Winning in wellness

Grocery Headquarters’ annual Trailblazer Awards honor influential health and wellness companies across a number of segments.

By Carol Radice

As the health and wellness category becomes increasingly popular with consumers, it appears that more and more companies are introducing items to capitalize on this trend. This enthusiasm is evident in Grocery Headquarters’ annual Trailblazer Awards. This year there were nearly 300 submissions for the annual awards, the most nominations since the magazine began honoring innovative health and wellness companies in 2006.

Products were judged by the Grocery Headquarters Board of Retailers and Editors on a number of attributes and qualities, including uniqueness, ingredient profiles, taste, delivery form, packaging and health benefits.
This year’s winners are:

Nature’s Own
Health and wellness experts say consumers are looking to add more whole grain and fiber into their diet, but they also want to minimize their caloric intake. Recognizing this, Nature’s Own introduced a line of Sandwich Rounds. Available in three varieties—100% Whole Wheat, Healthy Multi Grain and 100% Whole Grain—each round has only 100 calories. Sandwich Rounds come in eight-count packages with a convenient, resealable zipper to ensure freshness. The rounds are ideal for a number of uses including burgers, sandwiches, mini pizzas and even breakfast.

Janice Anderson, vice president of marketing for Flowers Foods, the producer and distributor of Nature’s Own, notes that the varieties of Sandwich Rounds, combined with the healthy profile and a unique resealable package, attracted new consumers and brought solid growth to the segment.

“When we took the concept to consumers, they were impressed with the product’s portion control, calorie count and versatility. Consumers have long asked for resealable bread packaging, and with our new sandwich rounds we had a product perfect for a resealable, stay-fresh bag,” says Anderson. Flower’s Foods partnered with one of its packaging suppliers to develop the packaging and invested in the necessary equipment and technology. Anderson says there are plans to expand use of the packaging going forward.

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Hodgson Mill
Xanthan gum is an important ingredient in baking for those with gluten allergies, but it is also expensive and is typically sold in 8-ounce or larger packages despite the fact that most recipes call for only one or two tablespoons. Once opened, xanthan gum can become sticky and difficult to work with if exposed to moisture or humidity which means often times the rest of the package must be thrown away. Executives at Hodgson Mill saw an opportunity to address these issues and more by offering gluten-free xanthan gum in one-tablespoon packets.

“At Hodgson Mill, we have a passion for trying to give our consumers the freshest ingredients and the best baking experience they can have,” says Ray Martin, vice president of sales and marketing for the Effingham, Ill.-based company. “By packaging our xanthan gum in small, stay-fresh packages, we help bakers save time, money and make baking more enjoyable. We believe it will become a staple in the gluten-free baker’s kitchen.”
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derma e Natural Body Care
Simi Valley, Calif.-based derma e Natural Bodycare has recently ex­panded its Vitamin A health and beauty care line with three products: Vita­min A Glycolic Fa­cial Clean­ser, Vitamin A Glycolic Facial Toner and Vitamin A Glycolic Facial Scrub. Enriched with glycolic acid and detoxifying marine plant extracts, these mildly purifying products are effective in helping to speed up exfoliation leaving the complexion fresh, bright and radiant, according to company officials.

“For those who have enjoyed our Vitamin A line that includes our best-selling Vitamin A Retinyl Palmitate Wrinkle Treatment Crème, we are excited to be able to expand our offerings for a more complete skincare routine,” says Linda Miles, vice president of derma e Natural Bodycare.  “With the anti-aging category experiencing rapid growth, it was essential that we highlight a scientifically proven effective natural ingredient that promotes smooth, younger-looking skin.”

Miles notes that vitamin A, which is commonly referred to as the “skin renewal vitamin,” is an antioxidant, but is best known for speeding up cellular renewal to reveal younger, plumper skin cells. “This process helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and skin irregularities. Research also shows it reduces the roughness of the skin and suggests that it can help improve the texture, tone and overall appearance of the skin,” says Miles.

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As consumers continue to look for alternative beverages that are natural, simple and environmentally responsible, a host of companies have entered the market looking to offer them something more than sugar and water. Charley Snell, a former executive with a major food corporation, believed it was not enough to create a company that made great tasting better-for-you drinks, he also wanted the company to reflect his personal values. Snell founded Winnetka, Ill.-based Tenaya and began producing beverages under the MADE label.

This certified organic, all-natural line of drinks combines green tea and fruit juices with organic cane sugar and floral and herbal extracts. MADE is uniquely created and packaged aseptically with no need for preservatives or refrigeration, reducing the environmental impact of shipping and storage. MADE is available in eight varieties: Strawberry Mojito, Strawberry Lemonade, Blackberry Peach, Blueberry Lemonade, Cranberry Limeade, Pomegranate Lemonade, Pomegranate Mojito and Raspberry Peach.

“As a life-long soda drinker, I began to ask myself, ‘What goes into this stuff?’” says Snell. “It was time to become more aware of what I was actually putting in my body. In Yosemite, while I was reading John Muir, I had a light bulb moment and the idea for MADE was born.” It was important to Snell that MADE be packaged in PETE 1 BPA-free bottles. “I wanted MADE to be good for us and good for the earth,” he says. “MADE offers people the ingredients, flavors and intentions that let them feel great about their choice. Simply put, it is convenient, responsible refreshment.”

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With the introduction of its Organic Choc­olate Milk Plus DHA Omega-3, Longmont, Colo.-based Horizon is offering a version of the classic kids’ favorite that tastes good and is good for them.

While most parents are aware of the importance of giving their kids plenty of calcium, they have recently become more knowledgeable about the health benefits of DHA Omega-3, according to industry experts. Studies have shown that this important nutrient, traditionally found in breast milk and now in most infant formulas, plays a positive role in children’s heart, brain and eye health.

In 2007, Horizon introduced the first organic milk fortified with DHA Omega-3 produced with Martek Biosciences’ Life’s DHA, which company officials say is a vegetarian and sustainable source of DHA Omega-3 that does not alter the flavor of the original milk product. “At Horizon Organic, we are always looking for new ways to meet the needs of mom and her family,” says Sara Loveday, a company spokesperson. “Adding DHA Omega-3 to our chocolate milk is just another way we are doing that. We wanted to make it easy for mom to add both DHA and calcium to her child’s diet.”

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Mason Vitamins
It is no secret that probiotic products can be beneficial to help maintain healthy digestive and intestinal function, but what many people are learning is that getting an optimum amount from food sources such as dairy products can be challenging. What is also proving a challenge is finding a product that maintains its healthful benefits throughout its life, industry experts note.

This year that changed when Mason Vitamins, based in Miami Lakes, Fla., launched Mason Natural Probiotic with Prebiotic, a unique “two in one” supplement with a probiotic containing one billion CFUs (Colony Forming Units) and inulin/prebiotic. The product’s inulin stimulates growth of good bacteria in the intestines and the probiotics promotes balances bacteria in the colon. Unlike other probiotic supplements which guaranteed the supplement’s facts at the time of manufacturing, Mason’s Probiotic with Prebiotic is guaranteed shelf stable for the life of the product.

Gary Pigott, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Mason, notes that when the decision was made to enter the segment with a new product locating a partner that could help them create one with a long shelf life was critical.

“Probiotic sales are up nearly 10% in the past year, but as consumers are quickly leaning not all products are created equal,” says Pigott. “If we were going to launch in this category it was important to us that it offered a scientifically-backed guarantee for the life of the product. As consumers become more educated they understand the qualities and features that set one product apart from another. I expect to see continued growth in this value-added segment for a long time.”

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Responding to consumer requests for meals that would fit their diet plans, Amy’s has created Light & Lean Meals, a line of frozen convenience meals containing less than 300 calories, 5 grams of fat and 590 mg of sodium. These convenient, low-fat, low-calorie meals are made with the same natural ingredients and standards for taste and quality as Amy’s regular entrées. Each meal is four to five Weight Watchers points. As with all Amy’s products, Light & Lean Meals are also organic, vegetarian and made without the use of trans fats or GMOs, according to company officials.

Light and Lean entrees are available in four varieties: Spinach Lasagna, Pasta & Veggies, Soft Taco Fiesta and Black Bean & Cheese Enchilada. “Consumer’s are looking for good tasting, healthy frozen products that address specific health needs. Our new Light and Lean Meals are all that plus they are perfectly proportioned,” says Michelle Erbs, marketing manager for Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Amy’s. “Today’s consumer is educated and at the same time seeks out better-for-you options that are convenient enough to eat at home or take to work, but above all they are gravitating toward products that have ingredients with recognizable names.”

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Rudi’s Organic Bakery
With a passion for baking better breads that goes back to the mid 1970s, officials at Rudi’s Organic Bakery, based in Boulder, Colo., set out to make a great-tasting gluten-free bread. This year they launched Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery, a line of all natural and organic gluten-free breads that have the same look, taste and texture as regular breads, as well as a strong nutrition profile.

The line of Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery breads includes Gluten-Free Original Sandwich Bread, Gluten-Free Multigrain Sandwich Bread and Gluten-Free Cinnamon Raisin Sandwich Bread. Each variety is made using all-natural and organic ingredients. And, unlike many gluten-free breads on the market today, Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery breads contain no modified starches or gums, no artificial preservatives and no artificial chemicals. Plus, the bread will not crumble when used to make a sandwich.

“With more than three decades of experience baking better breads, developing a gluten-free line was a natural extension of our commitment to creating healthy and wholesome breads the whole family can enjoy,” says Doug Radi, vice president of marketing for Rudi’s. “We worked extensively with gluten-free experts to make sure our products are safe and do not contain gluten, which led to all Rudi’s Gluten-Free products being certified gluten-free and carrying the recognizable Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO) symbol.”

For more information, visit

For years, one of the go-to-products in many consumers’ stress relief arsenal has been the all-natural Bach Rescue Remedy from Nelsons, based in North Andover, Mass. Rescue Remedy, which was only offered in liquid drop form, now comes in convenient formats such as a spray, pastilles and gum. The unique gum, which features an orange and elderflower-flavored liquid center, contains one dose of Bach’s Rescue Remedy and offers users a discreet option of addressing stress, note company officials. Each pack of Rescue Gum contains 17 pieces.

“We used to buy gum simply to freshen our breath, but we now see the shelves lined with functional gums claiming to whiten teeth, suppress your appetite or give a dose of vitamins,” notes Katrina Eichenfeldt, senior brand manager for Nelsons. “Given the recent trends, gum seems like the perfect delivery system for a dose of Rescue Remedy, an all-natural stress reliever that soothes and calms nerves.”

This year Nelsons also introduced Rescue Remedy Pet, created especially for the four-legged family members.

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Greek-style yogurt has been come popular among adults in recent years and now kids have a Greek-style yogurt created especially for them. Chobani, based in Norwich, N.Y., introduced Cho­bani Champions, an all-natural, low-fat Greek yogurt with real fruit. Sold in four packs, the yogurt comes in 3.5-ounce cups. Each serving of Champions provides 10% of the recommended daily intake for calcium and 20% of the daily recommendations for vitamin D, along with five live active cultures and three probiotics, according to company officials. Each cup contains 8 grams of protein and is currently available in Honey-nana and Very Berry flavors. Chobani’s yogurts are also gluten-free and Kosher certified.

“We see a great opportunity with our new Chobani Champions line,” says Chobani’s CEO and founder Hamdi Ulukaya. “Not only do kids deserve a high-quality yogurt, but moms are hungry for a healthier option for their children too.”

Nicki Briggs, MS, RD, Chobani’s director of communications, says in a world filled with candy, chips and sugary snacks, finding healthy options that kids will actually eat can be difficult. “As a dietitian, I’m especially excited about our newest product line because of how wholesome it is,” Briggs notes. “You won’t find anything artificial in it including sweeteners, preservatives, colors or synthetic growth hormones—just low-fat milk, real fruit and live and active cultures. Plus Champions is packed with protein, bone-building calcium and vitamin D.”

For more information, visit

Northwest Natural Products
It is not uncommon for expectant mothers to become a little queasy, especially when it comes to swallowing big prenatal vitamins. Northwest Natural Products, based in Vancouver, Wash., has found a way to make that task easier and good tasting, while putting the fun back into taking vitamins, with the creation of Vitafusion PreNatal Gummy Vitamins. Available in Berry and Lemon & Cherry, the vitamins are gluten-free and are an excellent source of DHA, zinc, folic acid, niacin and vitamins A, C, D, E, B6 and B12.

“At Northwest Natural Products, we make nutrition taste good,” says Kate Jones, president and co-founder of the company. “We do that by using natural colors and flavors to create dietary supplements in delicious gummy form.”

What’s more, Jones notes that these PreNatal Gummy Vitamins contain 50 mg of DHA, providing the benefits of Omega-3 without the fishy taste. “Vitafusion PreNatal Gummy Vitamins is the only gummy vitamin designed specifically for prenatal use,” she says.

“Simply put, moms-to-be were our inspiration. We continually hear from expectant moms who want a prenatal vitamin that isn’t a giant pill to swallow and doesn’t have that overwhelming vitamin odor or aftertaste. As having suffered through two nausea-ridden pregnancies, I would have loved having a product like this.”

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Nature’s Path
Consumers crave better-for-you foods they can eat anywhere—at work, while exercising or even in their car while stuck in traffic. Looking to address this, Nature’s Path, based in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, has taken its lengthy experience as a cereal maker and created a line of organic granola bar offerings. Most recently the company expanded the line with four creative new flavors.

There are two new Flax Plus flavors: Mmmaple Pecan, made with organic maple syrup, crunchy pecans and a drizzle of sweet, creamy icing and Berry Strawberry, a mix of organic strawberries and raspberries, topped off with just the right amount of real, creamy yogurt. The two other flavors are Lotta Apricotta, which is chock full of dried apricots, roasted almonds and drizzled with real yogurt icing, and Sunny Hemp, which is a blend of hempseed, flaxseed and sunflower seeds with juicy raisins.

“We really wanted to boost the taste appeal of organic granola bars and increase Nature’s Path’s presence in the snack category,” says Arjan Stephens, vice president of marketing and innovation for Nature’s Path. “From tweaking existing flavor profiles to creating new combinations like Mmmaple Pecan and Berry Strawberry, our team was able to deliver a delicious snack that’s under 150 calories and remains true to our organic, non-GMO and whole grain standards.”

In creating this line, he says the company looked for ways to lessen the impact on the environment. “This meant redeveloping our packaging and physically reducing the box size by 36%.” Not only is this helping to lessen waste, Stephens says it creates more shelf facings at the point-of-sale, he says.

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Crunch Pak
It is all about getting kids and their parents to try a product. And officials at Crunch Pak feel that the company’s innovations in single-serve packaging have made a difference with consumers and led to strong growth among its line of more than 30 products and 50 unique case configurations. The Cashmere, Wash.-based company instituted a complete redesign of its packaging about 16 months ago. That was followed by a rapid succession of new items in 2010, with more slated for this year.

“The consumer is driven by newness,” says Tony Freytag, the company’s director of marketing. “Part of our internal process is to be very innovative with our packaging to keep new products out in front of consumers all the time. We are trying to create a destination department that works for both retailers and consumers. We think packaging innovation is what drives the process.”

Crunch Pak offers such products as Grab & Go Cups, Mini-Trays, Mini Bags in Display Sleeves and clamshells.

For more information, visit

J.R. Watkins Naturals
As consumers become more cognizant of the ingredients in their foods, they are seeking out those same healthful qualities in nonfood products such as cleaners, soaps and lotions. J.R. Watkins Naturals, based in Winona, Minn., known for its natural personal care products and natural household cleaners, has introduced a way for health-conscious consumers to rid hands of dirt and grime, then moisturize and soften with a natural hand and body lotion.

Ideal for the kitchen or bathroom, company officials say the J.R. Watkins Natural Lavender Sink Set features an 11-ounce hand soap and lotion in a decorative metal caddy. Both the lotion and soap are free of dyes, mineral oil and petroleum, parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol and SLS. While the hand soap has a rich lather for gentle cleansing, the hand and body lotion leaves hands feeling silky soft. “Who says the necessities have to be boring?” asks Jessica Looman, associate product manager for J.R. Watkins Naturals. “Our Natural Lavender Sink Set includes a hand soap and lotion that will not only clean and soothe your hands, but the scent will relax your mind.”

For more information, visit

Pamela’s Products
Everyone loves freshly baked brownies and hot-off-the-griddle pancakes, but many chose to forgo making them because they do not have the time or simply do not want a whole batch. Officials at Ukiah, Calif.-based Pamela’s Products set out to address this by launching single-serve packs of Pamela’s Baking & Pancake mix and Microwavable Chocolate Brownie Mix. Company founder Pamela Giusto-Sorrells explains that these products were created specifically for grab-and-go ease. The single-serve packs make a stack of four pancakes, or one microwave brownie in about a minute.

In addition to the size, the easy-to-follow instructions make single-serve packs ideal for today’s on-the-go consumers. “I believe that quality food should be able to fit conveniently into a busy schedule,” says Giusto-Sorrells. “We know we’ve hit the mark when we can offer that convenience in a great product that tastes great. That’s a real winner for our customers. We first packaged the single-serve baking mixes for samples, but customers kept asking where they could buy them because they loved the taste, ease and convenience,” she says.

She adds that they are great for college kids, as an after school snack, mid-day snack, or for those who travel. The single-serve products, like all of Pamela’s Products, are also gluten-free.

For more information, visit

Kay’s Naturals
Kids are going to snack, but the mission at Kay’s Naturals is to offer nutritious and appetizing foods to replace the empty, high calorie junk foods they are currently consuming.

The Clara City, Minn.-based company has created a line of better-for-you snack products that are free of gluten and wheat, contain high lean soy protein, are low in calories and carbohydrates and have no cholesterol. The company has recently expanded its snack line with the addition of Cookie Bites. Available in both Cinnamon Almond and Honey Almond, each Cookie Bite serving is only 110 calories.

Company officials say the secret of Kay’s Naturals products is in the patented Better Balance nutritional profile. With 30% to 35% protein, 10% to 12% fiber, 20% to 40% carbohydrates and 8% to14% healthy fats, all Kay’s foods promote healthy weight loss and stable blood sugar. They also win fans with their use of high-quality, all-natural ingredients like almond butter and stevia.

“We’ve looked at what was available in the market and found an urgent need for diabetic-friendly snacks, cereals and cookies that are truly delicious,” says company founder and food scientist Dr. Massoud Kazemzadeh. “With diabetes and obesity rising at alarming rates, we need better food options in the marketplace. Kay’s Naturals provides these options and we are aggressively expanding our product line to meet this market need.”

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Pacific Natural Foods
Less is better, according to officials at Tualatin, Ore.-based Pacific Natural Foods. That may be why the company’s line of condensed soup stands out. Jennifer Herrick, a marketing communications manager for the company, says that the three-SKU (cream of chicken, mushroom, celery) condensed soup line is the first and only organic condensed soup line on the market.

“Not only is it organic, but we use no flavoring or MSG,” she says. “These products have a very clean ingredient statement. They have only nine ingredients, while most conventional condensed soups have 24 ingredients.”
Herrick sees a great future for the line. “These products help to tap an unmet niche in the marketplace,” she adds. “We think these products offer a modern update to classic flavors. Consumers feel great about serving these items to their families.”

Pacific Natural Food officials are also quite excited about the line’s packaging, with Herrick noting that the carton container gives the products a fresher taste and more flavor, plus it is environmentally friendly.

For more information, visit

Kettle Cuisine
With a reputation for offering all-natural, distinctive home-style soup, Kettle Cuisine has once again demonstrated why it is among the top frozen soup companies with the introduction of its latest flavor. Soup lovers looking for a global eating adventure will find a perfect balance of authentic Southeast Asian flavors in Kettle Cuisine’s new Thai Curry Chicken Soup. Kettle Cuisine’s chefs combine all-natural chicken, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, bell peppers and brown rice with aromatic green curry, lemongrass and coconut milk in their made-from-scratch chicken stock. The gluten-free, dairy-free soup is infused with real Southeast Asian flavors and has 13 grams of protein and 4 grams of dietary fiber per 10-ounce serving.

Levon Kurkjian, vice president of marketing for the Chelsea, Mass.-based company, calls the soup the perfect option for a wholesome meal that caters to the demands of consumers looking for restaurant quality convenience foods. He describes the soup as mild tasting, not spicy, but says what really make the soups special are the simple ingredients used to create interesting and complex flavor combinations that deliver an authentic experience.

“As the world, figuratively, gets smaller and people are more able to experience different cultures, demand for regional flavors continues to grow,” says Kurkijan. Given that Asian cuisine has been near the top of list for a number of years Kurkijan says there has been a shift away from Chinese and Japanese flavors to the Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

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Eden Foods
Ten years ago, not many people were aware that the term GMO stood for genetically modified organisms and today it is one of the hottest topics around. Recently, Edensoy from Eden Foods became the first non-GMO verified soymilk in North America, no small accomplishment considering the majority of soybeans are predominantly engineered. This issue has been close to the company’s heart for nearly two decades. In 1993,
Eden pioneered and perfected a process to avoid GMOs and their derivatives in food. For example, in an effort to keep Edensoy GMO-free, multiple tests are conducted of all beans used as seed, in growing, at the elevator and at the manufacturing plant. In addition, Eden Foods purchases all soybeans and grain from U.S. family farms and makes it a point to know all of its farms, fields and suppliers involved in the creation of Edensoy.

“Eden discovered Edensoy in January of 1983 in Japan utilizing Cornell University technology,” says Michael Potter, chairman and president of Eden. “It was the first soymilk properly prepared to nurture human beings as it solved the complex unwrapping of the soybean’s storehouse of nutritional value, without fermentation. Its immediate popularity demonstrated the need for the new grocery category it gave rise to—non-dairy liquid food.”

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Rich Products
About 40% of Americans have trouble swallowing pills of any type. Believing that creating an easy-to-swallow vitamin option was possible, Hallie Rich started New York-based Rich Products and created the alternaVites brand. With the slogan, “Keep the vitamins, lose the pill,” alternaVites can be described as a multi-vitamin and mineral product that melts quickly in your mouth without leaving any aftertaste. But perhaps equally remarkable, alternaVites does not contain sugar, animal products, no artificial flavors or preservatives and no chemicals were used to glue the pills together. In addition, it has been carefully formulated with ingredients that do not contain major food allergens.

Packaged in convenient, take-along daily-dose packets, there is no need for water or for any preparation with alternaVites. “As someone who can’t swallow pills, but wanted to take a daily vitamin, my options were limited,” says Rich. “That’s when I decided it was time to develop a multi-vitamin for everyone, including those who have difficulty swallowing pills. The first of its kind, alternaVites makes taking vitamins easy, convenient, enjoyable and, most importantly, beneficial.”

Moreover, Rich says the most surprising thing about alternaVites has been learning that even people who can swallow pills have turned to alternaVites as their vitamin of choice due to the convenient stick packs and the delicious taste.

For more information, visit

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