News Bites from the Organic Industry

Business Milestones

Ardent Mills has expanded its producer program to a total of seven U.S. states and a Canadian Province while adding more organic certified milling and packaging locations along with storage since announcing efforts to help U.S. wheat growers double organic wheat acres last December.

Clif Bar & Company has opened a $90 million bakery in Twin Falls, ID. The 300,000-square-fooot bakery features many windows, skylights, natural stone walls, and indoor plants as well as wall-projected images of the outdoors for areas without exterior windows.

Enza Zaden USA. whose Vitalis Organic Seed organic division is an OTA member, has more than doubled the square footage of its existing headquarters in Salinas, CA, to include an industrial-quality seed processing, storage and distribution center, plus office space for approximately 40 of the company’s 1,000 employees in the United States. The expanded facility incorporates many features focusing on sustainability, with plans in 2017 to install more than 700 solar panels to enhance energy efficiency. The industrial seed processing facility at the new headquarters includes full organic handing certification, and offers extensive local inventory of organic as well as conventional seed.

Healthy Beverage LLC (doing business as Steaz) has been sold to a privately held buyer by private equity firm Inventages Venture Capital. The name of the buyer has not been released.

Investment firm Highlander Partners L.P. has acquired Hillside Candy LLS, which manufacturers organic candy under the GoOrganic brand.

KeHE Distributors has opened its first distribution center in Colorado. The 270,000-square-foot facility in Aurora joins the company’s network of 17 distribution centers that provide natural, organic and specialty products to natural food stores, grocery stores, and other specialty retailers throughout North America.

Nature’s Path Foods has acquired a 51 percent stake in Really Goods LLC, owner of the Gorilly Goods brand of raw, certified organic on-the-go snacks.

Seeking to expand its organic yogurt business through its Annie’s and Liberte brands, General Mills has signed a multi-year agreement that will ensure its access to milk produced by Organic Valley farmers. As part of the arrangement, General Mills will help build the organic milk supply with financial support to farmers transitioning from conventional to organic practices to add 3,000 acres of organic production over the next three years.

Organic Valley announced that it is now the largest producer of organic, 100 percent grass-fed dairy in the United States. The cooperative has a total of 121 Grassmilk dairies nationwide, including in California, Wisconsin, Ohio, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland, with more expected to join the cooperative in 2017.

United Natural Foods (UNFI) has acquired New York-based Gourmet Guru, a distributor and merchandiser of fresh and organic food.

Danone’s planned acquisition of WhiteWave Foods, originally expected to close by the end of 2016, in November was postponed at least the first quarter of 2017 due to necessary regulatory approvals.


Albert Lea Seed House is launching a new line of certified organic seed corn called ULTRAPURE under its flagship Viking Seed Corn & Soybeans line. Based in Albert Lea, MN, the family-owned company supplies organic, non-GMO and GMO field seed throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Northeast. The company is also dropping GMOS from the Viking line to meet growing demand from farmers considering planting premium-priced organic and non-GMO corn, soybeans and other grains driven by burgeoning consumer demand.

Healthy Food Ingredients has unveiled a new brand identity, including a new logo, the tagline “Cultivating Goodness,” a completely revamped website, and an expanded trade show presence.

Honest Kids six-ounce organic juice boxes from Honest Tea are now sold at Subway restaurants nationwide as part of the chain’s Fresh Fit for Kids Meal menu.

Lundberg Family Farms during 2016 worked closely with a network of growers to bring in more than two million pounds of domestically grown organic quinoa from the Pacific Coast and Northwest regions. The result has been the launch of organic antique white quinoa. Since 2014, Lundberg has expanded its quinoa efforts from 40 acres to more than 800, with current trials grown in the Sacramento Valley, Pescadero, the High Sierras, the Olympic Peninsula and Idaho.

Organics Unlimited launched an eight-week marketing campaign last fall featuring ads promoting its GROW organic banana label on city buses in Portland, OR. The GROW Fund, a non-profit program developed by the company, partnered with Produce for Kids to encourage families to take a pledge to pack healthier lunches during the back-to-school season. Through sponsor donations during the campaign, Produce for Kids donated funds to Feeding America to provide 238,414 meals.

Of Note

Driscoll’s announced this fall that it had raised $200,000 through sales of Fair Trade Certified organic berries to benefit workers on Mexican farms that supply it with product. The company launched the program in January 2016 with Fair Trade USA aimed a providing resources to more than 3,500 workers on 11 farms in the Mexican state of Baja California.

Natural Markets has been named Best Grocery Store in Seattle by readers of the Seattle Weekly. The Seattle-based 11-store chain is the largest consumer-owned retail grocer in the United States, with 1,550 employees and more than 56,000 member households. A full 95 percent of its produce is organic, and all fresh meat and poultry are from animals with outdoor access.

National Co+op Grocers has added two new member co-ops: Hampden Park Co-op in St. Paul, Minnesota, and SLO Natural Foods Coop in San Luis Obispo, CA. NCG now has member and associate co-ops operating more than 200 storefronts in 30 states.

Nate Lewis, Farm Policy Director for the Organic Trade Association and operator of Oyster Bay Farm, received the Advocate of the Year Award at the 2016 Tilth Conference held by Tilth Producers of Washington in Wenatchee. Lewis has been on the staff of OTA since April 2014.

Pacific Foods has received the Oregon Food Bank’s highest award—2016 Food Donor of the Year—in recognition of donating more than one million meals to the Food Bank between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016, as well as countless staff hours and dedicated time to produce the food. The company also has expanded its food access programs in local elementary schools to 16 schools, providing ready-to-eat meals to close to 1,000 children when school is not in session. It also has a new partnership with gleaners to produce even more food. Its ongoing commitment represents more than 1,000 labor hours a year, in addition to 70 hours of production time each month.

Nora Pouillon, pioneer in the U.S. organic food movement who opened the first certified organic restaurant in the country, has announced her plans to retire from her namesake restaurant, Restaurant Nora, which opened in 1979 in Dupont Circle neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Pouillon will continue to promote her key belief in a healthy organic lifestyle, and hopes to pass the restaurant on to a chef who shares her commitment to this.

Personnel News

Applegate Farms LLC has hired Nicole Glenn, the former marketing director of WhiteWave Foods Company, as its vice president of marketing.

Three former Whole Foods Market Inc. executives have joined BeyondBrands LLC: Errol Schweizer (former executive global grocery coordinator), Derek Sarno (former senior global executive chef of R&D) and Chad Sarno (global healthy eating coordinator and R&D chef).

Marroquin Organics has hired Joe Beek as CEO. Founder Grace Marroquin now takes on the role of Chief of Global Development and will continue as Chairman, focusing on identifying strategic opportunities for the future growth and diversification of Marroquin Organics, and the organic industry. Joe has been an advisor to Marroquin Organics for the past 10 years, and has known Grace for over 30 years. Most recently, as COO of Island Conservation, Joe managed global operations in 12 countries, in service of biodiversity conservation.

John Mesko is the new executive director of MOSES. Heading the Sustainable Farming Association since 2009, Mesko succeeds Faye Jones, the founding executive director who retired from MOSES in March.

Organic produce distributor Organically Grown Company has welcomed Elizabeth (Darrow) Nardi as its chief executive officer. She formerly worked as Director of Operations for New Seasons Market.

Quality Assurance International has appointed organic industry leader Tracy Favre as its new Director. A former organic inspector and farmer, Favre will serve at the helm of QAI’s organic certification programs: the USDA’s National Organic Program and NSF Certified Transitional, as well as international organic programs. QAI is a subsidiary of NSF International.

The Hain Celestial Group Inc. has hired Gary Tickle, former CEO of Nestle Infant Nutrition North America, as its chief operating officer. The company also has appointed James Meiers, who had been COO, as CEO of its Hain Pure Protein Corporation.

UNFI founder and former CEO Michael Funk has stepped down as chairman of the board. He has been succeeded by CEO Steven Spinner.

Whole Foods Market has appointed three new global vice presidents to its Austin, TX, headquarters team: Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, global vice president of marketing; Martin Tracey, global vice president of team member services; and Brooke Buchanan, global vice president of communications. Meanwhile, co-founder John Mackey is now the sole CEO of Whole Foods, with Co-CEO Walter Robb stepping down Dec. 31, 2016, but remaining on the board and serving as an advisor.   //