Simple Mills CEO on a mission to promote clean eating

Simple Mills creates natural and gluten-free baking mixes. Photo: Michaelle Bradford

Simple. Clean. Whole. Three words that characterize current healthy lifestyle trends centered around clean eating, non-processed, simple foods and low carb, gluten-free, non-inflammatory diets.

From Whole30 to Paleo, these popular diets encourage a focus on clean eating and healthy meals made from scratch with whole and nutrient-dense foods.

As a result, entrepreneurs like Katlin Smith, founder and CEO of Simple Mills, have created successful niche businesses based on the demand for clean, natural and non-artificial products.

How Simple Mills started

Simple Mills, which Smith launched six years ago, began as a natural baking mix company. It has grown tremendously in those six years and nearly tripled brand growth and revenue in 2018.

Its expanded product line now includes crackers, cookies, and frostings. Its footprint encompasses 16,000 grocery stores, up from 1,600 just 3 years ago.

In an interview on NBC’s Today Show, Smith said her company is the largest natural baking mix brand, second largest natural cracker brand and third largest natural cookie brand in the United States. And, Simple Mills has more than doubled in size every year it’s been in business.

Kaitlin Smith Simple Mills, clean eating
Katlin Smith, CEO and founder of Simple Mills, spoke at Startup Grind Chicago. Photo: Michaelle Bradford

Not bad for someone who didn’t plan on starting her own company. Smith told entrepreneurs at Startup Grind Chicago’s May meeting that although she didn’t envision starting on this path, “I think you kind of end up in the place you’re supposed to end up.”

Employed as a consultant for approximately three years, Smith said she worked long hours and traveled a lot. “I was eating a lot of processed food, and a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have been eating,” she added.

“I really wasn’t feeling my best, and I wasn’t feeling like myself. And I was talking to my friend about it, and he suggested to me that I might clean up my diet, and that might change my health. It really didn’t occur to me at the time that food impacts more than your waistline.”

So, Smith decided to experiment with clean eating alternatives. She replaced the processed food and sugar in her diet with simple, wholesome ingredients.

“[The results] shocked me,” she said. “Everything changed. And I just couldn’t believe that food could impact all these aspects of our mental and physical well-being. And once I realized that I was like, ‘I have to do something about this.’”

Smith decided to start her own food company because that was the best way to change what people eat.

“I think business drives a lot of what happens in the world,” she explained. “It’s much easier to change the world through business than it is through other things. So, I kind of realized that if I could make a company that made a product out of very simple, whole food ingredients, things that were more nutrient dense and worked harder for you, but also kept it really simple and tasted really good, then eating well would be a lot more personal for people. And the more personal for people, the more people are going to do it. That’s the easiest way to change how people are eating.”

Smith used her spare time on the weekends developing recipes, baking and doing product demos at Whole Foods.

Within three months of launching in stores, Simple Mills became the best-selling launch of mixes on Amazon, she said.

When asked what’s next for Simple Mills, Smith said “… we in general really just believe in taking all of these places in the grocery store where you see a lot of processed ingredients, a lot of ingredients you can’t pronounce, and also a lot of empty food. Food that has a lot of carbs and sugar and isn’t working very hard for you. We have a lot of ideas. Certainly, in the categories where we play and in other categories as well. And I just think there’s a lot of places in the grocery store where we can help make things easier and tastier.”

Natural Grocers celebrates 1 million customer loyalty members

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is a specialty retailer of organic and natural groceries, body care products and dietary supplements.

DENVER – Organic and specialty retailer Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage recently announced a sweepstakes contest to celebrate its customer loyalty program {N}power, which is expected to surpass one million members this summer. The grand-prize winner of Natural Grocers’ 1 Millionth {N}power Member Sweepstakes will receive one year of free groceries.

{N}power launched in May 2015 offering Natural Grocers’ customers digital coupons, personalized offers, rewards, and other benefits. According to the company, the program has seen more than 50 percent growth in its membership in the last year alone.

“The program has grown steadily for two reasons,” said Natural Grocers Co-President Kemper Isely. “First, more people than ever are learning how to better take care of their bodies by eating organic and natural foods. Second, the {N}power program makes embracing a healthy lifestyle more affordable than ever with personalized offers, digital coupons, and rewards for purchases made.”

Additional 1 Millionth {N}power Member Sweepstakes prizes include:

  • Five second-place winners will win free groceries for six months.
  • 150 third-place winners will win a $50 Natural Grocers gift card.

Founded in Colorado in 1955, Natural Grocers has more than 3,500 employees and operates 152 stores in 19 states.

For more information, visit

Enso Beauty, a 100% USDA certified organic skincare line, launches

Enso Beauty skincare

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. –  The new Enso Beauty skincare line just hit the market bearing the USDA Organic logo certifying that its ingredients are 100 percent natural and organic.

Adria Andrews, who started the company with her husband Phillip, says the products were developed due to her skin sensitivity. According to the company’s website, Adria recognizes her husband’s knowledge of plants and herbs as the root of the new line: “Passionate about organic ingredients for home cooking and his vegetable gardening projects, he had amassed knowledge on botanical specimens and extensively studied Earth-grown ingredients. I parlayed Philip’s wisdom, and together we created Enso Beauty.”

Enso Beauty is free from GMOs, parabens, palm oil, hydrogenation, potassium sorbate, potassium benzoate and toxic preservatives, the company says, and uses Indian Gooseberry, an anti-aging extract, as its first ingredient in the following products:
• Amla Antioxidant C Serum
• Amla Repair C Balm
• Amla Revitalizing C Eye Cream
• Amla Sensitive Skin Cleanser
• The Amla Antioxidant C Mist contains rose flower water, witch hazel extract then Amla extract.

Visit for more information.

Korean firm acquires $29.29 million stake in online organic grocer Thrive Market

Thrive Market
Photo: Thrive Market

LOS ANGELES – Online organic and natural foods grocer Thrive Market, based in Los Angeles, California, sold a $29.29 (US) million stake in its firm to Seoul, Korea-based GS Retail, according to The Korea Herald.

The Korean firm, parent company of GS25 convenience stores and GS Supermarket, is looking to not only learn from Thrive’s unique business model, which saw exponential growth since its start in 2014 but feature several of Thrive’s more popular items in its own retail operations.

Thrive Market
Photo: Thrive Market

Earlier this year, Thrive co-founder Gunnar Lovelace told FoodNavigator-USA that the company has experienced such a growth spurt over the past few years that it “had to stop marketing because the business was growing so fast we couldn’t handle the scale. This year alone we’ll grow well over 50 percent,” he said.

Lovelace also told FoodNavigator that the company had identified more than $250 million in potential capital from interested aligned investors.

How it works

Thrive has streamlined the retail model offering its more than 400,000 members access to a curated list of organic and non-GMO products including food and health and beauty products at a wholesale cost. All items are shipped to its customers in 100 percent recyclable packaging and its shipping facilities are zero waste.

Memberships cost approximately $59.95 for a year. According to the company, each new membership sponsors a free membership for a low-income family.

For more information, visit




The Skinny on Virgin Coconut Oil

Skinny & Co., virgin coconut oil
Skinny & Co., virgin coconut oil
Photo: Skinny & Co.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — Much has been written about the benefits of coconut oil from beauty aids to health boosters, including weight loss and improved brain functions, just to name a few. According to published reports, scientific studies show that virgin coconut oil provides the most benefit.

One Indianapolis, IN-based company, Skinny & Co. Coconut Oil, says it makes the only 100 percent, virgin, raw coconut oil in the world. Their coconuts, harvested by hand in Vietnam, go through a cold-press extraction using the company’s dehumidifying Nutralock System process that removes  moisture without using heat.

Founded by two brothers, Luke and Matt Geddie, the company exports  coconut oil manufactured at its Vietnamese plant back to the States to be sold at its American headquarters run by their mother, Joy Reece.

General Mills Invests In Organics

General Mill, organic, Annie's
General Mills acquired the organic Annie’s brand in 2014.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN  – General Mills is betting on the organics market to go from niche to mainstream in the food industry and is making moves to position itself accordingly.

According to Ad Age, the foods giant is looking to grow its natural and organic food division to $1 billion by 2020: It is currently making $600 million in revenue. Earlier this year it announced that several varieties of its Cheerios brand would go gluten-free this summer.

A recent $50,000 investment in the Canadian-based Prairie Organic Grain Initiative (POGI) is another example of General Mills’ commitment to growing its organic sales. POGI is a multi-year program designed to build and stabilize the organic field crop sector and increase the number and quality of organic field crops in Canada.

“We’re excited to join the Prairie Organic Grain Initiative. We believe this program represents a significant opportunity for General Mills to further build our capabilities and pave the way for General Mills to become an industry leader in natural and organic,” said Beth Robertson Martin, senior manager of natural and organic sourcing at General Mills.

Robertson-Martin also notes that the company’s investment in the program is aimed at increasing the number of organic farmers in North America. “POGI is one way we’re ensuring the long-term sustainable supply of these ingredients,” she says.

General Mills says it is the fourth-largest U.S. natural and organic food producer and among the top five organic ingredient purchasers in the North American packaged foods sector. Its organic brands include: Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Food Should Taste Good, Immaculate_Baking, Lärabar, and Muir Glen.

Organic Vegetable Brand Sponsors Pinterest Contest

Josie's Organics, Braga Family Fresh foods, organic vegetables
Josie’s Organics Pinterest Contest (PRNewsFoto/Josie’s Organics)

SOLEDAD, CA It’s not to late to enter the fresh vegetable contest sponsored by Josie’s Organics and The Produce Mom. Veggie fans have until June 8 to answer the following question on Pinterest: “Who inspires you in the kitchen?”

For the folks behind  Josie’s Organics, their inspiration for the brand name came from the company’s namesake — Josie Braga, co-founder of Braga Fresh Family Farms, which is run today by her grandsons.

Josie Braga showed her love for her family with hearty meals three times a day, many with fresh vegetables she picked by hand on the Braga Home Ranch,” said Karen Nardozza, who heads marketing for Josie’s Organics. “Beyond family, she opened her home and invited everyone to stop by and have a home cooked meal—she loved to cook. Today’s hectic schedules put different challenges in front of modern women and mothers, but most of us were inspired to learn to cook by someone like Josie, and we want to hear those stories, see the photos and share those recipes from other fans of fresh, organic veggies.”

The Pinterest contest was launched to offer a forum to collect the stories, photos and recipes that demonstrate admiration of the influential cooks in the kitchens of today’s moms, the company says. It is a way to continue a common goal, shared with The Produce Mom, of educating consumers about living healthy by providing resources for them on social media platforms.

The grand prize winner will receive a prize pack including a Josie’s Organics apron, a set of three adorable blue polka dot bowls reminiscent of the Josie’s Organics blue polka dot packaging, a cookbook, “Root-to-Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable” by Tara Duggan, a cutting board and a Josie’s Organics reusable cotton shopping bag.

“Food is culture,” said Lori Taylor, The Produce Mom. “One of my favorite things about the Josie’s Organics brand is the Braga family’s homage to their grandmother.  My grandma certainly inspired my passion for fresh food.  I’m so excited about this promotion.”

SodaStream and Le Cordon Bleu Partnership Promotes Healthy Cooking

Sodastream, sparkling water
Photo: SodaStream

AIRPORT CITY, ISRAEL — Healthy cooking, with sparkling, flavored water, is getting a push with the recent partnership between SodaStream International and the culinary arts school Le Cordon Bleu.

Both companies will create new flavors, made solely from naturally-derived ingredients, that will be used with SodaStream Sparkling Water Makers. Additionally the companies will develop a joint recipe booklet promoting the use of sparkling water in healthy cooking for a fluffier texture in breads and the retaining the true colors of vegetables while cooking.

Le Cordon Bleu, culinary art school, healthy cooking
Photo: Le Cordon Bleu

“SodaStream is committed to promoting healthy hydration by providing consumers with the ability to easily create their own sparkling water at home and add great tasting natural flavors to them,” said Daniel Birnbaum, CEO of SodaStream. “By partnering with the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, we will now have the opportunity to incorporate the benefits of SodaStream into this thought-leading community as well.”