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

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