In Episode 97 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on May 18, 2013, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Santiago Cuenca-Romero, CEO of Premiere Organics, maker of Artisana Organic brand foods.

Santiago Cuenca-Romero, CEO of Premiere Organics

Santiago Cuenca-Romero, CEO of Premiere Organics

Founded 10 years ago, Artisana makes organic, raw foods such as ground and spreadable nuts and seeds.  Organic refers to the way the ingredients are grown; raw, though it has no regulatory definition, refers to the way a product is cooked and processed.  In particular, Artisana cooks its products at the lowest possible temperature because heat can alter nutritional qualities as well as colors and taste.  Available in jars and pouches, Artisana’s spreads include almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews and walnuts, sunflower seeds, coconut products and superfoods like berries and powders made from roots and leaves.

Cuenca-Romero grew up in Spain appreciating good food.  He has a biochemistry degree and a master’s in food science.  Although he has no formal business, finance or economics training, his father served as a colonel in the Spanish army in charge of 5,000 officers.  As a result, leadership, he says, is in his genes.

What’s trending in food now, according to Cuenca-Romero, is a focus on allergens, gluten-free and dairy-free products, as well as an interest in superfoods, antioxidant and omega 3’s.

When grocery shopping, do you seek out raw, organic foods?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Cuenca-Romero: Episode 97 of The Wendel Forum  (27:38 mins; mp3)

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Premiere Organics website: http://artisanafoods.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

In Episode 86 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on December 8, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Neil Grimmer, CEO and founder of Plum Organics, a line of healthy, organic foods for babies, toddlers and children.

Neil Grimmer, Founder of Plum Organics

Neil Grimmer, Founder of Plum Organics

Plum Organics was founded six years ago by a small group of parents who sought to raise healthy-well rounded eaters. The company has grown rapidly – it started with six products and now has 130, including cereals, snacks and training meals.

The baby food market is a competitive space, with heavy weights like Gerber, Beach Nut and Earth’s Best, which have been in business for decades.  Plum Organics differentiated itself by focusing on high design and great packaging, and targeting modern parents who share the values of sustainability and health.  Plum pioneered the spouted pouch, and the company’s R&D group is continually looking for new materials for sustainable packaging.  Progressive pediatrician Alan Green is the company’s health advisor and a contributor to its website.

A certified B Corp, Plum Organics sought investors that not only had cash, but also understood  the culture of Plum Organics and were similarly passionate about the mission of improving the health of kids and the planet.

Have you tried Plum Organics products?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Grimmer:  Episode 86 of The Wendel Forum (27:47 mins; mp3)

Plum Organics Website: http://www.plumorganics.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 76 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on September 15, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Ben Lee, director of business development at San Francisco-based CircleUp, a crowd funding platform founded in April.

Ben Lee of CircleUp

Ben Lee of CircleUp

CircleUp provides an online mechanism for consumer products companies and retailers to reach out to a broad network of potential investors, who may fund the companies in exchange for equity. CircleUp, which affiliated with WR Hambrecht, takes a commission.

So far, they’ve received 600 applications; they’ve selected 10 companies and four – including a baby skin care brand and an organic food brand – have been successfully funded.  CircleUp’s team serves as a curator for the investors. In evaluating companies, they look for businesses with $1 million to $10 million in annual revenue.  Usually these companies are seeking to raise $500,000 to $2 million to launch new products and achieve the next stage of growth. The typical investment is $5,000 to $25,000 (while each company’s offer is different, these are generally in the form of preferred stock shares); CircleUp assists with larger transactions offline.

While CircleUp streamlines what can otherwise be a year-long funding process, raising money through the platform can still take several months. Although CircleUp selects companies and presents opportunities, investors must do their own due diligence.  Like any private company investment, crowd funding is risky and the investment horizon may be three to seven years.

Lee says CircleUp’s goals include enhancing the ecosystem around consumer products, helping as many small consumer brands get financing as possible, and making sure CircleUp’s platform is a great experience for investors and companies.

Have you participated in crowd funding?  What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges to this form of financing?  

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Lee: Episode 76 of The Wendel Forum (27:56 mins; mp3)

Circle Up Website: https://circleup.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

In Episode 66 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on June 9, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s Sustainable Business Practice Group, welcomes “Farmer Al” Courchesne of Frog Hollow Farm to discuss the farm’s community supported agriculture program (“CSA”).

Farmer Al in the orchard

Located in Brentwood, an hour east of San Francisco, Frog Hollow Farm produces organic stone summer fruit – cherries, nectarines, plums, peaches and pluots – on 143 acres in California’s Central Valley.  In the fall, Farmer Al grows pears, apples and persimmons.  The Farm is organically certified, using non-chemical, non-invasive materials to control pests.

In addition to selling fruit to wholesale retailers, Frog Hollow Farm has since 2003 offered a CSA box for individuals and families.  Frog Hollow Farm CSA members subscribe to a weekly or bi-weekly program in which Frog Hollow Farm delivers boxes of fresh fruit to an established neighborhood delivery site (typically a subscriber’s front porch or a school).

2012 has marked a heightened awareness and demand for local food, according to Farmer Al.  Consumers usually learn about CSAs largely through word of mouth.  The interest, explains Farmer Al, is that consumers are seeking fresher, better tasting, more nutritious food, and they want to know how their food was grown.

The benefits of subscribing to a CSA are many:  

  • Joining a CSA can expose families to new fruits and new ways of cooking.  
  • As CSA membership grows, farmers can plant fruit varieties they couldn’t otherwise if they were solely shipping to distant retail locations. 
  • Forming a direct relationship between growers and residents increases demand and supply of fresh, seasonal, local food; keeps food dollars local; and supports small farms.

Have you tried a CSA?
 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Farmer Al: Episode 66 of The Wendel Forum(27:52 mins; mp3)

Frog Hollow Farm website: http://www.froghollow.com/

To learn more about CSAs, Farmer Al recommends visiting Local Harvest’s website: http://www.localharvest.org

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

I scream, you scream, we all scream for (organic, fair trade, unique, delicious) ice cream!

In Episode 58 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on April 14, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo welcomes Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream.

Neal discusses the life path that led him from corporate finance to ice cream, with a stint in the Peace Corps along the way.  When he founded Three Twins, he was determined to build a company that honored his values, as well as offering him a reasonable living.

Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream visits The Wendel Forum

Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream visits The Wendel Forum

According to Neal, organic ice cream has been done before, but not well.  The early attempts from some of the bigger names on the ice cream scene typically made organic varieties in boring flavors (vanilla, chocolate or strawberry) and saw it as an opportunity to sell smaller containers while charging more money than for their conventional flavors.   

By contrast, the Three Twins model puts organic at the core of the product, rather than as an afterthought.  In addition to using basic organic ingredients, Three Twins concentrates on building up multiple flavor layers in its ice creams for surprising twists on classics.  An increasing number of Three Twins’ flavors are using certified Fair Trade products as well.

Bill and Neal discuss what it means for a business like Three Twins to obtain USDA Certified Organic and Fair Trade certified designations. They also discuss the company’s corporate giving initiatives, which include membership in 1% for the Planet and their new giving initiative “Ice Cream for Acres.” Through the Ice Cream for Acres program, Three Twins makes a donation to Global Wildlife Conservation, an environmental nonprofit that buys large tracks of land to protect habitat for endangered species.  For each one pint purchase, Three Twins donates enough money to buy at least six square feet of land.  To date, the company has underwritten the purchase of 100 square acres and they expect they’ll be able to facilitate the purchase of thousands of acres in the next few years with their anticipated growth.

Where can you find these delicious sweet treats?  On the East Coast you can find them in Whole Foods (except in New York and New Jersey) and Fresh markets. On the West Coast, they currently have a larger footprint in Whole Foods, neighborhood corner bodegas, and some conventional grocery stores.  But perhaps the most fun you’ll have is if you’re lucky enough to encounter the “pimped out” ice cream truck (which is really a refurbished school bus) known affectionately as “Carl.”

Carl the Three Twins Ice Cream Bus

Carl the Three Twins Ice Cream Bus

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Neal Gottlieb: Episode 58 of The Wendel Forum (27:20 mins; mp3)

Three Twins Ice Cream website : www.threetwinsiceream.com

Global Wildlife Conservation website: http://globalwildlife.org/

1% for the Planet website: http://onepercentfortheplanet.org/en/

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In (originally aired on April 7, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio) show host Bill Acevedo talks to Christopher Angell, co-founder and president of Jungell, makers of Angell organic candy bars and GlucoLift all natural glucose tablets.

Co-founded with his wife, Suzanne, Jungell Inc. makes better versions of products the couple

Christopher Angell, Founder of Jungell

Christopher Angell, Founder of Jungell

feels passionate about.  The two grew up loving candy bars, but realized as adults that they would have to stop eating them after reading the labels.  You’ve probably seen organic or fair trade chocolate bars in your favorite health food stores, but Angell’s line of products are the first true organic and fair trade candy bars on the market.  They make a point to bring their own flavors to products and not just make an organic copy of what’s already on the market. 

Why make candy that’s both organic and fair trade?  Christopher believes if your interest in organic goes beyond your own health benefits to include the health of the environment (for example, the overall environmental and human health impacts of pesticides in farming), you’ll realize that the two go hand in hand.

Christopher and Bill discuss the organic and fair trade certifications and what goes into receiving those designations, including buying component ingredients from certified farms, inspections from certifying agencies and restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in food products, as well as the fertilizers and pesticides used in many farming operations that typically supply the candy industry.

A relatively new company (launched in 2010), Angell generated significant interest in the marketplace and recently announced the sale of the candy bar operations to Betty Lou’s, another organic snack manufacturer that was a contract manufacturer of the bars. 

With the transfer of the candy bar business, Jungell is now focusing on its other major product, GlucoLift, which is an all natural glucose tablet designed to help raise blood sugar in a safe and quick way.  Christopher, who has diabetes, saw a need in the glucose tablet market and put his product creator hat on to come up with a better solution.

As he had discovered in the candy bar industry, most of the glucose products available to those managing diabetes and hypoglycemia were filled with additives, artificial ingredients and questionable GMO components. Christopher thought he could do better. The result of his work was GlucoLift, the first all-natural glucose tablet on the market.  And while he was at it, he made them palatable, in a series of fruit flavors and in packaging that made it easy for someone experiencing the symptoms of low-blood sugar to manipulate. 

What’s next for Jungell?  As the company wraps up the sale and transition of Angell Bars to the new owners, Jungell will continue to focus on GlucoLift.  And Christopher and Suzanne will look for the next need in the marketplace where they can make a difference.
 

Post Links:

Interview with Christopher Angell: Episode 57 of The Wendel Forum(27:53 mins; mp3)

Jungell website: www.jungell.com

Betty Lou’s website press release: http://bettylousinc.com/news_detail.php?id=38

960 KNEW AM radio website: www.960knew.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 54 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on March 17, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons continues his conversations with attendees of Natural Products Expo West 2012 in Anaheim.  The show sees nearly 60,000 attendees and more than 2,000 exhibitors showcasing their products, including a wide range of natural living products, specialty foods, natural ingredients, supplements, and health and beauty aids.  In addition there are numerous seminars and presentation, as well as informal discussions on topics from fair trade and supply chain issues to organic labeling and greenwashing. 

Photo of Arran Stephens, President & Founder of Nature's Path

Arran Stephens, President & Founder of Nature's Path, talks GMOs

In this episode, Dick talks with Arran Stephens, President and Founder of Nature’s Path, an organic cereal manufacturer in North America. The two discuss Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, and their impact on our ecosystem and food supplies. In California, there is currently a signature campaign to put a proposition on the ballot that, if passed, would require product labeling so consumers will know whether their food has been made with genetically modified organisms. 

 

What’s a GMO?

To genetically modify plants, bacterial DNA is spliced into the DNA of the plant.  The bacterial DNA then may make the plant produce its own bacterial pesticide, thereby reducing the need for chemical pesticides (at least in theory), or make it more resistant to herbicide.  The modified plant becomes a transgenic organism because it has had the genes of another organism spliced into its genome.

Whether humans consume GMOs directly by eating transgenic plants or indirectly through animals that have been fed GMO feed, GMOs are common in our supermarkets.  In fact, Arran claims that about 85% of all foods consumed from our supermarkets contain GMO ingredients. There is little known about whether there may be long term consequences.

Since labeling is not currently required in the U.S. or Canada, it’s hard for consumers to know whether their food contains GMOs. Around 50 other countries in the world currently require labeling, from Japan to Germany and Brazil to Saudi Arabia.

 

How can you avoid GMOs?

U.S. consumers can avoid eating transgenic food by choosing to eat certified organic food. If a food wears the USDA Organic Seal, the product can be traced back to the source. However, even that doesn’t account for “drift” in our agricultural system.  A field of corn or soy that is grown organically may still get some amount of background or trace contamination from naturally occurring cross-pollination with neighboring fields that have been planted with GMO plants. 

Nature’s Path and many other concerned food manufacturers participate in a voluntary program, the Non-GMO Project, which was started in 2005. It’s a non-profit organization that puts products through lab testing to determine if there are trace amounts of GMOs. The testing is expensive, but many food producers, especially those who operate on a high-volume scale, find that it is worth the expense.

For Arran and others in the non-GMO movement, the first big battle is to require labeling that will allow consumers to freely choose.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Arran Stephens:  Episode 54 of The Wendel Forum (27:51 mins; mp3)

Nature’s Path website: www.naturespath.com

Non-GMO Project website: www.nongmoproject.org

Natural Products Expo West 2012 website: http://www.expowest.com/ew12/public/enter.aspx

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

In Episode 53 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on March 10, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons visits Natural Products Expo West 2012 in Anaheim.  The show sees 60,000 attendees and more than 2,000 exhibitors showcasing their products including a wide range of natural living products, specialty foods, natural ingredients, supplements, and health and beauty aids.  In addition there are numerous seminars and presentation, as well as informal discussions on topics from fair trade and supply chain issues to organic labeling and greenwashing. 

While attending the Expo, Dick had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Roquemore, Outreach Coordinator with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), on the topic of palm oil, a product that appears in nearly 50% of the food on your grocer’s shelves and in products as diverse as toothpaste and laundry detergent.

Although palm oil is a widely-used product, most people have no idea how prevalent it is in our food stream. Nor do they realize the environmental impact its cultivation has on our planet.  In recent years, the high demand for palm oil has contributed to the deforestation of many tropical regions.  UCS claims that 15% of emissions that cause global warming come from tropical deforestation (more than all cars, planes, trucks and ships combined).  The connection between deforestation and emissions is not obvious. However, trees can be viewed as big carbon storage devices.  They absorb carbon dioxide out of the air as they grow.  When trees are cut down and burned or left to rot, the carbon they have stored is released back into the atmosphere.  In addition, deforestation has destroyed habitat for numerous animals and leads to loss of biodiversity.

Of course balancing the needs of the supply chain, the environment and local economies in (often) poor regions of the world is a challenging proposition.  But there are some bright spots.  Sarah suggests that there is movement on multiple fronts to address this problem, including promoting changes to the way we grow and produce vegetable oil, local jurisdictional controls on farming practices, and consumer campaigns that have changed the practices of companies who use the oil.

A relatively recent example of a successful consumer-driven corporate shift on palm oil sourcing happened in 2010 with Nestlé.  After being targeted for their use of palm oil from sources of deforestation in a public campaign, led largely by Greenpeace, Nestle has adopted Responsible Sourcing Guidelines. The company has committed to “ensuring that its products do not have a deforestation footprint,” according to its website.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is another growing resource in the fight to produce palm oil in a more responsible way. This group actively looks to improve the sourcing options, simplify the distribution channels and verify the supply chain for palm oil.  But it’s a complex problem, and some feel that the group has not gone far enough in establishing guidelines and certifications. 

In the meantime, the Union of Concerned Scientists will continue their program to publicize the issue, taking knowledge to product manufacturers and the public. 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Sarah Roquemore:  Episode 53 of The Wendel Forum(27:53 mins; mp3)

UCS Report “Recipes for Success: Solutions for Deforestation-Free Vegetable Oils”: http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/solutions/forest_solutions/deforestation-free-vegetable-oils.html

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil website: http://www.rspo.org/

Greenpeace follow up story on Nestle campaign (dated 5/23/2011): http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/features/One-year-after-Nestle-committed-to-giving-rainforests-a-break–what-has-been-achieved/

Nestlé Responsible Souring Guidelines: http://www.nestle.com/Common/NestleDocuments/Documents/Media/Statements/2011-Nestle_Responsible_Sourcing_Guidelines.pdf 

Natural Products Expo West 2012 website: http://www.expowest.com/ew12/public/enter.aspx

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

In Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on February 2, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons welcomes Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors, LLC, a San Francisco Bay Area-based private equity fund focused on investments in natural food and product companies and technology that supports healthy lifestyles.

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart has been committed to investing in these types of companies for more than 30 years. His interest in companies with a focus on sustainability and healthy lifestyles emerged from his personal development as a yoga practitioner and vegetarian.  As healthy living became more important to him, he also moved toward investing in sustainably-minded companies.

In the early days, he found himself involved in companies in areas ranging from wind power to rice growers who had developed a closed-loop system that used the stalks for rice paper, rather than burning them.

Dick and Stuart discuss the investing trends they have observed during the past couple of decades and the rise of the natural food and organic products marketplace.  Stuart had a front row seat to the evolution of some of today’s well-known companies, such as Whole Foods Market, Seventh Generation and Odwalla.

Mindful Investors’ current interests focus on consumer facing companies in areas such as food and beverage, healthcare and technology platforms that support healthy lifestyles. Not surprising, there is a lot of activity in web and mobile development that supports functionality for applications such as bar codes to track the carbon footprint of a product, rich media like video to promote products, and platforms for distributing coupons and discounts.

Stuart shares the Mindful Investors approach to investing, including insights into time horizons and exit expectations related to investments in their portfolio.  He also acknowledges some of the challenges and strategies related to ensuring that when a company is sold, the parent company keeps the integrity of the product post-sale. 

As one of the early B Corps, he’s also a fan of the recently enacted legislation in California for Benefit Corporations (AB 361 – Huffman), which Wendel Rosen attorney Donald Simon had a hand in drafting.

So what is Stuart’s advice for young businesses? 

  • Realize from the start that you will need to raise capital, and a lot more than you think you’ll need. 
  • Bring in like-minded investors who are connected to your values in order to build trust. 
  • Bring in experienced senior level people to advise and guide you through your growth to better avoid errors and accelerate the growth of your company.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Stuart Rudick:  Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(27:37 mins; mp3)

Mindful Investors website:  www.mindfulinvestors.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

Photo of Zem Joaquin

Zem Joaquin, founder and editor of ecofabulous®

In Episode 46 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on January 14, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo chats with Zem Joaquin, founder and editor of ecofabulous®, a trusted online resource for stylish sustainable living.

In her conversation with Bill, Zem discusses her journey of self discovery that led to the founding of the company.  Through her personal experiences with products ranging from cleaning supplies to toys that contributed to her own children’s health problems, she started her exploration to identify more sustainable products to create a healthier home for her family.  Immersing herself in this research for her own life, she soon realized that most families would not have the time to dedicate to the level of research she was able to perform.  Out of this idea, ecofabulous® was born. 

She delved deeply into all things a greener home might require, from building materials and interior design elements to the products found in the home’s walls.  With her knowledge and passion she created an online space where she could share what she learned, offering mothers and fathers everywhere reliable and trusted information on products that would be healthier alternatives for their families.  She shares her tips and inspiration in areas ranging from home décor and fashion to tech products.

Zem understands that sifting through the product choices leading to healthier living can be overwhelming to someone who doesn’t have the bandwidth to dedicate to extensive research, so she strives to make greener choices accessible, easy and fun. 

As she says in the interview:

“Eco-inspiration mobilizes.

Eco-guilt paralyzes.”

Listen to the episode to hear more about what inspires Zem, big projects in the works at ecofabulous®, and Zem’s picks for top eco-trends in 2012. 

What’s your greener style secret?  We’d love to hear about your great green finds for a healthy home. 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Zem Joaquin: Episode 46 of The Wendel Forum (27:16 mines; mp3)

Ecofabulous® website: www.ecofabulous.com 

960 KNEW AM Radio (formerly GREEN 960 AM) website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 367 other followers