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Articles from 2021 In September


Replay: Conscious leadership with John Mackey

Whole Foods Market John Mackey Whole Foods

“I want to thank all my brothers and sisters that that are committed to this higher purpose of natural and organic food products and to make the world a better place,” John Mackey, founder and for more than 40 years CEO of the Whole Foods Market company, said during the "Conscious Leadership in the Age of Amazon" session at FamilyFarmed’s 2021 Good Food Financing and Innovation Conference.

"I'll put the challenge to the next generation to evolve the industry and take it to another level, which means getting back to the original vision of the early leaders in this movement. Originally, this was an agricultural revolution of food grown closer to nature where farmers were taking care of the soil and maintaining the purity of the water. We wanted food that was in its natural state and less processed. I hope the next generation will re-embrace this intent."

[email protected]: Shoppers grow cautious and price sensitive | Youtube bans anti-vaccine content

Getty Images covid 19 vaccine

Consumers are growing increasingly cautious and price sensitive

A new consumer survey finds that 60% of shoppers are seeking more coupons, discounts and deals to offset higher prices across shopping categories including groceries. Nearly half of respondents (45%) said they’ve recently switched brands to save money, while more than half (53%) are shopping at multiple stores to find the best price. The report indicates that today’s consumers are also using more channels than ever to find value, and demand coupons via omnichannel means (so, direct mail and online). The Food Institute has the data.

YouTube is banning prominent anti-vaccine activists and blocking all anti-vaccine content

YouTube is taking down several video channels associated with high-profile anti-vaccine activists including Joseph Mercola. Experts say he and several others are partially responsible for  slowing vaccination rates across the U.S., which is why YouTube will now ban any videos that claim that commonly used vaccines approved by health authorities are ineffective or dangerous. The company previously blocked videos that made those claims about coronavirus vaccines, but not ones for other vaccines such as measles or chickenpox. Read more at The Washington Post.  

The everyday foods that could become luxuries

While historically certain foods such as coffee, chocolate and spices were luxury items, today these foods are supermarket staples in many developed countries. However, the effects of climate change could make them luxury items once again over the course of the next few decades. According to BBC, meat is on the fast track to being consumed in small amounts as well, but more because it will be deemed socially unacceptable and viewed in a similar light to smoking.

The worst horrors of factory farming could soon be phased out in Europe

The European Commission announced in June a ban on cages for a number of animals—including egg-laying hens, female breeding pigs, calves raised for veal, rabbits, ducks and geese—by 2027. The plan would cover hundreds of millions of farmed animals raised in 27 countries. It puts Europe on track to implement the world’s most progressive animal welfare reforms within the decade. If ultimately enacted, it could turn out to be a pivot point in the decades-long fight to ease animal suffering. Vox delves into the details.

New York Times gives scathing review of newly vegan restaurant Eleven Madison Park

After assessing the merits of a beet dish, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells wrote that "the one at Eleven Madison Park tastes like Lemon Pledge and smells like a burning joint." Eleven Madison Park currently holds three Michelin stars, four stars from the New York Times, seven James Beard awards and a 2017 honor as the best restaurant in the world; chef and owner Daniel Humm explained earlier this year that the restaurant's down time last year got him thinking about sustainability, and drew him to ultimately make the shift to plant-based food. But as NBC writes, the buzzy transition has been anything but lauded.

Whole Foods Market co-founder and CEO John Mackey announces retirement

Getty Images john mackey of whole foods at sxsw

It was recently unveiled that longtime Whole Foods Market CEO and co-founder John Mackey is planning to retire in 2022. Mackey initially sent out a letter to Whole Foods Market employees explaining his decision, as well as his plan to hand off the company to current Chief Operating Officer Jason Buechel.

Read the letter in full below:

Dear fellow team members,

I’d like to share some news with you before it’s announced publicly. September marked Whole Foods Market’s 43rd anniversary (including two years at Safer Way—the precursor to Whole Foods) and I’ve decided that it’s time to begin to transition my role as CEO to the next generation of leadership. I have thought long and hard about this, and while it is still surreal to write, I have decided to retire on Sept. 1, 2022. That is just about 11 months from today.

Honestly, it’s very hard to retire from a company that I have helped to create, nourish and grow for 44 years when I leave. As a co-founder of Whole Foods, I’ve often explained my relationship to the company with a parent-child metaphor. As a parent, I have always loved Whole Foods with all my heart. I have done my best to instill strong values, a clear sense of higher purpose beyond profits and a loving culture that allows the company and all our interdependent stakeholders to flourish.  All parents reach a time when they must let go and trust that the values imparted will live on within their children. That time has nearly come for me and for Whole Foods.

Next September, I’ll be ready to pursue some of my other life passions and I am excited to announce that our Chief Operating Officer Jason Buechel will become chief executive officer upon my retirement. Jason is a true servant leader and champion of Whole Foods’ culture and values, and he will lead the company into the future. Jason was my personal choice to replace me as the CEO and I’m pleased Amazon leadership agreed that he is the right person for the role.

Jason joined Whole Foods in 2013 as global vice president and chief information officer and was promoted in 2015 to executive vice president before being named chief operating officer in 2019. In addition to being responsible for the operations of all WFM stores and facilities, he also currently oversees technology, supply chain and distribution, and Team Member Services (TMS). 

Jason is one of my most trusted partners and I’m incredibly confident that the company will continue to evolve and thrive under his leadership. Jason has a number of very special qualities that will help him succeed as our next CEO. Not only is he extraordinarily intelligent with unusually high integrity, he is also a servant leader who lives and embodies Whole Foods Core Values and Leadership Principles and is fundamentally just a good and loving person.

I’ll continue to work closely with Jason and the E-Team to gradually transition my responsibilities and I intend to devote much of my final year to the thing I love doing most at Whole Foods: visiting stores and connecting with as many of our amazing team members as I possibly can.

As I reflect on our company’s history and impact on the world, I am inspired, exceptionally proud, and a little overwhelmed. The success of Whole Foods Market has created tremendous value for all our stakeholders, including our customers, Team Members, suppliers, investors, and our communities.  Working together, we have helped tens of millions of people live healthier lives and it is not an exaggeration to say that Whole Foods has impacted very positively the way many people in America and around the world eat. 

We have created a very special culture that led to our being named one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” for 20 consecutive years. I am very proud of the role we’ve played in advancing how food is grown, produced and sourced matters and fulfilling our higher purpose to nourish people and the planet is what makes Whole Foods so much more than just a grocery store. 

I’m also proud of the thousands of small local food companies that Whole Foods helped launch in our stores, hundreds of which have grown to be large and successful companies in their own right.  While there are so many more of our achievements that I’m proud of, I want to especially recognize the amazing work that our three Foundations have done over the past 20 years—Whole Planet, Whole Kids, and Whole Cities have together positively impacted the lives of several millions of people.

Many people can go their entire lives without ever discovering their higher purpose, but I was lucky enough to discover mine back in 1976 when I was living in a vegetarian co-op named Prana House in Austin–two years before we first opened Safer Way.  My food consciousness was first awakened at Prana and I began to discover what I was called to do in this life. How fortunate I have been to live in such a fulfilling way.

Words cannot begin to express how deeply grateful I am for your partnership on this incredible journey and how much I love the company and all of you. I may be retiring from Whole Foods a year from now, but so long as I am still alive, I will remain connected to Whole Foods and will do all that I possibly can to help us all continue to flourish.

I love all of you very much and I wish for you great health and happiness. Thank you for all that you do.

John

Source: Whole Foods Market

Monitor: Natural channel shoppers buy sleep and stress products while conventional shoppers left out

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Natural Products Industry Health Monitor, Sept. 30, 2021
 
As the world emerges, haltingly from COVID-19, new challenges emerge. In this feature, New Hope Network provides an ongoing update on those challenges and the opportunities they hold. Look for the Industry Health Monitor every other Friday to learn the major news that is affecting the natural products market immediately and the less obvious insights that could dictate where the market may struggle or thrive in the months to come.

It’s probably too early to give the 2020s a decade name, but “the Stress Decade” has got to be an early favorite. Between the pillar-rattling experience of the pandemic, a never-ending cycle of economic uncertainty and the ongoing political trench warfare that includes a mob storming the capitol, we’re all craving reprieve.

We’ve seen the effects of that unrelenting news cycle in the natural products industry, chiefly in sales of supplements for stress and anxiety (though we should probably include sales of chocolate in that estimation). But what’s interesting about the obvious idea that stressed-out people are buying more products to cope with stress is who is making those purchases.

Consumers who identify as “natural shoppers” in research by New Hope’s NEXT Data and Insights team are far more likely than conventional consumers to say they are spending money on products for anxiety, stress, depression and trouble sleeping, as well as other challenges like focus and mental clarity that go hand in hand with all of the above.

 

While it’s not surprising that people are gobbling up products for mood and sleep—the Nutrition Business Journal estimated best-ever sales growth for both categories in 2020—what is notable is that difference between natural and conventional shoppers. It doesn’t tell us that those conventional shoppers don’t need the relief these products can provide. If anything, people whose household budgets steer them away from the natural channel could likely be feeling even more stressed. Instead, what it tells us is the natural products industry isn’t reaching those people. Whether it’s a matter of awareness, marketing, channel focus or price point, they are simply being left out of the picture.

When we take a closer look at the natural shoppers, the picture gets more interesting, if not puzzling. Sales of sleep and mood supplements, according to both NBJ and SPINS are up, way up; but in our research, the two categories show up as a contrast. The percentage of respondents who said they were spending more money since 2019 on products for anxiety and stress are up, and the number of people who said they were spending more money on healthy sleep products was lower.

 

While this limited research merely scratches the surface, it is a reminder that the two groups of consumers—natural and conventional—are certainly not monolithic. It could easily be that a relatively small slice of the natural shopper group is accounting for a significant part of the spiking sales across the mood and sleep categories, especially in sleep where NBJ charted 36.6% sales growth for 2020.

All of this makes clear that the obvious phenomenon of more stress, and the resulting loss of sleep, doesn’t automatically and smoothly equate to more sales of stress and sleep products. Education and even innovation—something to balance that sleep/energy equation perhaps?—are needed, but the first priority for marketing is probably not the natural channel shopper. They are already customers. Reaching and teaching the customers who need help but aren’t finding it is likely the better play.

Natural Products Expo

4 insights into the wellness industry's new normal

bottling joy expo east 2021

In a post-pandemic world, the promise of better health is all the more tempting, but which wellness trends are here to stay? Can we actually bottle joy, tranquility or even play? In redefining how Americans think about health, four key insights emerge from rising buzzwords that offer a peek into the future of health and wellness trends.

The TikTok generation is here to stay

Now more than ever, influencers are younger and healthier—and they're demanding cleaner ingredients. As a retailer, panelist Johnathan Lawrence of Fresh Thyme Market stressed the importance of getting ahead of the supply chain and meeting the consumers where they are. For many, the virtual space is where marketing gold exists.

OM Mushroom Superfood learned this when its Master Blend mushroom supplement went viral in front of a younger and more diverse group, gaining over 2 million views on TikTok.

“Many of the brands use the same influencers and talk to the same people. We aren't extending the circle out, we aren't reaching new people this way,” said Sandra Carter, founder of OM Mushroom Superfood. “This viral video was a great example of how to reach a new, younger community of people.”

However customers consume media, the panel agreed that the younger generations are seeking out personalized nutrition and flexibility. Supplements are no longer for the 40 and over crowd.

Wellness supplements reign supreme

Over the past 18 months, COVID-19 has shown that the health and wellness industry is an essential business. Consumers are looking for natural ways to solve for a wide range of health issues and challenges, from acute conditions to everyday wellness.

Shoppers are finally recognizing the importance of sleep and daily immune attention and are searching for natural ways to combat stress and burnout.

“Everyone has become a Zoom warrior. Cognitive health has become a larger focus, specifically surviving Zoom for eight hours and falling asleep at night in such a changing environment,” said Crystal Webber, MS, RD, founder and CEO of Niche Nutrition.

Supply chains will need to remain flexible

The days of toilet paper shortages may be behind us, but panelists foreshadow a need to adjust quickly in this constantly changing environment of shutdowns, reopenings and health concerns.

“During the height of the pandemic, Fresh Thyme stores turned into the supply chain. It was exciting to try and source commodity items; we called them ‘COVID buys’,” said Lawrence. “We saw a big influx of new customers looking for alternative ways to take care of their health. We are still maintaining a lot of that growth today.”

While some essential items have dropped in popularity, COVID-19 shifted not only what people could buy, but what they could afford to buy. So while budgets have dropped, innovation and savvy marketing must increase.

The natural products industry is the innovation industry

When we peer into the crystal ball, innovative product formats will remain a growing market—further blurring the lines between supplements and foods. Shoppers are looking for inherent benefits rather than a specific ingredient. In 2019 nonpill formats overtook pills within supplements for the first time. Akin to pandemic fatigue, consumers are suffering from pill fatigue, which is why nutrition is finally being brought back to its source in a variety of food forms.

“We are moving food science and technology from focusing on extending shelf life to making the products more nutritious. This is the most exciting path we are on,” said Webber. “We are taking nutrients we know and putting them in different dose forms to reach a wider consumer base.”

natural products expo virtual logoWatch the replay

The Natural Products Expo East 2021 session Bottling Joy: Wellness Trends and Innovations in a (Post) COVID World is available for replay in the Natural Products Expo Virtual community platform.

Natural Products Expo

9 trends finds and so much more from the Natural Products Expo East floor

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Ongoing COVID-19 challenges can’t mask natural products industry innovation. The New Hope Network content team and trend spotters from SPINS found plenty of products worthy of note at Natural Products Expo East.

Watch the recap in the Natural Products Expo Virtual platform to get commentary and SPINS data insights. Discover even more brands, too, while there.

Here are some of the callouts from the Expo East Post-Show Wrap: Top Trends and Takeaways from Philly with links to their Natural Products Expo Virtual show booths.

Innovation in healthy beverages

The healthy beverage space is drenched in innovation; functional, clean, low-sugar and botanical-infused trends were on display in a range of beverage delivery formats. From wellness shots to botanical boosts, here are some of our top picks.   

Sub trend: Functional coffee

Ready-to-drink coffees, especially cold brews, were accented with plant-based milk, a favorite appearing to be rich and creamy oat. Plus, botanical boosts, gave these picks more focus (literally!) as the latest offerings touted brain benefits and much more.

expo east trending beverags

 

Trending coffees at Expo East include:          

Laird Superfood Focus Coffee

Odyssey Wellness Focus Coffee

Oaza – Electrolyte-enhanced coffee

Kitu Super Coffee (new plant-based options)

Sub trend: Alcohol-free 

Clean ingredient lists, supercool branding and a message of inclusion. Yes, you can relax and be social without alcohol and these companies prove it. Consumers are making the shift to an alcohol-free or alcohol-reduced lifestyle as they strive to thrive every day. And the marketplace is delivering some crave-worthy options.

alcohol-free trending products at expo east

Trending alcohol-free products at Expo East include:          

Gruvi 

Mingle Mocktails

Ritual Zero Proof

Mood and immunity

With the increasingly blurred lines between foods and beverages and supplements, more and more sippers are targeting specific concerns, including immune support, balanced mood and increased focus. Biohacker language is entering the herbal products space, where functional ingredients are appearing in higher concentrations than ever before. Ingredient integrity and accurate labeling will be particularly important here, as consumers navigate this new world.

Products we spotted at Expo East include:

Leilo

Wyld CBD RTD 

Shaka Tea immune shots 

R.W. Knudsen Shots 

The scaling of regenerative 

Regenerative practices across the food and beverage, supplements and personal care industries. The focus of the future will be successfully telling the regenerative story at retail and clearly measuring and communicating impact.

regenerative products at Expo East

Some leading regenerative products spotted at Expo East include:

Alexandre Family Farm

Simply Tera’s

White Leaf Provisions

Tackling food waste

When it comes to food waste, we’re seeing unique business models that not only eliminate or significantly reduce waste but also create employment opportunities across the supply chain. Partnerships and creativity really shine here. Seriously cool.

Some Expo East brands tackling food waste:

Pazzy Pets. Catch them in the Pitch Slam.

Brewers foods

Grain4grain

Hawthorne Valley Ferments 

Agricycle

Global and regional influence

These picks are packed with flavor. New takes on traditional foods, the mainstreaming of exotic flavors and ingredients, and terroir as a differentiator all show up as trends here. Not only do these products deliver unique flavors and ingredients, they also focus on social impact and accessibility of natural and organic. Bringing these products to U.S. consumers creates major employment and supply chain growth opportunities, and also helps the natural products industry connect with often underserved or underrepresented populations.

global flavors at Expo East

Global influences at Natural Products Expo East include:

Ziba Foods 

Yishi Foods

Fila Manila

Ayo Foods

The Tomato Head Hummus

Plant-based has evolved into plant-forward

More innovation, unique technologies, exotic flavors, creative formats. Plant based isn’t new, but the ways in which these brands celebrate fruits and veggies are. Organic is important here, as is convenience. Products focus on packing more produce into every diet, reducing sugar and sodium and boosting flavor with herbs, spices and unique fruits and veggies from across the globe.

These are some Expo East brands that put plants front and center:

Sweet Nothings

Simply Good Jars

Sow Good

Actual Veggies

Poshi

The next generation of snacks

Snackers rejoice!! Low sugar, truly clean label, VERY few ingredients, taste amazing. The category is simultaneously sophisticated and exciting, catering to kids and adults with stellar sweet and savory offerings.

expo east snack trends

Here are some standout snack brands spotted at Natural Products Expo East:

Solely

Sahale Snacks

Speka

Outstanding Foods

Rind Snacks

That’s.It Nutrition

Bon AppeSweet

Lakanto

natural products expo virtual logoWatch the replay

The Natural Products Expo East 2021 session Expo East Post-Show Wrap: Top Trends and Takeaways from Philly is available for replay in the Natural Products Expo Virtual community platform.

Natural Products Expo

Grüvi shines as Natural Products Expo East 2021 Pitch Slam Rising Star

Grüvi gruvi products nonalcoholic

Niki Sawni grew up in a health-conscious family, but like most twenty-somethings, enjoyed his fair share of alcoholic beverages. The hangovers that came along with them, however, not so much. In 2019 he started Grüvi—a premium nonalcoholic beer and wine brand—to create space for people who enjoyed the taste and social aspects of alcohol but didn’t necessarily want to get intoxicated. 

“At the time, no brands were resonating with the younger demographic,” says Sawni. “A lot of people think if they don't drink, their social life will go down the tubes.” 

Sawni saw an opportunity for innovation in Denver—a city known for its beer culture and healthy lifestyle—so he relocated from Toronto and got to work building his first brand. It’s going well: Grüvi’s flavor-forward brews and sparkling wines were a hit at their exclusively nonalcoholic Tasting Room, and retailers including Total Wine, Whole Foods and Target took notice. In October 2020, Grüvi won the Naturally Boulder Pitch Slam and the Naturally Boulder People’s Choice Award, snagging a booth at Natural Products Expo East 2021 as part of the prize package. We caught up with Sawni to chat about the brand's latest win: Natural Products Expo East 2021 Pitch Slam Rising Star. 

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What’s Grüvi's mission?  

Niki Sawni: Our mission is simple—help others be healthy and stay social, one drink at a time. We strive to make nonalcoholic products cool, fun, and exciting. That’s where the name comes from. In the 60s, “groovy” meant fun, love, peace, and positivity—but the nonalcoholic beer and wine category is typically associated with negatively stigmatized words like addiction. Our goal is to bring the same love that people have for alcohol, craft beer and wine to an underserved and ignored space. Our vision for Grüvi is to be the most fun, social brand of alcohol-free products. 

How do you drive product discovery? 

NS: We do everything in-house. Not everything is successful, though! We’ve developed a large list of customers through the e-commerce website, so we send out polls about what customers want or what is missing from the market. That leads us to what we know we need to work on next. 

For example, red wine was the most requested product from our customer base, so we worked with winemakers, food scientists, and tech partners to develop it. Then we sent it to customers, got feedback, and kept trying until we perfected it. 

Sounds like you have an intimate relationship with your customer base. 

NS: We are fortunate because the customers in this space are very kind and willing to help. When we first released the red wine, it received six out of 10 feedback. If you did that in any other category, you'd lose that customer forever, but our customers are so excited about what we are creating they're willing to support you as long as you're trying to make it better. 

Have trade shows played a role in your success?

NS: Trade shows require a lot of effort and investment with setting up and having your staff there, so you really have to make the most out of it and be well organized to get a good return. Since we’re new at this, we were just taking it all in and learning from it. A lot of the value from trade shows like Expo East is the opportunity to connect and network with people in your industry.  Next time, we will have more clear goals; who are we trying to meet and what are we trying to learn? 

Were there any questions from the judges that sparked ideas you hadn’t considered before? 

NS: From the questions and other conversations that we had at Expo East, the general consensus among marketing executives is that our brand has a lot of potential, but we need to hone our message. 

Right now we say a lot of things: You can be healthier, socially included, and don’t need to compromise on taste. The big takeaway for our team was that we should pick one message that resonates and go with that. We need to figure out: If Grüvi had only one thing to say, what would it be? 

What advice can you offer other brands who pitch at Expo East or other shows in the future? 

NS: Don’t just pitch facts and figures—you need a story that has a mission and purpose. Make sure it’s a succinct story that people can connect with, and it should be more of a conversation than a pitch on the business. 

What have you learned about yourself and your company since Grüvi's journey started?

NS: About a year ago, I came to the realization that it’s okay to ask for help. I always felt it was my and my team's responsibility to solve everything. But going to a trade show like Expo East—where people freely offer their help and connections—was an affirmation that being proactive in asking for help is necessary in order to grow. It’s hard if you don't have connections as a small business. Introductions and advice can save you a ton of struggle. 

You’ve experienced astronomical growth in the past year—400%, to be exact. What’s that been like? 

NS: It was a tough year for the supply chain, whether that was securing bottles or organizing freight. It was stressful, but we are starting to see some large retailers such as Whole Foods, Target, and Total Wine carve out full sections for alcohol-free products. Retailers have a strategy for this category and their viewpoint led to a lot of that growth. Ultimately, though, it’s fueled by consumers. 

Where do you see the company headed in the next five years?

NS: The category is evolving as more people are trying nonalcoholic products and finding a way to fit these products into their lifestyles. If we can be present in people's minds when they are having a good time without alcohol, that’s where we want to be—at concerts, cookouts and anywhere you’re hanging out with friends. 

Natural Products Expo

Why Fila Manila won the Natural Products Expo East 2021 Pitch Slam

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Last year during lockdown, Jake Deleon—a first-generation immigrant from the Phillipines—read an article that said in some areas of the U.S. more than 20% of the healthcare workforce is Filipino

“It got me thinking,” says Deleon. “Filipinos are the largest Asian population in 11 states and the second-largest nationwide, so why is it so hard to find our food?” 

Fila Manila Founder jake deleonDeleon (left), who’d worked for Starbucks and Procter and Gamble for 15 years, decided to make a bold move. He spent his $1,200 stimulus on commercialized packaging and sauce prototypes based on his parents' recipes and started his own brand: Fila Manila Filipino American Kitchen. 

Now, he and his team of five (which includes a former Noma chef and a former Buzzfeed editor) are bringing Filipino food to the masses. After securing a NEXTY award for Best New Condiment for their Adobo Sauce and Marinade, Fila Manila won top honors at this year’s Expo East 2021 Pitch Slam. We caught up with the energetic founder to talk about the win, the rising popularity of Filipino food and why now was the time to bring his brand to life. 

Why do you think Filipino food is gaining notoriety in the U.S. now? 

Jake Deleon: Filipino food is focused on eating with your family inside the house. Most of my immediate family live within five miles of each other and every Sunday we get together and enjoyed the same old, but always delicious, Filipino dishes.

What’s happened in the last few months because of lockdown and COVID-19 is that people no longer had the luxury of going to restaurants, so they were experimenting and discovering new flavors in their own homes. It was the perfect time to bring to market a clean-label Filipino food brand. 

During Pitch Slam you said that Filipino food is having a Renaissance moment. What did you mean by that? 

JD: Right now, there is a new awakening and understanding of what Filipino food is and what it tastes like. For example, one year ago most people didn't know what ube was. Fast forward to a few months ago when Trader Joe’s launched a line of ube products including mochi, pancake and waffle mix, ice cream and cookies. Overnight, ube became a sensation. Trader Joe’s primary business is spotting trends, so that’s a sign something big is on the horizon. 

Who is your customer base? 

JD: When I first started the company, I thought Filipino people would be the main ones buying our products. On Amazon we are the No. 1-selling sofrito, adobo and peanut sauces, so I emailed people who bought our products and asked why they chose Fila Manila. 

A common story emerged. Ninety percent of buyers are non-Filipino—they just love our food! I heard many stories about Filipino friends, roommates, partners and coworkers who made amazing food, but these buyers had no idea how to make those dishes themselves.

Fila Manilafila manila product lineup

What advice can you offer future Pitch Slam finalists?

JD: Try not to make it sound like a pitch—instead, treat it as a glamorized version of your personal journey and story. Looking at pitch decks with growth charts is a dime a dozen, but audiences love to hear a good story. 

Also, consider the “cold open,” where you jump right into the story or give an insight that shocks the audience before even introducing yourself. I think the cold open is more challenging, but it’s an interesting way to grab everyone's attention and reinforce what you are about to tell them. 

How will your Expo East Pitch Slam win change or affect your business?

JD: It reinforces why people should get excited about Fila Manila and Filipino food in general. This recognition gives people confidence about what we are building and brings attention from investors—which is great because we’re raising a seed round right now. 

At what rate is the company growing? 

JD: Since August, we’ve grown 200% week-over-week. We are in Whole Foods, UNFI, Amazon and we’re going national in the spring with a major retail chain. 

Where do you see your company in the next five years? 

JD: Our mission is to ignite Filipino cuisine and community, but our vision is to represent the next generation of Filipino flavors. Sauces are step one, and our ube spread and coconut jams launch early next year. 

We are also expanding to center of the store products: snacks, seasonings, biscuits, frozen foods and my personal favorite, Filipino ice creams and frozen desserts

What else should our readers know? 

JD: We are raising a seed round to start building what’s next. We already have the backing of Kraft Heinz and Sputnik ATX, and we want to move fast. I want to make sure a Filipino-American develops the largest Filipino food brand in the U.S. 

Why is that important to you? 

JD: I’m a first-generation immigrant—born in the Philippines, but I’m also a New Jersey boy. Like most immigrant families, we had a lot of love and laughs, but we were poor. I saw my parents work many jobs and because of them, I went to a good school and got great jobs. Our commitment to staying together through food is what drives me today. The opportunity to recognize Filipino food and culture is both exciting and humbling. 

Natural Products Expo

4 packaging resources for sustainable brands

Getty Images sustainable packaging

For many sustainable food and beverage brands, the challenge is not how to formulate a better-for-the-planet product; it’s how to keep that product’s packaging out of the landfill. During an Expo East panel discussion called Reimagining Packaging: Innovations and Tools for a Sustainable Future, industry experts revealed four resources available to brands interested in greening their packaging—and the industry—right now.

1. Sustainable Packaging Innovation Portal

Brands and other industry members are invited to join OSC2’s One Step Closer to Zero Waste Packaging Campaign, which will run through February 2022 and include consumer calls to action, advocacy amplification and best practices of brand storytelling. In December 2021 the campaign will launch a Sustainable Packaging Innovation Portal to connect brands and other industry members featuring resources including packaging materials, trends data, roadmaps, partners, a discussion board and more.

2. HowGood

HowGood is a portal offering the world’s largest product and ingredient sustainability database, with over 2 million products assessed across over 200 different sustainability attributes. HowGood works with brands and retailers alike to help them understand the impact of their products, from the most regenerative to those lagging behind. The goal? To bring powerful data to every sustainable brand and data-driven decisions to every corner of the sustainable market.

3. American Sustainable Business Council 

The ASBC is a network of about 250,000 businesses around the country, all dedicated to the same sustainable mission and values, providing a voice for the sustainable business community in both government and trade. Any brands interested in getting the messaging of sustainable businesses out there are welcome to join.

4. Loop

An initiative from TerraCycle, Loop is a platform for reusability that works with brands large and small to help them transition from single-use to reusable packaging. Rather than relying on refilling on the part of the consumer, Loop allows consumers to buy the product, use it, then bring the empty packaging back to the store. It is then sent to Loop for cleaning and sanitizing, and, finally, sent back to the brand for repackaging.

natural products expo virtual logoWatch the replay

The Natural Products Expo East 2021 session Reimagining Packaging: Innovations and Tools for a Sustainable Future is available for replay in the Natural Products Expo Virtual community platform.