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How Good Spread encourages consumers to track their impact

Young girl eating vitamin-fortified peanut butter

Like many products operating in the natural space, Good Spread peanut butter is a product with a purpose. But unlike most brands, Good Spread was born out of a nonprofit initiative, and exists almost solely to benefit it. And, unlike other brands which may "match" purchases with donations, Good Spread consumers can actually track the impact of their specific purchase.

Good Spread was born from MANA Nutrition, a nonprofit organization that makes vitamin-fortified peanut butter used to treat severe acute malnutrition (SAM), the leading cause of death for children under age five globally. The good news is that SAM is completely curable—in less than six weeks, says Good Spread, MANA's therapeutic peanut butter can cure 96 percent of cases. But there's a gap in the availability of the cure and the number of children who need it. So, Good Spread was born. With each jar of Good Spread purchased, a dose of MANA's treatment is shipped to a malnourished child somewhere in the world.

In an effort to further connect consumers to the positive impact of their purchase, each jar contains a code on the lid. When a consumer purchases the jar, they have the option to text or enter the code online to be notified of when and where the treatment is delivered.

Registering their code also takes shoppers to a website that provides more information about malnutrition, what’s being done about it, and the conditions their purchase helps to address. Plus, anyone who participates gets a discount coupon for a future purchase of Good Spread. Why should Good Spread take this extra effort? "People want to be personally, directly connected to their impact," says CEO Robbie Vitrano. "They want to know that it's real, not a guilt trip or marketing come-on, but that it matters."

Natural Grocers aims to raise $100,000 for Organic Farmers Association

Natural Grocers fundraiser for Organic Farming Association

Natural Grocers, America's Organic Headquarters, is celebrating its more than 30-year history of selling only 100 percent organically grown produce by sponsoring a month-long national fundraiser for the Organic Farmers Association. The goal of the fundraiser is to raise $100,000 for OFA during the month of September. "There are only about 17,000 certified organic farms in the United States, compared to the more than 2 million conventional farms," said Heather Isely, Natural Grocers' executive vice president. "The Organic Farmers Association supports the organic farmer by elevating their influence on issues that matter to them. Better policy means more opportunities to increase organic acreage and improve the economic viability of organic farming methods, which makes organic farming a more attractive option."

Throughout September, Natural Grocers' customers will have the opportunity to make contributions at any one of Natural Grocers' 140 store locations. Donations to the Organic Farmers Association will help unite organic farms around the country, create scholarship programs, provide organic farmers with a national voice on state and federal policy, increase organic farm acreage and expand the number of organic family farms. Kate Mendenhall, director of Organic Farmers Association, said: "Supporting this fundraiser is a great opportunity to vote with your dollars and tell America the kind of food system you want to see and support."

Currently, Americans are spending more than $47 billion on organic foods and products annually. As more and more people become aware of the benefits of eating nutrient dense and more flavorful organic foods, free from dangerous chemicals and genetically modified organisms, demand is expected to increase. Isely said: "U.S. organic farmers need a place at the table to advocate for policies that will enable them to meet this growing demand." The mission of the OFA is to provide a robust and unified national voice for domestic certified organic producers, advocating for policies that not only ensure organic farms will thrive, but reinforces collaboration among other states, regional and national organic farmer organizations. "Laws and regulations influence so much of what ends up on our plates," Mendenhall added. "Natural Grocers' and their customers' generous support will allow us to better represent and directly support the individual organic farmer, ensuring we're incentivizing all farmers to grow healthy food in a way that helps farm families and protects the environment."

Source: Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage

Pumpkin spice has enduring cool-weather appeal

The season finale of Game of Thrones may have come and gone, but culturephiles need not worry, as the United States is primed to sink deep into another annual milestone: the season of pumpkin spice everything!

Spurred by Starbuck’s now infamous Pumpkin Spice Latte (which, as it happens, has its own Twitter handle with 114,000 followers), food and beverage brands in both the natural and conventional space have embraced the warm, cozy flavors of fall.

Why the continued zeal—year after year—for pumpkin spice? Nostalgia certainly plays a part—the flavor conjures cozy memories of snuggly scarves, Pinterest-perfect autumnal strolls and holiday family gatherings. Pumpkin spice is, after all, modeled after the cinnamon-clove-ginger-nutmeg flavors of pumpkin pie, a staple food in households across the nation during Thanksgiving. 

Conjuring nostalgia, as it turns out, is a time-tested marketing tactic that results in measurable sales increases. One 2014 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that nostalgia is a powerful selling tool. "We wondered why nostalgia is so commonplace in marketing. One reason could be that feeling nostalgic weakens a person's desire for money," wrote study authors Jannine D. Lasaleta, Constantine Sedikides and Kathleen D. Vohs. "In other words, someone might be more likely to buy something when they are feeling nostalgic." 

"There is no doubt that seasonal products are a classic treat that get consumers in the mood for the holidays," said Brianna Littlepage, director of marketing for Good Karma Foods, a brand launching pumpkin spice-flavored flax milk this fall. "The combination of flavors and spices, along with their limited-time availability, help fuel consumers' fervor for these products."

Littlepage adds that seasonal flavors such as pumpkin are rapidly growing across all product categories. "According to Nielsen data, pumpkin flavor category sales were $361 million in 2015, which was up 79 percent from 2011, and milk was a top 10 category for pumpkin sales. Additionally, last year consumption data show pumpkin flavors were 20 to 30 percent of holiday items sold in the plant-based milk category."

When does pumpkin spice season officially begin? Starbucks started it all, so we vote that the ubiquitous coffee company call the shots on when to launch pumpkin spice products. According to a recent tweet by @TheRealPSL, pumpkin spice season commenced on on Sept. 1—the proxy holiday that eases the transition from summer to fall... even though we're still in sandals. 

Click through this slideshow to see just a few pumpkin spice-tinged products launching soon.

[email protected]: Thrive Market makes 'a big push around breakfast' | A conversation with a probiotics pioneer

Thinkstock granola

Thrive Market to launch its own brand of breakfast products and single-ingredient non-dairy milks

It always seemed crazy to Thrive cofounder and CEO Gunnar Lovelace that food made with chemicals and processing was cheaper than food without it. That’s why, when he started Thrive, he wanted to make healthier and more responsibly sourced products available at a discount. The retailer recently launched a line of baby products and cleaning products that it says are more environmentally friendly than conventional. Next up is “a big push around breakfast,” Lovelace says, including cereals made from fair trade coconut flakes and sprouted nuts. Read more at Food & Wine…


Women in business Q&A: Natasha Trenev, founder, Natren

When she was a child, Natasha Trenev’s father ran a natural yogurt business. That’s how she learned about things like L. acidophilus, and what sparked her passion for friendly bacteria. She went on to become a developmental scientist and founded Natren in 1982 with her husband. Through her research and her company, she has played an important role in the evolution of the probiotics space. Read more at Huffington Post…


The man who sold his supermarket to Whole Foods talks about the future of grocery stores

Fresh Fields Market was a 22-store Maryland-based natural foods chain that merged with Whole Foods Market in 1996. Founder Mark Ordan, who’s now a turnaround specialist in food retail, went on to become CEO of the gourmet food chain Balducci’s. He explained the efficiencies Whole Foods will gain from Amazon will allow it to drop prices further. Now Amazon has a hold of a supermarket that enjoys the wealthiest demographics of any company in retail,” he says. “Amazon has the know-how to make shopping a better experience.” Read more at The Washington Post…


Consumer claims Alexia potato products have xanthan gum and cannot be labeled as ‘all natural’

Use of the synthetic thickener makes Alexia’s sweet potato fries not natural, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. Read more at Legal NewsLine… 


What is ‘fruit concentrate,’ anyway? And is it good for you?

Fruit concentrate, an ingredient that appears on food labels everywhere, is essentially fruit with the water removed, so that it retains its sugar but loses the volume and fiber. Despite its natural-sounding name, nutritionists say it should still be viewed as an added sugar. Read more at NPR…

Natural Products Expo

Where to eat, drink and network at Natural Products Expo East 2017

networking at Natural Products Expo East

Natural Products Expo East 2017 is ultimately a business conference and trade show, but that doesn't mean you can't have a great time. This infographic will help you navigate the free events happening during the week so you can squeeze the most networking into your trade show experience.

Make sure to work on your sweet dance moves, too, (the Shopping Cart, anyone?), as there will be ample opportunity to get down on the dance floor. And of course, there are many more than five ways to connect at Natural Products Expo East. For the complete schedule, visit


'The Vegetable Butcher' brings seasonal produce to center plate and top of mind

Cara Mangini The Vegetable Butcher

Rather than labeling its menu with special-diet friendly terms like vegetarian or vegan, the restaurant Little Eater's approach to feeding people fresh, veggie-forward food focuses instead on the incredible colors, textures and flavors that produce brings to the dishes. Founder and owner Cara Mangini is on a mission to make preparing and eating in-season vegetables more approachable for the average consumer. In her new book, The Vegetable Butcher, she hopes to demystify even the most intimidating produce (celeriac or kohlrabi, anyone?) by showing people how to prepare and cook it.

Here's her take on inspiring consumers to think veggies first.

What do you think is the biggest barrier to people eating more vegetables?

Cara Mangini: First, we have to change the perception and food memory associations that come to mind when people think of vegetables. Vegetables don't have to equate to sacrifice. They produce over-the-top flavor and craveable, deeply satisfying food. Vegetable-based food isn't about what isn't on the plate—it's about everything that is. Once we are all on board with this notion, we have to create more access to convenient, vegetable-forward foods and also help make the cooking of vegetables second nature in our culture.

What are your priorities when sourcing vegetables? Local? Organic? Seasonal? How do you go about prioritizing?

CM: We work with partners that we trust. Seasonal, local and certified organic produce is the most important to us. Next, we source from local farmers who are organic but not certified or mostly organic or chem-free. When we can't get produce locally, we source as much organic produce as possible from other parts of the U.S. In our restaurant, everything on the menu is inspired by a local ingredient, so if it is out of season or won't store through the winter any longer, it comes off the menu. At the grocery, we teach our customers how to let the seasons inspire and guide home cooking.

When you were putting together your cookbook, what elements did you know were important to educate and inspire readers? 

CM: My book, The Vegetable Butcher, was founded on the understanding that we can all benefit from vegetable education and perhaps more importantly, a trusted professional that you can count on to help you take the guesswork out of breaking down and cooking with vegetables.

I had many different food retail experiences, before writing the book and starting my own company, and in speaking directly with customers and students I learned that most people don't know a lot about vegetables (let alone how to break them down, prepare them and turn them into a meal). Most people wanted to eat more vegetables, but once they got them home, they didn't really know what to do with them. I wanted to create a resource and a guide as well as a cookbook full of inspiring recipes that would give readers the confidence, encouragement and motivation to cook and eat vegetables every day—and ultimately, find the joy in cooking with seasonal ingredients that connect you to nature and to each moment of the year. 

In the retail environment, it's not enough to say this is healthy and you should buy it or eat it. I think that can be extremely intimidating and unwelcoming. We have to give our customers the tools and opportunities to be successful. In our store, we use The Vegetable Butcher as a curriculum to train staff, to educate customers and to inspire in-store demos, seasonal merchandising and promotions. Education is the key to marketing vegetables. 

Any trends you’re seeing in the retail or food industry that are exciting to you?

CM: I am thrilled to see what appears to be endless innovation and creativity coming from food artisans and entrepreneurs. They are influencing and shaping the food industry in a really positive way. Also, it is exciting to see that customers are demanding fresh foods and simply, real food, and expect to be connected to where ingredients come from. That is super exciting. I am also happy to see fine dining—good quality food and technique—translated into casual, quick-service food environments.

[email protected]: Inside a kombucha brewery | U.S. obesity rate holds steady

kombucha with scoby

One of L.A.’s biggest kombucha manufacturers tries to demystify the effervescent drink

Health-Ade Kombucha employs more than 130 people and will sell about 2 million cases of the bubbly drink by year’s end. It’s on the shelves in thousands of grocer stores and is beginning to find traction in the restaurant and bar setting. But many shoppers are still puzzled by it—maybe by its peculiar name or by the scoby used to make it. In an effort to demystify it, Health-Ade opens its brewery for tours. Read more at LA Weekly…


Report: U.S. obesity rates level off, but the weight war is not won

For the second year in a row, the overall obesity rate in the U.S. has held relatively steady at 38 percent—but just 17 years ago that number was around 20 percent. Rates are even higher among rural areas and in low-income populations, according to the Trust for America's annual State of Obesity report. Meanwhile, childhood obesity rates are stabilizing and even improving in some areas. John Auerbach, the CEO of the Trust for America’s Health, says programs that address obesity, nutrition and increased physical activity are especially important in order for improvements to continue over the next few years. Read more at…


Does Whole Foods need the middle aisle? What the shift toward fresh means for retail

Large food companies continue to experience sales losses as grocery and convenience stores stock more natural, fresh and prepared foods. They’re also facing competition in the form of private label brands, which have become staples for retailers like Sprouts, Kroger and Whole Foods. If the center-store is shrinking, what are packaged food manufacturers to do? Read more at Forbes…


Study: Babies born to mothers living in areas of very high pesticide exposure see problems

Using birth records and pesticide application rates for a one-square mile region in California’s San Joaquin Valley, researchers found that the 1 percent of babies presumably exposed to the most pesticides showed overall lower birth weights and adverse birth outcomes. Read more at Iowa Public Radio…


Hip Chick Farms ‘grows’ organic chicken nugget market

Founders Serafina Palandesh and chef Jen Johnson started the Bay Area-based organic frozen poultry brand to make clean, organic, humanely raised meat products available to busy families. Expect more than a dozen new products from them to hit supermarket shelves this year. Read more at Organic Report…