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    2014 Net Impact Conference

    Net ImpactFoodEssentials was at the Net Impact Conference in Minneapolis – and was able to attend several sessions and keynotes with a food focus (the Conference’s theme was “Breaking Boundaries”).

    Friday morning’s keynote, “Transformative leadership,” featured Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever. As CEO, Polman has set goals to reduce the company’s environmental footprint while doubling in size. In his keynote, Polman discusses his ambitious plans while outlining how the plan impacts everyone from rural farmers to end-consumers.

    Transformative Leadership

    Saturday morning’s keynote, “Debating the future of food,” was moderated by Marc Gunther of Guardian Sustainable Business US, and featured Natalie DiNicola, Vice President of Sustainability and Signature Partnerships for Monsanto, and M. Jahi Chappell, Director of Agroecology and Agricultural Policy at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. The two speakers shared their unique insights into the steps needed to feed an estimated 9 billion global citizens by 2050.

    Debating the Future of Food

    Both “Transformative leadership” and “Debating the future of food” can be seen here.

    FoodEssentials also had the chance to meet with Meriwether Hardie of the Rainforest Alliance. In a session titled Overcoming Obstacles in Environmentalism, Hardie outlined how Rainforest Alliance builds local partnerships, conducts audits, and partners with large and small manufacturers to create a trusted sustainability certification.

    The closing keynote, “Leaving boundaries behind,” featured three amazing women: Shazi Visram, Founder and CEO of Happy Family Brands (LabelINSIGHT); Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University; and Sheryl WuDunn, author of A Path Appears. Shazi Visram recounted the story of how Happy Family Brands grew to be an industry leader in the children’s health segment. Temple Grandin discussed how her unique insights and work in the beef industry have resulted in significant progress, and Sheryl WuDunn closed the conference with a message of encouragement and ideas for being a better global citizen.


    What are the Gluten and Protein Trends in the Yogurt Shelf?

    What is Gluten and Protein?Yogurt is leading the way regarding protein marketing claims, as more than 1 in 10 yogurts have a protein marketing claim. Only three categories in LabelINSIGHT’s entire database use protein marketing claims with 1/2 of the frequency yogurt does!

    With the sales growth of yogurt, it is not surprising the category has seen spill-over into additional categories. Snacks as well as energy & nutrition bars may help explain why 1/4th of yogurt consumption now occurs outside of the home.

    Additionally, Gluten appears to be benefiting from the trend towards gluten as many other product shelves have experienced sales growth as a result of the marketing claim emphasis.

    A Live View into the Marketplace


    Essential Yogurt Brand Comparison

    Yogurt Shelf Live View Page Two

    FoodEssentials spotlighted the effort by Dannon to combat the issue of high sugar content and improve nutrient density in March.

    Delving into the presence of natural sweeteners by shelf, it is clear yogurt is out front in its use of natural sweeteners.

    Natural sweeteners appear to be gaining traction among yogurt manufacturers; however, no clear natural option has stood out in its acceptance.

    Natural Sweeteners by Shelf

    A Live View into the Marketplace


    Marketing Claims by Yogurt Type

    Yogurt Shelf Live View Page OneYogurt has enjoyed a tremendous surge in popularity in recent years.

    FoodEssentials looked at marketing trends in June and we have not been alone in seeking answers to what has happened in the yogurt aisle. NPD's report brings to light some very fascinating developments in the yogurt aisle and highlights the role innovation has played in allowing for yogurts dramatic growth.

    The Atlantic and NPR each analyzed the NPD report while looking at the factors that have allowed yogurt, and Greek Yogurt in particular, to grow in popularity.

    A Live View into the Marketplace


    The Essentials of the Wall Street Journal’s New Food Features

    Recently, the Wall Street Journal introduced two unique food features to their website – Axis of Additives and What’s In Your Food?

    The Axis of Additives illustrates where 15 ingredients can be found in the supermarket by using ingredient label data from FoodEssentials’ LabelINSIGHT.

    Additionaly, the feature also uses ingredients from the Institute of Food Technologists and data from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

    WSJ Axis of Additives

    What’s In Your Food? is a quiz feature asking users to determine which of three given ingredients is shared between two foods. Using the same data sources as the Axis of Additives this feature is a unique look into the use of ingredients in food and beverages.

    WSJ What's In Your Food

    These two features from the Wall Street Journal add to the growing number of users incorporating customized data from to provide unique insights into the food industry.

    A Live View into the Marketplace


    FoodEssentials is looking for a VP of Engineering

    VP of Engineering

    Who we are

    FoodEssentials is a young and vibrant company developing best of breed technologies to solve problems related to food label data for manufacturers, retailers, the government, and ultimately consumers. We leverage our proprietary technologies to provide the tools to undertake the deep analysis of food label data.

    Why are we excellent

    We have been working on scaling the analysis of large food label data sets since 2004. Our proprietary technology provides the framework for a host of analysis tools that serve both government, industry and consumers alike.

    Our mission has always been to make vast amounts of food label data accessible and easily analyzable.

    What you’ll do

    • Lead technology efforts and expansion

    • Dealing with scaling issues and solving them

    • Translate the strategic vision into an executable technical roadmap

    • Hire, manage, and retain top talent in both the Chicagoland and St. Louis area (based out of Chicago)

    • Collaborate with executive and cross-functional product team to form engineering roadmap

    • Constantly remove organizational bottlenecks and scale issues as the team grows

    • Collaborate on key architectural decisions and design consideration

    • Track and manage key metrics like system costs, team performance and business KPIs

    Your Creds

    • Proven leadership experience with the ability to attract and retain top engineering talent.

    • Strong bias for action. Mistakes are ok, going slow is not. Must be able to adapt to change quickly and efficiently.

    • Able to partner with key stakeholders, including: Exec team, Product Management, Marketing etc...

    • Ability to break down a strategic roadmap into a focused series of wins that the team can rally around.

    • Ability to see multiple solutions to problems and choose the right one for the situation.

    • Excellent written and oral communication skills.

    • Proven history scaling small teams into large and efficient teams.

    • Background in object oriented development and familiarity with the following technologies: Java, JSON, XML, JSP and Servlet containers (e.g. Tomcat), RDBMS, Continuous Integration tools (e.g Jenkins)

    Nice to have

    • Big data experience

    • Chef

    • New Relic


    FoodEssentials’ LabelINSIGHT “Live View into the Yogurt Shelf”

    LabelINSIGHT Live ViewThis week FoodEssentials will share our Live View into the yogurt aisle, keep your eyes out for:

    • Tuesday: Looking at marketing claims and overall growth (be on the lookout for an astounding figure relating to Greek yogurt!).
    • Wednesday: Comparing the attributes of competing yogurt brands, look into the use of sweeteners, and share some insights into when yogurt is being consumed.
    • Thursday: Analyzing the protein and gluten trends in the Yogurt Shelf.

    A Live View into the Marketplace


    The Essentials of EWG's Food Scores Database

    EWG Food Scores DatabaseToday the Environmental Working Group, EWG, released their much anticipated food database, Food Scores.

    The Food Scores online database rates over 80,000 foods, in a simple and searchable online format to empower people to shop smart and eat healthier. 

    EWG examined the 80,000 + food products on an individual basis to determine the overall score, taking into consideration nutritional components, ingredient make up, prevalence of additives and contaminants as well as the degree of processing.

    EWG utilizes FoodEssentials’ data from, the industry’s most powerful and innovative product insight exchange, providing manufacturers and retailers a live view into the grocery marketplace.

    EWG populates their Food Scores database via custom API’s, Application Programming Interfaces, pulling specific pieces of data from the actual packages of the food products through a select number of the 10,000+ product attributes available on  The product attributes range from ingredients, nutrient values, marketing claims, certifications and more.

    The Food Scores database is another example of customizing data from in response to the growing demand for transparency in the food industry.

    A Live View into the Marketplace


    Health & Wellness Spotlight: Snacking and Weight Management

    A recent FoodBusinessNews article outlines several significant findings from research conducted by Packaged Facts as part of their “Weight management: U.S. consumer mindsets” report.

    Packaged Facts found:

    1. The Number 1 consumer priority when seeking to lose weight is reforming their snacking habits.
    2. 2/3rds of consumers limit their snack quantities
    3. 62% set boundaries of how often they will snack

    Additionaly, in the last 5 years consumers have made it a priority to eat several small meals a day with planned snacks in between meals that emphasize healthier options. 

    Although overeating at meals is ranked as the fourth most likely reason for being overweight, eating smaller or moderately portioned meals no longer ranks high on the list of actions dieters undertake – with only 1/3rd of dieters taking this step. David Sprinkle, researcher at Packaged Facts, suggests, “Instead of controlling what they eat at mealtimes, today’s consumers focus on changing their snacking habits in order to achieve weight loss success, a strategy that reflects the increasing importance of snacking in America today.”

    Other trends include a greater focus on checking food labels to avoid foods containing high levels of fat, sugars and sodium as well as attempting to avoid foods perceived to be processed.

    Using the LabelINSIGHT platform - we focused on highlighting the most common marketing claims being made on traditional snack packaging today as well as wholesome snacks.

    Traditional SnacksBetween the two graphs, Traditional Snacks above and Wholesome Snacks below you can see the similarities and differences between marketing approaches to the particular type of snack products.

    Wholesome Snacks

    As overall Health & Wellness continue to be top of mind for a growing number of consumers it will be interesting to continue to connect common day health trends with our live view of the grocery market place, highlighting how different products are being marketing to consumers, which ingredients are gaining in popularity and the overall nutritional values consumers begin to pay special attention to.



    To access FoodEssentials' LabelINSIGHT click here.

    A Live View Into The Marketplace


    Paleo Diet Essentials 

    The Paleo Diet 101

    Would you like to return to your primal instincts, before a time of scales and counting calories, and eat like a caveman? That’s the diet some folks are jumping onboard with in the hopes of weight loss, more energy, and potentially reversing chronic illnesses. The Paleolithic "Paleo" Diet, was first recognized decades ago, but has recently had a dramatic resurgence with Loren Cordain’s bestselling book The Paleo Diet.  

    According to Google Trends, Paleo was the most searched diet of 2013. Its sales growth is set to dwarf that of other natural food trends over the next several years. The diet has broad appeal, from A-list celebrities Megan Fox, Jessica Biel, Matthew McConaughey, to four time MVP Lebron James who used it to drop 10 pounds and enter the 2015 NBA season leaner than ever.

    Add to the celebrity appeal the cult-like following of CrossFit enthusiasts, an exercise movement that strictly follows the Paleo Diet, and one can see why retailers and manufacturers such as alike are taking notice of this food tribe. For instance, Reebok, the major sponsor of the CrossFit Games is capitalizing on this impressive Paleo sales growth through their first foray into the food world with Reebok Bacon.

    The Science behind Paleo

    There are many theories about why our poor health as a nation is reaching epidemic proportions-- 66% of us are overweight, 33% are considered obese, and those numbers are only getting worse. The one that Paleo followers subscribe to is that the evolution of our bodies has not kept pace with that of food science. It’s not a coincidence that many modern diseases of civilization-- including autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rampant obesity-- have accompanied the global spread of industrialized food. That’s why the Paleo approach emphasizes returning to a more ancestral approach to eating.

    In the past, food was hard to come by and if we got our hands on some it was fresh and natural, both tenants of the Paleo diet. Any excess calories were stored as life sustaining fat, one pound of body fat = 3500 calories. Muscle on the other hand is expensive (no not because your Equinox membership runs 300$/month) I mean from a metabolic perspective, it requires a lot of energy to maintain, and the body’s energy currency is calories.

    The problem is, our bodies never adjusted properly to eating all the grains that we now farm.  As bestselling author of The Paleo Solution, Robb Wolf puts it, “think of a 100-yard football field.  The first 99.5 yards are how long Homo-Sapiens spent as hunter-gatherers. As they became really good at hunting and gathering our bodies adapted to that lifestyle over thousands of years.  That last half-yard represents our species after the agricultural revolution, where our diet has shifted, but our genetics haven’t.”

    Many modern crash dieting techniques are interpreted by our bodies as periods of starvation. As we are evolutionarily programmed for survival not beach season, they will not simply shed life sustaining fat; they will do the opposite and get rid of expensive excess muscle. The Paleo diet intends to combat this typical crash dieting process which leads to indiscriminate weight loss by outlining a sustainable healthy diet and lifestyle. Now let’s dig into the nuts and bolts, how exactly does one eat like a caveman?

    The Paleo Diet is an effort to eat like we used to back in the day…WAY back in the day.  If a caveman couldn’t eat it, neither can you. This means anything we could hunt or find – meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, regional veggies, seeds, healthy fats and some fruits. Sorry, the sugar, junk food snacks, grains, dairy, legumes/beans, and alcohol will have to go!

    “Eating a Paleolithic diet is not about historical re-enactment,” John Durant writes in his book The Paleo Manifesto. “It is about mimicking the effect of such a diet on the metabolism with foods available at the supermarket.” According to this way of thinking, our metabolism was designed to deal with foods that approximate wild game and foraged plants. It wasn’t designed to deal with toast.

    The list of benefits is extensive and primarily focuses on reducing your risk for major diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.  Some evidence has also shown success in slowing or reducing the progression of some autoimmune diseases. Additional benefits have been touted as losing weight, improving sleep, improving or eliminating acne, increasing libido, increasing energy, and having overall better mental clarity.

    More recently the Paleo trend has expanded from just focusing on eating habits to applying these Neanderthal ways as an all-encompassing lifestyle.  This more holistic lifestyle approach could include wearing amber goggles while on your smartphone after 7pm; concerned that the blue light emitted from your phone causes disruptions in your natural sleep patterns.

    The Paleo Diet is certainly not without its critics though. There is some debate over the diet itself, but also it’s long-term environmental implications. The high consumption of animal proteins has triggered push back from some groups due to the taxing impact this could have on the environment. Some also argue that when avoiding foods such as dairy products, beans, and grains that the diet is missing out on important vitamins and minerals.

    “Food taboos are known from virtually all human societies,” a survey that ran a few years ago in the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine observed. Such taboos must fulfill some deep—you might even say primal—human need. And this may be the best way to understand the paleo diet: as a set of food prohibitions for the Internet age.

    How LabelINSIGHT Can Help!

    Introducing the Paleo Attribute: Many products have capitalized on the popularity of the Paleo diet by adding a Paleo marketing claim to their packaging. However not all product position themselves this way but are still acceptable foods for this food tribe to eat. For this reasons LabelINSIGHT is proud to debut the ability to not only search and filter by which foods advertise as being Paleo but also all others that meet the stringent Paleo criteria.

    Our Nutritional Data Analyst Yisi Wang, RD, LD, MS explains how this is achieved; “We take our understanding of the commonly accepted tenants of the Paleo diet and translate this knowledge into our database language. Starting with our database of over 150,000 products we then eliminated any that contain the following banned ingredients: sugar and artificial sweeteners/flavors, grains and flours (including other off limit carbohydrates such as white potatoes), legumes/beans (including all soy products), dairy, refined vegetable oils, alcohol, etc.”

    Preparation for the Paleo Diet: The key to success with any diet is preparation. Self-control is a myth. Plan ahead! Clean out your pantry. Packaged foods have labels informing you ingredients, nutritive properties, allergen warnings and more. LabelINSIGHT captures, organizes and interprets this often confusing information ensuring you stay on track. Create shopping lists and receive dietary based product recommendations based on your custom Paleo diet. Easily avoid banned ingredients and products through LabelINSIGHT’s intuitive search and filter features.

    Maintain a Balanced Diet: Make sure you eat other foods that provide the same nutrients as those you're avoiding. Use LabelINSIGHT to create a shopping list so that your kitchen is stocked with alternatives that provide the nutrients required for a healthy diet. This will ensure that you are well nourished while avoiding your list of now-forbidden foods.

    Find Paleo Friendly Brands: Use LabelINSIGHT to access our database of over 150,000 products. Compare brands side by side with 10,000+ unique product attributes to see which ones fit into your new diet.

    Create a Social Support Network: Share insights about your progress on the Paleo diet, including interesting alternative products and recipes with friends using LabelINSIGHT's collaboration tool.  A Live View Into The Marketplace