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Articles from 2013 In September

Successful entrepreneurs’ secret sauce

What’s the difference between you, who have developed a delicious organic beverage line set to launch in natural retail, and an entrepreneur who manufactures chintzy widgets in China and peddles them to any online shopper naïve enough to buy? Well, if that guy says he believes in his products, then he’s an even bigger jerk. Margot Moore, chief strategy officer at Hyland’s, explains what sets you apart and how to harness that mojo and build a successful natural brand.

Ready for an FDA inspection?

Unlike a final exam in college, where you’d pull an all-nighter to cram for an early-morning test, proper preparation for a U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspection takes time, diligence and all hands on deck. Brad Williams, technical manager at NSF International, explains supplement companies can make sure they’re ready and on track for whenever the FDA happens to drop by. 

UNFI to acquire Trudeau Foods

UNFI to acquire Trudeau Foods

United Natural Foods Inc. (Nasdaq: UNFI) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire all of the equity interests of Trudeau Foods LLC from Trudeau Holdings LLC, a portfolio company of Arbor Investments II LP. Trudeau Foods is the largest Minnesota-based distributor of natural, organic and specialty food products. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and is expected to close by Sept. 30, 2013. Upon closing, Trudeau Foods will be operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of UNFI.

"This acquisition is the latest step in our strategy to grow our market share and deliver a complete basket of specialty, natural and organic products to our customers," commented Steve Spinner, UNFI's president and chief executive officer. "We are excited to welcome Trudeau Foods to our organization. Both companies have a tremendous history of commitment to servicing their customers, and we are enthusiastic about the growth prospects for this market."

Trudeau Foods serves more than 600 customer locations, including chain and independent grocers, wholesalers and meat markets in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Trudeau Foods carries a full range of fine-quality and specialty gourmet meats, frozen foods, dairy, bakery, deli, seafood and dry grocery items under a wide breadth of national, regional and private label brands.


The truth about Prop 65

California’s Proposition 65 is one of the worst laws after drafted, according to Joanne Gray, partner at Goodwin Procter. It was intended to protect consumers from heavy metals, but it’s only meant fat paydays for plaintiffs’ lawyers. Even so, natural food, beverage and supplement manufacturers have to comply. Gray walks us through everything startup brands should know about the law and how to stay out of hot water.

How to make quality supplements every time

In the dietary supplement space, maybe more so than any other natural product category, quality is everything. Savvy consumers know an effective Co-Q10 supplement from a shoddy one, and they’re not happy when a tried-and-true melatonin product suddenly doesn’t calm them at night. Brad Williams, technical manager at NSF International, shares his top tips for making sure the quality of your supplements stays steady.

The upside of a product recall

Remember a few years back when the recall of Hyland’s homeopathic teething products made national headlines? Margot Moore, the company’s chief strategy officer, certainly does. She says it’s impossible to weather a recall without a few scrapes and bumps—but that’s okay. Natural products brands in these situations actually gain something. Moore tells all.

Best legal advice for naturals

You’ve heard about big companies being sued for making misleading claims: POM Wonderful got socked for touting its juice as a disease cure; General Mills had to defend its Nature Valley granola bars’ “natural” claims. Well, guess what? Small startups are just as susceptible to lawsuits, so as a new entrepreneur, you’ve got to think legal right out of the gates. Joanne Gray, partner at Goodwin Procter, shares her expert legal tips for natural products businesses.

Hot tip for supplement manufacturers

U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors are coming to a supplement manufacturing facility near you—and yours could be their next stop! FDA has been on a tear recently, checking supplement companies’ practices, policies and plants and checking them twice. Brad Williams, technical manager at NSF International, explains why it pays to be ready.

Entrepreneurs on edge

Uptons Naturalsa Chicagobased seitan producer presents a classic look in its
<p> Upton&#39;s Naturals,a Chicago-based seitan producer presents a classic look in its packaging.</p>


Natural products rarely crash and burn, but that’s only because the majority never get off the ground—They skid into the trees at the end of the runway. I don’t know that by experience – I’ve been covering the industry for all of three months – but I’ve seen the percentages.  At Natural Products Expo East, I saw some of the people behind those percentages. On the show floor, you might pick the winners by their smiles, but the losers would make you wince.

I winced more than once.

I spent Friday afternoon following brothers Adam and Marty Butler working the many acres of Natural Food booths sprawling across the subterranean vastness of the Baltimore Convention Center’s show floor. Marty and Adam run an Austin-based branding agency called, obviously, the Butler Brothers. Adam Butler is also a content provider and active community member in New Hope Natural Media's new NEXT Natural Products Industry Accelerator. He knows the challenges new businesses face and ways they might get airborne before they run out of runway.

At Expo East they were looking for “stories.”

“You’ve got a great story,” Adam would tell an entrepreneur smiling her way through a second day in the booth. “I love your label,” Marty told the guy at Upton’s Naturals, looking over a line of seitan products with a label sporting a mustachioed, bow-tie-wearing gentleman who could have stepped off his velocipede to pose for the tintype. The Upton guy was talking about the satisfaction of opening a café at the Chicago-plant where they can see the customers responding to the product right at the counter. That’s a story. Those were smiles.

At Beyond Meat, Marty wanted to know when the it-really-does-taste-like-chicken product would make the leap out of Whole Foods and into the smaller chains and independents. Caitlin Grady was happy to tell him. She was smiling. At Brad’s Raw, the story was told with a two-story treehouse and the bottled beers Brad Gruno was passing out to his squad as the voice on the P.A. told us the show floor was shutting down for the night. They were smiling too.

But at Expo East, many a smile is feigned. You can see the enthusiasm that drives an entrepreneur to take the leap but you can also see that the “Don’t look down!” phase is over. They looked down. They saw the rocks. Maybe at the show, the me-too nature of their product became a little too clear. They might have looked across the sea of polished entrepreneurial effort and established legacy products and let their sigh slide into a slump.

Adam and Marty were enthusiastic about SunButter, a sunflower seed spread, because their kids ate sandwiches made with the peanut butter alternative. They can also see that the story isn’t being told well. SunButter doesn’t need the mutton-chopped gentleman that defines the Upton packaging but they need something that can grab more eyes and shelf space than a label that managed to make bright colors look drab. They were crazy about Treeline, a nut-based vegan “cheese” with the right taste, the right texture, the right labels and the smiling vegan cheese wiz in chef’s whites smiling in front of his booth. It tasted like cheese and resonated like a story.

The Butler brothers possess an infectious enthusiasm likely uncommon in the ad business. They help launch products. When they use the word “story” they’re thinking of ways to put the word “success” in front of it. They’re entrepreneurs themselves. They left bigger agencies to start their own. They took the leap.

I didn’t almost feel bad dragging them away from the TreeLine booth and the slices of cracked pepper cashew cheese. I did feel bad. But they had to see it:

The saddest booth at Expo East.

The man behind the table had enthusiasm for his product – a soy spread that tasted remarkably like peanut butter but could be carried into a nut-free classroom without risk or reprisal. The label even had peel-off stickers parents could slap on the “no nuts!” Ziploc sandwich bags to reassure skeptical school staff. He had the product. He had the enthusiasm.

He didn’t have the smile. Or the story. He had a 2 by 3 foot vinyl banner sagging from the rear of the booth and he had some press releases stuck in the kind of binders a third grader might use for his book report. It was a miserable affair.

I wanted the brothers from Austin to see it.

They could barely bring themselves to look. They kept walking, eyes cast straight ahead. Not all stories have happy endings.

Some of them will make you wince.

To help natural products entrepreneurs keep from skidding into the trees (or failing to make the most of opportunities such as Natural Products Expo), New Hope Natural Media launched the NEXT Natural Products Industry Accelerator. This new platform gives entrepreneurs searchable access to the expert information, resources, tools and community contacts they need to launch and thrive. Learn more at



New Hope 360 Blog

Taking Grassfed with a Grain of…Grain

Taking Grassfed with a Grain of…Grain

I was driving through a bison pasture in Colorado a couple of weeks ago as the late afternoon sun painted a golden hue across the tall grass nurtured by the late-summer rains. A virtual sea of seed heads on the grasses rippled gently in a symphony of light and shadow.

Looking across the pasture my thoughts turned to grain…well, grass…actually, the grass vs. grain controversy dominating the discussion among ranchers and consumers alike these days.

Up until a decade ago, grain ruled the kingdom in meat production. Corn-fed beef was the gold standard in red meat quality.

Then, a few voices started to tout the benefits of grass-fed meat. Lower fat, higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and less feedlot-intensive finishing became the battle cries of these voices.  When Eric Schlosser, Michael Pollan, New York Times Food Editor Marion Burros, and some notable chefs began to pick up the message, the shift to grass-fed meat became a stampede.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Grassfed Association have even developed separate verified marketing labels for grass-fed meat. These standards are designed to assure that no kernel of grain ever passes through the digestive tract of a ruminant animal. Consumers are embracing this claim because, after all, grazing animals are meant to eat only grass, right?

If only it were that simple.

That sea of seed heads shimmering in the late afternoon sun is grain. Grazing animals have been putting on fat for thousands of years with these natural grains.

It’s an amazing part of nature’s cycle. The grain in the ripe seed heads adds fat to the bodies of cattle, bison, antelope and other grazing animals in the fall to equip those animals to survive the winter. Native Americans, who needed extra fat to survive the winter as well, stocked up on this naturally grain-finished meat as the days grew shorter each season. Even today, grass-fed meat harvested in the fall tends to carry more fat and flavor than the meat from animals processed in other seasons.

The U.S. livestock feeding industry co-opted this natural process after World War II as an ever-increasing output of corn provided a cheap source of grain to fatten cattle quickly and cheaply. This grain-finishing resulted in meat that had a consistent flavor and texture, regardless of the season. So, the conventional thinking went, if a little grain is good, a lot of grain must be better.

Feedlots and slaughter plants moved into the American Corn Belt. Cattle were genetically selected based upon their ability to finish on grain. Calves were moved to feedlots immediately after weaning. And, universities and biotech companies developed new strains of corn specifically designed for cattle-feeding. Many of the problems associated with eating meat today are related to this grain-intensive system.

The voices touting the benefits of grass-fed meat have provided a much-needed wake-up call regarding the excess of the grain-finished livestock system. The pendulum is swinging back.

That’s a good thing.

Just remember, Mother Nature’s feeding regimen always included just a touch of grain.