GMP-Compliant Sterilization Method to be Focus of BI Nutraceuticals SupplySide West Education Session

Protexx HP(R), the natural products industry's only species-specific, organic sterilization method, will be the focus of BI Nutraceuticals' VendorWorks session at next month's SupplySide West, the company confirmed today. Rupa Das, BI's Vice President of Global Quality and Compliance will present, "Protexx HP: The Solution to GMP Compliance," on Thursday, October 23 at 9 a.m. in room Galileo 905 of the Venetian and Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Das will discuss how the GMP-compliant Protexx HP system uses super- heated dry steam to reduce microbiological load, which yields results comparable to treating ingredients with ethylene oxide or irradiation, but without the potential regulatory issues. She will also review BI's long history of proactive research and testing to ensure Protexx HP not only meets, but also exceeds, the new 2008 dietary supplement GMP regulations.

Rupa Das is the Vice President of Global Quality and Regulatory Compliance at BI Nutraceuticals. Das has more than 16 years of quality and regulatory compliance management experience in the dietary supplement and personal care product industries. She is a certified GMP auditor and is involved at different levels with leading industry organizations such as AHPA and AOAC. Prior to her work in the industry, she was a chemistry lecturer at several California State Universities.

About BI Nutraceuticals:
BI Nutraceuticals is a global full-service supplier of dietary supplement and functional food and beverage ingredients including whole herb powders and teas, standardized and drug ratio extracts, custom blends, vitamins, minerals, drum to hopper custom blends, granular ingredients and other specialty processes including time released and encapsulated ingredients. Since 2002, BI has been an innovator in steam sterilization and the company's Protexx HP process is currently the industry’s only species-specific, organic sterilization method. All BI ingredients undergo stringent quality analysis that includes heavy metal, pesticide and irradiation testing.
All herbal powder ingredients are also tested under the company's
Identilok(R) species identification process. The company has also developed a proprietary process, UltraHD(R), which creates high- density herbal powders allowing for superior flow and less dusting during the manufacturing process. For more information, visit www.binutraceuticals.com .

About SupplySide West:
SupplySide West trade show (www.supplysideshow.com) is dedicated to bringing together manufacturers and suppliers in the dietary supplement, food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. The event provides a unique opportunity for an executive-level exchange of ideas, goods and services not available through any other business-to- business event. SupplySide West offers three days of informative seminars and exhibitions tailored to the specific needs of supply chain executives. For more information on this presentation, contact Courtney Morton at courtneym@imgbranding.com or visit the BI Nutraceuticals booth #15045 at SupplySide West.

Delicious Living

October 1, 2008

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Extreme makeover without extreme headache

by Kelly Pate Dwyer

The winners of the 2007 Delicious Living Retail Store Makeover contest had hoped their expansion and remodel would be nearly complete by now. Alas, they've spent most of 2008 meeting with architects, contractors and consultants, which has amounted to many plans, delays and lessons learned about building design and construction, and the patience needed to stay sane.

With luck, by October the Nature's Food Patch store in Clearwater, Fla., will have some dust and noise to give long-time Store Director Laurie Powers-Shamon and General Manager Rich Packman tangible proof that the project they've been dreaming about for years—to update systems, aesthetics and gain needed space to handle increasing sales volume—is underway. "The Patch" was selected last fall at Natural Products Expo East in a blindfolded drawing of independent retailers who could demonstrate need for a store makeover. The Patch won $1,000 and the advice of three industry experts.

Need can't be overstated in this case. The 14,000-square-foot store is spilling out into the parking lot, where back stock of bulk foods and bread are kept in a refrigerated trailer.

Plans call for expanding to 20,000 square feet, and adding new heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems. The most popular departments will get bigger. Most apparent to customers, the dated décor at the Patch will be replaced with a clean, sophisticated look, incorporating elements of American craftsman and Zen garden styles.

The Patch's managers (the store's second-generation family owners are not involved in daily operations) say they aim to fund renovations through revenues. If necessary, they'll borrow money, confident their investment will pay off with a loyal and growing customer base.

At press time in August, The Patch looked no different, but Powers-Shamon and Packman were excited about a recent activity: Their architect, local firm Klar & Klar, had presented final design plans, allowing them to file permit applications with the city. And their general contractor, local firm Harbor Key Development, had started collecting bids from subcontractors. They expected permitting would take about two months and bidding about 30 days.

Ah, you can almost hear the power saws now.

As they get closer, Powers-Shamon and Packman share what they've learned along the way—knowledge that may help other independents headed down the same path.

The lessons overall: Take time to find experts who are not only qualified but who understand your goals and whom you can get along with. (You're going to spend lots of time with them.) Stay flexible. There are lots of moving parts and surprises in such a sizable undertaking. Ask employees and customers to share their ideas for what will make the store better, and update them on progress; they need some payoff through the inconvenience and mess.

The Patch first enlisted the help of United Natural Foods' P.J. Hoffman, head of the distributor's store development services, to design the store layout.

"He's been a great resource," Packman says. "He knows the ins and outs of the business." Then they consulted with a panel of experts provided through the Delicious Living contest: Jay Jacobowitz, president of Retail Insights in Brattleboro, Vt.; Zedrick Clark, owner of Nature's Food Market in Berlin, Ohio, and chairman of the board for the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association; and natural products retail marketing expert Debby Swoboda of askDebby.com in Stuart, Fla.

Jacobowitz provided big-picture advice, and emphasized the importance of aesthetics that create an amazing shopping experience. Such an aesthetic—which implies spending a good deal of money—also would put the store in a better position to compete with the likes of Whole Foods, if it comes to the area. Clark focused on logistics and aesthetics of supplements merchandising, and Swoboda concentrated on the store's messaging—from advertising and marketing to logo and signage. (For more on their advice, see NFM, March 2008).

The Patch's managers aimed to take a design-build approach, in which the architect and general contractor jointly design a plan and work as a team, but Packman says architect Steven Klar "wanted to run with plans and do as much as he could before bringing a contractor into it."

That was a change he says they were willing to make. Klar & Klar demonstrated savvy in navigating the city's planning-and-zoning processes, a relief to the store managers. Steven Klar and his wife, architect Roberta Klar, shoppers at the Patch, "share our values," Packman adds, noting they do green work when possible. The firm also is providing interior design services.

Architects Roberta Klar and Vera Porter-Liberti "understand we want to use natural materials and create an ambience in the store that reflects harmony and beauty and warmth," Powers-Shamon says. "I love art and balance and find I work better in beauty, and find people like to shop better in beauty."

The architects said they would need three to four months to finish plans, Packman recalls. That turned into five months.

But Packman notes he and Powers-Shamon have been overly optimistic about timetables. "I think the structural engineering is a bit complex—we're taking out a load-bearing wall," Packman says. And, as often happens, "we requested changes late in the process."

Midway through the design process, the Patch hired Harbor Key Development as general contractor. The firm favors green building, and the Patch's managers liked its approach. "They're very willing to work with us on ways of doing things," Powers-Shamon says. And while the architect is handing off plans to the developer, she says everyone is working as a team.

The Patch plans to stay open through months of construction, but if it needs to close on certain days the contractor "said they could use our staff for things like moving product off the end caps," Powers-Shamon says. "There's going to be a lot of shifting. We love our staff, and we want to make sure they keep getting a paycheck."

She and Packman also like Harbor Key's project superintendent.

"I've been told," Packman says, "it's key to the project to have someone working here who is a good communicator and keeps us up to date and hears our concerns on how things will impact our operations."

All that said, the store managers didn't plan to sign a contract with Harbor Key until the firm could guarantee a maximum price based on final plans from the architect and subcontractor bids. Working with Harbor Key, Powers-Shamon and Packman also get a chance to review the subcontractor bids and compare them with estimates UNFI's Hoffman provides. Might the lagging economy translate into lower costs?

"From what I hear, the prices might not go down, but we'll get the top-quality work," Packman says. "The marginal contractors are dropping out of business and just taking jobs. The better contractors still need to pay their employees the same living wage they were paying them."

Meanwhile, the Patch's store sales are increasing, albeit at a slower rate in recent months, Packman says. Through it all, the store managers say they've tried to include employees and customers.

"This is their store," Powers-Shamon says, noting that she will post a storyboard inside the store that shows architects' drawings and elevations as well as details of color scheme, finishes and store logo.

The managers "coach cashiers on things we'd like them to share with customers if they get conversational," Powers-Shamon says. "As areas of the store become inconvenienced—you can't get to part of an aisle to get something—someone will be on standby with a hard hat on to go and get it for you."

While they wait for construction to begin, Powers-Shamon and Packman are busy with details like pricing out new computer, phone and security equipment. They're redoing menu boards and sampling new products. The expanded store could up its product selection by as much as 40 percent, Powers-Shamon says.

"It's so overstimulating," she says. "I have so many plates spinning right now." "The whole thing has its ups and downs," Packman says. "Some days the prospect is exciting, and some days the prospect is exhausting. I look forward to this wonderful store in the end."

Kelly Pate Dwyer is a Denver-based freelance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 57

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Natural Products Industry Business & Operations Buzz

EPA reaches out to retailers online

The Environmental Protection Agency has committed to launching a retail-specific Web portal that will streamline information gathering on environmental sustainability and compliance issues, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association, based in Arlington, Va. Expected to launch later this year, the site will organize information on environmental practices, focused completely on retailers. For more information, go to www.rila.org.

In tough times, shoppers stick to basics

As times are changing economically, cash-conscious shoppers are taking unique approaches to saving money in different grocery store departments. In a recent study from Unilever USA, based in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 40 percent of U.S. primary shoppers said they feel "worse off" than a year ago. According to the survey, the top five categories in which shoppers will stop buying when they feel their budget tightening are air fresheners, cookies, beer and wine, frozen dinners and soda/pop. Despite their increasingly pennywise tendencies, the top categories shoppers said they wouldn't abandon included deodorant, canned vegetables, fresh meat and seafood, hair care and body wash, laundry detergent and household cleaners, pet food and toilet paper. It looks like the basics are here to stay.

Prime time to go solar

Solar panels are popping up on retailer rooftops from Walmart to Whole Foods Market as a Dec. 31 deadline approaches for eco-energy tax advantages. The energy credit, which rewards businesses producing electricity from solar energy, fuel cells or microturbines, was extended through 2008 from the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006. Many Walmart, Safeway and Whole Foods stores have installed rooftop solar panels in the last few months, reported The New York Times in August, though most of the solar-equipped stores are in states that also provide generous incentives, such as California, New Jersey and Connecticut.

—H.O.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 52

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Weather a stormy economy with these tips

by Allie Johnson

It's the topic on every retailer's mind right now: How do you survive when costs are skyrocketing, customers are balking and everybody's feeling the pinch? If you take a few strategic steps—and avoid some common mistakes—you'll be much more likely to make it through to better financial times.

"It's a tough time, so you need to do everything humanly possible to stay in business, to keep the business alive, because eventually we're going to come out of this, and things will pick up again and go back to normal," says John Stanton, Ph.D., professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "In the meantime, it's better to focus on the things you can control and not what you can't."

So what can you control? Your service, your costs and your prices.

Keep your cool

During hard times, it's especially important not to let the customer see if you're struggling. "Make sure your aisles are faced, your floors are clean and your shelves are stocked, so the customer doesn't walk in and say, ‘Things are getting shabby and downcast around here,' " says food retail consultant Rance Baker, owner of Creative Food Concepts in Denver. "Put on the best face possible."

Providing an inviting shopping experience is one of the best ways a retailer—especially an independent retailer—can stand out from the crowd and make the customer feel that shopping in that store is a pleasant experience that makes it worth paying a little bit extra. "Bigger guys have more room for belt tightening," Baker says. "So smaller stores should offer some sort of customer service you can't get from the big guys—a clean store, friendly staff. Every time I walk in that store, I should be so glad I walked in."

Part of providing great service means remembering that, like you, the customer is trying to stretch dollars. For example, stores in the Boulder, Colo.-based natural grocery chain Sunflower Farmers Markets make it easy for customers to create an affordable meal out of on-sale items. "We show them full meals they can create within our flier," says Chief Operating Officer Chris Sherrell. "You can get a pound of ground beef for $1.99, a tomato for 30 cents, a head of lettuce for 33 cents and have a complete meal for four people for under $5—you can't do that at a restaurant."

Cut costs where you can

During tough economic times, trimming costs without going too far is critical. Natural foods retail consultant Jay Jacobowitz, president of Retail Insights in Brattleboro, Vt., recommends taking out your profit-and-loss statement and scrutinizing expense line items. Here are a few places you'll likely be able to trim costs:

Staff salaries. "Start with your biggest controllable expense, which is compensation," Jacobowitz says. "Ask yourself who is typically sitting on the tofu bucket waiting for you to tell them what to do next." Though no one likes to make staff cuts, Jacobowitz says getting rid of employees who aren't pulling their weight makes good business sense—and will boost the morale of hardworking employees. But whatever you do, don't let good salespeople go, he warns. "That creates a vicious circle," which leads to sales—already down because of the soft economy—plummeting even further. "When the economy picks up, you're behind the eight ball, trying to find skilled sales help."

Advertising and marketing. "If there is some of your advertising or marketing expense that's not delivering for you, that's a good candidate [to cut]," Jacobowitz says. When you do advertise, it's very important to target your campaigns. "It doesn't make sense to waste a penny on the marginal customers you had a few years ago who were maybe trying organic," Professor Stanton says. "You really have to find the customers who believe the product is important and are willing to pay the extra money."

Product cost. "If you haven't already, think about contacting your primary suppliers, such as your largest supplement lines and your major distributors, and asking what you have to do to get to the next level of discount," Jacobowitz says. "You may be able to, by shifting around your supplier mix, consolidate orders and gain one or more percentage points in discount, which should go directly to the bottom line." Sherrell says Sunflower Farmers Markets has been selling more local items to save on freight and trucking costs as well.

Price strategically

"It's a hard time to raise prices. You're feeling the crunch, but so is that guy walking in the door," says Baker of Creative Food Concepts. That's why it's important to act tactically.

Don't raise prices as a knee-jerk reaction. Instead, step up your comparative shopping. "Get out there and do more of that so when you have to adjust your prices, you know what everyone else is doing," Baker says. "Watch constantly so you can stay in line with the other guys." That strategy is working for Sunflower, Sherrell says. "We want to be the last one to raise the price. If we have a competitor not going up, we're going to wait until they do."

"People must think there's value in things besides the price. You have to remind them what that value is."

And as a concession to the consumer who's worried about putting dinner on the table, do your best to keep staples reasonably priced. "Don't mess with your basics if you can get away with it," Baker recommends. "Keep your apples, your yogurt and your milk as cheap as possible—those things the customer has got to have on a daily basis—so they feel less of a crunch."

At the same time, it's important not to try to compete on price alone. "That's one of the biggest mistakes you can make," Stanton says. "People must think there's value in things besides the price. You have to remind them what that value is." You can do that with in-store promotions. "I'm high on in-store promotion because you've got people in the store probably saying, ‘Should I or shouldn't I?' and you want them to say ‘I should,' and not feel guilty for spending that extra money."

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with having a blowout sale during tough times to get people into the store, Stanton says. "You could do something like all the ingredients for a salad: ‘Tonight, you can have a healthy organic salad for only this much money.' Then have lettuce on sale, have carrots on sale, have tomatoes on sale; have three or four pieces of produce on sale, but not the organic olive oil."

In these tough times, the best thing any retailer can do is make small, strategic changes—and not let the economy scare you into making drastic moves. "Stick to your game plan and stick to your guns," Sherrell advises.

Allie Johnson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based freelance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 52,56

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Top 15 ways to make your front end POP

by Lora Shinn

At checkout, do customers barely glance at your shelves of gum, snacks or magazines? Do you wonder about missed sales as your shoppers pass by front-end displays to unload their carts at the register?

You might need a checkout makeover.

We spoke with two marketing maestros who offered 15 tips for creating fresh, inventive displays that match your carefully chosen product lines.

The key to success is knowing your customer, says John Santos, who worked as a store team leader for Whole Foods for 10 years and is now general manager for the family-owned Cirelli Marketplace in Middleboro, Mass.

Offer magazines and products that click with your store's demographics: Young families need plenty of school-ready, peanut-free foods and natural parenting magazines. Educated professionals appreciate work-friendly, healthy snacks and meals and hard-hitting publications.

Debby Swoboda, a natural foods merchandising expert and founder of askDebby.com in Stuart, Fla., says smart retailers work to build an ongoing relationship with consumers—even if your fresh approaches don't sell the product the first time around, shoppers leave with a new understanding of your focus on natural foods—and them.

Think of this list as a smorgasbord: Take what you like and leave the rest. What works will depend on your shelf, end-cap and display area.

Bulk up. Package a pound of your hottest bulk seller, whether granola, yogurt-covered almonds or trail mix, and offer it near the point of purchase, Swoboda suggests. Even fresh-roasted coffee by the pound can be a profitable impulse buy. At its higher price point, "it's a little bit of a risk," Santos says, "but effective."

Stack it high and watch it fly. Santos suggests creating a display "as high as you can to be overpowering and overwhelming to the customer. Other sensory ways of catching the customer's attention work, too, whether using color, scent or texture," he says.

Sign your stuff. "The No. 1 inhibitor for customers isn't the price," Santos says. "It's not knowing the price." It's integral to ensure point-of-purchase signage is apparent and each piece of merchandise is clearly priced.

Supply supplements. "Many are $10 rings," Santos says, particularly if you tie into the current time of year. Stock immune-enhancing vitamin C during cold and flu season, stress-relieving vitamin B during finals week.

Do the new. Like most shoppers, Swoboda adores novelty. "If I have time, I love to walk down aisles and see things I haven't seen," she says. But if you have a shelf or display near the front dedicated to this week's new products, you'll still reach harried, time-starved customers as they cruise through checkout.

Ring the dinner bell. Place recipe cards along with key ingredients by the register. For example: spaghetti squash, organic tomato sauce, capers and Parmesan displayed with simple cooking instructions. The meal pick-up attracts busy professionals on the way home. It's a no-brain solution to the question, "What's for dinner?"

Get gifty. During the upcoming holiday season, think about which in-store items make great gifts, such as organic chocolates, candies, toys and housewares. Take that pound of best-selling bulk items, package it in attractive cellophane and add a bow. "You can mark it up to cover costs," Swoboda says, and the customers are still relieved because you've saved them shopping stress.

Take advantage of trends. Create vivid, informative displays around new fruits: goji berries, mangosteen and açai. Is "locally grown" the buzz phrase in your community? Create a small display of items grown within 100 miles or within the state. "It's a relationship thing," Swoboda says. "Invite a farmer to come into the store and hand out samples."

Send customers to school. Swoboda suggests thematic informational displays: for example, gluten-free diets. Provide several gluten-free products alongside shopping lists, recipes and Web sites on gluten sensitivity and allergies. Shore up short-term and long-term benefits in your display: This time, they'll try that gluten-free cookie, but next time they'll know where to go to plan a gluten-free meal.

Go solo. Swoboda says one retailer packaged individual slices of banana-nut bread by the checkout and couldn't keep it in stock. "You'll sell a lot more single-serve slices to people on their way out the door," she says. Plus, the individual packages squeeze into smaller spaces.

Synergize snacks. Some snacks cry out to customers, "We belong together." Display duos like chips and dips, crackers and cheese or nut butter, cheese and fruit. Whether for a snack at home or a dinner party, shoppers like those last-minute options, Swoboda says.

Get smart about seasons. Take advantage of eating with the seasons. In the fall, offer cider. Winter brings squash breads, while summer can focus on organic condiments and other picnic must-haves. Take a similar tactic with body care: aloe in summer, lip balms in winter. "Make it a good price point," Santos suggests, so the item becomes a can't-miss.

Show off samples. Offer $5 price-point bakery items packaged for sharing—Santos suggests two-bite brownies in a tub—and make sure to put out samples alongside. "People can take it back to the office," Santos says.

Don't forget the drinks. Place beverage coolers near checkout to spur purchases. Include yerba mate for a pick-me-up, smoothies for sustenance and kid-size juice or milk containers for last-minute lunches. And don't forget the water, Swoboda says. "Water is always a hot seller."

Tie into newsstands. Think about checking this month's consumer magazines and do a tie-in with products mentioned on the front cover. If there are "Five Ways to Fight Fatigue," set out vitamins and minerals, herbs and homeopathics on front shelves, ready to go. Is a delicious dish on the cover? Include ingredients near the magazine and near the checkout.

Lora Shinn is a Seattle-based freelance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 52

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Barney Feinblum: Keeping green companies in the black

by Shara Rutberg

Barney Feinblum, CEO of Horizon Organic, found himself kneeling in the muck, rubber boots squelching in the mud. It smelled like a thousand cows.

He looked up at the solid ton of bovine before him. Bessie slowly turned her head, her big brown eyes meeting his smaller ones. All around them in the Idaho dairy, hundreds of cows lowed, like a herd of impatient foghorns. Then, the Brooklyn-born executive, who knew bull markets inside out but hardly which end of a cow to milk, took a deep breath, reached up with both hands and went to work.

Milk flowed. Bessie sighed. And, beneath his strawberry blond mustache, Feinblum grinned like a kid who's just blown out all the candles on his birthday cake. "I opened my mouth once too often in front of too many people," he says, recalling the experience. He was visiting Horizon's Idaho dairy as it transitioned to organic. "I kept saying: ‘What do I know? I've never milked a cow in my life.' They finally said, ‘Here you go, Barney.'"

Barney Feinblum's not afraid to open his mouth. He's also not afraid to dive in—no matter how messy the situation—and get his hands dirty with the details. Though he's much better at finance than the finer points of milking, Feinblum knows how to make the metaphorical milk flow. And how to find the cream—and market it to millions. He's built an extraordinary career out of opening his mouth and digging in with a wickedly sharp mind and an enthusiasm that could knock over a herd of heifers. The natural products industry has become a better place for it.

"In life and in business, there are people who, when things get tough, they duck," says Celestial Seasonings founder Mo Siegel. "Then there are other people, who, when things get tough, they just get better. Barney gets better." Siegel should know. Like a David in Levi's with a Long Island twang, Feinblum reached into the jaws of Velveeta behemoth Kraft and pulled Celestial out with a leveraged buyout and a lot of chutzpah. Then he led the company as it continued its transformation into a national power brand during a time when there were no national natural power brands. He had similar success as CEO at Horizon Organic, slicing through manure piles of management and logistic challenges with vision and his ever-present HP Business Analyst calculator something many view as simply a battery-powered extension of Barney's brain. And Feinblum didn't rest after Horizon.

Barnet "Barney" Feinblum was born in 1947 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. When he was 3, his family headed for the newly minted suburb-a-topia of Levittown, Long Island. His father sold plumbing supplies. His mother was a homemaker who instilled a love of the outdoors in her offspring with frequent trips to Jones Beach, where the crash of the Atlantic and the scream of seagulls seared themselves onto her son's psyche.

He earned his undergraduate degree in engineering at Cornell University, then headed west to Battle Creek, Mich., to work for the same Levitt that created his neighborhood, building prefab houses. A friend studying Buddhism in Boulder, Colo., tempted him out of the Midwest in 1972. While living in Denver, Feinblum worked for several manufactured-housing companies, using his engineering background.

Around this time, Feinblum came home one afternoon to find a beautiful blonde sleeping on his stoop. After hitchhiking up from Denver to visit a friend who lived in his building, Julie Miller was exhausted, but her friend wasn't home yet. Sleeping Beauty woke up to find her prince charming in fringed cutoff jeans. Shortly afterward, she moved in with her friend in the apartment next door.

"I traveled 2,000 miles to marry the girl next door," says Feinblum, and a beatific smile takes over his face, eyes brightening, as they do whenever he mentions Jules. "I couldn't have done any of this," he says, talking about his career, "without her. She's undoubtedly my better half."

"He's a little fireball and I'm his balance," says Jules, whose clear blue eyes and smoky voice have cooled Feinblum's temper for 36 years. She taught him how to camp and fish, reconnecting him with the open spaces and water that his mother first showed him. Fishing became a passion the two still share. A storage room in their Boulder home has a wall rack securing 17 fishing rods. Well-used, with clear lines taut from tip to rod, they're lined up like the bows of instruments ready for an outboard orchestra. The couple blisses out watching football on TV, loading line onto reels.

"People don't believe there's a quiet side to Barney," says Jules. "There is, but you just have to get him out in the middle of nowhere."

In addition to being the yin to his yang, Jules Feinblum did something else in those early days that changed Barney's life and shaped his future: She taught him how to eat.

Jules' mother was a farmer's daughter. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Jules wasn't allowed snack foods or soda, while pastrami on rye flavored Feinblum's childhood. In college and afterward, he ate what was on the menu for many Americans: Twinkies and Coke. Jules ate organic produce. Slowly, she transformed his diet. With each bite of organic brown rice and broccoli, he bit into the organic philosophy. And, as people who know Barney know, once Feinblum sinks his teeth into a belief, he doesn't let go.

From baggage to tea bags
Sporting a hard hat, tie and coveralls, Feinblum stood with a clipboard among miles of chugging conveyer belts transporting suitcases, carry-ons and briefcases through the cavernous Samsonite factory in Denver.

He had completed an MBA in finance at the University of Colorado and had a solid job with a company that showed no signs of going under. It was 1976. He was a foreman. He was moving up in the company. "He was miserable," says Jules. "He just hated it."

Then Feinblum learned about an opening at Celestial Seasonings, a Boulder, Colo., company he had heard of only because Jules used its little hand-stamped tea bags.

Dressed sharply in a coat and tie, briefcase in hand, Feinblum was met at his Celestial interview by a barefoot secretary in flowing tie-dye who lived in a tepee. She walked him over to the personnel director, who was wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

"They had just bought their first tea-bagging machine and needed someone to run the factory," he recalls. He sensed he was more Celestial than Samsonite, and he took the $225 a week, two-thirds of what he was making supervising suitcases. His New York family thought he was nuts.

"It was the smartest decision I've ever made," he says. He wanted to work for a company that shared his values.

"I think I was the first person Celestial hired into management who wasn't a friend or relation, and definitely the only one who had had a ‘real job' before. At the ripe old age of 28, I became the serious old fart."

Feinblum was like a strong cup of coffee at a tea party.

The funky little company had a freewheeling culture: bare feet, volleyball and hot lunches for employees. "I tried to put in some things like, well, production standards," Feinblum recalls. "Like, you know, ‘How many cases of tea did we make last night?' "—revolutionary concepts in Celestial's universe. Feinblum recalls one morning coming in to see there was no production at all recorded for the previous night's shift. He asked the supervisor why. "He told me, matter-of-factly, that it was a full moon and they had to take their moon break," Feinblum says.

"Barney joined us in a fun era, where we were going from being a cute, little company to facing extreme pressure from competition," Siegel says. "We needed to get our act together. We needed to get our machines working, we needed manufacturing processes. We needed to count things.

"Barney's a guy who was just born smart and business-capable. He came in and fit the funky culture we had, and when it was time to change, Barney stepped up."

After having trouble meeting working-capital demands, the company was on the brink of being sold to General Mills in 1979.

Feinblum had other ideas. He convinced Siegel to promote him to vice president of finance and let him explore financing alternatives. He created a leveraged employee-stock-ownership plan, or ESOP, to purchase part of Chairman John Hay's stock. Hay had been eager to sell. It was a cutting-edge idea.

General Mills went away. The health food industry, and Celestial, grew. When Feinblum joined the company in '76, its annual sales were about $3 million. By 1983, the company had $27 million in revenue.

"Barney was like my left brain," Siegel says. "I couldn't have done it without him. He was Mr. Math: King of dueling calculators. He'd just spit out numbers. He was a constant reality check."

Feinblum's reality checks and critical thinking allowed management to weed through the ideas to see which were best and safeguard the company, Siegel says. "Barney can smell a dead rat in a closet in Kansas City three weeks before it gets sick." His instincts about what can go right and wrong are stellar.

Kraft crashes the tea party

Business was booming at Celestial's home on Sleepytime Drive. The time seemed right for a public offering, a decision that led to what Feinblum views as the worst mistake of his career when he selected Goldman Sachs as underwriters. Celestial was too small a company to garner Goldman's full attention, he says. Still, he counts the day he stood on Goldman's trading floor in Manhattan, watching Celestial Seasonings roll across the ticker, as one of best days of his life.

However, as Feinblum was in Manhattan, the wife of an ethnobotanist in Tennessee was sipping a brew of what was the equivalent of 16 bags of Celestial Seasonings comfrey tea. Her husband felt the medicinal dose of the comfrey would help knit the bones in her broken hip. Her vision blurred. So did Celestial's IPO.

The ethnobotanist tested the tea and claimed he found belladonna in the comfrey leaf. Celestial's tests didn't have the same results but, "in an effort to do the right thing," says Feinblum, Celestial recalled the product. Goldman and Celestial withdrew the offering. "That's when I got my unlisted phone number," he remembers.

Feinblum says the aborted IPO was like a fly in the organic soup of the young industry. Natural products distributor Tree of Life had been waiting in the wings to make an IPO of its own. When Celestial's failed, Tree withdrew. "Cash didn't flow to this industry for almost a decade," Feinblum says glumly.

After months of courting, Kraft Foods bought Celestial in 1984 for an estimated $40 million, including $4 million of ESOP stock. The international giant wanted to widen Celestial's universe.

Feinblum hadn't wanted to sell to Kraft. "He was really the only one of management who was flaming against it, yet he's the one who stayed," Siegel says. Why? "Because he loved the company," Siegel says.

Siegel left after two years, and Feinblum became CEO in 1986. Feinblum, whose face turns the color of Kraft Catalina dressing when he gets angry, is not one to be micromanaged, Siegel says. One of the first things Kraft did was send in a posse of vice presidents from headquarters, complete with their own calculators. The marriage between the funky little tea company and the Velveeta giant was more Lemon Zinger than Blueberry Breeze.

In 1987, Kraft began investigating rumors of drug use at Celestial. "They sent people in undercover. Spies," Feinblum says. They demanded mandatory drug testing. Feinblum refused. It was ugly. He began hunting for investment bankers and made Kraft an offer to buy back the company. They told him it wasn't for sale. "But they didn't fire me," he says. "Usually, when you make an offer to buy the company they either say ‘yes,' or ‘you're fired.'" The reason would become clear early Sunday morning, Dec. 6, when a 7 a.m. call from his boss at Kraft summoned Feinblum to a Boulder hotel to meet the president of Lipton, the company, he was informed, that had just bought Celestial.

The deal hit an antitrust snag. In January 1988, the Federal Trade Commission requested documents from Lipton seeking to determine whether the sale violated antitrust laws. The ruling took months.

Meanwhile, Feinblum hadn't given up on his dream of buying back the company. He and Celestial Planning Director Caryn Ellison, whom he calls "my partner in crime," went to work. They were referred to Vestar Capital Partners, which then had one office in New York. He and Ellison flew to Manhattan. The door to the Vestar offices was marked with a handwritten paper sign. "I said, ‘Right, Car, these guys are going to give us 50 million bucks?'" But they went in and pitched.

What happened next could only have occurred during the perfect storm of capitalism and chutzpah. Feinblum's drive, guts and financial savvy were perfect weapons in a business climate described by titles like

Barbarians at the Gate and Predators' Ball. He was a mustachioed tempest in an herbal teapot.

To buy Celestial, Feinblum and Ellison had to match about a $60 million price tag, the above-market value that Lipton was about to pay to put a competitor out of business. They were hopeful as they buckled their seatbelts on the plane back to Denver until they opened the newspapers and read that the government approved the Celestial sale.

But in May 1988, David and Eunice Bigelow of R.C. Bigelow tea company in Norwalk, Conn., filed a lawsuit to block the sale, claiming that the Celestial-Lipton merger would give Lipton a monopoly in herbal tea.

Celestial was in limbo. The court case dragged on. And then an odd thing happened. Big brown envelopes containing sealed court documents from the trial began arriving at Feinblum's office. "There was a mole," he says. "In these documents I discovered the purchase price was $55 million. And I discovered that Lipton intended to shut down the factory after 12 months. And I can't say anything about this," says Feinblum, who never discovered the mole's identity. Even more motivated for a buyout, he kept talking to Vestar.

A couple days before Labor Day, Eric Stroble, Feinblum's boss at Kraft, told him: "If you can get us a deal, we'll sign, but in the meantime, if the courts rule in our favor, we'll close with Lipton. And this conversation never took place,'" Feinblum recalls. He called Vestar.

In a weeklong financing frenzy, Feinblum and company hammered out a deal. Sunday night before the courts could open Monday morning and possibly issue a ruling to Kraft--they entered into an agreement to buy the company back for $55 million, plus fees.

"This was the go-go ‘80s," Feinblum says. "We paid $55 million and borrowed $56 million to do it ($1 million to cover the fees). You can't do deals like that anymore. It was kind of amazing."

When the deal closed, he sent Eunice Bigelow two dozen roses.

From Celestial to the milky way

"The fact that Barney stayed during that time, when a lot of people would have walked out the door, he stayed and put together that buyout, was a real credit to his capabilities, his thinking, his endurance. He didn't give up," Siegel says. "The debt was staggering. But Barney had the courage to do [the buyout]. And it turned out to be a very smart thing. He had the insight at a time when most people, including me, would have walked away."

Feinblum's next venture turned out to be a little bit too ahead of its time. After 17 years, he left Celestial as president in 1991, but stayed on the board of directors until the company went public again in 1993. Feinblum then founded Natural Venture Partners with industry veteran Anthony Harnett and Vincent Fontegrossi, creating a venture-capital firm to reinvest in the natural products industry. But they had difficulty breaking into the "financial club," Feinblum says. The company disbanded after a few years.

Feinblum could have ridden off into the sunset of retirement. Instead, he rode off into the Horizon. In 1991, Mark Retzloff and Paul Repetto created Horizon, a Boulder-based organic yogurt manufacturer. Once they added organic milk in 1993, business tripled. Bovine growth hormone hit the fields and the papers, creating even more interest in Horizon's hormone-free products. "We knew we would continually be seeking financing, working capital. We needed someone to drive the financial engine of what was going on," Retzloff says. "We asked Barney if he wanted to get back in the saddle." In 1995, Feinblum became Horizon's CEO.

"Weirdly enough, it wasn't until after he joined us at Horizon that we discovered he not only didn't like yogurt, he never ate it. But it didn't prevent him from doing a terrific job," Repetto says.

Horizon was in the midst of its grand Idaho dairy experiment: transforming 1,000 cows and a large facility to organic. "It all starts with the way the cows are treated," says Feinblum, who is able to ramble on about best organic dairy practices and cow husbandry in surprising detail. When he talks about them, his face takes on the shadow of a city kid marveling amid the alien herds at, say, the Colorado State Fair. "When those 1,000 cows became organic in 1995, it probably doubled the number of organic cows in America. My guess is that today, there are between 150,000 and 200,000.

"It was big investment for us at the time," he says. "Horizon was a brand. We didn't really want to own cows, but we owned cows because we couldn't get enough organic milk. "What I saw Horizon accomplish in Idaho is the most amazing thing I've ever seen in my 32 years in the natural products industry. We took a large conventional dairy and converted it into an entirely organic operation. Forty acres of compost. A $100,000 machine to turn that compost. We converted about 6,000 acres to organic on our own farm to grow organic hay, not to mention the rest of that Idaho valley that also converted to organic to supply Horizon hay."

Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the scale of the conversion. The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm-policy research group, raised an alarm about the dangers of "big" organic.

"The Cornucopia Institute wants to say that big is bad by definition. That kind of thinking is going to have the effect of making organic food only available to the rich. And I don't think that's what we're trying to do. I think we're winning when we convert more and more acres to organic," Feinblum says. He turns that Kraft Catalina color when he talks about Cornucopia and an even darker shade when he starts on "Monsatan," what he calls Monsanto, which develops genetically modified seed and has produced bovine growth hormone.

"Barney has integrity when it comes to organic," says Sylvia Tawes, president of Boulder-based communications firm The Fresh Ideas Group and a long-time friend of Feinblum's. "While he's a fiercely skillful businessman, he also has compassion. When at the helm at Horizon, he insisted on all calves being born on the dairy rather than buying from outside dairies."

Of all the work he's done in more than three decades in the industry, Feinblum's most proud of his efforts at Horizon. "Most people don't know, but Horizon's now the leading brand of milk in America, and as a result, has converted I don't know how many acres to organic. It was an amazing logistical challenge to overcome. Seeing the importance of organic milk to kids and families today, when 15 years ago there was no such thing, there was no branded milk, just a regional dairy name and maybe pictures of lost kids on the cartons. Now the fact that I can get organic milk in almost any place in America is mind-boggling. That we were able to pull that off is amazing."

Ironically, Feinblum always wanted to be a cowboy. "Well, I got the cows," he says. But he did more for Horizon than just round up cattle. He also played a key role in the company's acquisitions.

"Barney's not afraid to do things that are a little out of the ordinary," Retzloff says. "He's not afraid to make things happen. And Barney likes to win." When Retzloff brought U.K. company Rachel's Yogurt before the board as Horizon's first potential international acquisition, Feinblum was the first on board. "He's not afraid to take risks. And he believed in what we were doing," Retzloff says. In fact, over the years, a few times Retzloff had to check Feinblum's ambition when it came to buying more companies. "I told him: ‘Barney, you know, we don't have to catch every fish in the water. We can go home.' " When Feinblum joined Horizon in 1995, the company had about $3.5 million in annual sales. When he left in '99, sales were close to $90 million.

Investing in naturals

In 1998, Feinblum became one of the three original investors in the chain of Fresh & Wild organic grocery stores in the United Kingdom, the idea of long-term friend S.M. "Hass" Hassan. Hassan hired Irishman Bryan Meehan to run Fresh & Wild, which was eventually bought by Whole Foods in 2004. "Barney was the most enthusiastic and committed board member I've ever seen," Meehan says. Not only would he read every single page of the board packet, but he would fly to England days earlier than the meetings and immerse himself in the stores. "He's totally committed to the value of the natural products industry. He was doing it because he loved it, not to make money. Barney follows his heart. Every decision he makes is based on his values, which happen to be the values of the industry," Meehan says. "He's a real visionary and committed to the future of this industry." To help shape that future, Feinblum—and Meehan—joined Greenmont Capital Partners, a natural-products-industry investment firm they co-founded in 2004 with Retzloff, Hassan, Repetto, Steve Demos and John Shields.

"Barney believes in the natural products industry," says Amy Barr, co-founder of Colorado-based Marr Barr communications, who worked as vice president of communications at Horizon while Feinblum was at the company. "Some people in the industry today are all about money, but Barney's a true believer."

Recycling knowledge

Feinblum's voice can be heard outside the walls of Greenmont's Walnut Street offices in Boulder, housed in a renovated 1898 home.

He's throwing things.

"You can't recycle this shit!" he yells, tossing a food-caked container he's pulled out of one of the recycling bins in Greenmont's kitchen. "What's the matter with you people?" (Crash!) "What kind of green company is this?"

Converted by wife Jules into a recycling pro, Feinblum also recycles knowledge to the entrepreneurs he helps through Greenmont. (He and Jules are also responsible for the Feinblum Recycling Center at the University of Colorado. "They offered us all these fancy boardrooms, but if our names had to go on something, Barney wanted it to be the recycling bins," Jules says. A commemorative picture of the bins and the sign hangs in his home office, not far from pictures of his sons, Josh, 29, and Danny, 25.)

Feinblum and Hassan are the co-managing directors for Greenmont 1, a $20 million private-equity fund with 10 portfolio investments. Its success enabled the creation of Greenmont 2 in 2008. "Our mission is to invest in the early stages of companies we think are developing the [lifestyles of health and sustainability] community market," Feinblum says. "Where our strength is primarily natural and organic food and retailing, we consider our real strength in understanding who the LOHAS consumer is and the products and services that they'll be interested in purchasing."

Joking that he used to call firms like Greenmont "vulture capitalists," Feinblum says, "Now I am one." Greenmont companies include IZZE Beverage, Mary's Gone Crackers, OZO car, a Manhattan company providing limo service with Toyota Priuses, and Eco Timber green flooring.

"We understand the industry and understand how people come into it. We value the passion of the entrepreneurs and understand their egomaniac issues," says Feinblum, laughing. "We've seen so many bad ideas; we see so many plans and people who are passionate but they don't understand the harsh financial realities of life. And we can help people with that. It's rare that people get the experience we have."

Looking back on his career, he says he was never a founder or a visionary. "I was the kind of glue that helps those entrepreneurial founders succeed in the harsh financial realities of life," he says. "It's great to have these wonderful visions and ideas, but you can't get anywhere if you don't succeed in the cruel world of money and understanding what money costs and how to get it. And that's the kind of role I've served."

In addition, Feinblum serves on the boards of naturals companies such as Gaiam and Seventh Generation.

Vintage ideas

In 2000, Barney and Jules sat in a London hotel room, looking down suspiciously into the contents of two hotel glasses. While in town for a Fresh & Wild board meeting, Barney wandered the store to find more than 20 feet of organic wine, beer and spirits. The organic wines he'd tasted before were "pretty awful." But the Europeans were pretty picky. And there were lots of bottles on the shelf. "What the hell?" he figured.

"Well, I know it's going to taste awful," he told his wife, raising his glass in a toast. "But here goes."

"It was wonderful!" says Feinblum, voice rising in excitement, "It was wine!" I couldn't believe it!" Jules soaked the label off the bottle in the bathtub to bring back to show friends.

"We didn't think they'd believe us," she says.

"I thought, ‘Whoa! There's a whole world of organic wines out there!'" Feinblum says. In typical Feinblum full-speed-ahead fashion, a few months later, he founded Organic Vintners. He partnered with the Fresh & Wild supplier, a London company called Vintage Roots, that had been distributing organic wine, beer and spirits from all over the world for 15 years. "People look at entrepreneurs as risk takers. I don't think that's true at all," he says. "Entrepreneurs see the world differently. In their minds, they're not taking any risk. The rest of the world may think they're crazy. But in the minds of the entrepreneurs, they know it's going to work. And that was my kind of observation about organic wine. I am disappointed it's taken so long. I thought, ‘Why wouldn't everyone want organic wine in America? You wouldn't feed your kids conventional milk—why aren't you drinking organic wine?'"

But there were two major issues to overcome: Americans still believe organic wine tastes bad, and the U.S. organic laws require Organic Vintners' labels to say "made with organic grapes." Unlike in Europe, "organic" wine in America cannot have added sulfites. This is a topic that turns Feinblum as red as Monsatan. These limitations, in addition to state-by-state distribution headaches, have made the business a challenge. But recent success, like this summer's purchase of Organic Vintners' largest Florida distributor by Tree of Life, may prove that Feinblum is, once again, on target.

If Feinblum were a bottle of wine, he would be a San-Emilion Grand Cru, agree Organic Vintners President Paolo Mario Bonetti and Marketing Manager Colleen McCafferty. "It's got a lot of structure. It can be firm when it's young, but with age, the tannins fade. Drinking it is really an experience like no other," McCafferty says. "Plus, it's the wine that got Barney started with Organic Vintners. As soon as you taste it, you know its quality," Bonetti says. "But it has a very understated, refined label."

Feinblum's temper is one thing he wishes he'd refined earlier in his career. "I lost my cool sometimes. It hurts people. I'm pretty demanding; while I do appreciate people, I've been a pretty harsh taskmaster. I probably could have been a little kinder," he says with a guilty grin.

"His twin virtues are passion and integrity," Repetto says. "When he is excited, which is often, he is loud, a true sign that he cares." If he were a tea, says Celestial's Siegel, Barney Feinblum would be Morning Thunder.

"Barney is passionate and that means, yes, emotional, about those things he really cares about," says Tawse of The Fresh Ideas Group. "In the early years of Organic Vintners, it was more commonplace than not that a wine writer would ‘totally screw up' the definitions for organic wine in the U.S. Barney would get completely infuriated but would funnel his ire into educating each journalist."

In fact, Feinblum is banned for life from one wine store after taking aside store personnel and educating them on all the ways their signage for organic wine was incorrect and how they could improve it.

Solid legacy

Tea. Milk. Wine. For a guy who's worked for a lot of years in liquids, what Feinblum's brought to the industry is solid: brains, dedication, vision and guts. "Barney's worked to bring innovative businesses into the mainstream, not as the public figure, but more of the reserved visionary that attended to the necessary details," says industry veteran Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation. "You can stand on the podium and wave your arms, but unless you've got backing to implement that vision, what remains is someone standing on the podium waving their arms. Barney brings experience and reality to everything he does."

And, judging from his track record and his current work, he'll continue doing so until the cows come home.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 42,44,46,48,50

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Glanbia buys a whey into supplements market

by Vicky Uhland

As ingredients companies search for ways to jump-start sales in a time when profit margins are being shaved, the Irish cheese and nutritional ingredients group Glanbia has responded by entering the consumer side of the business, purchasing Illinois-based Optimum Nutrition, a manufacturer that specializes in sports supplements.

The $315 million acquisition, announced in August, expands Glanbia's presence in North America. Last year, Glanbia bought Pizzey's Milling, a Canadian company that produces fatty acids from flaxseed. In 2006, the company bought California-based Seltzer, which specializes in nutritional pre-mixes.

Natural products consultant Anthony Almada said Glanbia's foray into finished goods makes smart business sense, though it's unusual for an ingredients company.

"When margins are being shaved and not many ingredients are truly unique anymore, it's a challenging time to go after ingredients sales," said Almada, president of IMAGINutrition, a nutritional-technology think tank based in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Almada said because most ingredients today are generic or commodity, buyers mainly look for the cheapest price, which is usually offered by Chinese or Indian suppliers.

Ingredients manufacturers can improve their bottom lines by marketing their own branded, finished goods. But unlike Glanbia, "Other big ingredients companies have no professed interest in buying branded companies because they don't want to sell directly to the consumer—they prefer the business-to-business role," Almada said, adding, "Most ingredients companies aren't nearly as well-funded or have as much capital as Glanbia."

Nevertheless, Jesse Lopez, CEO and president of Chicago-based ingredients supplier Source One Global Partners, said ingredients companies that want to continue to be successful need to be "thinking of ways to add value to their ingredients through innovative application technologies, proprietary formulation expertise and consumer-focused marketing." He noted that Glanbia's decision to buy a finished-goods manufacturer "allows for greater control of the marketing message while moving further up the value chain as you get closer to the end consumer."

Glanbia is poised to make a "great profit" by cutting out the middleman.

The acquisition of Optimum gives Glanbia, a major player in the dairy-ingredients market, an entry into the fast-growing sports-supplements market. Optimum, which has manufacturing facilities in Illinois, South Carolina and Florida, makes well-known brands such as Optimum Nutrition, Gold Standard 100% Whey and ABB. In 2007, Optimum reported $185 million in sales.

Glanbia's purchase of Optimum is a "close strategic fit with our core areas of expertise in whey and sports nutrition, and brings us up the value chain into consumer markets," said John Moloney, Glanbia group managing director, in a statement. "Optimum also fits very well with the group's stated growth strategy and ambition to continue to internationalize our business. The transaction is expected to be earnings-enhancing from this year."

Almada pointed out that Optimum is Glanbia's biggest whey-protein customer, so now Glanbia is poised to make a "great profit" by cutting out the middleman and selling directly to the consumer.

Glanbia estimates the global nutrition market at $337 billion per year. The sports and fitness market has a significant chunk of those earnings, at an estimated $44 billion, with a yearly growth rate of 7 percent to 8 percent, according to the company.

"The Optimum Nutrition acquisition is a bold move and compelling statement about Glanbia's strategic plans for growth," Lopez said. "Glanbia has a vision of becoming a dominant player by executing an acquisition strategy so they are positioned to successfully compete in a marketplace that is consolidating, in which larger food and pharmaceutical companies are establishing a significant footprint, and the focus is on a consumer-driven marketplace."

Vicky Uhland is a Lafayette, Colo.-based freelance writer and editor.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 26

Natural Foods Merchandiser

News Beat

Robin Hood goes shopping

The old Robin Hood stole English pounds. The new ones steal pounds of feta. A group of 20 hooded people, dubbed "The New Robin Hood" by the Greek media, have struck a handful of times across the Greek Islands. They march into supermarkets, fill carts with groceries, then storm out without paying while shouting slogans against recent price hikes, according to reports. Then, the produce-wielding posse hands out its booty to people on the street. They never hurt anyone or steal money. And many believe the merry men are actually women, who probably look better in tights.

The Greek media report that in their quest to steal from the rich and give to the poor, the thieves, or possibly copycats, have hit stores in Athens and in the port town of Thessaloniki. Police have made no arrests.

Greeks have been hit with a skyrocketing cost of living. Food prices, in particular, have increased sharply. Inflation has reached a 10-year high. According to national polls, the increasing cost of living tops Greeks' list of concerns.

Starbucks nuts about Justin's

Starbucks launched Justin's Nut Butters into a new orbit when the coffee giant included the Boulder company's products in its new line of "healthy breakfast options" this fall. Packets of Justin's Nut Butters will be offered in Starbucks nationwide.

"We've been working on the Starbucks deal for almost two years," said Justin Gold, who founded the company in 2004. "We got incredibly lucky. It just happened to be the right product at the right time." After working through his network of mentors, submitting product samples, meeting with Starbucks executives in Seattle and calculating pricing and production, Gold got the go-ahead.

"We made our largest order ever and they didn't really give us a lot of time to get it done. We've been working 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Gold, who ordered more equipment to prevent any future bottlenecks.

The coffee chain's customers have said they want foods with nutritious ingredients like whole grains, fruit and lean protein to "help fill them up and give them energy to make it to lunch," Starbucks Senior Nutritionist Katie Thomson said of the company's new breakfast items. Consumers can opt for Justin's with the Starbucks Power Protein Plate and the Multigrain Roll.

—S.R.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Coupons popular as economy declines

Americans continue to be concerned about the cost of living, and they are looking for ways to save money. According to recent research from the Promotion Marketing Association's Coupon Council:

  • 89 percent of the overall population reports that they use coupons when shopping in supermarkets.
  • Coupon users report an average of 7 percent savings on their grocery bills with coupons.
  • The typical family saves between $5.20 and $9.60 per week using coupons.

    Consumers love coupons—they are a great way to economize, stretch the grocery budget and try new products for less than retail price," said Charles Brown, co-chair of the PMA Coupon Council, in a statement.

    PMA Coupon Council Co-chair Matthew Tilley said that in today's economy, consumers can be responsive to coupon offers. But so far in 2008, consumer packaged goods marketers haven't increased the number of coupons available, keeping consumer-coupon redemption steady with last year. He said that's significant because until last year, the Coupon Council tracked 15 years of declining coupon redemption in the U.S.

    Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 22