Clean Label: Fact or Fiction?


If you look at the food and eating trends that have existed over the last 100 years, it’s clear that we have come full circle.

Prior to the 20th century, everyone ate more natural foods. They ate seasonally grown fruit and vegetables, visited the local butcher, and baked their own bread. And then everything changed.

The two World Wars demanded food that could be preserved as it was shipped to the front lines. As more women entered the workforce, convenience became king in the kitchen. Industrialization and innovations in food manufacturing made it easier than ever to mass produce food.

Today, it’s to the point where 70% of the food we eat in America is processed.

And yet, over the past ten years or so, our culture has been making its way back to “real food.” With the help of new research in health and nutrition, food documentaries, and FDA regulations that expose what’s in our food, we’ve finally reached the end of our processed obsession and are back to believing that natural, clean food is best for our bodies, souls and overall health.

We want “Clean Labels.”

But is “clean label” real? Is it even possible? Isn’t everything you buy from a grocery store packaged, processed and shipped?

What does it mean to have a “clean label?”

Clean label means that we are moving toward ingredient decks and recipes that remove gums, stabilizers, preservatives, additives and more. It means that we are trending to make our food more recognizable, understandable and real.

It does not mean that manufacturing is dead or that processed grains, sugars and spices will wither away but that the ones we choose to eat will be closer to nature.

Should your brand move toward a cleaner label?

In short, yes. If your ingredients deck has some mysterious additives or confusing terms, you should definitely consider simplifying for a few reasons:

1. Modern consumers favor healthier foods.

Today’s shopper wants to know what is in their food and be confident that it is healthy. According to a recent survey, 27% of consumers say that health concerns influence their food choices and 41% believe that limited or no artificial ingredients or preservatives define “natural” food. Your product will better appeal to these customers if you formulate the ingredients and position your brand with health and transparency in mind.

2. Millennial shoppers demand good behavior from companies.

The Millennial generation, which is aging into their 30s and making up a larger percentage of the grocery-buying population, is very mindful that what they purchase is good for themselves and the world at large. They care about the impact of food on the culture, on the environment, and on their bodies, and they are more likely to buy your product if your label reflects clean, natural, sustainable ingredients.

3. This trend toward health and simplicity will benefit everyone.

Unlike other questionable low calorie, low fat, low carb fads and trends over the past few decades, the clean ingredient movement is undoubtedly a healthier alternative to food that is laden with additives and preservatives. As more families and more companies adopt the clean eating mindset, the healthier our country will be.

This is a wonderful and important movement for both the food industry overall and for our own families. I have been watching this trend truly blossom over the past few years and I’m hopeful and excited to see it become more prevalent, recognized, and celebrated.

Does having a clean label matter to your brand? Let us know in the comments!

How to Make Social Impact Marketing Work for Your Business


Last night, I mentioned to my husband that I want to buy a handbag from FEED. For those who are unaware, FEED is a fashion company that provides food for malnourished children with each purchase. Their brand mission aligns with my desire to feed people and I like handbags.

My husband asked me, “Why is this social impact trend so strong today? Does it even work?”

The answer is a resounding YES and this “trend” is likely here to stay for many years to come.

I have been talking to clients and colleagues for years about the increase and prominence of social impact marketing on today’s buying habits. Many studies show that when all else is equal – price, promotion, product quality, etc - companies that give back to their communities win at shelf, both online and in brick and mortar stores.

We have also seen a rise in these efforts among both large CPG companies as well as in small startup companies. Whether they are introducing new products or new programs, companies today are focused on more than ingredients, process, and profit – they are looking to make a difference.

87% of Americans would purchase a product because that company stood up for an issue that they care about.


How can your company successfully develop a social impact program?

1.  Stand for Something

Many CSR programs fail to make an impact because they don’t make their purpose clear. Donating a percentage of your sales to a random charity that you picked out of a hat won’t mean anything to your consumers. Any give-back program you develop needs to align with your company values and your brand mission.

Ben & Jerry’s, for example, has never been shy about their views on politics or social issues. During the contentious election season last year, they released a new product: Empower-Mint, a delicious blend of peppermint ice cream, fudge brownies, and fudge swirl. That flavor may be appealing to your taste buds, but it also vocalizes the company’s support for the Voting Rights Act and increasing voter turnout.

Sometimes when we’re passionate about something, we express it through ice cream. It’s our own special way of showing how much we care.
— Ben & Jerry’s

Whether or not you personally agree with their views, Ben & Jerry’s successfully sells more ice cream because they are vocal about the purpose of their social impact programs and their customers identify with their message.

2.  Communicate Your Efforts

Six years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the corporate offices of Johnson & Johnson and sit with the Chief Procurement Officer for lunch. He shared with me all the programs that Johnson & Johnson have in place, but I had never heard of them. They were clearly written in their annual report but not explained, promoted and delivered to the public.

Taking care of the community has, in the past, been more of a private endeavor for many large and small companies and it is now rising to surface.

If your company has a social impact program in place, support it with PR and get your message out there! For and CSR program to make any difference to your business reputation and your sales, people need to be aware that it exists.

3.  Don’t Forget About Profit

A few years ago, I read a book called Evolved Enterprise by Yanik Silver. It outlines 11 social impact models and talks in detail about why purpose-driven business models are not only growing in popularity, but are becoming a necessity to connect with consumers. I highly recommend that you read it.

The book inspired me to create an initiative called Labels4Good, which I launched at the Global Sustainability Summit last summer. The program was designed to give grocery packaging a purpose by donating food and resources to community food pantries around the country with every box sold. Companies could opt into the program and promote their involvement with a label on their packaging.

The challenge, I soon discovered, is that social impact models cannot be purpose driven only. They must first and foremost deliver clear profit. If it doesn’t strengthen the bottom line either by building goodwill and brand equity, then it must also deliver increase sales and revenue. Labels4Good was a purely philanthropic endeavor that I created from my own desire to feed people, which at the end of the day isn’t enough to build a successful company.

I haven’t given up on Labels4Good completely, but it’s an important lesson to always remember that businesses need profit in order to survive, even if the philanthropic intention is good.

Overall, I love this social impact trend, the purpose and the result. However, I caution everyone, business owners and consumers alike, to be aware about how you engage and interact with them. They can help us tackle global challenges, spread the word about social issues, and make us feel a little better about our desire to purchase yet another handbag.

How has social impact marketing effected your purchasing behaviors? What companies do you admire most? We’d love to hear!

Living in the Foam

One thing I have noticed lately is that we are all very caught up in the here and now. I remember the days when I could relax and think about the future. Whether planning for my own life or my clients’ brands, I remember having the time and inclination to look toward the future and envision more.

I’m missing that today.

I have found that companies are spending more time focused on immediate issues than planning for the future. Grocery stores are focused on period numbers, companies on quarterly earnings, and my kids are obsessed with how many “likes” they get on each Instagram post.

There is something to be said about living in the moment, but don’t we also need to look to the future both for inspiration as well as for precaution?

From a branding perspective, this can be critical. Here are three reasons why focusing on a long-term vision or strategy will help you grow and succeed.

1. Control Your Brand

Who really controls your brand message? As companies, we used to be able to control the message of the brand through how we spoke about it, the advertising we used, our claims and our brand position. Today, our brand is often shaped by our customers through reviews, tweets, comments and more.

As a company, it’s easy to fall into the trap of reacting to customer comments rather than proactively leading your brand where you want it to go. By only living in the moment, companies may find that they are chasing their tails and losing track of what their true goals are.

Public opinion can occasionally prove to be insightful and help you learn and grow, but don’t allow it to be the rudder that’s directing your company strategy. Stay focused on your long-term goals and stay true to your brand promise, no matter what today’s Yelp review says.

2. Chart Your Own Path

Product development, especially in retail and on a large scale, needs to be planned years in advance. It takes the right partnership between functional experts to make products come to life.

While you are planning for growth, new items will inevitably pop up that you may have never imagined. They may give you new ideas, make you second-guess your choices, or even change the dynamic of your category.

In the face of these challenges, trust in your brand and stay your course. Keep an eye on trends and what’s new, but don’t lose sight of the product mix you have created and are committed to. Dollars go fast and mistakes are costly.

3. Slow and Steady Can Still Win the Race

Ask yourself and your team: “Are we in this for the long haul or will we want out in two years?” Either answer is valid and completely dependent on your own situation and desires, but an honest answer will help you choose your path moving forward.

Going for a quick win does occasionally pay off. Pop-up brands, one-hit wonders and fads are always going to be there. Remember the Chia Pet? Or the Furby?

However, when you look at the brands that have stood the test of time, they are brands that have remained committed to their core pillars but have been flexible enough to grow and expand appropriately over time. An established brand like Coca Cola may stumble by chasing a trend, like when they introduced New Coke in the 80s, but their company has remained successful by remaining true to their brand identity and keeping an eye on long-term strategy.

Our world is superficial and our trending topics change in a moment’s notice. Take some time to drive deep into what is meaningful to you in your life and your business.

Try living below the foam for a while. It is richer!

5 Trends from Expo West 2017


I am always fascinated to see what is new, trendy, innovative and refreshed at every food show I attend. Last week, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend the Expo West Natural Food Show in Anaheim, California.

The most notable thing about this show compared to other shows we’ve attended recently is that it’s HUGE. To say the show has outgrown its location is an understatement. I logged over 30,000 steps in two days. The booths sprawled across the entire convention center, plus three ballrooms in the Hilton and Marriot, not to mention the outdoor tented area of additional new products.

Despite the absolutely overwhelming number of products, it was very inspirational to see how many new products are launching this year with missions and purposes to better the lives and eating habits of us all.

What was a little concerning, however, was the fact that I am now entirely convinced that if you plan on eating healthy, you’d better like to snack. I saw very few true meal options and only two fresh options. Apparently, if you eating healthy, you are very busy working, hiking or running after kids because there is absolutely no reason to cook after walking this show.

Hear is a list of the trends I saw over the course of the show:

Crazy for coconut!

Coconut is EVERYWHERE! I love Pina Coladas but now I am crazy for coconut! Whether you are selling coconut oil as an ingredient or as a skin care item, coconut flour, coconut chips, coconut water or energy drinks or just want to include a coconut flavor in your lineup you are in good company.

I hope you all like coconut, because it is here to stay. Coconut yogurt, drinkable yogurt, sparkling soda, ice cream, chocolate, you name it. You can even spread it all over your face and skin in various creams and lotions.

A couple of brands that stood out included the DANG! Coconut chips. The original is like eating a macaroon without all the sugar. Yum! And the B-Raw Coconut Almond bar is about as clean a bar as you get. Made in Maui, they are refrigerated, convenient and very delicious.

Bars! Bars! Bars and Barks!

I have never seen so many bars. For a section that has grown exponentially over the last several years, I hope there is enough space and attention for them all. There are breakfast bars, snack bars, dessert bars, energy bars, raw bars, crunchy and chewy bars.

And now there is a movement to bark. Bark thins came on strong this year and have opened the door for all kinds of chocolate and savory barks. Granola bark, chocolate bark with crispy quinoa, flax and chia.

No Dairy? No Way!

Dairy has been hot and cool in diet trends over the past several years. This year, apparently dairy is back and good for you. Califia Farms served up single to-go bottles of cold brew coffee products, Matcha lattes and more. Grass-fed milk, small farm milk and see-your-cow-eat-all-day milk were all over.

Yogurts took the stage as well. Greek, Icelandic, Australian and spoonable Lifeway Keifer are now available with all kinds of toppings, jams, flavors.

Snacks and Chips

Well let’s just say that just about anything can be puffed, fried, baked and extruded. Corn, quinoa, lentils, beans, chickpeas, potatoes, corn, wheat rice, green peas and veggies.

A new company out of Canada, SPOKES.CA, had a great new potato product where eating the entire bag will only set you back 300 calories. And they were good! Move over, popcorn!

Banana Chips were also new. Offered in sweet or savory flavors, they are a new Paleo way to enjoy snacks on the go.

Nuts for Nut Butters

Today butter is a thing of the past, unless it’s Ghee. Ghee is simply clarified butter. But not all Ghee is the same. At the show, I tried a truffle salt Ghee from that was so good I could not believe it.

Nut butters are all the rage and they too have various options. Crunchy, smooth, super creamy and combos. One of my personal favorites was Bestie by the Peanut Butter Company. These were so creamy and yummy with absolutely no sugar added. But I must have counted 20+ nut butter companies on the show floor.

Some Outliers

Sparkling drinking vinegar, an alternative to soda but remarkably flavorful and good for you. was my favorite on the floor made with coconut vinegar.

Drinkable soups were also new. has an interesting line of drinkable cold vegetable soups with some really creative combinations. I will probably be a late adopter because I still like my soup warm and in a bowl, but they were tasty.

Overall, it was a great show. It was good to see all the category leaders launching new line extensions like Rice Dream and coconut milk, delicious! And to see new and upcoming, brave companies trying to change the world and health all in one place.

If you can attend next year I recommend it. But wear comfortable shoes!