With more and more consumers on the hunt for better-for-you products,the wellness category has seen extraordinary growth and innovation in recent years. As the wellness industry continues to thrive, Grocery Headquarters has been keeping an eye on the leaders and innovators that are shaping the category.
In our eighth-annual Selling Wellness Trailblazer awards, Grocery Headquarters honors the companies that are leading the wellness industry in five distinguished categories: gluten-free, organic, specialty, functional and supplements.
Innovation is a cornerstone of Better for You Foods, says Amy Lotker, owner and head of sales and marketing. Last year, The Delray Beach, Fla.-based company launched its line of frozen pizzas made with 100 percent USDA Certified Organic ingredients. Its frozen pizza lines include Better4U Ultra Thin Sprouted Grain Pizzas and Better4U Gluten Free Sprouted Ancient Grains Pizzas.
Better For You Foods is also turning heads with its newest line of bread bowls, available in varieties such as cornmeal and jalapeno. The private label bread bowl products can be paired with a wide variety of fillings, and the company’s product development team regularly customizes bread bowl and filling options to suit the individual needs of each private label partner
“Better For You Foods is a family-owned company that believes consumers, retailers and private label partners share the same high standards for foods worthy of placement on anyone’s kitchen table,” Lotker says. “The result is a business focused on procuring wholesome natural ingredients, free from GMOs, to produce innovative foods that really are better for you.”
Enjoy Life Foods has honed the art of crafting great tasting, certified gluten-free and Non-GMO Project Verified products that are free from the eight most common allergens. Enjoy Life has a robust product portfolio of cookies, snack bars, chocolate bars, baking chocolate, baking mixes, seed and fruit mixes and Plentils.
The Chicago-based company’s latest innovations are ProBurst Bites: poppable bites with 6- to 7-grams of plant-based protein. The product is offered in convenient, resealable pouch packaging.
Joel Warady, chief sales and marketing officer, says Enjoy Life is particularly proud of its baking mixes, which are made with ancient grains like teff, plant-based proteins including algae and a patented all-natural probiotic enhancement.
“Our retailer relationships are extremely valuable to us as it allows us to provide safe and tasty foods for the ingredient-conscious consumer and the more than 100 million individuals and families with food intolerances, celiac disease and food allergies,” Warady says.
Explore Cuisine founder and CEO, Joe Spronz, is a food technologist dedicated to creating innovative, non-GMO, gluten-free foods using organic ingredients such as beans.
During a business trip to China, Spronz was walking the streets of Beijing where he discovered a nutrition store. He drew inspiration from tofu noodles and was amazed by its nutritional content and health benefits, and was inspired to create organic bean pastas. After his revolutionary trip and his dedication to explore and create unique and ethnic nutritious products, Spronz began production in the U.S., where the Red Bank, N.J.-based company was born.
“Pasta is a comfort food, we all love it. Yet so many people cannot enjoy pasta for a variety of reasons. Explore Cuisine’s pastas are the perfect solution for anyone seeking an alternative to traditional pasta without sacrificing quality or taste,” Spronz says.
Alvarado Street Bakery’s roots can be traced back to the “Food for People – Not for Profit” movement in the San Francisco Bay area, where it provided whole grain breads to local natural food stores and health food markets.
“We’ve come a long way since then, but one thing remains the same: our dedication to baking the healthiest and most delicious organic breads,” says Michael Girkout, director of marketing.
The company is now a nationally recognized brand that is known for its organic sprouted grain breads, many of which are flour-less. The Petaluma, Calif.-based company sprouts its grains right inside of its facility, and its bakery is zero waste and powered by solar panels.
Eden Foods has a lineup of more than 400 organic, traditional, kosher, pure and purifying foods. The EDEN brand is free from preservatives, chemical additives, food colorings, refined sugar, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and has zero tolerance for irradiated food. The Clinton, Mich.-based company is committed to full transparency and disclosure of ingredients and all handling. Company officials say Organic EDEN food exceeds requirements for the USDA organic seal and uses BPA- and BPS-free can linings for all EDEN beans, refried beans, chilies, and rice and beans. Officials add that EDENSOY is the first soymilk in North America verified to the Non-GMO Project standards.
“We’re still doing exactly what we started out to do, getting the best food possible and sharing it with others,” says Michael J. Potter, chairman and president of Eden Foods.
Good Food Made Simple started out with a focus on better-for-you frozen breakfasts, but the Wellesley, Mass.-based company recently introduced a line of entrée meals that are inspired by classic restaurant favorites.
The frozen meals, which are set to hit shelves in February, come in 12 varieties and are certified “made with organic” with a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients.
“We launched Good Food Made Simple to provide time-starved families a healthy, nutritious and clean way to start the day,” says George Gavris, CEO. “When we started, our goal was to provide convenient options without artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, sweeteners, partially hydrogenated oils, and other things that consumers don’t recognize and don’t have in their homes.”
The cattle that help make Organic Valley’s products eat what nature intended for them to—meaning grasses instead of grains. The 100 percent grass-fed line of grassmilk milk, grassmilk yogurt and grassmilk cheese all come from milk that has an ideal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of 1:1, say company officials. The farms are organic and contain no toxic pesticides/herbicides, GMOs or antibiotics.
“We are not inspired by fads. We do business based on what’s right for people and planet,” says Lewis Goldstein, vice president of brand marketing for the La Farge, Wis.-based company. “For nearly 30 years we have remained steady and faithful to our mission. The way we farm and do business pushes the sustainability envelope at every seam.”
In 1992, Marian Harris founded Partners, A Tasteful Choice Company with the mission of bringing homemade taste and quality to the marketplace. Soon after, her children Greg Maestretti and Cara Figgins joined the company.
“We craft wholesome delicious products made exclusively with honest, non-GMO ingredients. We believe our gourmet snacks taste better and are ultimately better for you without the artificial flavors, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils,” says Figgins, owner/executive vice president of the Kent, Wash.-based company. “We could make things cheaper, faster, or more easily, but instead we make our products the old fashion way.”
The company recently introduced a new item to its Blue Star Farms line of organic whole grain snack crackers: Sprouted Lentil & Ancient Grains. The crackers are crafted with whole grains and alternative ingredients including sprouted millet, sprouted sorghum and chia seeds.
Prosperity Organic Foods’ founder, Cygnia Rapp, was inspired to create MELT Organic when she was placed on a restrictive diet that limited her intake of fats and oils. Tired of butter substitutes, she created an option that is rich in medium chain fatty acids and has high omega-3 levels.
“Just as we did with virgin coconut oil in our flagship product, Rich & Creamy MELT Organic, and with our square packaging, we are once again setting a high bar for the rest of the industry to clear,” says Meg Carlson, president and CEO of the Boise, Idaho-based company.
MELT Organic teamed with Ganeden, the makers of patented probiotic GanedenBC 30, to launch Probiotic MELT Organic Buttery Spread. Probiotic MELT is a butter replacement that is made from sustainably sourced “good fats” like virgin coconut, hi-oleic sunflower and flaxseed oils, and is blended with the highly stable probiotic GanedenBC 30. The butter is vegan friendly, soy-free, Non-GMO Project Verified and certified organic.
In 1991, partners Jonathan King and Jim Stott combined their interest of horticulture and cooking to create their own unique recipe ideas. They established themselves at local farmer’s markets and fairs with their line of high quality food items sold in jars featuring Jonathan’s handwriting on each label.
Since then, Stonewall Kitchen has received 28 prestigious awards from the Specialty Food Association. Twice a year the company launches 30 to 50 products to keep consumers on their toes.
“We love inspiring our customers to try something new on their own and to include our products in their daily meal planning,” says John Stiker, CEO of the York, Maine-based company.
One of Stonewall’s latest innovations is a line of four organic jams including: Blueberry Cherry, Strawberry Vanilla, Sweet Chili and Maple Apple Onion. Stiker says response to these products has been so great that it has since expanded its organic offerings to include salad dressings, grille sauces and baking mixes.
Greg Steltenpohl, CEO of Los Angeles-based Califia Farms, is on a mission to create the “enduring plant-powered food and beverage company of the future.” He started Califia Farms in 2010 as a farmer’s co-operative with the goal of creating premium, natural beverages that make it easy for consumers to live dairy-free, without compromise.
“As consumers, especially Millennials, increasingly opt for dairy alternatives, Califia has amplified the plant-powered beverage revolution by developing delicious, premium, yet accessible non-dairy options that are incredibly popular with today’s wellness-focused consumers and lead several growing categories,” Steltenpohl says.
Califia Farms’ products are low in sugar and free from undesirable ingredients—like GMOs, carrageenan, gluten and dairy—while being full of flavor and functional ingredients.
The company also launched its Califia Nitro Cold Brew, a creamy, dairy-free, cold brew latte that uses an exclusive process for creating and maintaining thousands of nitro bubbles, and Black Label Cold Brew, for the “coffee purist.”
Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co. began in 2010 as a storefront in New York. Today its mission is to create a clean, satiating, frozen snack without additives, allergens or other artificial ingredients. Chloe’s products are made from three ingredients: fruit, water and a touch of organic cane sugar.
“With an array of fruit-based frozen applications of our original three ingredient recipe, we are proud that Chloe’s Pops are the only product in its category with zero stabilizers or artificial ingredients. Its intense fruit flavor and rich mouth feel are what you experience at first bite,” says Chloe Epstein, co-founder.
Chloe’s portfolio includes slushies, smoothies and pops, enabling consumers to enjoy a treat while still benefiting from the dense nutrients of the fruit itself. The New York-based company’s pops are getting a makeover with new packaging set to debut early in 2017. Chloe’s will also be introducing its newest flavor, pomegranate, in the spring.
Litehouse’s history is rooted in family, community and an unwavering focus on crafting delicious food. Born from a family business, the Sandpoint, Idaho-based company has grown from 60 employees in the 1980s to more than 850 employees today.
“At Litehouse, we have a code of strong principles that guide everything we do,” says Stacey Miller, director of brand management. “Grounded in leadership, service, and perseverance, these principles have been an important part of our business from day one, and they remain integral to who we are today. We pour our heart and soul into everything we do and deliver on the promise of high-quality, great-tasting products.”
Litehouse recently added new flavors and formats to its lineup, including Simply Artisan Reserve Simple Seasons, a refrigerated shakable soft cheese, available in Feta and Blue Cheese and Avocado Ranch with Bacon dressing.
Natracare is known for its ethical approach to problems, says Susie Hewson, founder, owner/developer and international sales and marketing director of the Greeley, Colo.-based company. The company is working toward launching a COSMOS-certified natural, independently-validated, flushable wipe to help find a solution for the growing problem of clogged toilets caused by less pipe-friendly wipes.
The wipes will complement the rest of Natracare’s line, including its Dry & Light stress incontinence pads. “This is a category that needs to be addressed—as a taboo subject for people suffering from stress incontinence as a result of bladder infections and/or birthing, and to meet the demands of an aging population,” Hewson says. “Recently, manufacturers in the conventional fempro sector are getting into incontinence with product launches.”
Hewson says Natracare has continued its organic and natural development in this category and expects increased demand.
Wally’s Natural concentrates on delivering new and exciting products that drive incremental sales to retailers’ ear and skin care aisles. Wally’s top products in the ear category include Ear Candles, Organic Ear Oil and a line of Organic Aromatherapy essential oils.
The company’s Organic Body Oil, its newest product, is intended to improve the look of scars, stretch marks and dry skin and is certified USDA organic. The product comes with an oversized easy to apply roller-ball and is made without GMOs, mineral oil or synthetic fragrances.
“It is important for us at Wally’s that we produce products that are natural and that our customers can trust that they are natural,” says Daniel Fox, marketing director for the Auburn, Calif.-based company. “From our perspective, the desire for consumers to purchase natural goods is increasing at an astronomical rate, however, due to the lack of a definition of the natural label, consumers are looking for guarantees that products are actually made naturally without offending ingredients. The organic label offers exactly that, a natural label with a definition and third-party oversight to help consumers feel as if they are truly buying a natural product. For us, this clarity and transparency is essential.”
Lanes Brands is a Bedford, N.H.-based subsidiary of U.K.-based LanesHealth, which was founded more than 80 years ago. Today, the company’s portfolio includes Kalms, a natural herbal supplement intended to support healthy, restful sleep and GOPO, a plant-based joint support supplement. The company’s Earex line provides consumers with a range of treatments for common ear problems including ear pain, inflammation and even temporary hearing loss caused by infection and earwax build up. Its Pro Plus product provides a caffeine kick to relieve the symptoms of fatigue and tiredness—and there are new products on the horizon.
“We are very excited about our two new product launches for the U.S. market. GOPO Rosehip with Galactolipids is a new natural joint support supplement,” says Jonathan Groves, president of LanesHealth. “Based on a specially processed cultivar of Danish rosehip, GOPO has been studied in Europe for more than 20 years. Results of these studies have been consistently positive and GOPO has been shown to reduce joint stiffness.” He adds that GOPO follows a consumer trend toward more natural, plant-based alternatives to support health.
The company is also planning a robust campaign to support GOPO and is currently evaluating plans to get Smith Bros. cough drops back into the market as quickly as possible.
Nelsons is a family-owned business and the U.K.’s largest manufacturer of such natural healthcare products as RESCUE Remedy and Bach Original Flower Remedies. With U.S. headquarters in North Andover, Mass., Nelsons’ best sellers in the U.S. include the RESCUE Remedy dropper, spray and Black Currant RESCUE Pastille.
“Despite our status as a category leader in natural, we recognized the need to broaden our offerings and attract new users into the brand,” says Kim Knoblauch, RESCUE brand Manager. “Our approach is two-fold: to build brand awareness and encourage trial with natural shoppers who may not be familiar with the brand; and to leverage our best sellers and offer new products to help build stress relief as a standalone category in traditional grocery, mass and drug.”
RESCUE launched its first dietary supplement, RESCUE PLUS Lozenge in September 2015. The natural orange and elderflower flavored lozenge with vitamins B5 and B12 has exceeded sales projections in the U.S., say company officials. RESCUE PLUS recently expanded its line with the launch of a mixed berry effervescent with magnesium, zinc, B5 and B12, and a strawberry sleep gummy.
The foundation of Piping Rock Health Products and its brands is the belief that high quality, healthy products should be available and affordable for everyone.
“We are passionate about delivering quality products at an unbeatable value by doing in-house what other companies outsource,” says Scott Rudolph, founder and CEO of the Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based company. “We can guarantee potency, quality and safety in everything we do, as well as meeting and exceeding speed-to-market expectations on new and trending products. The aromatherapy category is rapidly growing and bringing new users into the vitamin aisle.”
The company’s brands include: Nature’s Truth, Sundance Vitamins and Princeton Health Research.
“Today’s consumer is more proactive in taking care of themselves with supplements, exercise, mindful eating and alternative solutions,” he says. “Additionally, the aromatherapy demographic is getting younger and these consumers are taking supplements to look and feel better on the inside and outside.”
To meet the needs of today’s consumer, Nature’s Truth is introducing Wellness 360, a 360-degree approach to overall health and wellness, with expanding product lines including beauty serums and creams, aromatherapy, vitamins, supplements and herbs.
Wellnx Life Sciences takes a “simple truths” approach to its products. Its Pure Goodness, line of nutritional products is Non-GMO Project Verified, has a clean label, and is free from anything artificial or chemical. The line’s Super Meal, meal replacement is made with just nine ingredients and its protein clusters are made with nuts and seeds nutrients and provide a high level of nutrients naturally. Since they are vegan, the products are more sustainable than those using animal-based agriculture. Additionally, for every product sold, the Mississauga, Ont., Canada-based company provides a meal to an undernourished child in the world.
“Consumers are looking for products that are healthy,” says Dana Johnson, president of Wellnx. “If you look at it from a weight loss perspective you’re seeing declines in the weight loss category because people are saying ‘hey if you give me something that is good for me and is naturally nutrient-rich my weight will take care of itself.’ It is when you put all of these additives into things that it causes problems. Consumers are moving toward products that provide healthy nutrition without a lot of artificial additives to boost the nutritional content.”
New product launches on the horizon include three high-protein nut butters enriched with additional plant-based protein, giving it double the protein found in conventional peanut butter, and a peanut butter protein powder that can be mixed with water to create a product that tastes like peanut butter but has 90 percent less fat.
Since 2000, Xlear has been recognized as a leading manufacturer of xylitol-based products in North America. Xylitol has been used for decades and has been clinically confirmed to help improve oral health. The company is committed to providing the health benefits of xylitol to consumers, with natural, health-enhancing products based on the safety, effectiveness and science of xylitol. When included in a solution, xylitol effectively draws moisture to tissue surfaces, helping to keep the nasal tissues moist and the airway open, say officials for the American Fork, Utah-based company. It has also been shown in numerous studies to prevent bacteria from adhering to tissue. A xylitol solution is effective in alleviating congestion due to allergies, cold and flu, officials add.
“Through the Xlear brand, innovative, drug-free sinus care products with xylitol are offered for a healthy airway and effective relief of congestion,” says David Munk, spokesperson for Xlear.
Xlear has also developed an oral care product line, branded as Spry, which has a wide variety of products, making the oral benefits of xylitol more accessible to consumers.