It is safe to say that wellness and all of its associated attributes have crossed the bridge from niche to mainstream. As consumers continue to consider what they put into their bodies with more scrutiny, wellness products that have a long history with natural foods and health stores are becoming mainstays in the grocery channel. This shift has served as inspiration for wellness companies that are pumping the category full of innovative products that consumers can feel good about using.
For the seventh-annual Selling Wellness Trailblazer awards, Grocery Headquarters honors companies that are making a difference on supermarket shelves in six distinguished categories, which include gluten-free, organic, superfoods, specialty, functional and supplements.
American Halal Co.
Since its inception in 2010,American Halal Co.’s Saffron Road brand has aimed to provide super premium frozen entrées made with the most wholesome ingredients available. “We saw the imminent emergence of the Millennial generation, and knew that they wanted an authentic, clean label product that wasn’t the Salisbury steak of their childhood,” says Jack Acree, executive vice president of the Stamford, Conn.-based company.
The result is a line of Halal Certified Entrées that appeal to the growing ethnic diversity of America’s population and consumers with more adventurous palates. Saffron Road’s frozen entrée was the first to offer animal protein that was humanely raised without antibiotics, Acree adds. “It is this transparency and third-party verification that has lead to such a high level of trust and loyalty in the Saffron Road brand that has allowed us to regularly double in size every year.”
The company has expanded beyond the freezer case into Crunchy Chickpea Snacks, pouched Simmer Sauces and Broths, and the recent acquisition of Mediterranean Snack Foods. “It is clear that protein is what today’s consumer is looking for, and now we can give it to them in our entrées, which are typically animal-based, or snacks that are made from plant-based protein,” Acree says.
Back to Nature Foods Co.
The Back to Nature Foods Co.has been creating better-for-you food options since 1960. The company traces its roots to Pasadena, Calif., where it began offering granola. Since then, it has re-located to Naples, Fla., and has grown to offer a wide variety of products across multiple categories, including cookies, crackers, nuts and trail mixes, granola, juice, soup and cereals. The company offers items that are non-GMO, organic, gluten-free and kosher.
“Our mission is to provide everyday foods that are simply delicious, simply good,” says Tracy Russell, director of marketing. “We pay close attention to food trends and look for new ways to satisfy our customers using unique ingredients to create delicious products.”
Back to Nature’s most recent innovations include gluten-free bean crackers, quinoa cookies and brownie cookies. “Our new Fiesta Lime Bean Cracker and Sea Salt Adzuki Bean Cracker are perfect for enjoying with cheese, hummus or just snacking alone,” Russell adds. “With quinoa being a popular trend this year, we’ve introduced two quinoa cookies in Cranberry Pecan and Almond Chocolate Chip.”
Back to Nature’s gluten-free brownie cookies are available in two flavors: Salted Caramel Pecan Blondie Cookie and Double Chocolate Cherry Brownie Cookie.
Better For You Foods
Better For You Foods sprouted from a desireto offer high-quality, easy-to-prepare frozen foods that contain healthy and natural non-GMO ingredients. As the Delray Beach, Fla.-based company began developing its products in 2010, friends and family members requested allergy- and food intolerance-friendly items; for example, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan. “So we developed products that our loved ones could consume safely and joyfully,” says Amy Lotker, owner and president of sales.
Better For You Foods products have become known for flavors attributed to healthy ingredients, Lotker adds. The company recently introduced Better4U USDA Certified Organic Ancient Grains Pizzas and Better4U Edible Soup and Chili Bowls. The pizzas are available in gluten-free or whole varieties topped with organic cheeses with hormone-free dairy, organic zesty tomato sauce and organic toppings which include vegetables and protein. The soup and chili bowls are made with healthy whole grains and a variety of nutritious fillings, including all natural hormone-free chicken chili, hearty soups, eggs and dips.
“These Better4U offerings are what we proudly put on the table for our family, and we’d provide nothing less for yours,” Lotker adds.
Enjoy Life Foods
Enjoy Life Foods remains committed to thegrowing free from category. Its products are not only Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, kosher and Halal Certified, but also free from the eight most common food allergens. “We anticipate that the healthy food category will significantly grow as consumers’ product knowledge and desire for clean label foods continue to increase,” says Joel Warady, chief sales marketing officer for the Chicago-based company. “Consumers are creating a shift in the overall category and retail setting, and we feel that we’re in the early stage of a mass transformation as to how products are produced and sold.”
The company recently introduced Baking Mixes, which are among the first products in the baking category to offer functional ingredients including ancient teff grains, algal protein and shelf-stable probiotics that can withstand the baking process, Warady says. “In creating the Baking Mixes, we wanted to respond to the growing consumer demand for better-for-you ingredients, all while maintaining the same delicious taste that allows our consumers to enjoy life to the fullest,” he adds.
Vegetables are a priority for Garden Lites. In fact, they are so important that every Garden Lites product from muffins to macaroni and cheese uses vegetables as the first and primary ingredient. “Zucchini and carrots are the first two ingredients in our best-selling chocolate muffins, and vegetables make up about a third of the product,” says Andy Reichgut, executive vice president for the Jamaica, N.Y.-based company.
The company’s most recent innovation is Veggie Bites, a healthy line of frozen snacks that includes Broccoli Bites and Kale Bites. The veggie-rich bite size snacks are gluten-free and have 120 calories per serving. Garden Bites Mac & Cheese features butternut squash, cauliflower and broccoli as its first ingredients. “It still delivers an authentic mac and cheese indulgent experience,” Reichgut adds. “This is because we blend the vegetables right into the cheese sauce, ensuring the meal is healthy and delicious.”
Eden Foods has a long-standing focus on a local-first dedicated and sustainable supply network, say officials for the 47-year-old natural food manufacturer, based in Clinton, Mich. The company boasts more than 400 organic, traditional, kosher and pure foods. Since 1993, it has produced its products without preservatives, chemical additives, food additives, food colorings, refined sugar or GMOs.
“Each year we visit the families that grow Eden food,” says Wendy Esko, director of marketing and research. “Sitting in their kitchens, inspecting buildings, exchanging updates, sharing ideas and walking their fields is the only way we know to maintain mutual trust and understanding. We continue to build relations with organic growers and traditional food makers, nurturing more than 400 family farms with more than 100,000 acres of vibrant organic farmland.”
Additionally, according to Esko, Edensoy is the first soymilk in North America verified to the Non-GMO Project standards and is the highest ranked organic soy food in North America by Cornucopia Institute. The company also remains committed to reducing waste and recycling.
Good Food Made Simple
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,which is why the founders of Good Food Made Simple wanted to ensure it is also healthy and nutritious. “Good Food Made Simple started in 2011 when we looked down the frozen foods aisle and found nothing we’d feel comfortable serving our kids for breakfast among the preservative laden, empty calorie waffles, pancakes and other frozen breakfast foods,” says George Gavris, founding partner and CEO of the Wellesley, Mass.-based company.
The company started with oatmeal and has expanded its product portfolio with frozen breakfast burritos and bowls, and even macaroni and cheese. Good Food Made Simple’s new Pancake Puffs are a new take on an old favorite with a round shape that is easy to enjoy on the go, says Gavris. The company’s products are minimally processed, all-natural and organic, and do not include artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, sweeteners or hydrogenated oils.
“In the future, Good Food Made Simple will introduce waffles and pancakes made from scratch with ingredients like real buttermilk, eggs and butter,” says Gavris. “We’ll also be adding vegetarian options to our café wrap breakfast line. Our consumers love the protein they get from our products and have requested some items without animal protein.”
More than 50 years ago, Edward Hawkins Sr., founder of Litehouse Foods, was a chef known for his homemade, blue cheese dressing. In 1958, he opened his own restaurant in Hope, Idaho, and his customers asked to take some of his dressing home with them. It was so popular, that he began to sell it to grocers. Since then, the Sandpoint, Idaho-based company has grown into a leader in the refrigerated salad dressing category, says Jim Frank, president and CEO.
“All of our products are made from the best quality ingredients with no preservatives, no MSG and nothing artificial,” Frank says. “Our research and development teams work together to gain consumer insights into what the consumer wants, as well as the future trends, and then develop products accordingly.”
Those consumer insights led the company to launch OPA by Litehouse Greek Yogurt Dressing and Organic Dressings that are non-GMO and USDA Certified Organic.
Lundberg Family Farms
Lundberg Family Farms does not grow typical conventional rice. All of the Richvale, Calif.-based company’s Certified Organic and eco-farmed rice is grown with a concern for the environment, says Todd Kluger, vice president of sales and marketing. “We treat the soil, air and water as important resources, respecting the delicate balances of nature,” he says. Lundberg Family Farms is also a participant of the Non-GMO Project to offer consumers a consistent non-GMO verified labeling choice.
In 2015, the company introduced a new Biodynamic Organic Short Grain Brown Rice. Biodynamic refers to an entire farming system that emphasizes the relationship of soil, plants and animals in one unified system, Kluger says. Biodynamic farmers avoid all synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers and transgenic contamination.
Lundberg also recently became the first brand to offer American-grown quinoa, notes Kluger. Its Organic American-Grown Tri-Color Blend Quinoa is grown in Humboldt County, Calif., using a dry-land farming method, meaning no supplemental irrigation is used. “Both of these new products are examples of Lundberg Family Farms’ commitment to innovation and sustainable agriculture,” Kluger says.
As part of a campaign to raise awareness around the health and environmental impacts of conventional feminine hygiene products, Susie Hewson founded Natracare in 1989. “We are most known for blowing a small hole in the feminine hygiene industry and filling that hole with a company committed to protecting the environment, and thereby protecting the health of all that inhabits it,” says Hewson, who currently serves as director for the Greenley, Colo.-based company.
The company offers a range of green and ethical-quality organic and natural feminine hygiene products to suit consumer needs at an affordable price, making Natracare a consistent and reliable brand partner for retailers, Hewson adds. “We also help retailers to present and promote Natracare in-store by way of offering appropriate discounts, broker support and effective POS materials backed up by our prodigious social media activity and brand ambassador presentations in the media,” she says.
In 1988, a group of seven farmers in Southwest Wisconsin responded to the farm crisis by creating a cooperative to pool and market organic products. The group believed that organic farming was a sustainable and profitable alternative that consumers would support, and their support would in turn help rebuild rural communities by paying farmers a fair price, says Hans Eisenbeis, communication manager for Organic Valley/CROPP, based in La Farge, Wis.
By 2015, the Organic Valley cooperative had more than 1,800 farmer-owners in 36 states operating small family farms and offering premium organic products. The products run the gamut from the first organic cheese made in the U.S. in 1988, to the first all-organic, fair-trade milk protein shake in 2014, says Eisenbeis.
“While we face significant global challenges, such as climate change and population growth, we believe that organic agriculture is a viable and critically important part of the human food chain, and that it provides the world’s best, most wholesome foods,” Eisenbeis says. “We think great food can feed the world, support family farms and make the whole planet a more healthy—and delicious—place for generations to come.”
Stonewall Kitchen is celebrating a milestone in 2016—its 25th anniversary. The York, Maine-based company has come a long way from making oils, jams and chutneys on a four-burner stove. Its founders, Jonathan King and Jim Stott, experienced early success selling these products at farmers’ markets and festivals, and continued developing distinctive products like vinegars, pestos and jams. As demand increased, so did the need for more production room and equipment. Thus, a renovated eighteenth-century era barn in Kittery, Maine was purchased, outfitted and set up as Stonewall Kitchen’s first production facility, retail outlet and company headquarters.
Today the company operates in a 46,000-
square-foot headquarters, which includes its corporate offices, a state-of-the-art cooking school, its flagship store and a café and manufacturing facility. The company launches 30 to 50 new products every year. Most recently, Stonewall became certified by The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and will launching four new organic jams.
“We’re extremely proud and thrilled to be celebrating our 25th anniversary,” says Janine Somers, director of marketing.
Bakery On Main
From its beginnings as a company producing gluten-free products in the small bakery of a natural foods market in Glastonbury, Conn., to its future manufacturing center currently under construction in East Hartford, Conn., Bakery On Main has maintained its mission to bake products that celiac customers can trust and enjoy. “Everything made by Bakery On Main is certified gluten-free, Non-GMO Project Verified, made with audaciously premium ingredients and bursting with bakeshop deliciousness,” says Michael Smulders, founder and president.
Bakery On Main’s 40 products span four categories including snack bars, granola, hot cereal and snacks. The company recently introduced Happy Oats, a line of Certified Gluten-Free Oats; Nut Crunch, a snack line that combines a mix of nuts, Certified Gluten-Free oats and bits of dried fruit or chocolate; and an Instant Oatmeal Variety Pack.
In 2016, Bakery On Main will launch its Bunches of Crunches snacks and 4-4-8 Granola Bars. Bunches of Crunches will combine the superfoods amaranth, millet and chia seeds with gluten-free oats. In addition, the 4-4-8 Granola Bars cater to consumers’ desire for higher protein, higher fiber and lower sugar by packing four-grams of protein, four-grams of fiber and only eight-grams of sugar into each bar, Smulders adds.
Nature’s Path understands that consumersare not only looking for healthy foods, but also products that supply them with lasting energy. That understanding led the Richmond, B.C., Canada-based company to launch its Qi’a, Qi’a Oatmeal and Qi’a Superfood Snack Bars.
“Qi’a arose from our desire to provide the healthiest organic foods made from the highest quality superfood ingredients,” says Darren Mahaffy, vice president of marketing. “The incredible success of Qi’a inspired us to develop a snack bar that would stand apart in the crowded category with a product that delivers on taste and nutrition.”
The company’s Superfood Snack Bars are convenient snacks packed with chia, hemp and coconut. According to Mahaffy, the bars tap into what consumers seek from snack bars as they are certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, gluten-free, vegan and lower in sugar.
Partners, A Tasteful Choice Company
For nearly 24 years, Partners,A Tasteful Choice Company has not wavered on its focus to bring taste and quality to the marketplace. Its snack products are made the “old fashion way,” says Cara Figgins, executive vice president for the Kent, Wash.-based company. For example, Partners roasts its own garlic, purees fresh onions, and juices and zests fresh lemons in house. In turn, the company can offer gourmet better-for-you snacks that are not filled with artificial ingredients, preservatives and hydrogenated oils.
“We search for ingredient solutions that allow us to follow our core values through each new product creation,” says Figgins. “This year, in response to the non-GMO interest from consumers, Partners reformulated the existing Wisecrackers Everything & More Snack Crackers and Flatbread Crisps to remove ingredients containing corn, despite being certified organic corn.”
To ensure its products are non-GMO, Partners’ items undergo polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing to identify any genetically modified DNA. “By removing this questionable ingredient and replacing it with Whole Grain Sprouted Wheat, Wisecrackers Everything & More is still one of Partners’ top sellers with even greater health benefits,” Figgins adds.
PharamaCare continues to innovate across multiple categories,including health and fitness, personal care and food services. The latest innovation from the San Diego-based company is its Real Health SuperFoods line.
“We realized that, although superfoods have been around for a while, and the benefits of use widely touted, it was still hard for the mainstream consumer to see themselves as a superfoods user,” says Kimberly Weld, vice president. “So we created a line of easy-to-use superfood products that are additive to the consumers lifestyle, are incredibly easy to use and understand, and most of all don’t require them to change or give up anything in their current lifestyle.”
For example, Real Health Kale gives the consumer the equivalent of a full serving of fresh kale, but in a single teaspoon of powdered kale, which can be added to most anything to give a nutritional boost without having to buy and eat three big leaves of kale every day, Weld adds.
The company also offers the Sambucol, Promensil, Skin Doctors, Real Health and Kids Smart brands.
Smart Flour Foods
In 2005, a baker in Austin, Texas sought to develop a better gluten-free flour for a friend with celiac disease. The blend led to a line of pizza crusts, which were sold to restaurants. At the time, technology executive Charlie Pace, who loved the crusts and was transitioning to a gluten-free diet, discovered the pizza crust. Pace learned that the crusts were made from ancient grains sorghum, amaranth and teff, which offered an elevated nutritional profile and better taste. In 2011, Pace acquired the company and re-branded it as Smart Flour Foods. The brand launched a retail line of frozen pizzas and crusts, which are now in stores nationwide.
“Smart Flour Foods has continued innovating and released two new varieties in its natural and specialty pizza set, including the chef-inspired Italian varieties: Tuscan Inspired Uncured Two Meat and Chicken Sausage,” says Sameer Shah, vice president of marketing. “We have also developed a line of family-size pizzas.Each of the new product innovations are made with a clean ingredient deck, are Certified Gluten Free and feature Smart Flour Foods’ classic ancient-grain based crust.”
Chole’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.
Six years ago, Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit Co.opened a small storefront in New York serving clean frozen treats reminiscent of frozen yogurt and soft serve without additives, allergens or other artificial ingredients. The company quickly translated its quest to offer healthy, clean frozen snacks, and now its Soft Serve Fruit Pops are available in more than 2,000 markets nationwide.
Chloe’s Soft Serve Fruit is made with fruit, water and a touch of organic cane sugar. “Chloe’s provides consumers with the natural flavors of ‘nature’s candy’ in a clean, guilt-free and delicious way,” says Chloe Epstein, co-founder and president of the New York-based company. “With transparent and honest ingredients, we’re a brand retailers want on their shelves. Consumers are increasingly demanding healthier options to household favorites without having to sacrifice taste or budget. Chloe’s provides all that and more, all demonstrated on our promotional material and CPG boxes.”
Cool Frootz takes pride in the simple ingredients of its Froozer brand frozen snacks, say company officials. The Boulder, Colo.-based company uses only whole fruits and vegetables to create the products, which are available in three flavors: Srawbanana Bliss, Tropical Sunset and Blue Aloha. Using a patented technology, Cool Frootz blends the produce to create a creamy snack without the use of dairy, artificial additives or sweeteners. The snacks feature only whole fruits and vegetables and less than one percent of guar gum, a natural plant fiber.
“Our company philosophy has always been to be very transparent in our ingredients and what we do,” says Craig Messmer, director of sales. “We’re very proud our ingredient list is very simple without a ton of different additives. Our ingredients are five to six ingredients at most. We’re proud of our clean, understandable label. We’ll continue to develop products that are simple and tasty.”
Rooted in a century of dairy processing history,Steuben Foods, the Jamaica, N.Y.-based maker of the Elmhurst Naturals brand, is a food and beverage manufacturer renowned for its production of low-acid, aseptic cartons and bottles. Its lines of Elmhurst Naturals beverages are packaged in on-the-go low-acid, aseptic bottles.
In 2015, the company launched its Elmhurst Naturals Horchata, which delivers a healthy version of the traditional, authentic Latin beverage. This authentic beverage with Spanish and Hispanic origins dates as far back as the 1300s, says Ann Janofsky, marketing communications specialist at Steuben Foods. “Horchata is currently very popular throughout the nation,” Janofsky adds. “We have seen its influence popping up all over cities through restaurants, beverages, foods, etc. We wanted to create a version of Horchata, which would provide a healthy version of the Latin favorite.”
The beverage boasts low-fat, low-saturated fat, low-cholesterol, less than 480-milligrams of sodium per serving, and it is a good source of calcium. Horchata is available in three flavors: Traditional, Cocoa and Dulce De Leche.
Designed by women for women, Diva International’s DivaCup offers ladies more convenience and flexibility during their monthly menstrual cycles. The product was conceived by mother-daughter duo Francine and Carinne Chambers, who had a vision for a healthy, more sustainable feminine hygiene product. The DivaCup provides up to 12 hours of leak-free protection, is made of 100 percent healthcare grade silicone and is free of chemicals, plastics and dyes. DivaWash, a botanically-based, all-natural cleanser specifically designed to protect the silicone material of The DivaCup, is also available.
“Diva International has always striven to be a pioneer in the category of feminine hygiene,” says Daniela Masaro, brand marketing manager for the Kitchener, Ont., Canada-based company. “The company’s mission is to continue to inspire and encourage women to switch to modern period care that is not only a better option for their health and more convenient choice for today’s lifestyle, but also a better product for our planet.”
In 2015, Diva International partnered with many highly recognized organizations and individuals including CeMCOR, Lunapads, Afripads and Women’s Voices for the Earth.
As the country’s oldest manufacturer of afull range of homeopathic medicines, according to company officials, Hyland’s has committed itself to making safe and natural products so consumers can find solutions to their health needs.
The Los Angeles-based company recently launched its 4 Kids Bumps ‘n Bruises with Arnica product exclusively through Target’s Made to Matter program. The product treats common childhood bruising and swelling with a topical application using arnica. The ointment stick is free of parabens and synthetic fragrances, and comes in eco-friendly packaging.
“Hyland’s believes in making a difference in the environment and is proud to be using recycled, plastic-free components for the packaging of this newest item,” says Les Hamilton, executive vice president of sales. “As sustainability and transparency become increasingly important to consumers, Hyland’s is committed to ensuring that we are leading innovation in this area.”
For more than 45 years,NOW Foods has been providing value in products and services that enable people to lead healthier lives, say officials for the Bloomingdale, Ill.-based company.
“Our passionate and enthusiastic food team is devoted to developing the highest quality, best-tasting and healthiest foods on the market—at the best value,” says Bryan Morin, food marketing specialist for the company.
Some of NOW’s latest innovations include: Ellyndale Naturals Liquid Coconut Oil, Ellyndale Organics Coconut Infusions and Living Now Organic Quinoa Pasta. Ellyndale Naturals Liquid Coconut Oil has similar health benefits as regular coconut oil but remains liquid at room or refrigerator temperatures. Ellyndale Organics, available in two flavors, fuses the taste of coconut with bold flavors to create Coconut Infusions. Living Now Organic Quinoa Pasta is a wholesome, versatile and gluten-free pasta, made with only three simple, organic ingredients: quinoa, amaranth and rice.
“We’ve invested heavily in our own in-house laboratories, instruments and technical staff to ensure every NOW food product is pure, safe, natural, free of potential contamination and non-GMO,” Morin adds.
Penn Herb Co.
Penn Herb Co., the U.S. importers for Olbas Herbal Remedies from Switzerland, has continued to expand its distribution into health stores, natural food supermarkets, drug stores and other outlets since its founding in 1924.
“We pride ourselves on delivering courteous customer-service, efficient and timely shipping, and providing a wide selection for our customers, which of course includes our own line of bulk herbs, supplements and vitamins, premium spices, essential oils, liquid extracts and more, all under the Nature’s Wonderland label,” says Karen Page, national sales manager for the Philadelphia-based company. “As a wholesaler, we offer most of our Natures’ Wonderland and the entire line of Olbas Herbal Remedies at wholesale pricing to practitioners and other professionals in the health disciplines, as well as to other stores selling natural products.”
The Olbas side of the business partners with distributors in the natural products sector. The company’s distributors serve many independent stores and national chains featuring natural products, by offering promos at both distributor and store levels, including TPRs, scans and ads. “We are big on education, supplying consumer education brochures, coupons, and we even provide store demos where appropriate,” Page adds.
Piping Rock Health Products
Though Piping Rock is a young company—it was founded four years ago—its first line of branded products, Nature’s Truth, has seen rapid expansion in the marketplace. The Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based company quickly identified aromatherapy as one of the biggest emerging trends in wellness. “Through our market trend foresight, we launched six aromatherapy items in early 2015 and quickly expanded our line to more than 30 Nature’s Truth aromatherapy products in less than a year, thanks to our immediate marketplace success,” says Scott Rudolph, CEO.
Nature’s Truth essential oils are 100 percent plant-based and are available as single or expertly blended oils, formulated to deliver the benefits consumers are looking for, Rudolph adds. Newly added to the line are easy-to-use essential oil roll-on applicators, as well as diffusers. “I see aromatherapy as the next incremental opportunity for retailers in their vitamin and nutritional supplement sections, and offering Nature’s Truth aromatherapy products helps retailers supply their consumers with a new approach to wellness,” says Rudolph.