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Q&A with Plated CEO Josh Hix on joining Albertsons

Plated josh hix on plated acquisition by albertsons

Joshua Hix, the technology entrepreneur who co-founded the meal kit delivery service Plated in 2012, might not have imagined he’d one day be working for a supermarket company but saw the convergence of the virtual and physical food retail worlds as an inevitabile outcome.

Upon Plated’s acquisition by Albertsons Cos., which is expected to be complete this month, Hix will continue to lead the New York-based startup as it confronts a future suddenly dotted with new possibilities. In an interview with Supermarket News on Thursday, Hix expressed excitement at the prospect of exposing the subscription-based service to millions of new customers who will be able to buy its chef-created, preportioned meal kits in stores in as little as 30 days, and provide a signature offering for Albertsons’ forthcoming rollout of grocery home-delivery.

The following conversation was excerpted from that interview:

Your company now belongs to a major supermarket retailer. Is that an outcome you would have imagined as you got Plated started up?

Joshua Hix: Actually, it’s something we thought about for a long time. We set out with a mission of applying technology to food to improve the customer experience around it, and we have been talking to retailers about that for a long time, pretty much from the beginning. And we were really excited when we met the cast from Albertsons, because they are great people but also because of how they run their business. They treat customers great. And we now have access to all of their resources that they can offer. It’s a little surreal, but we have been thinking about how to do the right retail partnership for several years.

So why is it happening now? 

JH: I think it’s a lot of market trends out there. What we’ve heard from retailers over the years is that many of them share the same sort of vision around omnichannel. And you’re seeing even enormous technology companies like Amazon that need a retail channel like Whole Foods. And with Walmart and Jet, you had an enormous retailer than needed an online channel. This is the same sort of thing. They [Albertsons] recognized they needed technology in the online channel, and we certainly recognized we needed a retail partnership and more access. So it’s a good marriage, and I think all of the recent movement in the market has created an elevated sense that these sort of alignments are necessary.

So how do Albertsons greater resources play out for a company like yours?

JH: Right now, we are online only and subscription only. And there are customers that just love that. I think about my sister in Minneapolis, she has two young kids and they love the weekly ritual of the subscription. It fits into their schedule, into their date nights and they love it. But there are others who frequently work late, or they travel, and can’t really use a subscription. So what we can do now is complete that customer experience. So for subscription folks, we’ll be getting them refrigerated home delivery in eight of the 10 biggest cities in the country very shortly. That will bring a higher level of service, less packaging involved, which is better for the customer experience, and a cost advantage. And we’ll be able to sell in stores, so it’s going be something you can pick up on your way home.

And we’re getting just a tremendous amount of scale – 35 million customers. The whole meal kit category today has about 1 million customers. So that’s enormous an amount of customers who already know and trust Albertsons’ brands. We’ll be able to get in front of those folks much more economically efficient way than just buying Facebook ads, which is the way the category has done it so far.

So it’s everything. Refrigerated delivery. The stores. The scale. The people, who are great at Albertsons. So it’s going to be a great partnership.

What would you anticipate happens now to your counterparts in the meal kit business today? Do you see them also partnering up?

JH: I do think it’s going to be vital to be in the retail channel. How that happens, we’ll have to see.

Analysts estimate Plated does between $200 million and $300 million in annual sales. Is that accurate? And can you comment on published reports describing the price of the deal?

JH: Unfortunately, I can’t share numbers. The meal kit market overall is about a $1.75 billion business, and I can tell you, we’re one of the biggest players in that.

So what happens next? When will we see the first Plated meal kit in an Acme store?

JH: Very soon. I think the first one will be out there in about 30 days. And we’ll scale very, very rapidly from there.

This piece originally appeared on Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.

Seven Sundays scores investment from Berlin-based Katjesgreenfood

Seven Sundays

Seven Sundays, the fastest-growing brand of muesli in the U.S., received a growth capital investment from Katjesgreenfood (part of Katjes Group), based in Berlin, Germany. The investment will be used to expand distribution of the brand, which is currently sold in approximately 4,000 stores including Target, Costco, Safeway, Whole Foods, Stop & Shop and Sprouts.

Seven Sundays, founded in 2011 by Hannah Barnstable, has quickly become one of the fastest-growing natural cereal brands in the U.S. Offering sustainably sourced, non-GMO and gluten-free muesli cereals in a variety of flavors, Seven Sundays packs in the twice the protein with half the sugar as a typical granola.

The company has doubled sales each year since Barnstable first received capital from friends and family in 2014 after picking up distribution in Target stores across the country. She sees this latest round of capital and the partnership with Katjesgreenfood as a major milestone.

“We are extremely excited about our partnership with Katjesgreenfood. We knew after our first meeting that they were a completely unique investor, whose commitment to providing healthy food options and sustainability matches ours. Katjes is mission-driven, progressive in their thinking from brand to product innovation, and have a strong interest in the current food revolution. Together we plan to transform the U.S. breakfast market,” explained Barnstable.

“We are delighted that muesli, the most popular breakfast category in Europe, is growing double digits in the American market. Seven Sundays is the clear leader, and we believe that its strong brand, exceptional products and focus on threading sustainability into the business will lead to long term success," added Dr. Manon Littek, CEO of Katjesgreenfood.

After falling in love with muesli on her honeymoon in New Zealand, founder, Hannah Barnstable, started making and selling her own unique batches from her kitchen. Using real, high quality ingredients like small, regenerative whole grains, nuts, seeds, real fruits and organic wildflower honey, Seven Sundays muesli tastes just as great as it makes you feel. All Seven Sundays' products are naturally gluten free and contain no refined sugars or GMOs and are available at grocery stores nationwide as well as online.

Source: Seven Sundays

[email protected]: Organic chicken sales rising fast | Sweets and snacks find success online

chicken production

Americans are devouring organic chickens as sales rise

New USDA data show sales of organic broiler chickens at $750 million last year—up 78 percent from 2015. That makes chickens one of the fastest-growing organic commodities. But organic milk remains the No. 1 single organic farm product. Read more at Bloomberg…


Online snack sales are soaring as more people eat healthy snacks during traditional meals

Shelf-stable, packaged goods lend themselves to online sales, so it’s no surprise that 61 percent of people who buy groceries online buy snack food, according to David Portalatin, food industry analyst at The NPD Group. Online sales of sweets and snacks have been about $215 million in the last year, according to One Click Retail, with strong growth in dried fruit, dried meat snacks and granola bars. Some experts expect Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods to expedite consumer adoption of online shopping. Read more at MarketWatch…


Why small, local, organic farms aren’t the key to fixing our food system

Washington Post columnist Tamar Haspel argues that because small farms grow produce, which makes up only a small piece of the U.S. farmland pie, and are generally not near the people who eat their food, they are only a small part of a better food future. According to some agriculture experts, the solution to a healthier and more sustainable food system involves farms of all sizes and production methods. Read more at The Washington Post…


At bug-eating festival, kids crunch down on the food of the future

The Brooklyn Bugs festival was formed to educate children on the benefits of growing and eating insects for protein.  Read more at NPR…


Vivid, colorful Trix is returning to stores

It’s been two years since General Mills removed artificial ingredients from the sugary cereal, but it’s decided to bring them back. Some consumers prefer the classic vibrant colors, the company said, so a “Classic Trix” variety will appear alongside the current version, which doesn’t have artificial colors or flavors. Read more at StarTribune…

This week: Bolthouse Farms debuts plant protein milks | A new turmeric-based supplement line from Nature's Way

Bolthouse Plant Milks

Boulthouse Farms adds to alternative dairy options for consumers with a new line of vegan, non-GMO Plant Protein Milk. Each 8 oz. serving contains 10 grams of pea protein and is free from dairy, nuts and soy. Bolthouse Farms Plant Protein Milk is available in four flavors—Unsweetened, Original, Vanilla and Chocolate.

A new three-day cleanse from Juice From The Raw features two new concoctions—Blood Orange Juice and Passion Fruit Water—as well as GanedenBC30. The Believer cleanse with Blood Orange and Probiotics is designed to reinforce health, cleanse the body and strengthen the immune system. 

Nature's Way announced via press release the launch of Turmerich, a new line of turmeric-based herbal products formulated to address specific health needs. The new formulas feature 400 grams of turmeric extract standardized to 95 percent curcuminoids per serving, plus 10 mg of BioPerine black pepper extract to help with absorption. Turmerich Joint features UC-II type II Collagen complex, standardized Boswellia serrata and organic Burdock. Turmerich Heart contains deodorized garlic, standardized pomegranate, standardized Hawthorn and CoQ10. 

The newest member of the In The Raw sweeteners family is Organic Stevia In The Raw, a certified organic, vegan stevia in convenient, three-calorie packets. A 40-count box has a SRP of $3.19.

Glanbia Nutritionals announced the launch of ProTherma hydrolyzed whey protein for hot, ready-to-mix powdered beverages and foods. Consisting of 85 percent high density low lactose protein, ProTherma is GRAS, Kosher and Halal approved. 

At SupplySide West, Frutarom BU Health will debut Frutaceuticals, a new fruit-based delivery system based on ultra rapid concentration technology from Taura Natural Ingredients Ltd. The new supplement snacks contain the branded ingredients Neuravena, AB-Fortis and Portusana. 

Conventional yogurt brand Dannon introduced its first Non-GMO Project verified yogurts. Select Dannon Whole Milk Yogurts and Plain Quarts, as well as Danimals Smoothies, are now made with milk from cows fed non-GMO feed.  

Probi's new probiotic delivery format, Fast Melt, is a probiotic powder stick that melts in the mouth with no water needed. It comes in a fresh lemon flavor and contains the strain LP299V, according to a press release.

Austin-based food brand Veggie Noodle Co. completed construction on a custom-designed, 42,300 square food facility this week that will multiply its production capacity by five times and employ more than 250 people. Primary funding for the facility came from the company's Series A funding round earlier this year. 

Algatech Ltd. announced that its 100 percent Organic Haematococcus pluvialis microalgae powder and astaxanthin oleoresin have been granted Non-GMO Project verification

On a mission to bring affordable, ethically sourced organic cotton products to U.S. consumers, Pact Apparel announced a new line of organic cotton baby and toddler clothing. The baby line includes long- and short-sleeve bodysuits, pants and a footie sleeper; the toddler line includes long-sleeve pajamas, long- and short-sleeve tees, training pants, underwear and leggings. 

Natural Products Expo

6 new essential oil products at Natural Products Expo East

If you’re wondering what that lingering scent’s a category that isn’t going anywhere.

To call essential oils—used for thousands of years across the globe—a “trend” is to ignore their ancient roots as a go-to, plant-based remedy for a variety of health, wellness and beauty practices. But the abundance of launches at Natural Products Expo East and their continuous sales growth certainly represents a bold resurgence in the modern-day health and wellness sphere. Used for everything from supporting mood and improving sleep to soothing skin and, simply, making you smell incredible, Expo East’s best in show touted sustainable supply chains and creative delivery systems so customers can feel good anywhere, anytime.

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Natural Products Expo

The food and beverage flavor trends that dominated Natural Products Expo East 2017

Expo East 2017 flavor and ingredient food trends

Snake up and down the aisles at Expo East and you'll be met with thousands of novel natural products that prioritize sustainability and innovation, and (for the most part) deliver on taste, mission and convenience. Sample incessantly, like New Hope Network editors Jessie Shafer and Jenna Blumenfeld recently did during their time at Expo, and in addition to a stomachache, you'll end up with a fairly robust knowledge of the rising flavors and ingredients sure to make waves in the natural industry.

It's a worthy endeavor to identify food trends. Not only does trend tracking give manufacturers, retailers and suppliers an idea of what will sell over the next year, but food trends also serve as a litmus test to identify the zeitgeist of cultural eating habits. In essence, food trends are a mirror. Hold them up and you'll see your customers—and yourself—reflected right back.

1. Full fat 

Low-fat claims are so early ‘90s. Thanks in part to the paleo and ketogenic diets, products that contain high levels of fats from nuts or dairy (never trans fats!) are covetable additions to a healthy diet—even when paired with delectable ingredients such as chocolate and vanilla. This trend manifests across grocery categories, from shelf-stable to refrigerated and from beverages to yogurt.

4th & Heart Chocti Chocolate Ghee Spread Coffee Guarana
Forager Project Good Plant Fat Coconut & Cashew Mango
Know Brainer Ketogenic Creamer Almond & Coconut Milk

2. Oats

It’s tough to call oats an Expo East 2017 trend—they’re such a staple ingredient in breakfasts across the United States. But in almost every aisle, oats kept appearing as the star in new products that promised improved convenience, elevated taste and novel applications in savory side dishes and snacks. Why the renewed zeal for oats? For one, like chicken or tofu, oats have little taste by themselves, offering a perfect base for flavorful spices, herbs and sweeteners. Another theory: On the trend-forward social media platform Instagram, tutorials for overnight oats have appeared in droves!

Grainful Chana Masala
Spice Trail Snacks Marrakesh Crunch
Maker Overnight Oats

3. Meaty

The plant-based trend was ubiquitous at Expo East 2017, and there were plenty of new vegan brands that featured ingredients like seitan, cultured nuts, tofu and more. But the companies that showcased meat in their products did so with pride. Using paleo-perfect packaging that highlighted responsible sourcing (cage-free, antibiotic-free and particularly grass-fed), these companies recognize there is important consumer demand for more conscious meat products on store shelves.

PaleoEthics Super Serum Protein High Performance Beef Protein
Wilde Brand Chicken Chips Barbecue
Serenity Kids Uncured Bacon with Organic Kale & Butternut Squash

4. Seaweed 

Attendees of Natural Products Expo are no strangers to seaweed flavor profiles. We’ve seen this ingredient manifest in products like snacks and bars—often masked with strong spices. But at Expo East 2017, seaweed brands deemed consumers’ palates ready for more of this salty, briny ingredient in condiments, broths and even pasta. There was even a no-holds-barred product that packaged pureed kelp in all its... um... kelpiness? We particularly love this trend due to the opportunities associated with seaweed’s sustainability factor.

Blue Evolution Foods
Ocean’s Balance Kelp Puree
Ocean’s Halo Miso Broth

5. Bubbles

Yes, we realize that bubbles in beverages are more of a texture attribute than a flavor attribute, but this tongue-tingling trend appeared everywhere at Expo East—from coffee to kombucha to tea. Why the renewed fixation on bubbles? It’s important to note that these products ain’t your grand-mama’s soda. The trendiest iteration of bubbles included silky nitro coffee, carbonated coffee with unexpected flavor add-ins (coffee plus citrus—trust us, it works) and kombucha designed to help non-drinkers averse to sour flavors embrace this probiotic bubbly tea.

Rise Brewing Co. Seasonal Nitro Lemonade Coffee
Chameleon Cold-Brew Sparkling Cold-Brew Coffee Ginger
Kevita Master Brew Kombucha Roots Beer

6. Maple

Whether you embrace all things pumpkin spice or are so over the PSL hype that you relegate it to “basic” status, word on the street is that maple is the newest fall flavor penetrating everything from yogurts to coffee. Unlike the debate over whether pumpkin spice products actually do—or should?—contain real pumpkin, maple-flavored products carry a certain authenticity as a naturally sweetened, naturally flavored treat wrapped in all the flannel-clad goodness of fall comfort.

Sap! Maple Soda and Seltzer Water
Purely Elizabeth Maple + Almond Butter Granola
Drink Maple Raspberry Lemon Maple Water

7. Cardamom

This strong and aromatic Indian spice has long been a natural in curries, stews and baked goods, but at Expo East 2017, we spotted cardamom making its way into new product categories, such as nut butter and ice cream. With a flavor profile that can go in both sweet and savory directions, this Ayurvedic spice contributes a unique “je ne sais quoi” that is anything but mild, slightly polarizing, warming and floral, making it a “notice-me” addition that we certainly did. 

Betsy’s Best Gourmet Cashew Butter with Cardamom & Chia Seeds
Revolution Gelato Dairy-Free Cardamom Kiss
Pukka Organic Detox Tea

8. Beets

Did you feel the beet at Expo East? It was there, making its earthy, nutrient-dense, deep crimson presence known. Like cauliflower and kale, beets are one of those veggies that just. won’t. quit. And we’re kind of proud of the innovative resilience of these good ol’ nutrition powerhouses as we spotted them in several beverages and snacks. Some in the industry may feel “beet” over the head with the nutritional benefits of this vibrant root veggie, but an enthusiastic wave of consumers is embracing beets’ potential to boost everything from brain health to athletic performance, proving there is power in consistent messaging repeated over and over again.

Rhythm Superfoods Coconut Sugar Beet Chips
Jacob’s Raw Probiotic Cultured Wellness Shot Beet Ginger Boost
Plant Snacks Cassava Crunch Beet with Goat Cheese Yuca Root Chips

9. Not too sweet 

It used to be that consumers puckered and shuddered at the taste of something sour, sprinkling spoonfuls of sugar over their cereal and grapefruit. But as fashions change over time, so do acceptable flavor profiles. Too-sweet products are as outdated as shoulder pads, and taste buds “in-the-know” are shunning products that either smack of saccharin sweetness or contain beaucoup amounts of added sugars. Sugar’s so-last-season reputation has made room for products formulated for a fan base that puts low- to moderately (and always naturally) sugared products right in the sweet spot.

Cusa Tea Mango Green Tea
Three Twins Slim Twin Organic Mint Chip
SOUND Sparkling Tea

Keep up with the latest natural products news by subscribing to Natural Buzz Today.

[email protected]: Grocery chain Albertsons gets in the meal kit game | Why OTA sued USDA

Albertsons acquires Plated

Albertsons takes cue from Amazon with meal-kit delivery deal

Anonymous sources told Bloomberg that Albertsons paid about $200 million to acquire Plated, a meal kit delivery startup that will give it a way to reach younger consumers interested in the convenience of delivery. The deal is expected to close this month. Will it give Albertsons a leg up in the intensely competitive grocery market? Read more at Bloomberg…


Why the OTA had to sue USDA

The Organic Trade Association works closely with the USDA’s National Organic Program and its Market Access Program—so why did it announce last week that it was suing the agency? When the organic standards were put into effect, there were few protections for animals written in. But consumers often assume that organic animal products are produced by animals that enjoy humane living conditions. The National Organic Standards Board published a final set of animal welfare rules in January of 2017 that would catch the industry up with that expectation. But the USDA has delayed implementation of the rule—which some think has to do with special interests in Washington. OTA sued USDA alleging that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Organic Foods Production Act. Read more at Huffington Post…


Could lab-grown fish and meat feed the world—without killing a single animal?

Tech companies like Finless Foods, Hampton Creek and Memphis Meats are trying to save the world—or at least the food system—with cellular agriculture. Cellular agriculture involves using animal cells obtained by biopsy and feeding them in salts, carbohydrates and proteins. For Finless Foods, the challenges include finding the right growth factors for fish cells and scaling affordably. Then there’s the whole issue of consumer acceptance. The Guardian takes a deep dive into the clean meat revolution. Read more at The Guardian…


Award-winning startup turns fruit waste into natural cosmetics

FRUU, a startup in the UK, creates made-to-order lip balms from ingredients derived from 15 kinds of organic fruits including avocado, pomegranate and lime. Read more at Spring Wise…


The coffee soda that went from crazy late-night idea to Whole Foods in under a year

While they were working as graphic designers, Thi Lam and Brent Lagerman started creating concoctions using the office SodaStream. That turned into a new beverage company, Keepers, that “champions odd pairings”—like citrus flavors and coffee—to create carbonated beverages that Whole Foods now sells in its Brooklyn store. Read more at CNBC…

How Kroger is keeping a laser focus on health and wellness

Once Upon a Farm A Once Upon a Farm refrigerator at Kroger

Kroger made headlines in 2015 when it announced $11 billion in sales of organic and natural products, amounting to 10 percent of the retailer’s total business and nearly matching Whole Foods Market’s total sales. And according to its annual report last year, well over half of the $1.7 billion it raked in through its private label Simple Truth brand came from Simple Truth Organic.

These figures are no accident, analysts say; the retailer has long shown a level of commitment to the organic and health sector, and remains a savvy player in the space. We take a look at some of the recent moves that demonstrate Kroger’s continuing commitment to health and wellness. 

Remodeling its Food 4 Less warehouse-style stores to put a greater focus on health and wellness through expanded produce sections, wider natural and organic foods selections and more.

Investing in Lucky’s Market last year—after buying VitaCost in 2014.

• Becoming one of the first to try out refrigerators in the baby aisle, in order to sell Once Upon a Farm baby food, the brand that introduced HPP to the baby food market.

• Finding ways to connect food with health care. The Little Clinic provides nutrition counseling and personalized health consultations in some stores, for example. Its Michigan stores also collaborated with a Detroit hospital system to provide weekly dietitian-developed recipes in a program called LiveWell Wednesdays.

• Investing in organic and health. Industry consultant Bill Crawford points out that when mainstream retailers were just starting to tinker with organic, Kroger created a dedicated VP position to oversee efforts in organic foods. “They invested in organic success early on. They said this is not just cereal or coffee. They empowered somebody as a VP to make sure it happened. It was not just lip service to the category,” he said, adding that the retailer has continued to focus on really connecting with consumers, including at a local level. “They’re paying attention to their markets and driving things from the bottom up and not from the top down.”

What these efforts add up to is not just financial success, but a reputation for connecting with consumers and innovative leadership. For Crawford, they’re signs that Kroger is succeeding not just because the category is growing, but because they’re growing the category.

“To me, what’s interesting is it’s not just focusing on natural to win customers from Whole Foods or Sprouts or Fresh Thyme. What they’re really doing is saying, how do we make natural products appeal to people who are not already buying them? They’re attracting customers to the category,” said Crawford. “They reach out to shoppers in unique ways that, very probably, other retailers are not able to do.”

Hilary’s ready to ramp up retail expansion, new product development with investment

Hilary's Eat Well products

Hilary’s, a trailblazer in delicious plant-based foods that are free from common allergens, has received a significant growth capital investment led by VG Growth Partners, a new fund created with the mission to advance the next generation of consumer brands. Founded by industry veterans Michael Caridi, Sanjeev Vinayak and Hitesh Hajarnavis, VG Growth Partners will serve dual roles as investment partners and strategic advisors to the brand. Hilary’s is currently the No. 1-selling veggie burger brand as measured by SPINS, and is poised for tremendous growth in the free-from category, which is projected to reach $20 billion by 2020.

“We’re experiencing mounting demand for our foods within the allergen-free community in addition to adding mainstream shoppers who want clean, healthy options that are easy to prepare,” said Lydia Butler, president and chief financial officer of Hilary’s. “The astounding consumer response that has led to our current leadership in the market is a testament to the fact that people want delicious and nourishing cuisine, and we’re grateful that our new investors, VG Growth Partners, share our vision for healing the American diet.”

The new round of funding will enable Hilary’s to expand its internal sales and marketing teams, amplify expansion of its retail footprint, and accelerate innovation and new product development. Hilary’s is the third investment for VG Growth Partners in the allergen-friendly space. With more than 50 years combined experience leading natural food brands, the founders of VG Growth Partners not only see the market opportunity in the food allergy space, but are personally passionate about helping to increase the accessibility of free-from foods across the country through brands families can trust.

“Free-from is a booming category with tremendous potential for growth, and I know so many families—including my own—who are directly affected by food allergies,” said Hitesh Hajarnavis, a founding partner of VG Growth Partners. “Experiencing firsthand the daily challenges and emotional worry that I know other families affected by food allergies are dealing with, is part of what fuels our passion for this space. We’re determined to make a difference, and it’s real deal brands like Hilary’s that are charting a new future by creating great tasting foods that are not only safe for those with allergies but also enjoyed by all that will make it possible for us. It’s thrilling to be part of this food revolution!”

A true disruptor in allergy-friendly eating, Hilary’s is best known for its plant-based veggie burgers; however, its recent line extensions and launches—including Millet Medleys and Veggie Sausages—have quickly climbed to the top of their respective categories as well. Hilary’s investment from VG Growth Partners also follows new national distribution gains for the brand, including placement at Kroger for its shelf-stable dressings and a partnership with frozen food e-commerce platform, Healthy Goodness.

All Hilary’s foods are free from common allergens, including wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, and corn, and are vegan, Certified Gluten Free, Non-GMO Project Verified and Certified Organic. Hilary’s products are available at conventional and natural grocery stores nationwide, as well as online.

Source: Hilary's