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Articles from 2017 In September

[email protected]: FDA proposes delay for new nutrition facts panel | Amazon boosts Whole Foods' private label

Nutrition Facts panel on packaged food

U.S. FDA proposes 1-1/2 year delay to nutrition label changes

The agency proposed giving companies with more than $10 million in annual sales until January of 2020 to comply with the new nutrition label requirements for packaged foods, while smaller companies would have until 2021. The new rules, which would make calorie counts more prominent on labels and require brands to disclose the amount of added sugar in their products, were finalized in May 2016. They were scheduled to go into effect for large and small companies in July of 2018 and 2019, respectively. The public will have 30 days to comment on the proposed delay, beginning Monday. Read more at Reuters…


Amazon sells $1.6 million in Whole Foods’ store-brand products in first month

According to e-commerce data analytics firm One Click Retail, Amazon sold $500,000 worth of 365 Everyday Value products in their first week of availability on the site, and $1.6 million in the first month. About one-fifth of that was snacks and candy. Read more at Fox Business…


Campbell Soup says Pacific Foods lawsuit puts deal at risk

A lawsuit brought against Pacific Foods by a former shareholder stands in the way of the closing of the company’s $700 million acquisition by Campbell Food Co. In a press release, Campbell said that Pacific Foods has 60 days to resolve the issues in order for the transaction to be completed. After that, Campbell could extend that period or walk away from the deal. Read more at MarketWatch…


USDA closes investigation into a massive organic farm in Colorado—but what did it check?

Earlier this year, a Washington Post story blasted Aurora Organic Dairy, saying that on multiple visits to the farm, most of the cows were not grazing as required by USDA organic standards, and that inspectors violated USDA inspection policy. But the USDA has closed its investigation into Aurora Dairy, saying that its livestock and pasture management practices do meet USDA organic standards—although the extent of its investigation are not known. Read more at Denver Post…


Co-op opens with hyper-local products

Co-ops are on a roll, and there’s another one that’s just joined the ranks. Morrisville Food Co-op in Morrisville, Vermont, opened earlier this month and has already sold out of local eggs and fresh fish. After its first week, the co-op had more than 800 members. Read more at News & Citizen…

Natural Products Expo

New Hope Network announces inaugural NEXTY Gold Award winners

Rebbl NEXTY Gold Awards at Natural Products Expo East

At every Natural Products Expo, New Hope Network recognizes a handful of products with NEXTY Awards. These products are standouts for innovation, inspiration and integrity, helping to drive forward the mission of the natural products industry. But year after year, some companies continue to rise to the top. New Hope is recognizing these companies for their continued excellence with the NEXTY Gold Award.

NEXTY Gold winners receive a free brand consulting session with Jane Miller and free dedicated product showcase at Expo East 2018—a combined value of $1,200.

The NEXTY Gold winners are companies that have consistently nominated products for the NEXTY Awards. Their products and company mission stand out every year for upholding industry values and epitomizing what it means to have integrity, innovation and inspiration. New Hope will award two NEXTY Gold winners at every Natural Products Expo, starting with these two deserving winners who were recognized at Natural Products Expo East 2017:


This company celebrates the ancient wisdom of the Plant Queendom with every bottle of its soulfully crafted super herb beverages. REBBL uses efficacious levels of functional herbs and uncompromising plant-powered ingredients delivered in clean, indulgent coconut milk elixirs.

This NEXTY Gold winner believes that today’s supply chains must be rebuilt to empower the people involved, and create opportunities where there are none. A core part of its mission is to create positive social impact with its products. REBBL sources ingredients from suppliers who exemplify its values. Its suppliers invest in the strength and wellbeing of the communities where it operates. Some examples include medical care, housing and clean water projects.

REBBL was born out of a passionate collaboration between global thought leaders to identify an innovative, sustainable, market-based solution to prevent exploitation in the Peruvian Amazon. The company donates 2.5 percent of revenue to Not For Sale to support regions of the world vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking.

Lotus Foods

This company’s heirloom and 100 percent organic rice products are handcrafted on small family farms and distinguished by their exceptional cooking quality, taste, texture, color and nutritional value.

Like a lot of other food companies, Lotus Foods started with a love story. That love story began when Lotus founders tasted an amazing black rice while traveling in China. From the start, they had some pretty ambitious goals. Lotus Foods wanted to share exceptional healthy heirloom rices with U.S. consumers, promote organic agriculture and rice biodiversity, and support producers with higher prices.

Little did they know that 13 years later, Lotus would find itself trying to change how the world grows rice. Up to one-third of the planet’s annual renewable supply of fresh water is used to irrigate rice. This is why, in 2008, Lotus Foods committed to partnering with small-scale farmers who radically changed how they grow rice, using less to produce more. With a set of practices that Lotus calls More Crop Per Drop, farmers can double and even triple their yields using up to 50 percent less water on average and 80-90 percent less seed.

Congratulations to REBBL and Lotus Foods on their NEXTY Gold Award achievement. 

This week: Schmidt's expands beyond deodorant | Halo Top adds nondairy flavors

new natural products

Venturing beyond deodorant, Schmidt's Naturals has expanded its product offerings with a collection of six bar soaps, each of which contains a unique natural exfoliant: Rose + Vanilla (with exfoliating vanilla bean), Bergamot + Lime (with exfoliating orange peel), Ylang Ylang + Calendula (with exfoliating apricot seed), Lavender + Sage (with exfoliating jojoba seed), Cedarwood + Juniper (with charcoal and exfoliating volcanic sand) and Fragrance Free. Their natural formulation holds up the same core values and standards that Schmidt's is renowned for—quality, plant-based ingredients without controversial additives like SLS, phthalates, PEG, artificial dyes or artificial fragrance. They are true saponified soaps with no compacted detergents, and, like Schmidt's deodorants, are certified vegan and cruelty free.

Halo Top's seven newest flavors, hitting retail freezers mid-October, are nondairy and vegan. Made with a coconut milk base, they are sweetened with organic cane sugar, erythritol and organic stevia, plus pea or rice protein. Flavors include Chocolate, Chocolate Covered Banana, Caramel Macchiato, Cinnamon Roll, Oatmeal Cookie, Peanut Butter Cup and Sea Salt Caramel.

Sara Newmark, former senior director of sustainability at New Chapter, has joined FoodState, producer of MegaFood, as vice president of social impact, where she will be responsible for all social responsibility and sustainability efforts.

Euromed SA partnered with Biotherapeutics Inc. to launch ABA Life fig fruit extract, a new supplement ingredient designed to be beneficial in glycemic control and carbohydrate metabolism.

The newest addition to Quantum Nutrition Labs' whole food, herb-based supplements are Quantum Creatine Monohydrate, a pure creatine free of magnesium stearate, artificial coloring or flavoring, and Quantum Chlorella, an ancient super nutrient that has been treasured by many cultures for optimal health and detox, the company said in press releases.

NuZee Inc., a good-for-you company focused on building beverage brands with functional benefits, said in a release that it has brought on beverage industry veteran William Lampe, formerly a Coca-Cola executive, as operations consultant, to help guide its growth.

A former senior category leader at Whole Foods Market, Jason Stein, has joined National Co+op Grocers as director of category management. Stein will oversee the NCG’s product sourcing and negotiation for its popular promotional and pricing support programs, Co+op Deals and Co+op Basics, as well as uphold NCG’s reputation as an organization that prioritizes relationship building and mutual benefit.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently awarded Florida-based Valensa International two new patents, allowing it to lock down patent protection for the core ingredients related to FlexPro MD and FlexPro ES, dietary formulations for joint health. 

Flowers Foods, producer of Nature's Own and Dave's Killer Bread, announced via press release that Debo Mukherjee was appointed chief marketing officer and will lead the company's branding initiatives, plus play a key role in product innovation. 


How to connect with your audience on climate change (and everything else)

Ed Maibach at New Hope Network Influencer Summit

This year’s Natural Products Expo East 2017 had a new—and vital—session on how to change behavior through effective communications. For the first time, New Hope Network brought together 70-plus key bloggers, writers and other influencers in the natural products industry for a daylong Influencer Summit. Seven Climate Collaborative companies, including Annie’s, INFRA, Organic Valley and REBBL (and a few of us from the Climate Collaborative), were lucky enough to listen in and take notes on how the right message can enhance our impact in a big way.

Ed Maibach, professor and director of the Center for Climate Change Communications at George Mason University, provided the keynote, and was joined throughout the day by other luminaries in health and sustainability, including Climate Collaborative’s cofounder Nancy Hirshberg, who introduced Maibach, as well as Kate Geagan, Ashley Koff, Robyn O’Brien and others. We were especially lucky to be part of the day, because Maibach’s expertise has helped shape the way the Climate Collaborative defines our own communications at every level.

Maibach’s keynote had some powerful takeaways for anyone trying to change behavior among their consumers and stakeholders, which he distilled down to a few key concepts:

  • To spread an idea, make it simple, fun and memorable.
  • To change behavior, make it easy and popular
  • For the communications that encourage this behavior, use “simple, clear messages, repeated often, by a variety of trusted voices.”

He also shared something that we all know but that is especially hard to put into practice unless you really work hard at crafting your big idea: “The more we say, the less we are heard.” The “less is more” approach certainly helps to ensure we can implement the next practice or repetition: “People need to hear it a lot to get it ingrained in our neural pathways.”

Where have we seen these rules in practice? Maibach provided a few examples most of us are familiar with: Mothers Against Drunk Driving's “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk," AND, closer to home for our industry, Michael Pollan's "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

These messages have inspired behavior change because of their simplicity and the trusted voices reinforcing them. Maibach also shared an ineffective messaging example to drive the next two guidelines home: “If you see something, say something.”

This statement is missing specificity and emotion—two hugely important pieces in reaching your audience. Positive emotions—and messages that have a novel and surprising nature—tend to reach a wider audience and be shared more by readers.

How does this all translate to crafting messages on climate change that really hit home with the audience? Well, Maibach has done some of this work for us and shared a set of simple, powerful arguments to drive behavior change on climate:

  • Climate change is real (simple idea)
  • It’s us (actionable when we have tools to use)
  • Experts agree (trusted voices)
  • It’s bad (moral emotion)
  • There’s hope (arousing emotion)

We each have our own message to share. And if others share it again, it is probably a good message. While we haven’t figured it all out when it comes to climate communications, we are a few steps closer as communications experts, influencers, brands and our industry come together to tackle this and other big issues together. 

Lara Dickinson is executive director of OSC2, which in partnership with Sustainable Fair Trade Association has developed the Climate Collaborative, an action plan for the natural products industry to help reverse climate change.

[email protected]: Kellogg taps supplement CEO | Report: Challenges in FDA's response to food safety violations

Kellogg chooses vitamin executive as next CEO

As the business struggles to meet consumer desire for more natural, less processed foods from smaller brands, Kellogg announced its CEO John Bryant will retire. His successor, Steven Cahillane from vitamin and protein bar maker The Nature’s Bounty Co., will take over next week. Cahillane has also worked at Coca-Cola and AB InBev. Read more at U.S. News & World Report…


FDA not doing enough to fix serious food safety violations, report finds

In a new report, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Inspector General found “a number of weaknesses in the way that FDA is protecting the food supply.” The FDA often relies on companies to voluntarily correct their violations, and does not follow up in a timely matter, the report says. The FDA, for its part, agreed that there are challenges in how it conducts inspections and takes action. Read more at NPR…


Planning the future of fuel, one Shot Blok at a time

“In our category alone, there are probably 200 companies. We’re always looking over our shoulder,” says Clif founder Gary Erickson. Listening to athletes and making bold moves are part of the process—but it doesn’t always pan out. Like the energy drink the company tried (twice) to create. “RTD [ready-to-drink] is a very difficult category. It requires a whole different distribution thing.” Read more at Outside…


Danone invests in French organic baby food start-up Yooji

Danone’s Manifesto Ventures made its fourth investment this year—this time in Yooji, which sells baby products sourced from organic farms in upwards of 600 stores in France. Read more at Reuters…


Oregon appeals court upholds ruling that threw out GMO ban

The Oregon Court of Appeals last week upheld a lower court ruling that overturned a ban on genetically engineered crops. Josephine County, Oregon, voters approved the ban in 2014, but the courts ruled that a state law forbade local action against genetically modified organisms. Read more at U.S. News and World Report… 

Natural Products Expo

Personal care from the inside out at Natural Products Expo East

Personal care went beyond skin deep at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. In fact, we found products for wound care, aromatherapy on the go, hair growth and circulation.

[email protected]: Kroger pursues 'local' edge | Changes to come at Nestle?

Retail Summit Local 2

As Amazon takes Whole Foods national, Kroger thinks local

As Whole Foods scales back on efforts to promote small, local brands, Kroger ups its efforts to source from local suppliers. Last week, Kroger announced a page on its website called “We Are Local” that invites brands to apply to become suppliers. Meanwhile, Whole Foods will reportedly continue to centralize its decision-making and stop allowing brands to set up tables in-store to promote their products, although a spokeswoman said that Whole Foods would remain “committed to discovering and incubating local and innovative brands.” Read more at CNBC…


Nestle could swap out 10% of its portfolio, CEO Schneider says

There could be some "portfolio adjustment" in the works for Nestle, according to its CEO, Mark Schneider, at an investor day in London. "We will have to trade out of some areas and into others." Nestle thinks its high-growth areas include coffee, infant nutrition and pet care, while a sale of its U.S. confectionery business has been rumored. The company has recently acquired Sweet Earth and a stake in Blue Bottle Coffee. Read more at FoodBev Media...


How 2 young guys went from the brink of bankruptcy to selling their ‘Shark Tank’ business for $300 million

In 2012, two business school buds teamed up to  create Plated, a concept that delivers boxes of ingredients for easy-to-follow recipes that make it easy for consumers to make healthy meals at home. Plated was just acquired by Albertsons for a reported $300 million and is ready to take on Amazon Fresh. The entrepreneurs struggled to bootstrap their business until a lucky appearance on Shark Tank in 2014. Read more at CNBC…


Food assortments migrating to extremes

Product assortments are moving in a barbell shape, according to analysts who point to the success of Aldi, which operates with a limited assortment, and Amazon, which gives consumers access to endless selection. Will mainstream grocers in the middle find themselves abandoned by shoppers? Read more at Supermarket News…


Cook County beverage sales decline in wake of pop tax

The Illinois Food Retailers Association and Can the Tax Coalition say beverage sales are down since Cook County’s penny-per-ounce tax on sweetened beverages went into effect last month. Read more at Illinois Policy…

Natural Foods Merchandiser

Secret Shopper: How do I support brands that give back?

food label certifications

NFM: I want to support businesses that give back. What should I be looking for to trust that they truly do good for the world?

Store: You can look for a fair trade label. [Grabs a chocolate bar off shelf, scans label] Hmm … I know for sure that this brand is fair trade, but I guess the packaging doesn’t say it. [Peruses shelf for different brand’s bar] Here! This one says fair trade—and Non-GMO Project Verified.

NFM: Well, that sort of illustrates my concern. Without a fair trade seal, how would a shopper know that the first brand really is fair trade? Because it says so on its website? Beyond fair trade, how can I know a company is actually eco-conscious, if it claims to be? Or whether a brand truly does donate to charity?

Store: That is tricky, I suppose. Maybe look at the company website?

How did this retailer do?

Our expert educator: Heath Shackleford, founder of Good.Must.Grow., a socially responsible marketing agency and Certified B Corporation in Nashville, Tennessee

Assuming this store’s goal is to provide healthy, sustainable and socially responsible options, the first thing this employee should’ve done is educate you on why you can trust the products on the shelves. If I were in her shoes, I’d explain how the store vets brands to ensure they meet certain qualifications.

Next, I’d point out a few third-party labels that the store deems valuable, such as Non-GMO Project Verified or USDA Organic. A really powerful label is Certified B Corporation, which shows that a company treats its employees well and has a positive social and environmental impact. Because B Corp standards are so rigorous, companies don’t seek this seal unless they really walk the talk.

I’d also encourage customers to get educated before they shop and decide what’s important to them as a consumer. For example, they might care more about nutritious ingredients than a business’s social impact. Or maybe they’re not the healthiest eater but want to know that a company treats the world right. Then I’d point shoppers to good independent websites and blogs to use for research and to verify companies’ claims.

Retailers can also suggest checking if a business publishes a sustainability or CSR report outlining specific actions. Generally, the more details provided, the better. And if a brand talks up charitable giving, consumers can look into which organizations it works with. If a reputable charity aligns with this brand, shoppers might feel better about the company.

For something new in the protein aisle, brands turn to packaging

protein powder packaging

In a category flush with options, some companies are looking at innovation from a different angle: Making the user experience easier and more enjoyable.

Protein powders is one of the those categories. U.S. sales of sports nutrition powders in all channels grew nearly 54 percent between 2011 and 2016, according to Nutrition Business Journal data. It's a category that's also seen new entrants and lots of new SKUs as the sports nutrition supplement market has expanded and become more approachable to consumers outside of the bodybuilding and elite athlete communities.

Designer Protein is one of the companies approaching innovation from a user experience standpoint. It has several lines of whey and plant proteins and superfood powders designed for fitness, performance and weight management. Recently, in response to customer feedback, it launched a new flip-top lid that can be opened with just one hand for some of its protein products.

“From females in particular, we’ve heard that some of the caps [on protein powders] are really wide. If you have a smaller hand, they’re tough to get off, or if you have any health challenges like arthritis, it’s also difficult to get the cap off,” said CEO Jan Hall.

The underside of the lid houses a snap-in-place scoop holder, so that once users find the scoop inside the container on the first use, they can snap it into the holder and won’t have to go digging again.

“I was really excited when we discovered this new flip-top lid, because I thought it addressed some of the pain points we’ve heard from consumers for many years,” said Hall, who spotted the lid design at a trade show.

Sunwarrior, a plant-based health food company, also heard many of the same pain points from its customers. The company produced and patented a flip lid equipped with a collapsible scoop that snaps into the inside of the lid, eliminating the need for users to dig for the scoop, even on the first use.

The new packaging hit the shelves in April, and according to Emerson Carnavale, chief supply chain officer at Sunwarrior, feedback has been very positive. But it’s also required some education. “There are still some people that are so entrenched in their behavior that they open the tub and dig inside looking for the scoop, then call our customer service reps informing them they didn’t get a scoop,” he said. “We patiently tell them to look under the lid, hear silence, and then ‘Oh, wow, that is awesome!’”

Bringing the new lid to life took about 17 months for Sunwarrior, but the company thinks it could be a real game-changer.

Designer Protein’s Hall echoes that: “In my career, I’ve found that sometimes packaging changes can have a bigger impact than changing a product or launching a new product.”