products coming—I can’t say mor, except that they’re shelf-stable and filling a need. It has a lot to do with COVID.

We’ve been talking to Thrive Market for a while now. We’re having conversations about meal kits; we would love to see our products in meal kits. When we launch our shelf-stable products, we’re launching on Amazon Launchpad.

Spark Change brands prioritize waste reduction for a better world

waste reduction natural foods trend

The Product Discovery Zone at Spark Change provides a great firsthand look at many of the brands exemplifying these trends and the macro forces that will shape this industry for years to come.

This Spark Change-inspired series will also shine the spotlight on some of these brands by highlighting a different trend each week.

Trend of the week: Waste Reduction

Brands and businesses embracing the waste reduction trend are stepping up with clever ideas to reduce and remove waste along various steps and corners in the supply chain. Through byproduct turned value add or ingredient optimization ideation, waste otherwise known as a pollutant turns into energy or edible food.

Waste Reduction Trend

1. Seventh Generation

This pioneering natural products company and Certified B Corp has made the commitment to use only 100% sustainable, bio-based or recycled ingredients and materials by 2025. This Activated Charcoal Deoderant, a USDA Certified Biobased Product 95%, is the perfect example of this dedication to waste reduction. Find Seventh Generation in the Product Discovery Zone.

2. New Chapter

This Certified B Corp and producer of certified organic whole-food nutrients, recycles, composts or reuses more than 80% of its waste. It is Certified Zero Waste to Landfill, meaning that it has a minimal carbon footprint and converts its waste into clean energy. Find New Chapter in the Product Discovery Zone.

3. So Good Brand

All of this company’s juices and shots are USDA Organic and made with 100% renewable energy and 100% post-consumer recycled packaging. More than 94% of facility waste is diverted from landfills.​ The bottles are also made with a material called BtrBtl, which will recycle the same as any plastic bottle without a negative impact on the recycling stream. If it does end up in a landfill, BtrBtl’s will biodegrade at an accelerated rate, converting the packaging into usable energy and breaking down into water, soil and carbon-based gases.​ Find So Good Brand in the Product Discovery Zone.

See the latest in natural products and connect with exhibitors in the Spark Change Product Discovery Zone. Learn more about Spark Change.

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Quinn Snacks closes $3M series D round

Quinn Snacks quinn paleo pretzels

Quinn—a Louisville, Colorado-based natural foods company known for reimagining classic snacks and being a leader in ingredient transparency—announced it has closed additional series D funding. The latest funding will allow Quinn to bolster its growing retail and e-commerce distribution channels, support new innovation and product lines and continue its work around improving the food system.

The $3 million series D financing round was led by the company's entire Board of Directors, as well as other current investors including BFG Partners, Echo Capital, John Foraker, Gil Fronzaglia, Sunil Thakor and an investment arm of the Lissette family.  

"We are thrilled that our current group of investors continues to share in our vision and excitement about the brand's momentum", said Kristy Lewis, founder and CEO of Quinn. "Each of our partners brings significant expertise to elevate our brand to its next stage of growth."

Founded in 2010 with a mission to reimagine classic snacks using only real ingredients and a commitment to transparency, Quinn has established itself as a leader in the salty snack category with distribution in over 7,000 stores nationwide. This past year Quinn expanded into Walmart and saw increased distribution in Whole Foods Market, Kroger and Wegmans.

In addition to expanding in retail, Quinn has experienced immense growth in its e-commerce business through premium retail partners such as Thrive Market, HungryRoot and Imperfect Foods. Known for bringing industry firsts to market, Quinn also recently launched the first, paleo-friendly, grain-free pretzel chip. Excitement for the brand's innovative snack offerings paired with this new distribution has attributed to 65% growth in revenue this year over last year, and has elevated Quinn's status to the No. 2 pretzel brand in the natural channel and Whole Foods Market.

Quinn has also hired experienced natural foods industry and CPG veterans onto the management team. Last year, Brett Atkinson was named COO. "I am honored to be part of such an amazing team and an incredible mission-driven brand." Atkinson said. "I look forward to applying my passion and experience for growing CPG brands to help Quinn get to the next level."

The company has bolstered its sales team in the past few months, led by Al Matulis as vice president of sales. Matulis' most recent role was vice president of sales at Chicago Custom Foods, and prior to that Matulis spent five years with the Kellogg Company running retail and account teams on both the snacks and morning foods businesses in the Eastern region.

Quinn expanded its Board of Directors by naming Hunt Killough as an independent board member (Justin's, One Brands).

Source: Quinn

[email protected]: Alcohol bans are back | Farmers Business Network faces supplier pressure

Getty Images drinking ban

Drinking bans are back in fashion during the COVID-19 pandemic

Drinking bans in certain countries have lessened the pressure on overwhelmed hospitals, in addition to giving consumers a pause to become more conscious of their alcohol use. But experts agree that extended bans will backfire on well-meaning governments. Read more at CNN


Tech startup, trying to be Amazon for farms, runs into ag giants

Farmers Business Network is a Silicon Valley startup attempting to build and Amazon-like online marketplace for agricultural supplies, because big agriculture companies often sell their seeds and herbicides at inflated prices. In response some major farm retailers and wholesalers are urging farmers to avoid the platform on the basis that its secret goal is to gather and sell data on crops and farms, and seed and pesticide makers are largely refusing to directly supply the platform. Read more at The Wall Street Journal...


USDA seeks to permanently speed up poultry plant line speeds

An upcoming proposed rule from USDA would permanently increase poultry line speed limits from 140 birds per minute to 175. Faster line speeds, worker advocates say, will make social distancing at these facilities even less feasible and increase the risk of injury. Read more at Civil Eats


Instacart shoppers say they face unforgiving metrics: ‘It’s a very easy job to lose’

Metrics play a huge role in the experience of Instacart's gig workers; in fact, former and current employees have said that 5% to 20% of shoppers in a store can be fired weekly. And it's more than just speed—the company's director of shopper engagement and communications reported that the role is evaluated based on "flexibility, efficiency, innovation and customer service." Read more at The L.A. Times


The pandemic economy is changing the way Americans buy groceries

Unemployment benefits are running out as food prices continue to rise, meaning pandemic grocery store spending habits are likely to take a new turn. For starters, in July a million SNAP households were confirmed to be buying groceries online through the program. Read more at Marketplace


Natural products industry can do more to connect investors with BIPOC entrepreneurs


Claude Tellis thinks of himself as an insider in the dietary supplement industry. The Naturade CEO attends NBJ Summit. He exhibits at Natural Products Expos East and West. He’s familiar and social with the names in the C-suite spectrum. “We know these people,” he says. “We’ve partied with these people.”

He thinks of them as friends, supporters even.

What he doesn’t think of them as is investors.

“We haven’t been able to raise a penny under that scenario,” he says.

Tellis is Black and hopes to market Naturade’s products and solutions to communities of color that are also communities of great nutritional need. He won’t call it a case of racial discrimination in every instance, but the pattern is obvious, shocking even. What he and his partner Kareem Cook, chief marketing officer at the company, have been able to do to build the brand has been a matter, they say, of “entrepreneurial hustle” on all fronts and against all odds, with generous encouragement from the natural product industry investment elite.

But little equity funding. Very little.

“We brought our own capital to the table,” Cook says.

Recent events, however, have led both Cook and Tellis to notice a change of sentiment that could shift the investment picture for more entrepreneurs of color.

Only time will tell if that sentiment turns into deals.

Seeing the unseen

As a Black woman, Alisa Williams is confident she brings something very valuable to the table at VMG Partners. Named a partner in the natural-products-focused private equity and venture capital firm earlier this month, Williams is not the only person of color on the organizational chart, but she says she helps the team see opportunities and challenges in up-and-coming brands that a less diverse team might miss. “As a Black woman, I am, hopefully, bringing a diverse perspective,” she says.

And that matters, she says. Black entrepreneurs might succeed in a market and with a message that is unfamiliar to investors who lack her experience of race in America. They might not understand what can work and why it can work. “I want to elevate the voice of the black consumer,” Williams says.

Seeing those opportunities is harder for somebody who is, by circumstance, blind to the experience. Williams also says firms like VMG need to do more than just make statements—and even more than bringing diversity into the executive offices. They need a plan for how diversity and inclusion can transform the dynamic so that more people can see more potential in more brands. Hiring is extremely important, vastly more important than making a public statement in a year when the realities of the Black experience are on shocking display, but detailed plans are what make change happen. Plans have legs, she explains. They persist after the headlines fade.

VMG is creating that plan thoughtfully, and with structure and expected outcomes. “Take it on as any other project you’d be tackling internally,” she says. “Make a plan. Set goals. Set metrics.”

That’s what is needed, she says, to transform the investment cycle in natural products. She is an optimist, a believer in change. “What is so amazing about the natural products ecosystem is just the level of community,” Williams says, “the level of genuine people who are passionate and possess a level of passion that doesn’t always exist in other places.”

Overlapping circles

Investment in the natural products industry, and perhaps in any industry, has always been a matter of connections. Different people travel in different circles, and until those circles overlap the exchange of ideas and equity might never happen.

Dianna Tremblay wants those circles to expand and intersect.

Tremblay is the program director at ICA, an Oakland-based accelerator organization that helps entrepreneurs of color gain business expertise and, when possible, funding. From Tremblay’s vantage point, the circles don’t overlap nearly enough, and the natural products industry has historically not done enough to tug minority founders and mainstream investors into intersecting orbits. “Even if folks don’t think they’re putting barriers in the way, there are barriers. We don’t even see that we’re doing it,” Tremblay says. “So, until that changes, the investment activities aren’t going to change, or they’re just going to be very surface level.”

Tremblay spoke at Nutrition Capital Network’s June virtual gathering, and she calls that an example of what needs to happen more often in more circles. Tremblay was joined on the digital stage by Chef Chew, a Black man. She says attendees might have been eager to hear her message, but they need to hear it more often. A minority speaking in a keynote spot should not be a novelty. It should be expected.

When more investors interact with more entrepreneurs from different races and different backgrounds, a different trajectory can play out for the natural products industry. The affluent and predominantly white communities are well served. There is one Whole Foods Market in Oakland. There are seven across the Bay in San Francisco, where the household median income is 52% higher. The natural products industry and the investors who helped build it have created enough brands to sell out the Anaheim Convention Center, but not nearly enough brands that penetrate the markets where health challenges are large and quality products are few. “Communities of color have so much buying power, but they’re often just ignored,” Tremblay says.

If more brands were able to connect with more investors, that could change, Tremblay said. But nobody can wait for that to happen on its own. “We’ll see this influx focused on entrepreneurs of color, and Black entrepreneurs in particular, because of everything that’s happening, and then it’ll kind of die down because all the systems are still the same.”

Funding impact

Arno Hesse isn’t waiting for a plan. He’s helping build one, more than one in fact. Hesse is a co-founder of Slow Money Northern California and now a co-leader in the JEDI Collaborative. JEDI stands for Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion and consists of natural products leaders who want to make the industry more diverse and involved in collective change. Hesse says he wants to see the impact investment community grow, but he also wants a new model that helps build opportunities for minority entrepreneurs.

The model Hesse is excited about is a crowdfunding variation he describes as “community investing.” When people in a community, sometimes as local as the city in which the founders are building their brand, can buy a piece of a startup-stage company, they become ambassadors for that brand; Hesse adds that, as an investor himself, it’s the kind of groundswell backing he wants to see. “If you have 700 community investors, you basically have 700 evangelists who will help you in conversations out in the world, to get your name out there.”

By lowering the investment threshold, Hesse says, community investing expands the opportunity to back a company with mission and diversity—an opportunity typically available only to high-net-worth families and impact investment funds. Big investors might not even know about the brand down the street the way the community will. It’s a whole new circle, and it’s a wider circle. Hesse is involved in an “All Checks on Deck” event next month. “There’s basically a funnel for us to start talking. Then you start looking. You start curating. You start doing due diligence. And then you start writing checks.”

Community or not, Numi Organic Tea CEO Ahmed Rahim is quick to say that the impact investment niche needs new energy. Rahim founded his company 20 years ago and remembers the years before the great recession as a period when impact investors were more interested in smaller brands with environmental concerns and racial justice front and center to their business plans. After the recession, Rahim says, that energy never came back.

“Because the tech industry has gotten so big, people are putting a lot more focus on that,” Rahim says.

As an advisor and board member to multiple brands, Rahim, also a JEDI member, now helps entrepreneurs raise money. It isn’t easy. His experience has been that COVID has stalled the enthusiasm and money is short. At the same time, he is confident that the investment picture for minority-owned brands may be changing. Black Lives Matter, he says, matters to investors.

It may even bring back some of the energy he saw in the early 2000s. “I think by the end of 2020 we are going to hear some shifts,” Rahim says, “and I think its going to be loud.”

William Hood, the well-connected investment banker behind William Hood and Company, says he is already hearing from investors who want to see their money help make change. They are talking about funding companies that exemplify diversity and inclusion and make racial justice part of the program.

Hood says he has not seen companies turned away because of the leadership’s skin color but says that more firms need to focus their due diligence inward. “All investment organizations need to look at their own situation and find out how they can promote justice both internally and externally,” he says.

The awareness may have been there, but there is a sense that it has more fully awakened in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, Hood says. Investors aren’t waiting for the circles to intersect. They are actively looking for opportunities. “Many of the private equity firms and venture capital firms are having internal discussions at the most senior levels right now about how they can do more to promote and invest in businesses that do reflect diversity and inclusion,” Hood says. “I believe that we are at a time in history where there will be more action and not just talk.”

Creating a future

What Rahim, Hood and Hesse are saying is music to the ears for Tellis and Cook at Naturade. Tellis says he has a “best of times, worst of times” take on the summer of Black Lives Matter. While the reality of systemic abuse is not unfamiliar to Tellis and Cook, the recent brutality is horrifying, nonetheless. At the same time, buyers are more receptive. The investment equity hasn’t shown up yet, but the roster of retail accounts is set to grow. “We’re getting meetings,” he says,

But he also says meetings won’t be enough.

Naturade got picked up by Costco via a connection Tellis cold-called through his fellow alumni at the Wharton School. Costco, Tellis says, is making admirable efforts to bring in minority-led brands, but when they joined the vendor list for the warehouse chain, they were able to point out how the structure within the Costco universe keeps out smaller entrepreneurs, many of whom might be the founders and brands the company is seeking through the diversity campaign.

“They were, in effect, keeping businesses out,” Cook says.

What comes to mind for Tellis and Cook is the need for a system that not just connects minority-owned brands with investors and buyers but does a better job of fostering their business skills and helping them make the right decisions on the infinite number of choices brands of all sizes make. “They’d say ‘You may not be big enough to play in the big leagues, but we are going to create a space for you.'”

Ideally, investors and chains like Costco could come together, and the natural products industry is the ideal community to make that happen according to Cook and Tellis.

“Here is place where the natural products industry can lead,” they say.

Tellis can be frustrated that the dollars didn’t show up when they were needed. He can worry that the supplement industry isn’t seeing the needs he sees in communities of color, where diseases like diabetes are a direct consequence of poor nutrition. But he can also see the potential. Whether it’s the summer of Black Lives Matter or it’s the tenacity of voices like William’s, Tremblay’s, Cook’s and his own, Trellis is betting the natural products industry’s good intentions can create good results far beyond the mostly white expanses of the Natural Products Expo floor and all those Whole Foods Markets in mostly white communities.

The best of times and worst of times can lead to better times.

“The revolution is not going to be televised,” he says. “It’s about CEOs making systemic change.”

Spark Change LogoDon't miss the Spotlight BIPOC Brand Podium, a must-attend event for retailers focused on supporting diversity within the natural products industry, at Spark Change on Sept. 16. Register here.

How to find solid production talent

Samy Kobrosly, Snacklins

When Samy Kobrosly, co-founder and “chief snack bagger” of Snacklins was trying to launch his Washington-based food startup in 2016, he needed someone to run his production line.

He hired Silvia Escoto, the sister of a line cook he worked with at a barbecue restaurant in Washington. Initially, he waited tables to pay her salary.

“The biggest challenge most businesses face is finding good production talent,” says Kobrosly, who has 21 employees and manufacturers out of a 5,000-square-foot Rockville, Maryland, warehouse.

Making the right hire for his first employee made all of the difference says Kobrosly, who went on ABC’s "Shark Tank" in 2019 and caught the eye of billionaire investor and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

“You’ve got to find your own Silvia,” says Kobrosly who started his business in Union Kitchen, a Washington-based food and beverage business accelerator with the goal of making vegan pork rinds. “Find someone who is hungry, who wants to change their life. Then you’re not going to just pay them by the hour. You’re going to let them live part of your dream.”

Offer more than just a paycheck

Make production talent part of your board or give them equity in the company, Kobrosly says. Make it worth their while, he says, because if it’s just about collecting a paycheck for part-time hours they won’t be around for very long.

“They don’t have the same passion you do so you’ve got to create that passion for the people around you,” he says. “That’s the key.”

Maybe that’s allowing employees to pick their own schedules or more freedom and flexibility in their work schedules.

“It was really important to us to find out what was really important to the people who were making our chips,” Kobrosly says. “Production is No. 1 in our book. If anyone wants anything, production gets first dibs.”

Not sure what to offer? Spend a couple of weeks working in a bakery overnight and learn how they mass produce bread, Kobrosly suggests. “Then you will understand this is what I’m expecting someone else to do every day to help me achieve my dream,” he says.

Business owners can then think about what they can offer production talent to make it better, easier and more efficient for their jobs.

For Kobrosly, if someone has to take care of their child, he’s offered to run part of their production shift.

“That speaks a lot louder than a 50 cent raise,” he says. “Once you find someone good you’ve got to keep them happy because good people bring in good people. A lot of my job is making sure that good people are happy and we can take care of any concerns they have.”

Scour social media accounts, be an appealing brand 

Frank Milianti, managing director of Creative Alignments, a recruiting firm headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, says sourcing production roles can be challenging, especially if you are doing your own manufacturing, because “a lot of these individuals are not on LinkedIn so you have to get creative about how you think about sourcing talent.”

Milianti, who is based in Chicago and oversees national recruiting for natural food and CPG brands, says that means not just relying on applications for those who directly apply for production roles.

His suggestion: cast a wider net on social media channels. Look at Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for strong job candidates.

“There’s a lot more talent out there now and some good crossover from service-level individuals who were laid off during COVID,” Milianti says.

Hiring is a two-way street. Companies need to make sure they have a strong social media presence to get potential employees interested in your product, who you are and what you are doing, Milianti says.

“You can grab talent pretty easily by making sure you have a brand that looks appealing,” he says.

Depending on the stage of the company, consider creating an employee referral program, Milianti says. Look at internal training programs and create different path ups for employees who inspire to do more.

Go to where people make good food

To find solid production talent, Kobrosly asked people within the restaurant industry if they knew of anyone who might be interested in picking up part-time hours.

“It seems pretty obvious, if you want to make tasty delicious food, you should hire people that make tasty delicious food in another setting,” Kobrosly says. “But I feel like we did something a little bit different by doing that.”

His advice: go to a restaurant either late at night when everyone is getting off or when they are breaking for lunch.

“You will probably find people who would love to change their schedule or find a better job,” he says. “We didn’t want manufacturing employees as much as food employees.”

Start with a mission and find people who buy into it

When Nina Tickaradze created her healthy beverage company, Nadi, it was around the idea of helping “internally displaced people,” a term used for people who are forced to flee their home like refugees but can stay within their country borders.

“I really felt sorry for these people who can take nothing with them and start all over again,” says Tickaradze, who came to the United States at age 14 from her native country of Georgia.

Tickaradze, who lives in Marietta, Georgia, reached out to friends and family in her native country to start a company that makes certified organic juice from wild rosehips grown in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas. In 2017 she launched Nadi, which means “collective work effort” in Georgian.

“I had no idea how to make a juice,” says Tickaradze, one of 15 award winners in the Stacy’s Rise Project, which provided $10,000 grants, advertising and executive mentorship to female entrepreneurs.

Tickaradze quickly realized she wanted to self-manufacture to achieve a higher quality product. To find strong job candidates for her production team, she sought out a food chemist who understood how to make wine and juice and trustworthy partners. 

“We were taking big risks doing something we’d never done before, so I tried to find people who had some experience that we could count on,” says Tickaradze, whose childhood friend, Gaga Abashidze, is the CEO of the Georgia subsidiary and head of Nadi operations in the country of Georgia.

Nina Tickaradze and Gaga Abashidze, Nadi

Since she was manufacturing in Europe while living in the U.S., Tickaradze said it was even more important to check a lot of references of anyone she hired for her production team. 

Tickaradze, who speaks fluent Russian, Georgian, German and English, quickly learned to ask production talent what languages they spoke. “I know it sounds funny but we are dealing with international markets and buying from all over the world for production so it helps to know what languages someone can fluently speak,” Tickaradze says.

After going through a production run where her English-language labels were printed upside down, Tickaradze quickly realized she needed to give her employees additional training. She spent six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas cleaning labels off bottles with her friends and family and gave her production staff English classes to avoid future problems.

“That was painful,” she says. “I learned just assuming people always know isn’t correct.”

Having a mission-driven company that hires internally displaced people has afforded Tickaradze something many business owners dream about: buy-in from her production team.

“Everyone is so hard-working because they understand first-hand what it is like to lose everything,” she says. “They get what it means to be an entrepreneur because they know what it means to start from nothing. Unlike hiring people with fancy resumes who stay for three or four years and then leave, they stay, become a part of your company and want to see you succeed.”

Good Karma Foods announces new investment and buyout of majority ownership

Good Karma Foods, a leading producer of plant-based milk and dairy alternatives, today announced it has repurchased majority ownership held by Dean Foods, as well as secured significant new investment from Valor Siren Ventures (VSV), a fund established to act as an innovation engine and market maker in early stage food, food technology and retail technology. The partnership with VSV will allow Good Karma to accelerate distribution gains in new and existing channels; innovate in a variety of plant-based categories; and expand brand-building and consumer awareness programs. 2x Consumer Products Growth Partners, an existing investor and partner to Good Karma, also participated in the round.

Dean Foods had made multiple investments in Good Karma since 2017, ultimately becoming a majority shareholder. However, after struggling with shifting consumer preferences and private label competition, Dean Foods filed for bankruptcy in November 2019. This unique situation presented an opportunity for Good Karma to buyout Dean Foods interests and refocus on its Inspiring Goodness mission with the support of new investors.

"We're on a mission to inspire goodness and provide plant-based options that are nutritious, surprisingly delicious and creamy, and free of allergens," said Doug Radi, CEO of Good Karma. "We could not have found a better partner than Valor Siren Ventures to help us bring more plant-based goodness to more places, and are honored to be among the mission-driven teams and brands in their portfolio."

Families are increasingly looking to plant-based solutions for a variety of reasons, including to address allergen needs, environmental concerns and/or healthy lifestyle reasons. Retail sales of plant-based foods hit $5 billion in 2019 and grew 11.4% over the previous year, five times more than total food sales growth. Good Karma's plant-based alternatives are free of all major allergens, deliver strong nutritional benefits and have a surprisingly neutral flavor and creamy texture, giving the company's offerings compelling points of differentiation in increasingly competitive categories.

"We are delighted to welcome Good Karma into our Valor Siren Ventures portfolio as the brand has a demonstrated track record of delivering innovation in categories in need of inspiring plant-based options," shared Jonathan Shulkin, VSV fund manager and partner at Valor Equity Partners. "Good Karma embodies the exact type of opportunity we're interested in as we look to bring our mission to life."

Good Karma will continue to operate as a Boulder-based independent company led by its existing leadership team. Specific terms of the buyout and new round of investment were not disclosed.

Source: Good Karma Foods

[email protected]: More food companies cut jobs | Instacart sued by DC Attorney General

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Food companies make more job cuts

Food companies, particular those in the manufacturing and foodservice sectors, continue to restructure and make job cuts due to coronavirus-related closures. The U.S. government recently confirmed that the country's economy saw its sharpest contraction in at least 73 years during the second quarter. Read more at The Food Institute


Instacart sued by DC Attorney General over allegedly deceiving customers, failing to pay taxes

Instacart is being sued by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine because for allegedly misleading its customers with service fees that looked like a tip for the shopper and for not paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in District sales tax. The D.C. Attorney General's office also sued DoorDash in November 2019 over a controversial tipping policy, but this lawsuit has yet to be resolved. Read more at CNN...


Australian food tech develops cell-cultured exotic animal meats

Some animals, while delicious by all accounts, would easly become extinct if humans began eating their meat. Enter Sydney-based startup Vow, which is applying cellular agriculture technology to not-so-common animal protein sources including kangaroos and zebras. The rare factor here could be a draw for the significant amount of consumers hesitant to purchase lab-grown meat. Read more at Green Queen


China does facial recognition for farm animals

New technology from China allows farmers to monitor each of their animals' eating habits and detect signs of illness early on in a more efficient manner than the current method (ear tags). However, China's widespread embrace of facial recognition technology has historically led to some unsavory outcomes, including the surveillance of ethnic minorities. Read more at The Washington Post


How plant-based meat can help heal our soil while feeding more people than ever

The explosive alternative protein market could have an outsize positive effect on soil that is largely depleted of its original organic carbon content. Plant-based meat, egg and dairy products, if widely adopted, would support reforestation and diverse crop systems as well as reduce farmers' dependence on herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. Read more at The Good Food Institute