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There’s more than one way to hop on the hemp bandwagon

Thinkstock Hemp oil

Hemp oil extract supplements leader CV Sciences pioneered the CBD space back in late 2010 when, thanks to the laissez-faire attitude of the Obama administration, medical marijuana began booming. When Colorado legalized adult-use recreational marijuana in 2012, CBD was still an underappreciated cannabinoid. And hemp could still not be grown in America until the 2014 Farm Bill legalized it.

So CV Sciences began establishing relationships with hemp growers in Holland, who would send the plant to Germany for extraction using high-quality supercritical CO2 methods, and then would import the oil into the States.

At the same time, CV Sciences is investing in agricultural institutions in Kentucky, which along with Colorado are the country’s agricultural hemp leaders.

In two years, CV Sciences’ flagship supplement PlusCBDOil has grown from roughly 400 stores to 1,300 stores today.

“It’s been a good year,” said Stuart Tomc, CV Sciences’ vice president of human nutrition, who formerly worked in the trenches at supplements fish oil leader Nordic Naturals—no small distinction, because startups in the CBD space that came from the pot world are much more likely to get sanctioned by the FDA for violating supplements rules around labeling and claims language. “We’re in only 25 percent of natural stores. We have a long way to go.”

The CBD industry grew by 61 percent in 2016, according to Hemp Business Journal. It will reach a market size of $358 million in total sales by the end of 2017 for combined hemp-derived and marijuana-derived CBD. 

What’s particularly interesting about the CBD—err, hemp oil—supplements market is that states like Colorado and California, which culturally are leaders in marijuana, are not the leaders in CBD. Guess who is?

“We’ve had more success in the Bible Belt in the south than any other region,” said Tomc. “That’s fascinating. That’s paradoxical in so many ways. Savannah, Georgia, you’d never think that was an area so respected for something associated with something so sinister. Colorado has been the low-hanging fruit but it has not been successful for us.”

However, it could well be that Colorado has not been a success story for CV Sciences because there are so many home-grown (ahem) companies in Colorado also playing in the hemp oil extract business.

NuLeaf Naturals is one such company. Started in Colorado in 2014 by a couple of Millennials, the company’s “ambitious goal is to become a national brand,” said CEO Jaden Barnes. “Choppy waters keep the big guys out and give the little guys space to grow.”

They’re doing it with a quality-conscious imperative similar to CV Sciences—organically grown (but unable to be certified as such), cold-pressed hemp oil, with no additives or preservatives.

Unlike CV Sciences, the Colorado company gets its crop locally. Like CV Sciences, it has contracts with farmers that provide the extracted oil, then NuLeaf goes about the business of manufacturing, product development, formulation, marketing and sales.

The hemp that NuLeaf sources from is grown from clones, which help standardize the chemical makeup of the finished product, and also maximizes the cannabinoids. That leaves a resin content per plant at between 16 and 19 percent, said Barnes, compared to European plants that are closer to 6-9 percent resin. That means NuLeaf uses less plant content to meet its CBD level.

Another Colorado startup, PurePower Botanicals, is going after the hemp oil green rush in a way that seems to be the new way forward—using hemp oil as a formulation foundation along with other botanicals that, on their own, would be a perfectly legitimate botanical supplement.

“Our strategy behind combining botanicals, including hemp oil,” said company co-founder and CEO Don Mclaughlin, “is based on the known synergistic and positive physiological effects of particular botanical combinations. Certain botanicals activate receptors inside the body, which enables other botanicals to more effectively enter and impact the body.”

The lessons learned so far include not making illegal drug claims but sticking to supplement-style structure/function claims, testing to make sure products match label claim with the contents therein, moving away from calling products “CBD” but going with the more generic “hemp oil,” and even combining with other botanicals so a product could stand on its own as a quality supplement even in the absence of hemp oil.

Hemp oil companies exhibiting at Natural Products Expo East this week include:

CV Sciences, booth #8150

Happy Goose Hemp, booth #130

Health Matters America, booth #2507 and #417

HempFusion, booth #3351

Hemp Production Services, booth #8420

North American Herb & Spice, booth #3211

Only Natural, booth #3439

Sana Hemp Juice, booth #1061

[email protected]: Hemp farmers ‘operating without a manual’ | Will more grocers buy into meal kits?

Thinkstock industrial hemp

Going into its fourth harvest, industrial help industry still facing growing pains

The Colorado hemp industry has been growing rapidly since the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill legalized the growth of industrial hemp in states that regulate the crop. It requires less water than corn to grow and can be used to produce CBD oil, an ingredient used in an increasing amount of commercial products. Colorado farmers are expected to harvest some 9,000 acres of hemp this year, but challenges with infrastructure and clarity of legality remain. Hemp farmers can’t get crop insurance, and even getting bank accounts can be tough. Read more at Denver Post…

 

To compete with Amazon, grocers could start purchasing meal kit companies

The combined power of Amazon and Whole Foods in grocery delivery and fresh food could lead to more acquisitions in the space. Apparently Albertsons, at some point, has been in discussions with meal kit startup Plated about a potential purchase. The CEO of Green Chef said he was open to being acquired. Read more at CNBC…

 

Nestle’s growth supplements

We might see some nutrition and health acquisitions from Nestle SA, Reuters says. Nutrition and health science is the second-biggest division of its business, behind beverages. Read more at Bloomberg…

 

Startups focus on the microbiome as an organic solution to increase crop yields

As venture capitalists increasingly look to the agriculture market, biome science has emerged as a particular area of interest. Companies like NewLeaf Symbiotics are developing bacteria-based solutions to ensure crop health. Read more at Tech Crunch…

 

There will be more retail stores opening than closing in 2017

But, it will be a different kind of store, according to a new report from IHL Group. Discount stores, convenience stores and beauty stores are opening in 2018, which highlights changing consumer lifestyle and tastes. Read more at Forbes…

Once Upon a Farm recruits John Foraker, Jennifer Garner

Once Upon a Farm John Foraker Jennier Garner join Once Upon a Farm

Today, cofounders Jennifer Garner, John Foraker, Cassandra Curtis and Ari Raz announce the expansion of Once Upon a Farm, an organic family food company that currently offers a line of cold-pressed organic baby foods and applesauces. The company has plans to grow into new categories with the goal of providing as many children as possible with the best-tasting, most nutritious and highest quality foods, using sustainable methods.

"As a mom of three and Save the Children artist ambassador, I am passionate about childhood nutrition and making sure we are leaving a healthier and happier planet for the next generation," said Jennifer Garner, cofounder and award-winning actress. "Once Upon a Farm helps parents keep their promise to deliver the best nourishment for their children's bodies and souls."

Garner, who will serve as Once Upon a Farm's chief brand officer, joins John Foraker, organic industry pioneer and former longtime president and CEO of Annie's, to lead the company's strategy and vision.

"I'm thrilled to be able to return to my entrepreneurial roots with cofounders Jennifer, Cassandra and Ari to grow Once Upon a Farm into an industry leader," said Foraker. "We'll not only provide high-quality foods that kids love but, perhaps even more importantly, we are committed to driving positive social change and food justice for the benefit of parents, kids and families."

Once Upon a Farm was started by entrepreneurs Cassandra Curtis and Ari Raz, who created the first cold-pressed, organic pouched baby food in 2015. The company currently offers a portfolio of 12 organic, cold-pressed, ready-to-eat baby food pouches, as well as three applesauce varieties. Unlike shelf-stable alternatives, Once Upon a Farm pouches are cold-pressed using high-pressure processing (HPP) to maintain a higher nutritional content and fresher, less sugary flavors.

The current portfolio is just the beginning of a much bigger vision that responds to the growing nutritional needs of children and families. Products are available online through the company's website and national grocers, including select Wegmans, Kroger and Whole Foods Market stores. Once Upon a Farm is actively driving retail expansion and looking toward nationwide availability in 2018. 

Early Once Upon a Farm investors include top tier venture capital firms Cambridge Companies SPG, S2G Ventures, Beechwood Capital and Harbinger Ventures Group.

Source: Once Upon a Farm

Behold, an odorless, tasteless (but not colorless) curcumin

We took a taste test with Rajiv Khatau, managing director of ingredient supplier Lodaat, about the company's latest innovation in the curcumin space. 

Natural Products Expo

'Fully Alive' is transparent and raw and wants to help you find your mission

Tyler Gage Fully Alive

Transparency, open-sourcing style philosophy and raw honesty—which expose the failures, successes and lessons learned while building a business from nothing—is the essence behind Runa cofounder Tyler Gage’s recently published book, Fully Alive. It’s clear he wants the natural products industry to continue to succeed and grow by inspiring would-be entrepreneurs to cope with the unknown, the chaos and the uncertainty of success in leveraging a market-based solution to solve problems they find themselves wrestling with.

From scholar to unfamiliar entrepreneurship

Tyler’s journey to Runa evolved from a love of plants, their wisdom, their history, their medicinal properties, and ultimately a love of the indigenous communities who understood, respected and protected their sacred role with humans and the world. This fascination turned a would-be Fulbright scholar into a mission-driven entrepreneur that bridges the indigenous world with the modern world. Through guayusa, a ceremonial plant important to the indigenous Kichwa communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Runa’s goal is to provide a stable option for these communities to participate in the global market.

When all else fails, social enterprise prevails

Guayusa is a plant native to the Ecuadorian Amazon and central to the daily cultural traditions of the Kichwa, but it was a completely undeveloped supply chain. Tyler and cofounder Dan MacCombie laid the groundwork to commercialize guayusa into loose-leaf teas, RTD teas and energy drinks for U.S. consumers. Through a hybrid social enterprise model, Runa became part foundation, part for-profit certified B Corporation. After years of studying medicinal plants and learning from indigenous communities of Ecuador, Runa’s humble approach was to offer income from guayusa cultivation to provide sustainable jobs. The thinking was that selling guayusa in the U.S. would act in lieu of many-a-fizzled-nonprofit development initiatives, and free communities from participating in the global oil and mining markets—i.e. companies setting up camp in the Amazon and effectively destroying the precious land and natural resources with which they reside.   

Conventional wisdom vs. Runa wisdom

Tyler gives any would-be entrepreneur a valuable contrast between the traditional business-minded approach and the Runa approach in the early stages of formation. Some worked to their advantage, while others did not (you’ll have to read the book to learn more).

Conventional wisdom:

  • Business experts
  • Fundraising from a few strategic investors who understand the beverage industry
  • Equity financing
  • Scaling deep by increasing turns/velocity in existing retailers
  • Multi-year plan
  • If foundation arm exists, for-profit heavily funds it, dictating structure

Runa wisdom:

  • Liberal arts approach—ask, learn, research
  • Fundraising from anywhere and anyone, including crowdfunding
  • Convertible debt that allows cash payback instead of equity stake
  • Scaling wide by expanding doors and distribution
  • Planning in increments of three months.
  • Foundation retains a certain amount of independence. Runa only contributes up to 5 percent to its foundation arm. The logic is, the company want the foundation to empower farmers to better negotiate with the buyer, Runa.

To be Fully Alive is to celebrate failures along with the successes

In the end it all seems to be working, but not without struggles. The detailed failures and setbacks Tyler experiences cohabitate with the thinking and the mission that helped Runa overcome barriers and roadblocks. The Kichwa embrace life’s darkness along with the light. Our faults, failures and mistakes co-exist with our successes—that is what it is to be Runa, meaning Fully Alive. Tyler incorporates this into his being and offers perspective on how understanding our own darkness can forge a path that creates authenticity and mission in our life and business.

Catch Tyler Gage at Natural Products Expo East.
What: Standing Out by Standing Up: The Role of Mission in Business
When: 3:45-5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017
Where: Hilton, Holiday Ballroom 1

Study shows one way organic agriculture combats climate change

The Organic Center logo

A new groundbreaking study proves soils on organic farms store away appreciably larger amounts of carbons—and for longer periods—than typical agricultural soils. The important study, directed by Northeastern University in collaboration with The Organic Center, provides a new significant proof point that organic agricultural practices build healthy soils and can be part of the solution in the fight on global warming.

The new data will be published in the Oct. 1 issue of the scientific journal Advances in Agronomy. One of the largest field studies of its kind ever conducted, the study pulls together more than a thousand soil samples from across the nation. It uses cutting-edge methods to look at how organic farming affects the soil’s ability to lock away carbon and keep it out of our atmosphere.

One of its most compelling findings is that on average, organic farms have 44 percent higher levels of humic acid—the component of soil that sequesters carbon over the long term—than soils not managed organically.

Agriculture is one of the main causes of the depletion of carbon in the soil and the increased presence of carbon in our atmosphere, as evidenced by a recent study published by the National Academy of Sciences that estimated agriculture’s role in global soil carbon loss. Organic farming can play a key role in restoring soil carbon and in reducing the causes of climate change, and this study proves that.

Working with Elham Ghabbour,PhD, and Geoffrey Davies, PhD, leaders of the National Soil Project at Northeastern University, The Organic Center contacted organic farmers who acted as “citizen scientists” to collect organic soil samples from throughout the country to compare with the conventional soil samples already in the National Soil Project’s data set. Altogether, the study measured 659 organic soil samples from 39 states and 728 conventional soil samples from all 48 contiguous states. It found that ALL components of humic substances were higher in organic than in conventional soils.

“This study is truly groundbreaking,” said Jessica Shade, PhD, director of science programs for The Organic Center. “We don’t just look at total soil organic carbon, but also the components of soil that have stable pools of carbon—humic substances, which gives us a much more accurate and precise view of the stable, long-term storage of carbon in the soils.”

“To our knowledge, this research is also the first to take a broad view of organic and conventional systems, taking into account variation within management styles, across crops, and throughout the United States.  It gives a large-scale view of the impact of organic as a whole, throughout the nation,” Shade said.

“We were focused on developing and adopting reliable methods of soil analyses for this national project. It was a huge, cooperative effort involving hundreds of sample donors. The results of this project will be of value to farmers, policymakers and the public at large,” Davies said.

Digging deeper into the matter

Healthy soils are essential for robust and resilient crop production, and the amount of soil organic matter is one of the most critical components of a healthy soil. Organic matter is all the living and dead plant and animal material in our dirt that make it more than dirt—earthworms and insects and microorganisms, plant and animal residues, fermented compost, decomposed leaves and plant roots.  Soils high in organic matter support healthy crops, are less susceptible to drought, and foster a diversity of organisms vital to soil health. Soils rich in organic matter can also maintain carbon for long periods of time, and help reduce the causes of climate change.

“A number of studies have shown that practices commonly used in organic farming increase soil organic matter and soil health,” said Tracy Misiewicz, PhD, associate director of science programs for The Organic Center. “Some of these practices include the use of manure and legume cover crops, extended crop rotations, fallowing and rotational grazing. These same practices are likely also involved in increasing the important humic substances in soil.”

The gold standard of organic matter are the humic substances. Humic substances—made up of carbon and other elements—are the lifeblood for fertile soils. These substances resist degradation and can remain in the soil for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. They don’t just mean healthy soil; they are also one of the most effective ways to mitigate climate change. The more humic substances in a soil, the longer that healthy soil is trapping and keeping carbon out of the atmosphere.

This stable pool of carbon is therefore more representative of stable carbon sequestration in the soil. Specifically measuring humic substances in soil gives an accurate understanding of long-term soil health and carbon sequestration.

Farmer samples show organic stores more carbon

The study shows that the components of humic substances—fulvic acid and humic acid—were consistently higher in organic than in conventional soils.

The research found that, on average, soils from organic farms had:

  • 13 percent higher soil organic matter.
  • 150 percent more fulvic acid.
  • 44 percent more humic acid.
  • 26 percent greater potential for long-term carbon storage.

This is the first time scientific research has given an accurate picture of the long-term soil carbon storage on organic versus conventional farms throughout the U.S., since most studies focus on individual farms or total soil organic carbon.  The Organic Center’s study takes farms from around the nation into account and looks at the most accurate measure of carbon sequestration.

A real-world study with real-world impacts

Since 2008, the National Soil Project at Northeastern has been measuring the organic soil content of soil throughout the nation. Its collected samples were primarily of conventional soil. Davies and Ghabbour, the directors of the National Soil Project, were seeing very low levels of humic substances in these conventional soil samples.

In 2014, The Organic Center helped the National Soil Project design and develop a study to compare the project’s conventional soil samples to organic soil samples. The Organic Center worked with the researchers as organic experts through the project, contacted organic farmers throughout the country for soil samples, and performed the statistical analyses of the data.

Farmers collected the samples in 2015 and 2016. Fifty-gram samples (2-3 tablespoons) of air-dried surface (0-30 cm) agricultural top soil, along with the geographical (GPS) location, texture and classification (if known), were provided.

“This study shows there are positive differences in organic soil,” said Minnesota organic farmer Carmen Fernholz, who sent in soil samples from his 425-acre organic corn, soybean and small grains farm. “We are showing that organic farming enhances the soil, so this is how we have to move forward. For me as a farmer, the most important result of this research is that USDA should now prioritize its organic management system and our organic research dollars.”

“The more we understand about the soil organic matter system, the better we can monitor, measure and maintain it,” said organic produce grower Helen Atthowe, who submitted samples from her and her husband’s 26-acre Woodleaf Farm in northern California. “The results of this study can make soil organic matter more predictable to manage and thus easier for more farmers to adopt practices that encourage organic matter.”

"Our study compares soils from the real world, and its findings can have a huge impact on the real world,” said Shade of The Organic Center. “These results highlight the potential of organic agriculture to increase the amount of carbon sequestration in the soil, and by doing so, help decrease a major cause of climate change.”

Source: The Organic Center

Natural Products Expo

Expo East ’17 preview: Probiotics continue to evolve

Probiotic supplements ain't what they used to be. Research into specific strains continues apace, and supplement manufacturers and marketers are choosing wisely with formulations that match probiotics with particular health benefits. It's not all just about digestion and immunity.

Here's a dozen supplements on exhibit at Natural Products Expo East 2017. Check out this sneak peek!

Natural Products Expo

The argument for authenticity

Trish Thomas Teem

As I’ve been developing my digital marketing presentation for Expo East, it struck me how pivotal brand authenticity is to all my recommendations.

We often focus inordinately on the latest tool or tactic, and as important as it is to utilize cutting-edge technology and pay attention to trends, it’s often more important to emanate something true and real that resonates with people on a personal level.

As marketers, we manipulate a lot. But there is no substitute for a brand that radiates passion, adds real value to people’s lives and takes a stand for something. And you can’t fake a mission-driven organization or product that plants a flag. Consumers are jaded, and they smell the falsehood in your promotions, communications and advertisements instantly.

Why argue for authenticity?

Years in the trenches. Years trying to overcome mediocrity, to rise above passiveness, to make a brand stand out despite its overwhelming ordinariness. And the occasional happy surprise of organic growth and rapid traction with brands that simply build products and services with both their mission and their customers in mind… brands who are solving problems in the world and making people feel good along the way.

What are some hallmarks of authenticity?

• Well, a big one is not harping on how authentic you are. If you have to write "AUTHENTIC" as a brand value or personality trait, you’re probably missing the boat. Live it. Breathe it. Don’t talk about it.

•  Use content to share your vision and passion in a compelling way. Consumers are so hungry for brands to stop interrupting them and start being the thing they are interested in. Share actionable information, inspirational stories and valuable learnings with your community with no hard sell and they will be loyal to you. Not only that, but they will actually buy from you.

•  Leverage partnerships to hit above your weight. I’m always amazed at tiny brands with no market share to defend who treat everyone else in their space as a vicious competitor. Of course you have legitimate direct competitors that you want to take down—that’s capitalism. But there are many aligned companies, influential individuals and potential partners who share your audience, and who can elevate your brand and amplify your message in a very natural way. Work with them.

• Learn to give a hard yes or no. A lot of brands are wishy-washy… it’s not attractive. They sway in the wind of sentiment on a daily basis, trying to test the waters and decide who they will be based what they believe will sell. Does market tenor matter? Of course. Should it tell you who you are? Absolutely not!  Be willing to wholeheartedly embrace what is aligned with your brand and give an emphatic no to what is not.

Seventy-five million millennials in the United States do not like being advertised to. The halcyon days of bloated, successful push-marketing campaigns are over.

Take a lesson from your customers and speak to them in a voice they understand about things that matter to them. 

It may sound impossible in a digital environment, but have a genuine conversation. It will pay big dividends.

Trish Thomas is the CEO of TEEM, a marketing and advertising agency in Boulder built on an independent talent model. She and her team are challenging the status quo in advertising and reimagining the way teams work together to deliver great creative. She is a frequent speaker on leadership, new workforce dynamics, strategy, branding and marketing.

Catch Trish Thomas at Natural Products Expo East.
What: The Internet is Here to Stay: Master Your Digital Presence & Engage Consumers
When: 3:45 p.m., Friday, Sept. 15, 2017
Where: Hilton, Holiday Ballroom 2