Simple Mills CEO on a mission to promote clean eating

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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.

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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

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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 www.naturalgrocers.com/millionth.

Amy’s Kitchen partners with Vera Whole Health to debut healthcare centers at its plants

Amy's Kitchen Vera Health care centers
Care at the new centers will include ongoing progress checks, with Amy’s Kitchen fully covering costs for prescriptions and services conducted onsite. Photo: Vera Whole Health

POCATELLO, Idaho – Organic food maker Amy’s Kitchen held a grand opening for its new health care center at its Pocatello, Idaho plant.

In a partnership with Vera Whole Health, a direct-to-employer primary care provider in the Western United States, Amy’s Kitchen transformed its existing onsite health services, first launched by the company in 2011, into whole health wellness centers in each of the company’s three U.S. plants.

Two fully redesigned Amy’s Kitchen whole health primary care centers and new wellness programs were launched at Amy’s White City, Oregon, manufacturing facility with a grand re-opening in June, followed by the Amy’s Santa Rosa, California, facility, which opened later that month.

The new Vera wellness and primary care centers prioritize preventative health and will be staffed by a dedicated team of mostly bilingual medical providers specially trained in individual health coaching. Amy’s employees will have the opportunity to establish wellness plans for not only themselves but also for eligible family members. Care will include ongoing progress checks, with Amy’s Kitchen fully covering costs for prescriptions and services conducted onsite. Employee access to the new wellness centers is in addition to the full range of health insurance benefits that Amy’s Kitchen also provides.

“We specialize in creating good-for-you foods that fuel a healthy body, mind and spirit,” said Amy’s Kitchen Global President Xavier Unkovic. “Our Amy’s Kitchen team is in many ways the soul of our company and vital to our mission. We want to ensure that our employees and their families enjoy top-notch medical care with attention to their personal goals and overall wellness. Vera’s approach to whole health aligns with our goal of better serving our team and helping foster health-minded communities.”

Amy’s Kitchen is a family-owned company that has been a pioneer in the organic food movement since its start in 1987. Its products are available in the U.S. as well as more than 25 other countries around the globe.

How long does it really take you to decide what to eat?

refrigerator-1809344_1920While it may feel like deciding what’s for dinner while standing in front of the fridge with the door open takes forever, a new national survey of 1,000 men and women by market researchers OnePoll and commissioned by Orgain, says Americans actually spend more time deciding what to watch on Netflix.

The research looked at the amount of time Americans spend making various decisions. It revealed that while they spend an average of more than 23 minutes deciding what to watch on Netflix, more than half (55 percent) choose their food almost instantly and almost a quarter (24 percent) do so without reading ingredient labels at all, uncovering opportunities to improve food choices and overall health.

The survey asked respondents to rate how much consideration they give to decisions – both large and small – and found that 31 percent of people take time to carefully consider the pros and cons of both big purchasing decisions (such as buying a car) and small ones (such as a kitchen gadget). They spend more than an hour researching their next vacation (34.2 percent), TV (49.9 percent) or phone (24.8 percent.) However, most people said they spend less than 5 minutes when deciding on a new food brand to eat (55.7 percent) and almost three quarters spend less than three minutes reading food labels or checking the ingredients of what they’re eating.

Findings revealed that people considered decisions around finances (84.1 percent), relationships (55.5 percent), careers (58.8 percent) and even what to wear (60.5 percent) and how to decorate their homes (79.5) worthy of long consideration. Yet, when it comes to food choices, Americans don’t take the time to consider what they are eating.

The Orgain research found that when it comes to food:

  • Fifty-five percent say they pick their food almost instantly
  • Almost 3 out of 4 people spend less than 3 minutes reading food labels while grocery shopping
  • Just four percent say they carefully plan or think about what they’re eating
  • Two-thirds said they aren’t picky about their choices when it comes to food
  • Twenty percent said they aren’t at all picky when it comes to their diet

Airline food study gives Virgin America top marks in healthy eating options

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A new study from NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College and DietDetective.com ranks Virgin America as one of the top airlines offering healthy food options.

“This year Virgin America wins the top spot again with the “healthiest” food choices in the sky with Delta and Air Canada tied for second,” said Charles Platkin, PhD, JD, MPH, the executive director of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College and editor of DietDetective.com.

Twelve airlines were rated based on 10 criteria including health and calorie levels of meals, snack boxes and individual snacks, improvement and maintenance of healthy offerings, menu innovation and cooperation in providing nutritional information. The survey includes health ratings, average calories per airline, cost, comments, best bets, food offerings, calories, and exercise equivalents.

Summary of Health Ratings (5 stars = highest rating): Virgin America 4.25 stars, Delta 4 stars, Air Canada 4 stars, Alaska Air 3.75 stars, JetBlue 3.5 stars, United Airlines 3.25 stars, American 3 stars, Southwest Airlines 2 stars, Allegiant Air 1.75 stars, Hawaii 1.75 stars, Spirit Airlines 1 star, Frontier Air 1 star

The study noted that overall there was an 8 calorie decrease in the food offered this year over last year. Since 2012 the calories in airline food had been increasing slightly: The average number of calories per food item was 360 in 2012; in 2013 it was 388; in 2014 it was 397, 2015 it was 400, and this year it was 392. The survey also looked at the nutrients in the foods when they are provided, as well as innovations moving towards healthy, tasty, inexpensive, sustainable foods.

See the full study at http://www. dietdetective.com/ airline-food-investigation/.

Fitness Tracker Fitbit Has Healthy Debut On Wall Street

fitbit surge, fitness tracker, wearable device
fitbit surge, fitness tracker, wearable device
Photo credit: Fitbit

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — Tracking fitness is not only trendy but profitable as the wearable device leader Fitbit burst onto Wall Street with a healthy debut.

Trading under the symbol “FIT,” the company offered 36,575,000 shares of its Class A common stock in its New York Stock Exchange opening. According to the Wall Street Journal, shares for its initial public offering (IPO) jumped to $30.40, 52% above its expected  price of $20.

Founded in 2007 Fitbit, which sells a variety of activity trackers and wristbands and the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale, has a number of high-profile admirers including President Barack Obama who was spotted wearing the Fitbit Surge in March of this year.

Aerial Yoga Craze Goes Global

AntiGravity Fitness, Aerial Yoga, Christopher Harrison
AntiGravity Fitness, Aerial Yoga, Christopher Harrison
Photo credit: AntiGravity Fitness

New York — Exercise routines scale new heights as the aerial yoga fad from AntiGravity® Fitness goes global.

The company recently expanded its floating yoga classes, which are in many respects reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil acrobatics, in Asia, and it now has more than 250 locations globally.

Founded by Christopher Harrison in 2008, AntiGravity incorporates moves from traditional yoga, Pilates, and barre methods.

“The human body is the greatest work of art ever created,” said Harrison, “and each person is its caretaker. AntiGravity techniques are celebrated around the world as a methodology for health and a philosophy of lightness. When practitioners open up space in the body, space is also opened in the mind; AntiGravity techniques help people to open up and feel free.”

Through the use of a silk hammock, aerial yoga participants progress through a number of movements hanging upside down. Harrison says the inversion “decompresses the spinal column, helps refresh the circulatory and endocrine systems, and fosters greater joint mobility.” The strength required to remain suspended in air for a period of time also works numerous muscle groups and tones the core, arms and legs.

The company’s future expansion plans include Vietnam, Dubai, and Bahrain.

Fathers Get Star Treatment at Healthy Living Hiking Spa

New Life Hiking Spa, Father's Day, hiking, Appalachian Trail
Photo credit: New Life Hiking Spa

KILLINGTON, VT — Who says moms get all the love? This Father’s Day some lucky dads might be in for a healthy lifestyle treat with a New Life Hiking Spa adventure offering healthy snacks, guided hikes, fitness classes, yoga classes, cooking demos, evening activities and massages.

Dads can heed the call of the wild in the a.m. and the call of a masseuse in the afternoon.

“The combination of hiking on the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail in the morning and partaking in fitness classes and massages in the afternoon is a formula many men love,” New Life Hiking Spa Founder Jimmy LeSage.

Started in 1978, New Life Hiking Spa is reportedly one of the top-rated spas in the world for men.