Wellness winner’s circle

Many submitted entries, but only a select few stood out to earn Grocery Headquarters’ coveted Selling Wellness Trailblazer Award.

Judging the nominations for Grocery Headquarters’ annual Trailblazer Awards has proven to be among the toughest assignments our team of editors and Board of Retailers is given. The economy may have slowed the number of new products companies are launching, but it is clear by looking at the quality of submissions we received that it has not curtailed the amount of innovation introduced to the wellness category.

By its very definition, to innovate means to be leading edge, introduce change or a shift or departure from the usual. Most will agree the products noted below do all that—and more.

Product submissions are put through a challenging list of criteria to be considered for this award, an award created to honor influential health and wellness companies who are leading the industry in innovation. Judges were looking for innovative qualities such as health benefits, ingredients, packaging and taste, among others; and with much thought handpicked winners in nearly two-dozen wellness categories. This year’s winners are:

Baked Goods
Rudi’s Organic Bakery

Organic Harvest Seeded Bread was one of several new items introduced by Boulder, Colo.-based Rudi’s Organic Bakery this past year. Described as a mixture of organic pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds and poppy seeds fresh from harvest, this bread is a unique stand out in its category.

The company offers a full line of certified organic bread and baked goods and also produces natural gluten-free products under the Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery brand.

“The inspiration for our Harvest Seeded bread came from repeatedly hearing from consumers who were looking for hearty bread options that provide a multitude of nutritional benefits—not just fiber and good carbohydrates,” says Jen Battista, marketing manager. “Made with pumpkin and sunflowers seeds, oat bran and cornmeal, our Harvest Seeded Bread is a rich and flavorful nod to the farm that can be enjoyed not just during the harvest season, but all-year round.” For more information, visit www.rudisbakery.com.

Baking Mix
Kinnikinnick Foods

Kinnikinnick Foods, based in Edmonton, Alberta, has introduced a gluten-free and ready-to-fill frozen pie crust. The pie shells are also free of dairy, tree nuts, peanuts and preservatives. Officials say the 100-calorie per serving pie shells can be used to mimic any traditional crust.

Kinnikinnick Foods runs a dedicated gluten-free and nut-free bakery where they make a variety of other gluten-free baking mixes, along with pre-made, gluten-free, frozen Original and Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Homestyle Waffles. “Premade Pie Crusts have been one of items that our customers have been requesting for some time,” says Jerry Bigam, president and CEO. “Good gluten-free pie crusts are not easy to make, so we turned our Product Development Center loose and created a tasty and tender product.” For more information, visit www.kinnikinnick.com.

Beverages/Non Alcoholic
Celestial Seasonings
Traditionally, Celestial Seasonings, part of the Hain Celestial Group, has been a brand with the belief that its all-natural teas can foster everyday wellness as part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle. This spring the Boulder, Colo.-based company expanded its line of wellness teas to include Metabo Balance, a revitalizing green tea blend that may help support a healthy metabolism.

Featuring a combination of green tea leaves, green tea extract, garcinia cambogia and cola nut for metabolic support, the tea has a tropical grapefruit flavor. It joins other Celestial wellness tea offerings such as Echinacea Complete Care, Detox A.M. and Antioxidant Max Green Teas.

“This green tea wellness supplement is a convenient option for consumers who want to support a healthy metabolism in a new and delicious way,” says Scott Graham, senior director of product development. For more information, visit www.celestialseasonings.com.

Pacific Natural Foods
Non-dairy beverages hold mainstream appeal. What attracts consumers varies, but most want a tasty beverage full of functional health benefits that can be consumed anywhere. Pacific Natural Foods hit all those check points when it launched its organic 7 Grain Beverage in Original and Vanilla flavors.

Made from a combination of seven whole grains—oats, brown rice, triticale, wheat, barley, spelt and millet—the non-dairy beverage is naturally sweetened from the grains and feature calcium, B vitamins and 500mg of omega-3 ALA from flax oil. The organic 7 Grain beverages join Pacific Natural Foods’ extensive family of milk alternatives, which includes almond, hazelnut, hemp, oat, rice and soy milks.

“Whole grains and omega-3s continue to be hot trends as people look for ways to maintain their health naturally through their diet,” says Amy Brooksbank, beverage brand manager for the Tualatin, Ore.-based company. “With this in mind, we created 7 Grain, a well-rounded and refreshing beverage that lets the grains do all of the work by releasing their natural sweetness and nutritional power.” For more information, visit www.pacificfoods.com.

Bagel Chips
Glutino Food Group
Most consumers are increasingly looking for better-for-you chip options. In response, the Glutino Food Group, based in Laval, Quebec, has added a Bagel Chip line to its gluten-free offerings with Original and Parmesan Bagel Chips.

Made from all-natural ingredients, the Original and Parmesan Bagel Chips are gluten-free, wheat-free and kosher. As with all Glutino products, the Bagel Chips do not contain artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

“At Glutino, we focus our innovation on offering gluten-free interpretations of mainstream favorites, particularly in snack foods,” says Terence Dalton, general manager. “Bagel Chips are an all-time favorite snack and a great choice for entertaining. We saw a need for this type of delicious product in the gluten-free space and are thrilled to be able to provide those living gluten-free with the first nationally available gluten-free bagel chip on the market.” For more information, visit www.glutino.com.

Cooking Oils
Looking for ways to make a healthy product healthier, Baltimore-based Pompeian created OlivExtra Premium Mediterranean Blend olive oil. As Pompeian marketing consultant, Bill Monroe explains, the product is a blend of oils found in the Mediterranean diet—extra virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil and canola oil which feature essential omega-3 and omega-6, monounsaturated fat and vitamin E.

With its combination of omega nutrients and flavor, company officials say Pompeian OlivExtra Premium can be substituted for butter, shortenings and other vegetable oils that are higher in unhealthy saturated fat, adding it is ideal for using on salads or as a high-heat cooking oil for sautéing, frying or grilling fish, seafood, meat, poultry and vegetables.

“Recognizing that American consumers are seeking more omega fatty acids in their diets to support their wellness, Pompeian launched its innovative OlivExtra line of blended oils,” says Monroe. “The newest addition is the first and only combination of extra virgin olive oil, canola oil and grapeseed oil. A healthy balance of essential fatty acids are vital to normal metabolism and are being studied to see if they have a role in slowing the development of cardiovascular disease, cancer and arthritis.” For more information, visit www.pompeian.com.

Natural Dairy Products
People who follow an organic lifestyle often say one of the hardest areas to find organic items in is dips, sauces and the like. Introduced by Natural Dairy Products, Natural by Nature Organic French Onion Dip should go far in pacifying that need. Officials for the West Grove, Pa.-based company say the product is a creamy, zesty, thick, rich dip that holds up well when accompanied by fresh vegetables, chips, tortillas and breads.

The item joins the company’s full line of other organic dairy products including, milk, whipped cream, sour cream, cheese and butter. Natural Dairy Products has been producing grass-fed, organic dairy for over 17 years under the Natural By Nature label and have been supporting small family owned and operated farms since its inception.

“Natural By Nature has always thrived on creating useful, yet niche organic dairy offerings,” says Jay Totman, sales manager. “Why not an organic, grass-fed French Onion Dip? Nobody else was doing it. We had this same reasoning when we created an aerosol whipped cream made with all organic ingredients 10 years ago and now it is offered everywhere.” For more information, visit www.natural-by-nature.com.

Kettle Cuisine
Known for their innovative all-natural, made-from-scratch, on-trend varieties of soups, chilis, chowders and stews, Kettle Cuisine went to the far reaches of the globe for inspiration on one of their latest introductions, Indian Lentil Stew. The hand-crafted, fully prepared stew features red lentils, spinach and slow-simmered tomatoes with a blend of sautéed mustard seeds, garlic, ginger, chopped scallions and aromatic Indian spices.

“As global flavors and ‘street’ foods continue to spread throughout the industry, Indian cuisine is taking center stage,” says Levon Kurkjian, vice president of marketing for the Chelsea, Mass.-based company. “This healthy and hearty vegetarian creation is sure to be a hit and a draw with deli managers and consumers looking for something a little different.” For more information, visit www.kettlecuisine.com.

Frozen Breakfast
Cedarlane Natural Foods
Cedarlane Natural Foods has added Garden Vegetable & Mozzarella Egg White Omelettes, to its frozen food line.

The breakfast offering joins Cedarlane’s conventional and all-natural egg white omelette product line already available in the marketplace. Cedarlane’s current menu of breakfast omelettes includes a vegetarian Spinach and Mushroom Egg White Omelette, a vegetarian Green Chile, Cheese & Ranchero Sauce Egg White Omelette and an Uncured Turkey Bacon, Vegetable & Cheese Egg White Omelette.

“We were the first to introduce egg white omelettes in the frozen foods category to provide consumers with a restaurant-quality breakfast that is high protein, low cholesterol and gluten-free,” says Gordon Hagedorn, vice president of sales for the Carson, Calif.-based company. “The omelettes are a healthy option for people on the go who are looking for convenience and something beyond cereal or frozen waffles.” For more information, visit www.cedarlanefoods.com.

Gluten-Free Products
Pamela’s Products
Growing up in the health food industry, Pamela Giusto-Sorrells spent her summers at the family’s bakery but grew frustrated in the taste and dryness of healthy baked goods. It is with this perspective that Giusto-Sorrells began Pamela’s Products and set out to create a new standard in wheat-free and gluten-free foods. Using high-quality ingredients and focusing on taste and texture, her mission was to ensure her gluten-free products tasted as good as if not better than conventional offerings.

Today the Ukiah, Calif.-based company produces a complete line of traditional cookies, baking mixes and organic cookies. This year it introduced Pamela’s Products Whenever Bars, its first on-the-go, gluten-free snack. “It was important to me that I create a snack that anybody can enjoy wherever, whenever and tastes great,” says Giusto-Sorrells.

“Customers have been telling us for years that they needed a good snack for their busy lives. The bars are made with simple, real ingredients such as cranberries, blueberries, raisins and dark chocolate so you’ll feel satisfied, not hungry, after you eat one.” For more information, visit www.pamelasproducts.com.

Nature’s Path Organic
Sometimes it is not so easy to launch a cereal closely tied to a social mission. However Nature’s Path Organic seemingly has successfully pulled it off with its Love Crunch granola. Initially introduced in early 2011, the popularity of the first flavor, Dark Chocolate & Red Berries, was so explosive the company is continuing the Love Crunch story with three additional varieties: Apple Crumble, Carrot Cake and Aloha Blend.

Following Nature’s Path’s dedication to environmental responsibility, the company ditched the idea of using the traditional cereal box for the Love Crunch in favor of a bag to cut down on packaging waste. And, like all Nature’s Path products, Love Crunch granolas are USDA certified organic and feature the Non-GMO Project Verified Seal, which helps shoppers recognize products that meet rigorous genetically modified organism (GMO) avoidance practices.

“Love Crunch was born out of our passion for both cereal and philanthropy,” says Arjan Stephens, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Richmond, B.C.-based company. “My wife and I created the original Love Crunch as a wedding favor for those who helped celebrate our marriage. We asked guests to do an act of giving in lieu of gifts.

People thought the granola was so delicious, that we decided to offer it as a limited edition cereal.” The company will donate $1 for each bag of Love Crunch sold in the U.S. to non-profit organizations, up to $1 million annually. For more information, visit www.naturespath.com.

Homeopathic Products
Research shows consumers are increasingly growing uncomfortable with the amount of pain relievers they take. At the same time, consumers are also looking for more natural ways to take preventative action at the first sign of a symptom, rather than waiting to treat a full-blown problem.

Enter Boiron USA. The Newtown Square, Pa.-based company recently expanded its line of homeopathic medicines with the addition of Arnicare Gel, a topical pain reliever. Made from a natural active ingredient (Arnica Montana), Arnicare Gel is safe to use, is unscented, paraben free, non-greasy and quickly absorbed by the skin.

“As a homeopathic medicine, Arnicare Gel works naturally with the body instead of masking symptoms,” says John Durkin, vice president of sales and marketing. “This means that, should a more serious condition arise such as a medical emergency or misdiagnoses, parents, patients and doctors can detect it and respond faster.” For more information, visit www.boiron.com.

Household Cleaners
Innovasource’s PROXI Kitchen Disinfectant Cleaner, uses the power of hydrogen peroxide to kill Staph, E. Coli, Salmonella and H1N1 virus. The product is part of a full line of hydrogen peroxide-based home care, personal care and oral care products.

According to officials for the Huntersville, N.C.-based company, PROXI’s unique combination of hydrogen peroxide with biodegradable surfactants is extremely effective against food stains, grease and grime in the kitchen while disinfecting hard surfaces. PROXI products are also priced competitively against leading brands so going green can be affordable.

“In addition to being a highly effective disinfectant, hydrogen peroxide readily breaks down into water and oxygen, eliminating concerns over the effects of residual chemicals in the environment,” says Glenn Cueman, vice president of R&D. “What’s more, this high-tech environmental ingredient kills germs effectively and doesn’t create resistant micro-organisms.” For more information, visit www.proxiproducts.com.

Green Planet Bottling Co.
Bottled water may be convenient, but for many consumers it does not sit well that all that plastic ends up clogging landfills. Green Plant Bottling Co. has come up with a solution—a plant‐based, petroleum- and BPA‐free bottle. Derived completely from renewable plant resources, the bottle is recyclable, commercially compostable and reusable when hand-washed between uses. The Chicago-based company took three years to design the bottle shape—which has a distinctive modern style as well as being easy to hold—with particular attention to its ability to stand up well in distribution.

According to the company’s research, making the source material for Green Planet’s bottles produces 60% less greenhouse gases and uses 50% less non‐renewable energy than producing traditional plastics like PET. What’s more, the water is locally sourced to reduce the bottle’s carbon footprint even further. “Green Planet Water is also vapor distilled to ensure its safety and purity,” says Danny Rubenstein, CEO. “For consistent flavor, minerals are carefully added giving our water a refreshing, clean taste.” For more information, visit www.greenplanetbottling.com.

Pasta Sauces
LiDestri Food & Beverage
Francesco Rinaldi has taken its authentic Italian flavor and made it healthier with its ToBe Healthy Pasta Sauces with Omega 3. Available in four flavors: Tomato & Basil, Garden Vegetable, Garlic & Onion and Spicy Marinara, the sauces feature reduced sodium, no added sugar, essential omega-3 fatty acids, are cholesterol free and have only 70 calories or less per serving.

ToBe Healthy Pasta Sauces are made with an omega-3 called life’s DHA, which helps support brain and eye development and is important to heart health. “We developed this product to fill a void we saw in the category which was the limited choices for healthy sauce options,” says Edward Salzano, executive vice president and COO for the Fairport, N.Y.-based company. “The development of the ToBe Healthy line started at the top, and by that we mean with the wife of owner John LiDestri, Cindy LiDestri, a cardiologist. Cindy wanted to add a heart-healthy product to the line of Francesco Rinaldi products and ToBe Healthy was born.” For more information, visit www.LiDestriFoods.com.

Single Serve
Crunchies Food Co.
Crunchies Food Co., producer of all-natural, freeze-dried vegetable and fruit snacks, based in Westlake Village, Calif., introduced Munch Pak, a single-serving packaging for some of its most popular Crunchies flavors. The individual-serving pouches are available in six varieties: Strawberry, Mixed Fruit, Mango, Pear, Cinnamon Apple and Pineapple.

According to James Lacey, president and CEO, Crunchies are made in the U.S. through a unique freeze-drying process in which individually frozen fruits are placed in a refrigerated vacuum chamber that removes up to 97% of the moisture. This special process, he adds, gives Crunchies their unique texture and allows them to retain a high percentage of the nutritious enzymes that are invariably lost through traditional heat drying.

“The Munch Pak was created to replace those bags of chips and cookies in the kids lunchboxes with something that is nutritious and most importantly delicious,” says Lacey. “Crunchies contain no fat, cholesterol, or sodium and are free of additives, chemicals, preservatives or unhealthy ingredients. The convenient single-serving size makes fitting in the recommended five servings of fruit and vegetables easy as crunch.” For more information, visit www.crunchiesfood.com.

Skin Care
derma e Natural Bodycare
derma e Natural Bodycare added an Intensive Therapy Foot Crème to its treatment line this year. According to company officials, the product contains cooling peppermint and soothing, pain-relieving herbs like Arnica, Tea Tree, Peach Seed extract and Pycnogenol, which work together refreshing and revitalizing feet. Officials add that the product supports healthy circulation, aids in relaxing tight muscles, resolves swelling and bruising, relieves tired, achy, painful feet and moisturizes to alleviate dry, cracked itchy feet.

With over 90 natural skincare products rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and botanicals, derma e has created skincare formulas that are designed to help reduce the signs of aging, resolve problem skin conditions and restore skin health. All formulas are free of parabens, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfates, petrolatum, mineral oil, artificial colors, and are 100% vegan and cruelty-free.

“Our Intensive Foot Therapy Crème was formulated with several diabetic issues in mind including neuropathy, lack of circulation, overall achiness and tired, dry feet susceptible to infection,” says Linda Miles, vice president of the Simi Valley, Calif-based company.  For more information, visit www.dermae.com.

Bakery On Main
Bakery On Main was founded with a simple philosophy: food that is good for you should taste good too. With that in mind the East Hartford, Conn.-based company recently unveiled Bakery On Main Truebars, fruit and nut based bars that are a good source of fiber and omega-3, dairy and casein free and low in sodium with no transfat or cholesterol.

The line includes Hazelnut Chocolate Cherry, Walnut Cappuccino, Fruit & Nut, Raspberry Chocolate Almond, Coconut Cashew and Apricot Almond Chai. “When coming up with this product we wanted its name to accurately reflect what it is,” says Michael Smulders, president and founder. “We feel our packaging continues this mission. We also wanted to give our gluten-free customers, as well as any health-conscious consumer, a great-tasting, filling, healthy snack on the go. What sets it apart from other snack bars on the market is our high-quality ingredients including many low-GI ingredients and chia seeds that provide a good source of omega-3, plus it’s Non-GMO Project Verified, GFCO certified gluten-free, and Kosher Parve.” For more information, visit www.bakeryonmain.com.

Kids do not always get enough nutrition from the foods they eat. Recognizing this, Snikiddy, based in Boulder, Colo., created Eat Your Vegetables, a veggie snack chip intended to appeal to both kids and parents. Containing a full serving of vegetables in every ounce (approximately 13 chips), Eat Your Vegetables come in three flavors: Sea Salt, Sour Cream and Onion and Jalapeno Ranch.

Comprised of a blend of sweet potatoes, carrots and navy beans, Eat Your Vegetables provide vitamin A and company officials say they contain more fiber and protein than most other snack products. The snacks are also gluten- and wheat-free and do not contain cholesterol, trans-fats, hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.

“Consumers were telling us they were tired of the ‘same old, same old’ snack options on store shelves,” says Mary Schulman, founder. “They wanted healthier choices. We delivered on this with Eat Your Vegetables, the only real veggie snack that tastes as good as a regular chip.” For more information, visit www.snikiddy.com.

Navitas Naturals
Most people not only want a better-for-you product, they also want it to be functional, fulfilling and energizing. Known for its penchant for creating products featuring superfoods, Novato, Calif.-based Navitas Naturals has introduced a line of grab-and-go Power Snacks, featuring premium organic plant-based superfoods such as chia, hemp, maca, camu-camu and maqui. The bite-sized snacks are gluten- and dairy-free, high in fiber and vitamin C, contains no refined sugar and comes in three flavors: Cacao Goji, Blueberry Hemp and Citrus Chia.

“Navitas Power Snacks meet the demands and needs of snackers and retailers by creating a new subcategory of nutrition-convenience foods,” says founder and CEO Zach Adelman.

“Navitas Power Snacks are a simple and delicious way to introduce people to nutrient-dense organic superfoods. It also provides experienced superfoodies with a fun new format to enjoy some of their favorites.”  For more information, visit www.navitasnaturals.com.

Tortilla Chips
Even as consumers add more fiber and whole grains to their diet many still struggle to eat enough for optimal health benefit. Now they can indulge in snacking and increase their whole grain intake thanks to a recent product launch from Snyder’s-Lance. The Charlotte, N.C.-based company recently launched EatSmart Naturals Whole Grain Tortilla Chips, made with flax, quinoa, sesame and chia seeds. The chips are certified gluten-free and offer 16 grams of whole grain per serving and 50% of the recommended value of ALA omega-3s.

“Given that tortilla chips are the second most frequently purchased salty snack, behind potato chips, we were inspired to create a great-tasting, better-for-you option made from quality ingredients,” says Anna Sebastian, associate brand manager. “The Tortilla Chips are part of our full line of EatSmart Naturals snacks which includes Garden Veggie Crisps, Garden Veggie Sticks, Whole Grain White Cheddar Cheese Curls and Corn & Rice Puffs. In early January we will be introducing yet another variety, Potato Crisps.” For more information, visit www.eatsmartnaturals.com.

Northwest Natural Products
It is estimated that nearly half of all Americans are not getting enough lutein each day—an essential nutrient critical to maintaining healthy vision. To help, Northwest Natural Products recently launched Vitafusion DailyVision, a dietary supplement and gummy vitamin for total eye health. According to company officials, Vitafusion DailyVision contains FloraGlo Lutein and Zeaxanthin, proven in clinical studies to support eye health.

“We developed Vitafusion DailyVision for the growing boomer market, many of whom have trouble swallowing pills,” says Kate Jones, president of the Vancouver, Wash.-based company. “With this launch, we continue to provide innovation and leadership in the vitamin category. We were not only the first to create a child’s gummy vitamin with our L’il Critters brand, but we continue to lead the market with our adult line of gummy vitamins targeted specific ages and conditions.” For more information, visit www.nnpvitamins.com.

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