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Natural Foods Merchandiser

Stock medicine cabinet for pet health, too

Pets face the same health problems that their owners do. Sedentary dogs, especially older ones, often develop digestive problems, skin and coat issues, arthritis and even liver disease. Younger, more active dogs that tend to go where their owners go may require antioxidants and other forms of supplementation to aid their recovery following long hikes and other activities. And, because pets are part of the family, shoppers who use supplements for themselves will search out supplements for their pets as well.

"People are being very proactive with their pets' health, just as with their own health," says Donna Spector, D.V.M., a Brooklyn-based veterinarian who consults with Tampa, Fla.-based Halo, Purely for Pets. "The ‘big [pet] food scare' left people wondering whether their pets' diets are complete and balanced."

Natural pet health
Many natural options can aid pet health, including herbal remedies, vitamins, homeopathics and flower essences, which pet owners can use on their own or in conjunction with allopathic veterinary care, depending on the ailment.

"There are literally hundreds of remedies available, for a range of health issues including allergies, arthritis, digestive problems, skin and hair problems, anxiety, liver problems and even protection from inflammatory diseases and cancer through the use of antioxidants," Spector says.

It's important for shoppers to understand which issues they can treat successfully, and which might indicate more serious problems and require veterinary care. "We launched our line with six products that I believed would be most efficacious over-the-counter, but can also be used in conjunction with veterinary care," says Joel Murphy, D.V.M., a holistic vet at the Animal & Bird Medical Center of Palm Harbor, Fla., who recently formulated a line of pet supplements for Renew Life, based in Clearwater, Fla. The product line includes formulas for skin and coat, detox and liver, digestion, joints, calmness and an omega-3 product.

"These are unique products because they combine herbals, nutraceuticals and flower essences," Murphy says. "In addition, these products are designed for both allopathic and holistic approaches." As an example, he says that mild skin and coat issues may be successfully addressed with a combination of the skin and coat formula and omega-3s, while severe allergic reactions or advanced skin disease may require that a veterinarian prescribe cortisol. However, by using these products in conjunction with pharmaceutical treatments, Murphy says much less cortisol can be used.

The same approach may work best with digestive problems, including constipation and diarrhea. "Our digestive formula is for dogs with sensitive stomachs or chronic conditions like inflammatory bowel," Murphy says. "It's not for a dog who may have an intestinal blockage or pancreatitis or food poisoning, so pet owners should definitely consult a vet and get a diagnosis." Calming or anti-anxiety products for dogs are especially popular and are effective enough in many cases to replace pharmaceutical options.

Getting the vet involved
Luckily, more vets today know about herbal and homeopathic remedies. This represents a sea change for veterinary specialists, though there are still many vets who take a strictly allopathic approach. "A lot of vets still have no training or knowledge of holistic medicine or herbals," says Murphy, "though it's definitely better than it was 25 years ago."

Retailers might also want to compile a list of holistic vets to share with customers. One resource is the Veterinary Botanical Medical Association, based in Kennesaw, Ga., or online at Another option is the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, based in Bel Air, Md., which has a searchable online referral service at

"Botanicals have historically been used in maintaining animal health, with a rich history in Chinese medicine," says herbalist David Winston, founder of Herbalist & Alchemist, based in Washington, N.J. "There are some vets who are fabulous herbalists and have a deep understanding of how botanicals affect animals." Herbalist & Alchemist recently sponsored a teleseminar for vets in conjunction with VBMA.

Determining dog and cat dosage

In general, herbal medicines that work for humans will also work for animals when dosage is adjusted. This allows pet owners to create their own herbal formulas for pets, or to use dried herbs and tinctures mixed into foods, particularly for finicky eaters who refuse a pre-made supplement in the form of a chewable treat.

"What works for humans almost always works for dogs," Winston says. "Cats are a bit different, and require more specialized knowledge on selection and dosage. In general, for companion animals, we take their body weight and divide by the weight of an average human, so a 50-pound dog would receive one-third of a human dose."

Winston says vets have had success using his company's OsteoHerb and Muscle Joint Compound formulas for joint issues, and Carminative Compound for doggie gas—a remedy that many pet owners will likely be thankful for.

However, pet owners should exercise caution and understand that not all remedies are appropriate for pets. Murphy formulated Renew Life's line of pet supplements only with herbs that are nontoxic even in high doses, so if a pet gets into the container of supplements and eats them all, no harm is done. "We have to look at the research species by species, because what's safe for dogs is not necessarily safe for cats," Murphy says. For example, the detox system in cats is different than in dogs. Salicylates, which are found in aspirin but also occur naturally in herbals such as white willow bark, may be appropriate for dogs at low dosages, Murphy says, but any dosage that might offer relief to cats would likely put the animal in the hospital.

Where to start
There are a number of effective dog and cat supplements that will almost always create positive results, experts say, and these may be the best place to start, especially with aging pets. For example, formulas for skin and coat tend to include cod liver or other essential oils containing omega-3s, which will have a positive antioxidant benefit in addition to their direct benefit to the skin. Halo, Purely for Pets has created a vitamin C formula with a wide range of benefits that go beyond joint health, because vitamin C is a critical component of collagen and the body's ligaments and tendons.

"Antioxidants are helpful for any inflammatory process in the body," Spector says. "In addition, our formula includes cranberry, which creates a little more acid to help the bladder and urinary systems."

Probiotics formulated especially for pets are another helpful tonic. "We sell a probiotic that is not only good for digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea, but also for ear infections," says Susan Weiss, founder of Ark Naturals, based in Naples, Fla. "Cortisone products only mask the symptoms, but probiotics in conjunction with an ear cleaner can really change the underlying problem."

Antioxidants are useful, especially for older dogs, because they can help mitigate inflammatory processes that go with aging, including muscle soreness and joint pain, Weiss says. Finally, calming products, like Ark Naturals' Happy Traveler or Renew Life's Healthy Calm, can help reduce symptoms for pets that may have trouble with travel, thunderstorms, separation anxiety or other nervous reactions. Happy Traveler uses St. John's wort, chamomile, kava kava and valerian, while Healthy Calm combines GABA, lemon balm, chamomile, hops and valerian with flower essences.

Reach out to pet lovers
Retailers can take several steps to make sure customers have the information they need. First, offer contact information for veterinary associations that encourage natural remedies, especially to pet owners whose pets have serious conditions that may require a mixture of natural and allopathic approaches. Seek out local vets who practice herbal and holistic medicine for referrals. A clear knowledge of the formulations and delivery systems for these pet products is also helpful; some owners may prefer the convenience of a treat form, while others may prefer to use capsules hidden inside a dog's favorite food, for instance.

When a customer has found the right product, they'll know it. "You can trick a human, but you can't trick an animal," Weiss says. "There is no placebo effect in pets, but when you see a change in the animal you'll know its working."

Mitchell Clute is a Fort Collins, Colo.-based freelance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 88,92

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Joint ventures: 7 supplements for arthritis

No matter what type of joint troubles your customers have, aches and pain and loss of function are the result. The debilitating conditions literally stop people in their tracks because healthy joints are at the core of every physical movement, from walking up stairs to picking flowers.

While glucosamine and chondroitin have been the go-to remedies for joint health for some time, other supplements may work just as well. They can relieve pain and improve mobility without the unwelcome side effects of cyclooxygenase II inhibitors, which up the risk of heart attack, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which may lead to liver toxicity. That should be welcome news to the nearly 21 million Americans who suffer from osteoarthritis, the disease that causes the cushioning between bone and joints to wear away over time. It'll also please those who have the less common rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that triggers the body's immune system to attack healthy tissues.

This supplemental help takes a variety of forms. "Anyone in all [arthritic] categories can benefit from taking similar things," says Nicole Barreda, N.M.D., a naturopath in Scottsdale, Ariz. "You can get all the benefits without any side effects." Here, the experts share their latest favorites to try.

Boswellia (Boswellia serrata)

Also known as frankincense, boswellia has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine for treatment of inflammation and arthritis. In a study published this summer in Arthritis Research and Therapy, researchers found that a type of boswellia extract called 5-Loxin decreased pain and improved performance for those suffering osteoarthritis of the knee. Earlier studies showed that boswellia relieved osteoarthritis of the knee better than a placebo and some other drugs. The herb may relieve pain by controlling inflammation, though perhaps through a different pathway than COX-2 inhibitors, and it may improve joint health by decreasing enzymes that degrade cartilage. "For osteoarthritis patients and people with pain, there are many causes of inflammation," says Dr. Jason Theodosakis, assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and author of The Arthritis Cure (St. Martins, 2004). "Boswellia works on a different pathway than over-the-counter prescription drugs. Because of that, I think there's better safety."

Dose: Theodosakis suggests 100 milligrams per day of 5-Loxin, which is standardized to 30 percent acetyl-keto-beta.

Avocado-soybean unsaponifiable

"Saponified means ‘to make soap,'" says Theodosakis. "Unsaponifiable means ‘you can't make soap' with this oil." But you can wash away arthritis pain by taking in this fat from avocados and soybeans. ASU works by beneficially modifying bone cells that are undergoing osteoarthritic changes. "In osteoarthritis, it's not just cartilage degeneration, but a degeneration of the whole joint, including bone," Theodosakis says. "Many people believe the underlying pain occurs because the bone changes." The studies have been so convincing that The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews recommends ASU as the herbal derivative with the most positive evidence as an arthritis treatment. Even more, Theodosakis' patients who take ASU end up decreasing or stopping their anti-inflammatory drugs. But don't just point customers to the produce and bulk aisles for pain relief. You can eat all the avocadoes and soybeans in the world, and you still won't relieve joint pain. ASU is bound to certain plant fibers called lignans. It must be mechanically removed from the lignans in order for the body to readily absorb it—which explains why the supplement works and the food doesn't, according to Theodosakis.

Dose: Theodosakis suggests 300 milligrams once a day.

Turmeric (Curcuma domestica, Curcuma longa) and ginger (Zingiberaceae) An ancient Asian spice that gives curry its yellow color, turmeric prevents both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, according to recent studies. An in-vivo study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism in 2006 revealed that the curcuminoid extracts of turmeric switch off the protein that triggers joint swelling and destruction. Turmeric is a member of the ginger family, and ginger, too, seems to reduce arthritis pain, though the effects in one study were small and somewhat inconsistent.

Dose: Barreda suggests 500 milligrams of turmeric/curcumin three times a day; 2,000 milligrams of ginger a day.

Hyaluronic acid

Osteoarthritis signals low concentrations of hyaluronic acid in the joint's synovial fluid. "Hyaluronic acid acts as a shock absorber and as a lubricant," Theodosakis says. "Grinding and crunching in the knee is a sign of low hyaluronic acid." What started as a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved prescription injection of hyaluronic acid is now being transformed into an oral supplement ingredient—with positive results. Initial research of proprietary hyaluronic acid products (for example, made from either rooster combs into Hyal-Joint or through bacteria fermentation into Baxyl) show that the supplement relieves pain and inflammation and improves range of motion—in essence, quality of life improves. Theodosakis is a fan of Hyal-Joint. "It's twice as active as the fermented product," he says.

Dose: Theodosakis suggests 80 milligrams a day of Hyal-Joint. Ask your healthcare practitioner for appropriate doses of other hyaluronic acid supplements.


Bromelain comes from pineapple and is one of several proteolytic enzymes—others include papain from papaya and pancreatin from hog pancreas. These enzymes digest proteins and are natural anti-inflammatories. Joint pain is inflammation of the joint capsule itself. "Inflammation is the body's attempt to heal," naturopath Barreda says. "When you injure a part of your body, it swells up. Sometimes the inflammation goes on excessively or for too long, and it becomes a chronic state. You want to decrease that inflammation, which has now become a problem." Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs all have side effects and can potentially harm the kidney and liver. "Instead, you can take natural anti-inflammatories because they're basic components of food and so they don't have the side effects of drugs," Barreda says. In studies, enzymes like bromelain seem to calm knee and hip pain that results from inflammation, according to Clinical Rheumatology and Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology.

Dose: 500 milligrams three times a day, according to Barreda.

Omega-3 fatty acids

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish encourage the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins and have been shown to improve rheumatoid arthritis in many studies. In a recent investigation, scientists found that participants taking cod liver oil, containing 2.2 grams of omega-3 essential fatty acids, had such good results that they were able to gradually cut back on NSAIDs, according to Rheumatology 2008. "Fish oil is a great and easy thing to take," Barreda says. "You can also take it in different forms, such as flaxseed oil or coconut oils. They're all natural anti-inflammatories."

Dose: 2,000 milligrams a day of fish oil, suggests Barreda.

Shea triterpenes

Shea triterpenes come from the pit of the fruit of the karite tree, which grows wild in Africa. The same tree fruit is used to make skin-smoothing shea butter. Unpublished proprietary clinical trials testing FlexNow joint formula, which contains shea triterpenes as the active ingredient, showed that the supplement reduced the breakdown of type II collagen, which is the most abundant part of cartilage. It also eased pain and inflammation in joints. According to Len Smith, CEO and president of BSP Pharma, the makers of FlexNow, the joint formula works synergistically with glucosamine and chondroitin to curb cartilage destruction. "We strongly suggest taking them together," Smith says. Dose: Follow label instructions.

Pamela Bond is a freelance writer in Eldorado Springs, Colo.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 94,98

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Organic and chocolate the sweethearts of the candy aisle

The natural and organic candy segment continues to show strong growth and innovation, driven mainly by the increased awareness and availability of organic and fair trade products. With more than 330 new items introduced in the naturals supermarket channel and 65 in the conventional food, drug and mass channel during the 52 weeks ending June 14, the candy segment is constantly evolving. The two subcategories that make up this dynamic segment—chocolate candy and other candy—have combined-channel 52-week sales that total more than $127 million.

Organic candy is responsible for most of the segment's growth of the, with total growth of the entire segment at 14.1 percent versus 20.2 percent for organic candy. In the naturals supermarket channel, candy sales grew by 8 percent, while the organic segment grew by 12.9 percent, and in conventional FDM, growth was 30 percent and 36.6 percent, respectively. When broken down into National Organic Program classifications, differences emerge: The less than 70 percent segment (where organic can only be identified on the ingredient statement) leads, with combined-channel growth of 24.1 percent, while the 100 percent organic segment shows the least combined-channel growth, with a year-over-year increase of 17.9 percent. However, NOP classification growth does vary by channel; in naturals supermarkets, the 70 percent to 94 percent organic segment leads with a 24.3 percent sales increase, and in conventional FDM, the 100 percent organic segment generated the most growth, followed by the less than 70 percent, with 49.5 percent and 42 percent growth, respectively. In terms of organic dollar sales share, the 95 percent to 99 percent organic segment significantly leads across both channels, with a combined-channel dollar share of 78.8 percent.

Chocolate candy represents the majority of sales volume, with 83.8 percent of combined-channel dollar sales for the most recent 52-week period. Combined-channel growth of chocolate was 15.1 percent versus 9 percent for other candy. However, in the naturals supermarket channel, total dollar sales of other candy increased more than chocolate, with a 9.1 percent sales gain. Much of chocolate's growth for the past year came from conventional FDM, where sales increased by 34.5 percent versus a year ago. Sales of organic chocolate outpaced the overall category, with a combined-channel sales increase of 19.7 percent. In the naturals channel, seven of the top 10 dollar-volume items are organic, and in the conventional channel five of the top 10 are organic. Leading natural and organic chocolate brands in the naturals channel include Green & Black's, Endangered Species, Chocolove, Lake Champlain and Dagoba. Green & Black's, Endangered Species, Cocoavia, Scharffen Berger and Chocolove are leaders in the conventional channel.

Beyond organic, another attribute that is driving chocolate growth is fair trade, with combined-channel growth of 23 percent. The majority of fair trade volume—77.6 percent—is generated through the naturals supermarket channel. However, fair trade chocolate is growing at a greater pace in FDM, with a year-over-year increase of 35.6 percent. There are 178 active fair trade chocolate SKUs in the naturals supermarket channel, 33 of which were introduced within the last year; in FDM, there are 66 active items, 20 of which are new to the channel this year, representing nearly one-third of all candy items that were introduced in the channel.

Natural and organic candy has definitely captured the attention of consumers. Do you have the right items stocked for Halloween?

—Alison Tirone

Natural and organic candy segment, 52 week sales

Conventional FDM

Current $

Year Ago $

% Change

$ Share






Chocolate candy





Other candy





Natural Supermarkets






Chocolate candy





Other candy





Organic candy segment, 52 week sales

Conventional FDM

Current $

Year Ago $

% Change

$ Share






100% Organic candy





95% - 99% Organic candy





70% - 94% Organic candy





1% - 69% Organic candy





Natural Supermarkets






100% Organic candy





95% - 99% Organic candy





70% - 94% Organic candy





1% - 69% Organic candy





Natural and organic candy sales

Fair trade chocolate segment, 52 weeks

Current $

Year Ago $

% Change

Conventional FDM




Natural supermarkets




Combined channel




Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 128

Candy Segment Share
Combined Channel

Organic Candy Sales by NOP Classification Combined Channel

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 128

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Chew wisely with natural, functional gums

Chewing Gum KitWhether customers chew it while chopping onions to prevent tears, munch on it instead of a caloric afternoon snack to keep the waistline in check, or use it to freshen breath, gum has plenty of proven uses. Perhaps that's why the business of chewing gum has stuck with us ever since the ancient Greeks started chomping on the resin of the mastic tree and the Mayans began sinking their teeth into the sap of the sapodilla tree.

Today, gum's popularity shows no signs of becoming stale. Sales of gums and mints in natural products stores exceeded $2.5 million this year, up more than 12 percent from the previous year, according to SPINS, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based market research and consulting firm for the natural products industry. Here's a blow-by-blow of the freshest natural-gum trends.

Gum's a natural

What separates natural gum from the rest of the pack is the absence of anything artificial—flavoring, coloring, preservatives and sweeteners. By contrast, conventional gums often contain a chemist's mix of synthetic and artificial ingredients, such as suspected carcinogenic preservatives like BHT and the sweetener aspartame, which has been associated (though inconclusively) with rising brain-tumor rates and weight gain.

These days, conventional gums also focus on "novelty," according to Deborah Schimberg, president and founder of Glee Gum, a natural-gum manufacturer in Providence, R.I. "For example, they came out with a gum for kids that turns teeth blue," she says. "Changing the color of teeth doesn't happen naturally." Natural-gum manufacturers aren't driven by innovation made possible by chemicals, Schimberg says.

"Natural gums are better for you than regular gum," Schimberg says. In fact, research shows that chewing gum can reduce hunger and decrease calorie intake, improve the ability to learn, increase blood flow to the brain and promote a healthy mouth.

Functional - and fun

Recently, chewing gum got an even bigger boost from added ingredients. Whereas yesterday's gum was simply meant to freshen breath, today's gum may whiten teeth, boost energy, decrease appetite and more. The name of the game is functional, and functional gum—or nutraceutical gum—allows manufacturers to use gum as a delivery system for other substances, such as health-enhancing supplements, herbs and vitamins.

Retailers should note that a "dietary supplement" must be "ingested," according to FDA regulations. Gums and sprays could make the argument that saliva containing ingredients released from the gum are swallowed and ingested, but this would bring to question whether there is an efficacious amount of the ingredient to have the purported function claimed.

Fargo, N.D.-based Peelu—along with several other manufacturers—also use multitasking xylitol in some of their gum lines. This natural sugar alcohol adds sweetness to gum and doubles as a cavity fighter. Several studies show that xylitol helps prevent and reverse tooth decay. "It seems to change the flora in the mouth," says Mark Breiner, DDS, author of Whole Body Dentistry (Quantum Health Press, 1999). "It reduces the Streptococcus mutans bacteria that thrive on sugar." This type of bacteria, which sticks to the surface of teeth, is the leading cause of dental caries.

Xylitol is a type of sugar, Breiner explains, but not one on which bacteria can thrive. Without food, the bacteria starve in the presence of xylitol. Regular sugar, on the other hand, makes the mouth more acidic, and bacteria grow in that environment, he says. And what about sugar-free gum? No study yet has shown that sugar-free gums reduce or reverse decay like xylitol does, according to Breiner. Even more, xylitol's benefits last long after you stop chewing, he says.

Naturals manufacturers are realizing that to have kids benefit from xylitol, they need to make flavors that appeal to them. Glendale, Calif.-based Tundra Trading makes its gum in six flavors including fruit and chocolate.

Gum gets a conscience

Bucking the trends followed by many gum manufacturers, Glee Gum is less about function and more about putting social, economic and environmental issues in a fun package. The company's means for reaching that end? Gum base.

Gum base puts the chew in chewing gum by binding ingredients together and creating a smooth texture. In the beginning, the Mayans chewed the sap of the sapodilla tree, creating one of the original gum bases—now known as chicle. Today, almost all gum base is concocted from synthetic materials, which is easier and cheaper to make than gum base from natural materials, Schimberg says.

Glee Gum is one exception. The company has partnered with Mexican chicleros, who tap rain forest trees and harvest the sap, which is then turned into chicle. "The job of harvesting chicle results in people having an income from the forest, and in the trees remaining standing," Schimberg says. "Without this income, the only way to make money is cutting down trees and selling them for timber."

Will a piece of gum save the planet? Perhaps not, but it can help make a positive difference, according to Schimberg. "We feel like gum should be something that's fun to chew," she says. "At the same time, if you're going to chew gum, why not chew chicle? That consumer choice makes a difference for preservation and conservation of the rain forest and the people who live there."

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p.84

Natural Foods Merchandiser

COOL interim laws begin today

by David Accomazzo

Retailers will have to start labeling all unprocessed foods with the country of origin as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new labeling regulations become interim law today. Final changes to the law might occur following a review of public input during the comment period that ended today.

The long-delayed labeling requirements first became law as part of the 2002 Farm Bill, but the USDA delayed implementation until it could figure out a way to ease the logistic burden on retailers.

The USDA plans to not enforce the law for at least six months to allow retailers time to develop their own labeling procedures.

The products requiring a country-of-origin label include ground and muscle cuts of beef, lamb, chicken, goat and pork; fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables; and macadamia nuts, pecans, ginseng and peanuts. The law applies only to retailers, not restaurants, and does not apply to processed foods, that is, anything which is cooked, cured or restructured in any way that alters its original form. Country-of-origin labeling has been required for fish and shellfish since 2004.

This means that, starting today, the law requires retailers to state the country of origin of the products mentioned above either on a label, stamp, mark, placard, or other sign on the package, display, holding case, or bin containing the product. Suppliers must make this information available to retailers either on the product itself, the shipping containers, or in paperwork accompanying the product.

The department's Agricultural Marketing Service put a $2.5 billion price tag on the program's implementation, estimating an annual cost of $376 for producers, $53,948 for intermediaries and $235,551 for retailers. One retailer thought that number might be a tad high."I would question that number," said Trudy Bialic, director of public affairs for PCC Natural Markets. "There was no significant cost to us."

The price, both monetary and otherwise, concerns other retailers, though, even though many agree the regulations are a good thing.

"It's probably a step in the right direction," said Shannon Hoffman, owner of GreenAcres Market in Kansas City, Mo. "We're going to have to include that on our signage ... It's going to require more work on our end to track everything, but ultimately, I think it's probably a good thing because one of the biggest issues out there is traceability."

Jeff Tripician, the executive vice president of Niman Ranch, a network of over 600 beef, lamb, and pork farmers, supports the new rules.

"I view this change as kind of part of a continuum in consumer education. As consumers become more educated, they will demand more and more information," Tripician said. "Whether it's where the food came from, how it was raised and by whom, these are logical questions in today's world of government recalls that consumers will ask about a product."


Value Becomes New Sales Mantra for Profit-Pressured Whole Foods Market


After years of blithely brushing off the nickname “Whole Paycheck” as it counted its profits, Whole Foods Market is making a concerted effort to overcome its image as an overpriced destination store, marketing value as vigorously as it has always marketed health in hopes of turning around a significant downturn in profits. “Sure, at Whole Foods Market you can buy a rare $39.99 bottle of certified organic, estate-bottled Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil that costs more than a bottle of fine perfume, but you can also buy every day low-priced groceries, natural meats, seafood, cheeses and produce,” wrote Ben Friedland, Whole Foods spokesman for the Rocky Mountain region, in a letter to the media this summer.

Friedland’s spiel was part of a national campaign in which the historically sale-averse retailer rolled out discounts, coupons and sale flyers; enlisted “value gurus” to help shoppers buy organic and natural items on the cheap; and provided consumer “value tours,” leading sticker-shocked customers to items with price tags rivaling or bettering those found at conventional supermarkets.

The campaign comes at a tough time for the natural foods giant, which runs 271 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In August, Whole Foods reported third-quarter profits of $33.9 million, which were down 31% from the previous year. It also reported that sales growth at stores open one year or more had slowed to 2.6%, from 6.7% the previous quarter, and that its new stores in Britain have lost $18.4 million in the past year.

Whole Foods now intends to reduce its number of new store openings to 15, down from the 25 to 30 it predicted earlier. Company officials also told investors that Whole Foods intends to slash its capital spending for fiscal year 2009 to $400 million to $450 million (down from $550 million), suspend its quarterly cash dividend and reduce the size of stores in development by an average of 9,000 square feet. “They got on a large store kick that turned out to be a mistake,” Andrew Wolf, managing director of equity research for BB and T Capital Markets, told Nutrition Business Journal earlier this month.

NBJ takes an in-depth look at how the economy is affecting Whole Foods and other healthy foods retailers in our upcoming Healthy Foods issue, which publishes in October. To order your copy of the issue or to subscribe to NBJ, go to


Country of Origin Meat Labeling Set to Take Effect


Mandatory country of origin labeling will take effect as was mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill. The latest provision came as an amendment to the 2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act.

The original bill required country of origin labeling for beef, lamb, pork, fish, perishable agricultural commodities and peanuts. Congress passed the mandatory labeling in 2002, but its implementation was delayed amidst concerns from the food industry. Seafood labeling rules were implemented three years ago, and the most recent bill expands the list to include chicken, goat meat, ginseng, pecans and macadamia nuts.

Some U.S. consumers are happy about the labeling, as it gives them a chance to avoid beef and meat from other countries which they feel is potentially unsafe. “I just don't eat it if it's from another country," said Suzanne Foster, co-owner of a family fishing business near Clearwater, FL.

Others in the food industry see it as unnecessary red tape. “What can they learn from seeing the country?" said Mark Dopp, a senior vice president for the American Meat Institute. "This is not a food-safety-related law. This tells nothing about safety. If there was a demand for this, consumers would have asked for this, and we have not heard that."

The USDA estimates that the new labeling will cost $2.5 billion in the first year, and $500 million annually. Supermarkets will take on the majority of those costs. As a result, the USDA predicts slight increases in price, $.07 per pound for beef, and $.04 per pound for pork. More reaction from consumers and food producers can be found here.


Coca-Cola and Hansen Natural Discussing Partnership


Coca-Cola already owns its own energy drink, Full Throttle, and has a distribution deal with Rockstar Energy Drink, so it’s unclear what might change with the distribution of those brands if the deal were to go through. St. Louis based investment analyst Mark Astrachan commented on the potential outcome, “A deal would result in meaningful market share up for grabs, in our view, as Rockstar would likely lose distribution access to the Coke system and Full Throttle is de-emphasized.”

If confirmed, the deal would also give Hansen access to the strong European presence that Coca-Cola has established, according to Stiefel Nicolaus, a colleague of Astrachan. Nicolaus went on to comment on the energy drink market at large, “We further believe Coke’s potential interest in Hansen affirms our view that the energy drink category is not a fad and that it is likely to maintain positive growth over a sustained period.”

According to recent NBJ Sports Nutrition & Weight Loss estimates, the energy drink market grew 25% in 2007 and is now worth more than $9.9 billion in the U.S.

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Hemp, hemp hooray!

by Vicky Uhland

Baristas at the Dragonfly Coffee House in Portland, Ore., are fluent in the language of "ccino": cappuccino, mochaccino, frappuccino—whatever milk-and-coffee concoction their customers come up with, chances are Dragonfly's baristas can make it. But last year, these java jockeys had to add a new word to their lexicon: hempuccino.

That's when Living Harvest debuted Hempmilk, an aseptic beverage made from hempseed nuts. The milk is such a popular alternative to nondairy beverages like soymilk and rice and almond milks that it has spawned its own "ccino" drink in coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest, according to Christina Volgyesi, president of the Portland, Ore.-based company.

Hempmilk's success—from April 2007 to April 2008 it was the fastest-growing nondairy aseptic beverage in the U.S., according to market research firm SPINS—is indicative of the entire hemp-food category. In natural and mass-market food stores, sales of hemp foods increased almost 56 percent between 2006 and 2007, to a total of $9.7 million, according to SPINS.

Manufacturers attribute the growing hemp-food market to four factors: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's cease fire four years ago in the war on hemp, the plant's strong nutritional profile, the ease of growing hemp sustainably and organically, and concerns about the reigning nondairy beverage, soymilk.

"The hemp industry is where the soy industry was 20 to 25 years ago," says Mike Fata, president and co-founder of Manitoba Harvest, a Canadian company that makes a variety of hemp-food products. "With soy getting a majorly bad rap because of its [genetic modification], phytoestrogens and allergenic properties, hemp is primed to take over. Hemp is where the natural foods industry is going."

Dude, it won't get you high
"The Declaration of Independence was written on hemp paper, and the first American flag was made of hemp," says Living Harvest CEO Hans Fastre. "Hemp has been a part of our culture for a long, long time until some misguided energy made it a forbidden product."

The U.S. war on hemp is longstanding. Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act in 1937 to prohibit the use of marijuana, but the law had so much red tape that the production of marijuana's cousin, hemp, became almost impossible. By the 1950s, hemp cultivation in the U.S. had gone up in smoke.

Hemp and marijuana are different varieties of the same species, Cannabis sativa. According to the North American Industrial Hemp Council, hemp is bred to maximize its fiber, seeds and oil, while marijuana is bred to maximize its THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gets people high. The DEA classifies all varieties of Cannabis sativa as marijuana, even though studies have found that hemp plants contain less than 1 percent THC compared to marijuana's 3 percent to 20 percent. In a report published in the July/August issue of the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, U.S. military lab tests on a variety of hemp foods and cosmetics found that a large majority of the products contained no THC, and those that did have THC were below levels that would cause failed drug tests.

Nevertheless, the DEA spent decades enforcing its "no hemp" policy until 2004, when the Hemp Industries Association won a lawsuit that blocks the DEA from banning hemp products in the U.S. Hemp cultivation is still forbidden, although North Dakota and Vermont recently passed laws to allow hemp farming. Whether the federal government will allow the states to enact those laws remains to be seen.

For now, most U.S. hemp-food manufacturers get their hemp from Canada where it's often cultivated organically and sustainably. Hemp plants have a short growing season, low water needs and a long taproot, which helps prevent soil erosion. The plants are self-seeding and contain natural insect repellents, making them less likely to need pesticides.

"With the whole movement for sustainability, people are starting to say, ‘Hey, why didn't we look at hemp earlier?' " says Fastre of Living Harvest.

The ultimate superfood?

Novato, Calif.-based Navitas Naturals, which specializes in products made from superfoods ranging from açai to yacon, recently debuted Hemp Power, a powder made from organic, raw hemp seeds. Hemp more than holds its own among Navitas' nutraceutical powerhouses, says company President and Founder Zach Adelman. "When I look at all our products, hemp really strikes me as being the most nutritious product we carry."

According to the nonprofit Vote Hemp, "Of the 3 million-plus edible plants that grow on Earth, no single plant source can compare with the nutritional value of hempseeds." Hempseeds contain 33 percent digestible protein packed with all 21 known amino acids, Vote Hemp says. "Per serving, hemp contains more protein than meat, fish, chicken and cheese." It's also a good source of omega-3 and -6, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc and iron.

Hemp has an enticing, nutty taste that makes it rare among superfoods, Adelman says. "It's a very soft, pleasant flavor. Some of those functional foods don't have a very good flavor, so you have to enhance them."

From hempsicles to hempburgers With all these glowing reviews, you'd think that hemp foods would be sprouting up everywhere. But for now, U.S. offerings are generally limited to protein powders, seeds, oil and hempmilk, with a few energy bars, breads and granolas thrown into the mix. The problem is not lack of supply—manufacturers report there's enough hemp available in Canada, and the red tape it takes to cross the border isn't a huge hassle. And although some consumers need to be informed that hemp smoothies won't give them a buzz, manufacturers say education isn't a big barrier. Instead, the issue has been lack of consumer demand—but that's quickly changing.

"We could come out with 100 new products a year. You could see hemp in everything from ice cream to burgers to pancakes," says John Roulac, founder and CEO of Nutiva, a Sebastopol, Calif.-based company that has made hemp foods since 1999. But the "onslaught of regulations from the U.S. government" and higher hemp costs that result from a lack of subsidies enjoyed by crops like soy have slowed hemp manufacturing, and consequently, customer demand, he says.

"Hemp needs to go from a niche crop to an up-and-coming crop," Roulac says. He predicts that once hemp foods reach $1 billion in annual sales, "market forces will shoehorn in" legislation allowing hemp cultivation in the U.S., which would encourage more product innovation.

For now, companies like Richmond, British Columbia-based Nature's Path, which has added hemp-infused granola, granola bars, oatmeal and waffles to its dozens of breakfast-food offerings, report success in their hemp lines. "Our HempPlus Granola is one of our top-10-selling products in the U.S., and the waffles are within the top five," says Maria Emmer-Aanes, marketing director for Nature's Path.

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

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 10/p. 72,74,76

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Safeway launches organic supplements line

by Mitchell Clute

On Sept. 25, Safeway rolled out a new line of certified organic supplements, announcing the 12 SKUs as "the latest step in the evolution of the O Organics brand." O Organics, Safeway's house organic brand, launched in 2005 and has since grown to include more than 300 product offerings.

The product launch comes at a time of vast economic uncertainty and raises the larger question of whether consumers will continue to think of organic purchases as essential items instead of discretionary purchases, but the O Organics brand offers two potential selling points—a comparatively lower cost, and the convenience of one-stop shopping.

"With Whole Foods struggling, Safeway perceives a chance to come in and set up organic not as a premium offering per se, but as a house brand," said Loren Israelsen, president of LDI Group, Inc., a natural products industry consulting firm. "In Safeway's mind, the long-term trend is that more consumers will buy organic products if they're at a lower price. Consumers now may say, 'I can get most of what I need at a better price [by shopping mainstream markets].' The convenience factor is the tipping point."

As for the 12 initial offerings in the line, Israelsen said they're a mixed bag. The O Organics line launched with vitamin C, calcium, iron, cranberry, echinacea, echinacea/goldenseal, garlic, ginseng, St. Johns wort, ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto and green tea.

"Cranberry and green tea are the two that stand out as obvious consumer winners," Israelsen said. "Ginkgo and St. Johns wort are no longer top 10 sellers, and with both saw palmetto and ginkgo, you need a standardized extract for effectiveness, but I'm not sure you can do a standardized extract as a certified organic product. As for organic iron and calcium, I've never heard of them, and I'm not sure where you'd get them."

Though the current economic news may make this a bad time to launch any new line, the value proposition may make lower-cost organic offerings more tempting for shoppers committed to buying organic. "The bubble has burst big time, and people conscious about a healthy diet will feel challenged to manage their food budget and keep the quality they're looking for," Israelsen said. "The supplements industry is in the midst of a debate on what effect the economic collapse will have on supplements in general, but anybody launching a new product right now is probably wishing they hadn't."